While we've had a lovely stretch of weather over the past week, and my thoughts are turning to cleaning off my outdoor grill for the spring season, we've still got a few more weeks of winter to navigate here in the northeast and we're not ready to leave behind our braises just yet. Schedule wise, this week has been a bit of a challenge. Between the onset of the kid's spring sports, a Cooking Matters class I'm teaching, and Peyton's evening drivers-ed classes, dinner-time is a bit of a revolving door event these days. That being the case, a one pot meal like this that sits warm on the stove, patiently waiting for anyone with ten minutes to spare, is a busy-weeknight mealtime coup of a dish.
This absolutely delicious feast comes to us courtesy of Molly Stevens, the high-priestess of the art of braising (btw – her cookbook "All About Braising " is one of my absolute favorites…a must own!) . If you can get over the word prune in the title, and neglect to tell your kids that the funky little fruits are an ingredient in the dish, you'll find that this fast becomes a family favorite. The sugar in the fruit and onions perfectly balance the gaminess of the lamb, and the fresh notes of the lemon and ginger add the perfect final touch. The prunes pretty much melt away into the sauce, adding a silky sweetness to the meal. If you have a big enough pot I would strongly encourage you to make a double batch so you have enough for freezing. Prepping this meal is so simple that doubling the quantity takes hardly any more time to prepare, and the payoff of having a bag of this chilling in your freezer……priceless!
Cheers – Steve
- 3 lb. boneless lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, more as needed
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 medium celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
- 1-2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup hard cider (we used regular apple cider and it was fine)
- 2- 1/2 cups low sodium beef stock
- 1- 1/2 cups water
- 2-1/2 cups peeled pearl onions (do yourself a favor and buy them frozen, already peeled)
- 2-1/2 cups 1-inch carrot pieces (5-6 medium carrots)
- 1 cup prunes, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Position a rack n the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 325℉.
- Spread the lamb on paper towels to dry for 10-20 minutes before browning. (You can use this time to chop the onion, celery, and carrot). If the meat is very wet, pat it dry.
- In a 6-quart dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Season about 1/3 of the lamb with salt and pepper and arrange it in a single layer in the pot (there should be at least 1/2 of space between pieces.) Brown well on all sides, adjusting the heat as necessary; each batch should take about 10 minutes to brown. Transfer lamb to a large bowl or rimmed baking sheet as it browns and repeat with the rest of the lamb, seasoning with salt and pepper before browning. Once all the lamb is browned, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool a couple minutes.
- Pour all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot. (If there is not enough, add oil to equal 2 tablespoons.) Return the pot to the heat, then add the yellow onion, celery and coarsely chopped carrot. season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the cider, stirring with the wooden spoon to dissolve and browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Raise the heat to medium-high and boil to reduce by half, 5-8 minutes. Add the beef broth and water, bring to a boil.
- Return the lamb to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
- Crumple a 12x16-inch sheet of parchment, then flatten it out (crumpling makes for easier handling). Place the parchment directly on the surface of the stew, allowing the ends to come up the sides of the pot. Cover and put in the oven.
- After 1 hour of stewing, add the pear onions, carrot pieces, and prunes to the pot. Cover with the parchment and lid, and cook until the lamb is fork tender, about another 1-1/2 hours.
- Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. If needed, degrease the stew by laying a paper towel over the surface of the stew and gently pushing it into all the bumps and dips, then quickly peeling it off. repeat as necessary with more towels . Alternatively, the stew can be made ahead: skip the de-greasing step and chill the stew overnight. Once chilled, remove the solidified fat from the surface before gently reheating. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.