By Cara Nakata
Serves 6, with leftovers
March just feels like winter is breaking down, and lamb stew seems to be just the thing to celebrate a few warm moments in the sunshine. The bacon fat adds the slightest smoky flavor which is almost indiscernible but adds a depth of flavor. The meat which is added at the end lends a different textural quality to the stew meat. We love this savory stew with crusty bread to soak up the last bits of tasty gravy.
4 slices bacon
1 ½ pounds lamb or mutton stew meat
6 ounces Cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 c. celery, cut into ¾” chunks
1 c. shallots, cut into ¾” chunks
2 T. butter
¼ c. flour
2 c. water or beef stock
1 t. mushroom bouillon
4-6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 c. carrots (4 large carrots), cut into ¾“ chunks
1 c. potatoes, cut into ¾” chunks
14 ounces canned tomatoes, diced
1 4-6” stalk fresh rosemary
2 4-6” stalks fresh thyme
½ t. oregano, dried
1 c. petite peas, frozen
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, cook the bacon slices until they render fat. Remove the bacon and reserve for another use.
Into the bacon fat, place about half the lamb chunks, and allow to brown without disturbing for about 4 minutes before stirring. Brown on the other side without stirring for about 3 ½ minutes, and season with salt and pepper. Remove the meat from the pan to a large bowl and brown the remaining meat.
When all the meat is browned, place about a quarter of the meat into a covered container and refrigerate. Add a tablespoon of oil if needed, and over medium high heat, sauté the mushrooms for about 3-4 minutes, until one side is well-browned. Season with salt and pepper and remove to the meat bowl.
Add another tablespoon or two of oil, if needed, and sauté the celery and shallots until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Place in the meat bowl.
Add the butter to the pot, and when melted, add the flour. With a flat whisk, blend together and allow to cook for a minute or two, whisking to avoid burning. Add in about 1/3 of the stock or water, whisking quickly to incorporate into the liquid. When it’s smooth, (about a minute) add in the remaining liquid and whisk until smooth. Stir in the mushroom bouillon if using, and add in the meat and vegetables and their juices. Stir in the garlic, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and herbs. Taste the gravy for saltiness and add salt. Cover, reduce heat and cook on low simmer for 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally. (Alternately, cover and place in a 300° F oven for 6-7 hours.) The meat should be fork tender.
Taste and adjust seasonings, stir in peas and the reserved meat. Cover for about 4 minutes to reheat meat and thaw the peas. Stir and serve.