Monday, March 21, 2011

Lamb Stew

St. Patrick's Day just came and went again for another year, and I repeated a successful lamb stew from last year. I found a basic recipe on Closet Cooking (well-suited for my NYC kitchen as that was microscopic) and tweaked it. The basics? Begin with good looking lamb (yes, this is a bit of a beauty contest) and select your veggies. Make sure to have good-quality beef stock on hand if you don't make your own. You'll want a good sized pot for this as well.

This recipe calls for Guinness or another stout beer, but you can use more beef stock if you do not want to use the beer. The original recipe called for adding the potatoes and carrots later in the cooking so they're not as cooked, but I like to add them earlier on. It's a preference thing so go with whatever you want. As for the lamb, I was fortunate enough to have gone to a store with a real butcher so I asked for lamb stew meat and got some of the best looking lamb I'd ever seen. The meat will flavor the whole stew so you want it to be good.

After making it once, you might see some tweaks you'd like to make. Go for it! Here's the recipe so you can get started:

Lamb Stew (modified by Anne Lane)
1 tablespoon oil
1.5 pounds lamb, give or take (cut into bite sized pieces)
2 onions (roughly chopped)
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons flour
1 Guinness (or other dark stout)
* beef stock
1 tablespoon rosemary (chopped)
1 tablespoon thyme (chopped-- pull it off of the woody stem first!)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
4 white potatoes (cut into bite sized pieces)
8 carrots (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 handful parsley (chopped) garnish-- optional

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the lamb and brown on each side. I remove the browned pieces from the pan and place them on a plate so as to avoid crowding.

Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes. It will take less time for this if you're using a cast iron pot. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir. Add the Guinness and enough beef stock to cover.

Add the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper, plus the potatoes and carrots if you want them more done. Add more beef stock if you add the veggies now.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the lamb is fork tender, about 1-2 hours. Check it every so often for seasoning.

If you haven't already, add the potatoes and carrots and some more beef stock to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until they are tender, about 20-60 minutes depending on cut.

Serve in bowls with parsley (if using) and Irish soda bread on the side or some other good bread. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Brunswick Stew

Growing up, Brunswick Stew was always a favorite. My godmother, Mary Virginia, always had a fantastic recipe. Recently, she shared it with my mom, who shared it with me. The best part? It's still as wonderful and comforting and yet, it's not a difficult recipe! I'm posting her original recipe, along with my tweaks, which someone said make it Brunswitt Stew. From the reviews I got at the church supper, I'll take it. And without further ado, Brunswick Stew!

Brunswick Stew a la Mary Virginia
- 1 package (4 halves) chicken breasts, with skin and bones-- add more water if you find a value pack with 5 halves!
- 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
- 4 medium potatoes, diced (I used red most recently, and they were lovely. Yukon Golds would be delicious as well.)
- 1 average sized onion, chopped
- 2 cans butterbeans (I used one bag of frozen butterbeans, aka baby limas, and it was perfect.)
- 2 cans whole-grain white corn (I used 2 of the cans of white shoepeg corn, which are small but have a lot of corn in them!)
- 1 stick margarine (I switched to butter, just the regular salted variety.)
- salt and pepper to taste
- small amount of sugar (which I didn't add because I didn't think it was needed, plus I like my stew more savory.)

ALW additions:
- chicken stock if you need a little extra liquid later in cooking (I used unsalted.)
- tomato paste (the kind in the tube, which you should always have on hand, unless you cannot eat tomatoes!)

Salt and pepper each chicken breast, then cover with water in a large pot. You only want water to cover, but add more liquid later if you feel you need it or want a more brothy soup.

Add some more salt and pepper to the water as the chicken cooks as this is making your chicken stock. You want it flavorful!

When cooked, remove the chicken breasts and set aside to cool. Skim the stock of surface fat (schmaltz!). Save the schmaltz if you'll make authentic matzo ball later; otherwise, let it cool and trash it.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, butterbeans, and onions to the stock. Let simmer.

While this is cooking, take the cooled chicken and peel off the skin. You can either chop the chicken or simply pull it off of the bone into small pieces. You can guess which one I did.

Add the chicken back to the pot and bring to a boil. Let cook until the potatoes are tender.

Add the corn, being careful to stir the pot frequently as the corn will stick to the pan otherwise.

Check for seasonings (here's where you would add the chicken stock and/or tomato paste, should you feel you need it.) and then ladle into bowls to serve. It's delicious with ham biscuits or cornbread on the side.

This reheats very well, often tasting even better the next day, and also freezes beautifully.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup

I have always loved lentils. Among my early memories, I remember my mother serving us lentil soup, which I devoured. In the years that have followed, I have learned that there are different types of lentils, with different qualities. While living in New York City, I came upon red lentils and decided I needed to cook with them. They were too pretty to leave in the store!

With some help from the Google, I came upon a recipe on the blog Dove's Eye View, which came from Claudia Roden, an Egyptian Jewish food writer now residing in Britain. I have tweaked it slightly, something to which this recipe lends itself very easily. Play with it. I have in the past used chicken stock at some times and veggie at others, with bouillion cubes at others. If you're not concerned with making this vegan, the addition of some rinds of parmigiano reggiano is quite tasty. Make it your own!

And without further ado, here is my basic recipe:
- 1 large onion, chopped as finely as you can get it (I generally can't get it too fine, thanks to the tears!)
- 1 3/4 cups red lentils
- 7 1/2 cups meat or chicken or veggie stock or water (if you use the water, add a couple of bouillion cubes for flavor as you will need it)-- I've used the Kitchen Basics line of unsalted stocks, and their veggie stock gives this a lovely, deep color.
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp cumin
- juice of 1 lemon
- about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (more if you'd like to drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top)-- you can also do half olive oil, half butter

Using a minimum 2 1/2 quart pot, add the olive oil or olive oil/butter to the heated pot. Add the chopped onion and saute until it is translucent.

Add the liquid, lentils, and salt and pepper. Bring up to a simmer, then cover and let simmer on low for 30 minutes, or until the lentils have mostly fallen apart.

Check for seasoning, then add the cumin and lemon juice. Serve!

Makes 6 servings.