Sunday, November 14, 2010
The secret of lamb stew
Many years ago, I remember some chef on television talking about wine in a recipe. I can’t recall who the chef was, but the comment made an impact. He said that when cooking with wine, use a good wine, not some cheap “cooking wine” or other cheap swill. His comment was, “If you wouldn’t drink it by the glass, then why would you want to cook with it?”
Sage advice, indeed. And it holds up after repeated testing.
As you may recall, I wrote about a lamb stew that I went over the top with by cooking it with a 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape, and it was delicious! The second time I made lamb stew (sorry, I didn’t write about this one), I used a Sicilian red, the 2008 Cusumano Nero D’Avola. And that stew also was delicious! I’m talking really good folks, positively heavenly!
While the Châteauneuf du Pape I used was a $39 bottle of wine, the Sicilian was just $11 and still made an outstanding stew.
I recently made lamb stew again, and this time the wine I used was an inexpensive 2007 Bordeaux, Chateau du Pavillon. The stew was very good, but it wasn’t the same heavenly delight as the previous two batches had been. Your guests might never know the difference, unless they happen to eat a lot of lamb stew that you prepare. But this most recent experience will likely lead me to shy away from using a Bordeaux again. If there is anything I’ve learned so far, the closer to the Mediterranean you are with the wine, the better the lamb stew.
This latest serving was accompanied with the Saint Cosme 2009 Cotes du Rhone, a really splendid wine that isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, Saint Cosme is a very reliable producer of Cotes du Rhone, St. Joseph and Châteauneuf du Pape.
The Chateau du Pavillon I rate with an 8 using my scale at the left. The Saint Cosme I will rate with a 9.
But enough of that, here’s my recipe.
So far, I haven’t made a lamb stew using lamb stew meat. Rather, each time I’ve used the leftovers from a leg of lamb I prepared earlier. I’m usually left with at least a pound of meat, which I cut up into large cubes. Even all the other seasoning and preparations I retain (such as pine nuts, spinach, and goat cheese).
I brown this meat in a large kettle with a bit of olive oil. Next, I add about 32 ounces of beef broth and 2 cups of wine. That’s right, 2 bleeping cups of wine. To this I add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of dried marjoram, 1 bay leaf, and about a half teaspoon each of salt and pepper. After bringing this to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
Things are starting to smell really good about now.
When the vegetables are tender, remove the bay leaf. Take a half-cup of sour cream or plain yogurt and mix with 3 tablespoons of flour. Mix it well. Then take about a half-cup of the stew liquid and mix it with the flour and sour cream until smooth. Return that to the kettle and stir thoroughly, cooking for another minute or so. Your stew is ready now. Don’t faint when you taste it.