I’m a little tardy on reporting the first snow on Mendenhall this year. But over a week ago, a magical evening snow arrived on a Friday, which was perfect timing for a weekend full of adventures outside and cozy (or hygge, as I’ve been saying lately) time by the fireplace with friends and great warm food.
My preparation for the snow weekly was not the typical North Carolina hysteria for bread and milk. I rushed to the store on Friday afternoon to purchase a big leg of lamb, vegetables and fresh yeast to make homemade bread.
After a long walk (and beers) through Downtown, I quickly put together this most delicious Lamb and Prune Stew for a late dinner for friends who were brave enough to trek over from Fisher Park. It was the perfect warm meal after a long day of chilly walks – hearty, rich and slightly sweet from the melted prunes (don’t let them scare you!).
Have I mentioned I have a broken oven? I do, so I deviated from the recipe and used my slow cooker. It still turned out great but I recommend using a dutch oven. Hope on this while it’s still chilly out!
Lamb & Prune Stew, Fine Cooking Magazine
- 3 lb. boneless lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-1/2- to 2-inch pieces
- 3 Tbs. grapeseed oil or vegetable oil; more as needed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium celery stalks, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 to 2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 cup hard cider
- 2-1/2 cups homemade or lower-salt store-bought beef broth
- 2-1/2 cups peeled pearl onions
- 2-1/2 cups 1-inch carrot pieces
- 1 cup prunes, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.
Spread the lamb on paper towels to dry for 10 to 20 minutes before browning. (You can use this time to chop the onion, celery, and carrot). If the meat is very wet, pat it dry.
In a 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Season about one-third of the lamb with salt and pepper and arrange it in a single layer in the pot (there should be at least 1/2 inch of space between the pieces). Brown well on at least 4 sides, adjusting the heat as necessary; each batch should take about 10 minutes to brown. Transfer the lamb to a large bowl or rimmed baking sheet as it browns and repeat with the rest of the lamb, seasoning with salt and pepper before browning. Once all of the lamb is browned, remove the pot from the heat to let it cool for a few minutes.
Pour all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot. (If there is not enough, add oil to equal 2 Tbs.) Return the pot to medium heat, then add the yellow onion, celery, and coarsely chopped carrot. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the cider, stirring with the wooden spatula to dissolve any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Raise the heat to medium high and boil to reduce by about half, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the beef broth and 1-1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil.
Return the lamb to the pot along with any accumulated juice. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
Crumple a 12×16-inch piece of parchment, then flatten it out. (Crumpling makes for easy handling.) Place the parchment directly on the surface of the stew, allowing the ends to come up the sides of the pot. Cover and put in the oven.
After 1 hour of stewing, add the pearl onions, carrot pieces, and prunes to the pot. Cover with the parchment and lid, and cook until the lamb is fork-tender, 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours more (shoulder cuts will take longer than leg cuts).