Super Stew (With Video)
Lamb Stew with Chickpeas and Pomegranate Molasses (co-opted from Cooking Light January 2006)
Please scroll down for the video.
Stew is a delicious, satisfying, seasonal specialty that is relatively easy to make. You can add or change ingredients on the fly - like substituting one root veggie for another (who cares if you use carrots, parsnip, potato, or rutabaga?). It's virtually indestructible, simmering for hours over low heat while infusing your kitchen with that heady smell of hearty comfort food and sweating onions. You can double batches with ease, freezing some for a busy evening or allowing leftovers sit in the fridge for a few days, as the flavors develop even more complexity and harmony. Use the "low and slow" cooking technique, which entails cooking with low heat for a more prolonged period of time. Increasing cooking time at lower temperatures helps dissolve and tenderize the muscle tissue of the cheaper, tougher cuts of meat commonly used for soups or braises. These meats also have a higher fat content that prevents them from becoming dry and tough after hours in the pot. Look for beef stew meat, leg of lamb, or pork shoulder. There is no reason to splurge for Kobe beef, New York strip or rack of lamb for simple stews. Besides wasting money, it spoils the simple, humble grace of great soups. I assure you that after 2 hours of simmering, your meat will be spoon tender and wonderful.
Below I will detail the 7 easy steps that will transform your life and restore the power to you. If you envision it, you can be it! Just kidding. However, I will simplify and demystify the 7 easy steps that define great stews, so even a novice cook can wow pals and in-laws with a soulful, rich, homemade meal.
1. RIGHT PAN & RIGHT MEAT
Choose a Dutch oven or a large, heavy, lidded enamel pan with tall sides, like one of those gorgeous Le Creuset oval braisers, preferably in that creamy spring blue or that golden orange wash (are you listening, Brian?). A tight fitting lid ensures no liquid escapes during prolonged simmering and that heat stays constant within. But any heavy-duty soup pot and lid will do. As I mentioned, ask your butcher which cuts of meat work best in stews. This particular recipe specifies lamb leg. Try to cut your meat into roughly equal sized cubes, so it cooks more evenly. (FYI: The butchers at Homegrown Meats in La Jolla will happily cube the lamb leg for you).
2. SAUTE AROMATICS
Aromatics include stuff like onions, leeks, garlic, and shallots. Use any combination to create a base flavor for your stew. Allow the onions to turn golden brown and carmelize a little. You should have brown bits stuck to the bottom of your pan. These sticky pieces of food create big flavors later on. Once you've browned the onions, remove them from the pan so you can start on your meat.
3. DREDGE IN FLOUR
I like to use seasoned flour with salt and pepper. Dredge the meat cubes in flour and then shake off the extra. The flour helps create a tasty, crispy brown crust on the meat that seals the juice inside. The admixture of flour fluff and melted fat also creates a roux of sorts that helps thicken your final product.
4. BROWN YOUR MEAT
Heat your oil and then add your meat in batches. Please don't crowd the meat. You must ensure your meat cubes have enough space around them to adequately brown up on all sides. Remember, you're just searing the outside of the meat; it is still totally raw in the middle (so don't sample it just yet). Aim to get a nice layer of brown yummy bits on the bottom of your pan. You need these for flavor.
Add your liquid (traditionally wine or broth) and scrape the bottom of your pan as you pour, and the broth comes to a boil. The browned bits, called a "fond," should release fairly easily. This is the best part.
6. LOW & SLOW
Cover and simmer your stew. Simmering is not boiling or vigorously percolating or even chugging along. Simmer means bubble- pause- bubble- bubble- pause. It is a perambulating stroll, not a sprint. Your meat needs time. Believe me, if you go from raw chunks to cooked through in 20 minutes, your meat will be rubber. So relax. Have a glass of wine or read a book. Hang out.
7. ADD VEG LAST
So you can't really "simmer" carrots for 3 hours. You'll have grey, tasteless, texture-less mush. So unless you're going for puree, add veggies last. They only need 20 or 30 minutes, depending on their size. That way you'll confidently identify a carrot cube from the potato wedge with each bite.
Feel free to change up this recipe or pair it with another wine varietal altogether. The Middle Eastern-inspired flavors of the pomegranate molasses sing out for allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, and even a pinch of clove. Experiment, and add other spices for fun. You can also toss in golden raisins, dates or dried fig. It's all good. Drop me a line and let me know how your stew turned out and the wine you chose as its partner. I'd love to know. A Bruliam Kitchens Production follows below. If you can't see the video, please click here.
From Cooking Light January 2007
2 cups chopped red onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 (14-ounce) cans less-sodium beef broth
2 cups (1/4-inch) slices carrot
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups hot cooked couscous
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; sauté 10 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Spoon onion mixture into a large bowl.
Place flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge lamb in flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of lamb mixture; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add browned lamb to onion mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining lamb mixture and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Add pomegranate molasses and broth to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; bring to a boil. Stir in lamb mixture. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until lamb is just tender.
Stir in carrot and chickpeas. Simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes or until lamb is very tender. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, mint, and pepper. Serve over couscous.