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Archive for the ‘Soups and Stews’ Category

On the Lamb

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.

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Have you ever had one of those days where your interior monologue is too melodramatic even for yourself? One of those “my throat hurts and work is so stressful and my back aches and oh what’s it all foooor” kinds of days?

I call those chicken soup days, and I’m hanging out there right about…now.

Chicken soup seems to cure, or nearly cure, almost anything: sore throats, body aches, winter malaise, work-related stress. I haven’t been brainwashed by the Campbell Soup Company, I promise.  People have been eating chicken soup for centuries. Even the Ancient Egyptians prescribed chicken soup for the common cold. And if it was good enough for Queen Nefertiti, then it’s good enough for me.

There actually are scientific reasons behind the world’s fixation on chicken soup, whether it’s Jewish matzo ball soup or Greek avgolemono. The steam from the soup helps clear congested nasal passageways, and the salty broth draws out liquid from swollen glands and reduces inflammation and soreness. And because it’s easy to digest, chicken soup is easy to handle on an iffy stomach.

Chicken soup

But mostly, chicken soup just tastes good. There’s something so comforting about it. Maybe it’s because most people start eating chicken soup as kids, often fed by their mothers and fathers, but it’s one of those foods that can make you feel completely at home. And nothing beats real, homemade chicken soup.

The problem is, when you’re a working girl with an interior monologue histrionic enough to rival Paris Hilton, you don’t always have the full day it takes to make the real thing. You need a shortcut — and one that doesn’t involve the words “Heat & Serve.” So I came up with this recipe that tastes pretty close to the real deal. It may not be Mom-mom’s soup, but on a weeknight, it’s as close as I’m going to get.

I think I feel better already.

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