I feel a bit silly writing about another braised dish given the onset of spring, but this dish is so good, I couldn’t let it wait till autumn. I have also been re-thinking braises, and how they fit into my annual cooking calendar as of late. I don’t know about you, but I have always viewed braises as cool weather dishes, and generally never cooked them between May and October. Of course, there has never been a written rule as to when it’s OK to serve a stew or braise, but like wearing white shoes or pants before Memorial Day, it just wasn’t done without having to endure the derision of the food elite.
I have found that these days, many chefs (myself included) are tossing out certain cooking rules and instituting some new ones. I recently read where Suzanne Goin, the fabulously talented chef / owner of “Lucques” in Los Angeles decided to “break the rules” and keep her braised short rib dish on her menu year round because it was in such high demand from her customers. So I’m thinkin’ if it’s OK for famous chefs in posh eateries to braise in warm weather, then it’s OK for us too.
As a result, these days, I spend less effort trying to match certain cooking styles with the seasons, and more making sure that I am cooking with the best and freshest ingredients OF the season. This dish is a perfect representation of this change of thinking. It is a braise, that even a few years ago, I would have ruled “out” as a spring dish, that highlights two classic ingredients of spring, peas and lamb.
We enjoyed this dish dining al fresco on a beautiful evening a few nights ago, and found it to be perfectly delicious served with a simple salad and a loaf of crusty sourdough bread. Dressed with some fresh dill, it felt absolutely at-home on our spring table.
On this evening, we were cooking again from one of our favorite cookbooks, Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories from Vermont (Shelburne Farms Books) by Melissa Pasanen and Chef Rick Gencarelli. The dish requires hardly any prep at all, especially if your butcher trims and cuts your lamb stew meat for you. Braising takes about an hour, and the dish is quickly finished with the addition of lemon, fresh dill and sour cream. Serve it over egg noodles (as we did), or along side some mashed potatoes.
Enjoy! – S
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- 1 1/2 pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (shoulder meat is ideal here)
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion halved and thinly sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 cups small fresh peas
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
- 1/2 cup sour cream (not non-fat)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- Pour the flour into a shallow, rimmed plate or pie pan and whisk in 1 teaspoon of the salt. Pat the lamb dry and dredge it lightly in the flour mixture.
- In a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, brown the lamb, in batches if necessary so as not to crowd the pan, adding more oil as needed. Cook without moving the meat until a nice golden brown crust develops, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the lamb to a plate.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, and then add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, until the onion has softened and colored. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any brown bits. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the lamb and any accumulated juices back to the pan. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a lid slightly ajar and maintain a gentle simmer for about 1 hour, until the lamb is tender.
- Stir in the peas and bring the pot up to a simmer for 5 minutes, or until the peas are cooked. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the chopped dill, sour cream, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Do not allow the mix to come to a boil.
- Warm through for 4-5 minutes, adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, and serve garnished with additional fresh dill if desired.