Now is the time for spring lamb. Many farmers are offering pastured lamb now, though after butchering they generally freeze the lamb right away. Rosemont Market will have it fresh from their suppliers such as Straw Farm and others who they deal with directly buying the whole animal for nose to tail butchery.
One of my favorite preparations is for lamb stew, and the recipe I offer here has been one that I’ve made for many years. It’s cooked in a light tomato-based sauce; you can use fresh tomatoes when they’re in season but the canned or package variety produces very admirable results. I like the Pomi brand in the sealed containers. Pomi and San Marzano tomatoes are available in some supermarkets and at Whole Foods.
The best cuts for lamb stew are either shoulder or neck bone or a combination of both. If you don’t want to deal with the neck bones, then just use a boned shoulder. Have the butcher cut it into 2-inch stewing pieces.
Shoulder of lamb cut up for stewing
You can make this a day in advance, and allowing it to rest refrigerated overnight concentrates the flavors. Or you can serve it right away.
During the last 20 minutes of cooking, add parboiled potatoes and carrots and you’ve got a complete meal in one pot.
Lamb stew with potatoes and carrots
Spring lamb stew
3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 garlic cloves, crushed, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup white vermouth or white wine
1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped and salted or 16 ounces diced Pomi or San Marzano brand tomatoes
Several sprigs savory and thyme
1/2 cup tomato sauce (recipe follows)
About 3 to 4 medium size Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters or smaller pieces if desired
3 carrots, scraped and cut into 2-inch lengths
Prepare the tomato sauce as directed below; set aside until needed. The excess sauce can be stored in a glass jar and refrigerated for about 3 days.
If using fresh tomatoes, prepare them as directed, put into a colander over a bowl, salt and allow to drain for about 20 minutes.
Dredge the meat in flour, shaking off excess and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. When hot, brown the meat, turning often so all sides get colored. If needed add the extra tablespoon oil. Add onions, stir, and garlic. Lower the heat and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
Raise the heat to high and add the vermouth or wine to deglaze. Using a wooden spoon scrape the bottom to loosen up the residue and continue to stir until thoroughly deglazed. Add the herbs, prepared tomato sauce and tomatoes, bring to a lively simmer and then adjust the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook either on the stove top or in a 300 to 325 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Check the stew periodically, stirring, and adjusting the heat if necessary. It should cook at a gentle simmer at all times.
Meanwhile parboil the potatoes and carrots in separate pots for 10 minutes; drain and set aside. Add these during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Stir in until completely immersed in the stew. Continue to cook.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and chopped
Several sprigs fresh savory
26.5 ounce can or box of Pomi or San Marzano chopped tomatoes
Sea salt, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until onions are softened; don’t let the garlic color.
Add the tomatoes and savory. Cover the pot loosely and let simmer for 45 minutes until any excess liquid is gone. You should have a thick sauce. Taste for salt; and if the sauce is acidic add the sugar.
Pour the sauce into the work bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until you have a coarse puree. Use as directed in the lamb stew recipe.
Local ingredients used
Lamb, Straw Farm
Potatoes, Goranson Farm
Carrots, Thirty-Acre Farm