I’m proud to announce that we’re back online, coming to you live and direct from our new headquarters in a renovated firehouse in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. It’s just like Ghostbusters, sort of! The new kitchen is amazing and I can’t wait to create all kinds of wonderful things to share with my readers. Even before we were able to unpack all of the boxes and do a proper round of grocery shopping (hell, we don’t even have a proper set of dishes or flatware yet), I insisted that we enjoy at least one home-cooked meal over the weekend. And I’m proud to say that we broke in our new kitchen with this wonderful, surprisingly light version of the classic French “Navarin D’Agneau Printanier,” or Ragoût of Lamb with Spring Vegetables. Most people order pizza on moving day. But no sir, not me – I make classic French cuisine that is eaten while surrounded by towers of moving boxes and crumpled-up balls of pages from weeks-old copies of the Sunday Times.
My classmates and I made this dish during our first class in our second level of culinary school. Although nearly everything we make at school is delicious, this is just one of those recipes that stands out in technicolor among the rest. Braised slowly at a low temperature in the oven, Ragoût of Lamb with Spring Vegetables is perfect for a leisurely Sunday supper.
Neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable
1 lb. of lamb stew meat in cubes
1 1/2 medium carrots, cut in 1/2″ chunks
1 medium onion, cut in 1/2″ chunks
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed lightly
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. flour
Roughly 4 cups of veal or chicken stock
1 1/2 medium carrots, washed, peeled, and cut in uniform 2″ lengths
1 medium turnip, washed, peeled, and cut in uniform 2″ lengths
2 large red bliss potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut in uniform 2″ lengths
12 pearl onions, reserved in a bowl of warm water so that they are easier to peel
A good handful of string beans, washed and trimmed into uniform 2″ lengths
1/4 cup of frozen green peas
Handful of parsley leaves, chopped fine
1 tsp. of sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Inspect the cubes of lamb and make sure to trim away any large pieces of fat. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
3. Put a large oven-safe dutch oven or wide stock pot over high heat on the stove, and add just enough neutral oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
4. When oil is nice and hot, add lamb cubes in a single layer and brown on all sides. (Work in batches, if necessary.) Be careful not to burn the bits that form on the bottom of the pan. Remove lamb cubes, reserve on a plate, and add a bit more oil to the pan.
5. Return pan to fire over medium-high heat. Add chunks of carrot and onion and toss to coat with oil. Allow vegetables to develop a light brown color and a bit of caramelization. Add crushed garlic cloves and cook about 30 more seconds. Add tomato paste, stir to incorporate, and then add flour and stir to incorporate. (Mixture will seem thick and gluey. This is normal.) Remove pan from heat and return the browned lamb cubes.
6. Add just enough of the veal or chicken stock to cover the meat and vegetables. If more liquid is needed, use water.
7. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven to braise for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until meat is fork tender. While the pot is in the oven, prepare the garniture.
8. Before cooking any of the garniture vegetables, inspect the carrots, turnips, potatoes, and string beans to make sure that all of the pieces are close to the same length and that they are roughly the same size. The idea is to cook them evenly, and also to enhance the aesthetic presentation of the dish. (NOTE: I have tournaged all of my garniture vegetables into cocottes for practice, but this takes quite a bit of time and patience, so just try to get evenly-sized pieces.)
9. Using a paring knife, trim and peel the pearl onions.
10. Place carrots, turnips, potatoes, and pearl onions in a large frying pan. Fill pan with water until it comes about halfway up the sides of the vegetables. Add a few pats of butter around the pan, the tsp. of sugar, and a few pinches of salt. Cover with lid, leaving a little vent. Place pan over medium to medium-low heat and simmer until all vegetables are tender. Ideally, just as the liquid almost evaporates, the vegetables will be ready. (NOTE: It’s a good idea to taste each vegetable separately, as some may be done quicker than others.)
11. Remove lid and add a bit more butter into the pan. Sauté the vegetables until they develop a light golden-brown color on the outsides. Reserve on a plate.
12. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, and prepare a large bowl full of ice water to set aside. When water in the saucepan starts to bubble, add a good handful of kosher salt. Add the string beans to the boiling salted water and cook for about 2-3 minutes, and then transfer immediately to ice water to stop the cooking. Next, drop the frozen peas in the boiling saltwater and cook for about 30 seconds. Transfer immediately to ice water with the string beans. Strain the ice water away and reserve the string beans and peas on a plate.
13. When the meat has finished braising in the oven, remove pot, and turn off the oven. Using kitchen tongs, carefully remove the lamb cubes to a plate but keep all of the other ingredients in the pot. Put back on the stove over high heat, uncovered, and reduce the liquid until the consistency is somewhere between a soup broth and a thick sauce. While reducing, occasionally skim the layer of grease from the top with a ladle.
14. When desired consistency is achieved, strain the solids from the liquid and discard the solids. Place the liquid back in the pot. Season the remaining liquid with salt and pepper to taste, and add the lamb cubes and garniture vegetables to the liquid. Bring up to desired serving temperature over low heat.
15. Arrange pieces of meat and vegetables in large shallow bowls. Spoon some sauce over the vegetables and sprinkle with finely chopped parsley. Serve warm with large spoons.
Yield: 4 bowls of colorful comfortPrinter Friendly