Noticed a serious dearth of savory recipes on this blog lately? Yes? Well, I swear to you, I really have been cooking. I’ve made slow-roasted pork and braised short ribs and all sorts of drool-worthy concoctions on my stove top. But they came and went, leaving behind only a bunch of dirty pots and pans, with no photographic evidence of their existence. And what fun is it to wax poetic about a recipe without pictures?
So when I made a lamb navarin this weekend, priority numero uno was snapping a few images before we gobbled all of it up.
To be honest, I didn’t grow up loving lamb. So often I found it gamy and uninteresting, and I can honestly say that I’ve never ordered lamb in a restaurant. I’ve tried bits off other people’s plates, and though sometimes the lamb tasted good — really good — I never felt compelled to order it myself, much less cook a whole meal with it.
Then I started dating a Brit and met all of his international compadres and before I knew it, I was eating lamb at dinner party after dinner party. And you know what? I started to like it.
The thing about lamb — or maybe “my” thing about lamb — is that it’s pretty easy to prepare badly. Cook it just a little too long, and it’s tough and dull and rather sorry looking. But when enough of my friends started cooking it well, I realized how tasty good lamb can be.
So when a newly purchased cookbook arrived at my doorstep last week, and I saw a recipe for lamb navarin (a French lamb stew), I knew what this week’s Sunday Night Dinner would be — and, of course, what I’d be photographing ASAP, so that I could share the recipe with all of you.
Adapted from My French Kitchen by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde
Note: Use fresh baby carrots if you can find them — not the bagged, peeled ones sold as “baby carrot” snacks. If you can’t find baby turnips, use the equivalent weight of regular turnips, cut into cubes. I cut back on the oil from the original recipe, but you can add more if you like. Like many stews and braises, this tastes even better once it’s had time to cool overnight, but you can certainly eat it right away. We did.
4 lbs. boneless leg or shoulder of lamb, cubed
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olice oil
1 quart vegetable stock (homemade, or low-sodium store-bought)
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chopped tomatoes in juice (preferably with no salt added)
6 shallots, peeled and left whole
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2/3 cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika (such as Pimenton de la Vera)
2 marjoram sprigs
2 bay leaves
Sea salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
12 ounces small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled (if they are on the large side, cut in half)
8 ounces baby carrots, peeled
8 ounces baby turnips, peeled
Trim the lamb of any excess fat. Place the lamb in a bowl with the flour and toss to coat all of the lamb evenly with a dusting of flour. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or casserole and add only enough meat to cover the bottom of the pan. Brown the meat all over (make sure the meat gets nice and brown), then remove the meat to a plate or platter. Repeat with the remaining meat until all of the meat is browned.
Return all of the meat to the pot, add the stock and bring to a simmer, mixing well. Add the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, red wine, tomato paste, paprika, marjoram, bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring from time to time.
Add the potatoes, carrots and turnips to the pot, making sure they are fully covered in liquid (if they are not, add more stock or water until they are). Cook for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, then serve.
Yield: 6-8 servings