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Lamb and Prune Stew

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Serves 5 to 6

  • by Molly Stevens from Fine Cooking
    Issue 121

Prunes and carrots lend sweetness to this stew, enhanced by warm spices like ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric which make it reminiscent of North African tagines.

  • 3 lb. boneless lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-1/2- to 2-inch pieces
  • 3 Tbs. grapeseed oil or vegetable oil; more as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium celery stalks, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup hard cider
  • 2-1/2 cups homemade or lower-salt store-bought beef broth
  • 2-1/2 cups peeled pearl onions
  • 2-1/2 cups 1-inch carrot pieces
  • 1 cup prunes, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.

Spread the lamb on paper towels to dry for 10 to 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 one-third of the lamb with salt and pepper and arrange it in a single layer in the pot (there should be at least 1/2 inch of space between the pieces). Brown well on at least 4 sides, adjusting the heat as necessary; each batch should take about 10 minutes to brown. Transfer the 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 of the lamb is browned, remove the pot from the heat to let it cool for a few minutes.

Pour all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot. (If there is not enough, add oil to equal 2 Tbs.) Return the pot to medium 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 spatula to dissolve any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Raise the heat to medium high and boil to reduce by about half, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the beef broth and 1-1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil.

Return the lamb to the pot along with any accumulated juice. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.

Crumple a 12x16-inch piece of parchment, then flatten it out. (Crumpling makes for easy 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 pearl onions, carrot pieces, and prunes to the pot. Cover with the parchment and lid, and cook until the lamb is fork-tender, 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours more (shoulder cuts will take longer than leg cuts).

Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Degrease the stew by laying a clean 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 paper towels. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Make Ahead Tips

The stew can be made up to 2 days ahead: Skip the degreasing step, cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate. Once the stew is chilled, lift the solidified fat off the top with a slotted spoon. Reheat the stew over medium-low heat to serve.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 700; Fat (g): 41; Fat Calories (kcal): 370; Saturated Fat (g): 15; Protein (g): 46; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 15; Carbohydrates (g): 35; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 8; Sodium (mg): 470; Cholesterol (mg): 165; Fiber (g): 6;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I love this stew!

Made this for friends, used 3 lbs of lamb shoulder steaks with bones (trimmed the meat and cubed, left the bones in for the roasting process and then pulled the remaining meat off immediately after the roasting process was done). Great flavors and extremely tender meat, served with cous cous. And, I did make it a day ahead. This will be repeated, and looking forward the the leftovers for another meal.

This is a flat-out outstanding dish. The flavors were perfect. I used a pear-based cider. I made it as published with the addition of parsnips. The second day was idyllic paradise for my taste buds. Bummer there was none left for day three. That problem will not happen again. Inspired by this recipe, I went out and bought Molly's braising and roasting cookbooks along with the larger 9 quart Le Creuset to nest the new creations in.

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