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Posts Tagged ‘lamb’

I made lamb stew with white beans the other day for dinner. Deconstructed.

Normally, I make stew in one pot — a nice long simmer in the dutch oven to fill the house with good smells and keep the kitchen toasty warm. But I had a screwy schedule earlier this week and wound up doing it in bits and pieces.

On my way out the door to preschool, I took five minutes to sear the lamb shank and then threw it into the slow cooker with blocks of chicken stock still frozen into yogurt-container cylinders. I add a bay leaf, set the whole thing on HIGH and dashed out the door.

As we were walking up the back stairs after preschool, May said, “Mommy! It smells good in here!” And indeed it did. I think that’s one of the main benefits of a slow cooker. You get to smell the food as you come home on a frosty day.

The lamb was fall-apart tender… but swimming in a vat of chicken stock. The stock was enriched with lamb fat, but it was still just stock.

plate of white beansI threw some beans into a pot with lots of salt and brought them to a boil, then lidded the whole thing and set my timer for 1 hour while I contemplated some body for the stew.

I diced a mire poix (2 parts onion, 1 part celery, 1 part carrot — though I usually double the carrots) and sauted it in some of the lamb fat I skimmed off the broth. When the vegetables got aromatic and translucent, I added a tablespoon of tomato paste, a palmful of flour, and some garlic and cooked that until it smelled right — not very long at all, maybe a minute.

Gently lifting the meat out of the slow cooker — it was literally shredding under any touch — I poured off the enriched stock and gradually whisked it into the pan with my vegetables. The roux from the fat and flour made it luscious and thick. I added some thyme, pepper, and chopped parsley, and turned the heat off.

By this time, the timer had gone off and I dumped my beans out, rinsed the hell out of them, and put them back in the pot with fresh cold water, a bay leaf, and some parsley stems. (One of my best tricks, learned on some cooking show back when I was in college: always freeze your parsley stems. They add so much to stocks and stews.)

At that point, Life intruded and I wandered out of the kitchen.

Dinner on the hoof

Lunch on the hoof. By law_keven, from Flickr

Two hours later, my beans were done and my husband was walking in the door. I shredded the now-cool meat into tiny filaments with my fingers while the sauce reheated and had Christopher set the table. Then I dished out beans from one pot, a spoonful of sauce/gravy from another, and sprinkled some lamb (from another pot) over the top. The heat from the beans and the sauce reheated the lamb nicely.

There’s no real moral to this story. Part of me feels like I should have been a good Kitchen Witch and remembered to soak the beans over night and get up early enough to dice and saute the aromatics. Then I could ahve thrown the whole lot into the slow cooker and been done with it. That certainly would have dirtied fewer dishes.

But part of me says that being able to improvise around a real schedule is a much more useful skill.

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Switching my weekly menu

I used to have two aunts, The Aunts, who were old-school homemakers, back when you could get a Masters degree in homemaking. I wish I’d had enough sense to grill them when they were alive because I feel certain they could have taught me some things.

One of the things that they did was have a meal for every night of the week. Which meant that on Fridays, they had hamburgers and iceberg-lettuce salads, and on Mondays they had (I think) spaghetti, etc. I’ve never been able to do that, but I have adopted the idea and adapted it for my own use.  Instead of having a strict schedule, per se, I tend to have a rhythm.

Since Jen was speaking of that recently, I thought I’d let you know what I do.

Monday, I like soup. Fast soup, not long-simmered braises. Often lentils with bacon sprinkled on top. Sometimes butternut squash soup. Occasionally, if I’ve thought ahead, bean soup, like pasta fagioli.

Tuesdays, on the way home from preschool, I pick up some sort of pasta from Dave’s Fresh. Usually some sort of ravioli — often butternut squash in the fall or sweet pea in the spring — but not always. Served with some sort of green, maybe some bread, it’s a pretty good dinner. Sometimes, I do carbonara. I love carbonara and have the waistline to prove it.

On Wednesdays in the fall, I get lamb sausage from Marianne and roast some orange vegetable (sweet potato or winter squash).

On Thursdays, Wang’s Fast Food delivers. Sometimes, RedBones delivers.

Weekends are pretty mixed around here, but autumn Sundays often find me with a long, slow braise that I start after breakfast. That braise serves for lunch for my husband for much of the week.

With the close of the Farmer’s Market, the menu shifts somewhat. It’s going to depend, I think, on the new winter CSA. I didn’t buy nearly enough lamb sausage to keep that going throughout the winter, so I’ll need a new Wednesday meal. (Lamb sausage may be making an appearance in the lentil stew, though, because it’s actually cheaper than the local bacon I can buy starting in a week or so.)  I think I may try to add a homemade pizza on Friday nights, with lots of veggies and a salad. If I do that, though, I’m going ot have to find Lourde’s mozzarella or start making my own. I’ve got a book on how to do that….

I may add a torta to the lentil soup, too. And maybe I’ll stretch the braise by putting it in a pot pie on Sundays. I’ll let you know.

 

 

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A big part of being a locavore is shopping for your food. Living in Davis Sq., it’s easier for me than for other folks in the Northeast (though not as easy as it is for folks in, say, Southern California). My farmer’s market on Wednesday afternoons isn’t quite a one-stop-shop, but it’s close.

In the fall, I make sure to stop by and chat with Marianne, my lamb lady, once a week. She’s only there in the fall because she won’t butcher spring lambs — I heard that and figured that she was going to take good care of my meat while it was still on the hoof.

This week, while I was picking up a shoulder roast for that lamb pie I’m making, she mentioned the day last November when I back my car up to her stall and bought $200 worth of shanks for my chest freezer. (It was awesome. We had braised lamb once a week all winter.)  She said, “If you want to do that again, let me know and I can give you a discount.”

See, it does pay to know your farmer.

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