Lamb Merguez Stew
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I have been making lots of soups and stews this week to give to a friend who is recovering from surgery. The upside is that I’ve had a lot of delicious warming food around as well. This lamb merguez stew was a snap, since I had lamb bone broth in my freezer. Chicken stock, however, would work as well. I purchased the sausage from my favorite lamb farmer, 3-corner-Field farm at the Union Square greenmarket.
Lamb Merguez Stew
I first browned the sausage (about a pound) in a large pot, then removed it and cooked down the liquid. I added ½ cup shallots and sweated those in the small amount of lamb fat left in the pot for about 5 minutes. I then added a 2 ½ pound butternut squash that I had cut into 1-inch cubes, a jar of roasted red peppers, the cooked sausage and about 4 cups stock. I added some salt, covered the pot, and let the stew simmer for about 20 minutes, until the squash was soft. I added a whole head of chopped kale, then cooked the stew another 10 minutes until the kale was tender.
Meanwhile, on another burner, in a small skillet, I sautéed some garlic, ginger, and harissa powder for a couple of minutes, then added that to the stew. At the end, I smashed some of the cooked squash against the sides of the pot to thicken the stew. Simple, quick, delicious meal-in-a-pot.
Lamb Bone Broth
Friday, January 13, 2012
I purchased 5 pounds of lamb bones the other day at the booth of 3 Corner Field Farm (one of my favorite stalls) at Union square Greenmarket. The large and impressive bag of bones prompted another customer to inquire why I was buying them. What followed was a discussion on how to make lamb broth.
I’m detailing the process here since lamb broth is not a stock that many make. After all, you can certainly use chicken stock with great success for any lamb dish that requires a flavorful liquid. A lamb broth, on the other hand, will make your lamb stew or braise incredibly rich and deep-flavored. You can make a stew so satisfying that it tastes as nurturing as a giant hug. (Those are the words a friend of mine used to describe a lamb stew I had recently made for her with lamb broth.) Plus, this dish is seriously easy to put together. It requires about five minutes of active participation to get the stock going, and just a few minutes work straining it when finished.
First roast the bones: Arrange them on a parchment-covered baking tray (see the last post if you need a good resource for getting the flat professional type of parchment) and place the trays (you’ll need 2 trays for five pounds bones) in a 375˚ oven for about 45 minutes (actually any temperature from 350˚F to 400˚F is fine) to roast until they are browned. The aroma as the lamb roasts is intoxicating.
Lamb Bones Before Roasting
After Roasting for 45 Minutes
Transfer the bones to a large stockpot (12 quart is perfect) and fill with water to just about the top of the bones. I used about 6 quarts water.
Beginning the Stock
Add ¼ cup vinegar (I used apple cider) to draw calcium from the bones into the stock. Bring the liquid slowly to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. A few bubbles breaking the surface now and again is what you want to see. From time to time, skim off the impurities (skum) that form on the surface of the stock when it first starts to bubble.
Skim the Impurities
Don’t skip this step; it’s important to a great-tasting stock. Besides, the scum is unappealing!
Now just let it go. I left my stock to cook overnight. I put it on the lowest heat so that I wouldn’t have to concern myself that it would reduce too quickly. I had started the stock at 3 p.m. in the afternoon Wednesday, and I strained it at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning – a total of 17 hours in the pot.
Ready to Strain
Let a lamb or beef stock cook for at least 12 hours; they can go much longer, even days! After 17 hours, the stock had reduced by about one third. I let it sit on the countertop until it was cool enough to refrigerate.
Cooling a Bit
After it was refrigerated and thoroughly chilled – about three hours later – I removed the fat layer on top with a skimmer.
Skim the Fat
I’ll freeze half and use the rest within the week. The yield was 4 quarts of nourishing bone broth that will be delicious for any lamb dish.
Slow Sunday Cooking
Friday, December 16, 2011
Last week I luxuriated in a solitary Sunday, a day devoted to complete hibernation. I stayed up impossibly late the night before, slept well into the day, and turned off my cell phone and computer. I spent the entire day perusing a hard copy of the New York Times, just budging off the couch from time to time to tend to the dishes that I was slow cooking.
The day before, from my local lamb farmer I had purchased lamb necks , which looked to me a lot like osso bucco.
Lamb Necks from 3 Corner Field Farm
This cut I had never cooked before; I knew that, like a lamb shank, a long slow cook in the oven would coax out the flavor and cook the meat to falling-off-the-bone tenderness. This dish was perfect for my Sunday state of mind.
An added incentive was that I had made some lamb stock from 5 pounds lamb bones a few days before, although chicken stock would have been delicious as well.
I sprinkled the necks with salt and pepper, then browned them in a film of oil. I removed the lamb to a plate and added to the skillet 3 cups sliced onions, 6 whole garlic cloves, a few sprigs fresh thyme and rosemary, and a bay leaf. I let the onions cook until softened, about 10 minutes. I added 2 ½ cups lamb broth and ½ cup red wine, and let the liquid come to a boil. I then added back the necks, covered the skillet, and put it in a 325˚F oven for 2 ½ hours. After uncovering the skillet, I raised the heat to 500˚F for half an hour to brown the meat. By this time the necks had beautiful color and were perfectly tender. I removed the pan from the oven, removed the pieces to a plate, set the skillet on a burner, and raised the heat to high. I threw in a handful sliced celery and carrots, and simmered the broth uncovered for 10 minutes, until it was the thickness of gravy; I then returned the lamb to the skillet.
Ready to Eat
I served it accompanied by mashed yucca, Brussels sprouts and green beans. What a soothing and delicious meal for a lazy Sunday.
Braised lamb neck with mashed yucca, Brussels sprouts, and green beans
While I was braising the lamb, I also had a big pot of chicken stock bubbling on a back burner.
The next day I sautéed a large array of vegetables: onions, carrots. turnips, celery root, parsnips and sweet potatoes until softened. I skinned some chicken thighs and poached them gently in the stock until tender. I added the vegetables along with fresh ginger and dill to the soup and then seasoned it. Three quarts were packed off to a friend who, fresh from surgery, needed good nourishment.
A Healing Bowl of Chicken Soup