November 1, 2005
Grasslands Lamb Stew
Chunks of grass-fed lamb and lentils meld into a hearty, distinctive stew when simmered with vegetables, dried cherries, and a fruity Washington state Merlot. Using lamb sirloin, although a more costly cut of meat than lamb neck or shoulder, ensures meltingly tender results.
8 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 to 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 pound lamb sirloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 white or yellow onion, cut in half and quartered
2 carrots, cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1/2 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed and picked over for debris
2 tomatoes, about 3/4 pound, cored and chopped OR 1 can (14
1/2 ounces) whole tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups good-quality, fruity red wine, such as Washington state Merlot or 1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 heaping tablespoon dried cherries or cranberries
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme OR 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 servings cooked white or brown rice or egg noodles
Make a bouquet garni by cutting a 4-by-4-inch piece of cheesecloth and placing the cloves and peppercorns in the middle. Gather up the sides, tie with kitchen twine, and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the lamb. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until the lamb is browned on all sides. Remove lamb from pan and reserve. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil remaining in the pan or, if little remains, add the remaining tablespoon of oil.
Add onions, carrots, garlic, and bouquet garni to pan and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Adjust heat if the vegetables start to stick. Add lamb, lentils, tomatoes, wine, dried cherries, bay leaf, thyme, and cinnamon. Stir, bring to a low simmer, and cover stockpot. Cook for 1 1/4 hours, or until meat and lentils are tender. Do not allow mixture to boil, or meat will toughen. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, remove bouquet garni and bay leaf and spoon stew over cooked rice or noodles.
Serves 4 to 6