Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Farmers Market Lamb & Mushroom Stew

My summer cooking motto continues to be – Farmer’s Markets make us all better cooks. 

Whatever you pick up at a farmers market will do their best to make you look like a super star.  This Mushroom-backed Lamb Stew is the perfect example of how fortuitous shopping and cooking up front can build you many meals into the future, and each one of them is luxurious in its tastiness. 

Last time it was lamb sausage - and so good I couldn't leave the lamb out this time.  But this recipe wouldn't have been anywhere near as roll-your-eyes-back-tasty without the mushrooms.

Pacific Crest Foraging
I got there late - note all the empty bins in back!
I'll have to get there earlier next time if I want fresh mushrooms.  

Summer Lamb Stew with a Mushroom Base and a Farmer’s Market Supporting Cast
(Lamb Meat Pies for leftovers follows)

It takes a while to cook…. but most of the time you get to ignore it.

Soup pot or Dutch oven – it MUST have a lid
Tongs (optional – but helpful)
Long Spoon for stirring soup
Spatula for sautéing onions & shifting potatoes
Cutting board
Plate/shallow pan
Bowl that can hold about 4 cups
Cookie sheet/ Half-sheet pan

fingerling potatoes
worth a little special treatment

1 lamb shoulder cut (approx. 2 lbs) (Our local lamb grower is is Martiny Livestock)
¼ C flour
a few tsp oil (nothing fancy)
1 bunch sweet carrots – cut roughly into small bite sized chunks
2 shallots – sliced thin
1 sweet onion - quartered and sliced thin
3 cloves garlic - crushed/chopped fine
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 pkg. Pacific Crest dried mushrooms (I loved the Wild Mix in here)
2 cups boiling water
¾ lb fingerling (or other waxy*) potatoes – cut roughly into small bite sized chunks
a few sprigs thyme
2 more tsp oil
salt & pepper as needed

Boil 2 cups of water, pour over the dried mushrooms.  Set aside until they are well hydrated.  Save the water!

Sprinkle salt and a little pepper all over the surface of your lamb shoulder.  Cut into 4 - 6  large pieces, of roughly equal size.  Trim off any tough membrane, and large chunks of fat.  Leave in the bones and interior pieces of fat.  Both of these add flavor you really want in your stew – bones can be removed before serving.
Spread the flour on a plate/shallow pan.  Dredge the lamb in the flour, so it has a light coating all over.

Use the necessary tools -
garlic press & a favorite knife are a big help

Cut up all the vegetables as needed.
 Toss the potatoes with a tsp of salt, the thyme and the 2 tsp of oil, and spread out on the half sheet pan.


Set your soup pot/dutch oven over medium-high heat with a drizzle of oil in the bottom.  Let this heat for a few minutes – until a piece of onion sizzles in the oil. 

Brown the lamb in the pot – let it sit still until the flour starts to brown – then turn.  Set aside on a plate.
Add another small drizzle of your oil, turn the heat down to medium, and drop in the shallots, half the sweet onion and all the garlic.  Add a half tsp. of salt, and stir.  Cook over medium heat until translucent and “sweaty” (moist and smelly).  Stir occasionally.   This will take awhile, so….

Remove the mushrooms from the water, squeeze well, and chop fine (about ¼” pieces or smaller).  Save the water!  Strain that through a strainer/paper towel/coffee filter to remove any grit.

When the shallots etc. are tender, stir in the tomato paste and a spoonful of the mushroom water – to loosen the mixture.  Cook this until the tomato paste darkens a little.

Stir in the mushrooms, and let the mixture thicken slightly.
Add the lamb back in, add the mushroom water, and maybe a little more water to just cover the lamb.  Lower the heat to med-low or where you need to to get the very lowest boil/simmer COVERED for 1.5 – 2 hours. (You can also place this in a preheated oven at 250˚F – 300˚F - check to see that the mixture is simmering)

While you are waiting on your lamb to stew – roast your potatoes (this can also be done while you reheat the stew, if you made it the day before.)
Preheat your oven to 425˚F
When the oven is hot, roast your potatoes for about 20 minutes (until they are delicious), be sure to shift/toss them at 10 minutes.

When they get a little crusty skin - yummy!
When the lamb seems almost done, add in the carrots and the rest of the sweet onion for the last 20 minutes.  Taste and add salt/pepper to make it just right.
(Remove bones if desired)

Serve over the roasted potatoes.
P.S. You can also cook the potatoes in the stew – just let them cook 15 minutes longer than the carrots.

Next up – Lamb Rissoles (fancy word for Meat Pie)

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