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Blog Posted in avatar   Jonathan Farrell's Blog

Lamb Stew is still the best stew to make and economical even when price of lamb is high

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By Jonathan Farrell
Posted Apr 6, 2013 in Food
Tired of so much beef and chicken for dinner, try lamb!
In a nation of beef eaters, lamb is often over-looked by many Americans. Or, well it seems that way. The reason why I say this is try finding an abundance of lamb at your local supermarket. Here in California in the San Francisco Bay Area, people are really blessed with such a wide array of food selections, especially farm fresh items like produce, etc. The organic farm movement has really helped to raise awareness about the importance of knowing where our food comes from and the ingredients in it.
While I agree with nutritionists, Americans need to eat more vegetables and fruits and cut back on all meats, a little bit of meat in the diet helps provide flavor and variety. Also, I heard meat is an easy source of protein among other nutrients the body needs.
So, in a supermarket with a meat section overloaded with chicken and beef, what other options are there? Yes, there's pork. Yet, that too gets overdone. Veal is too much like beef, although a good Veal Marcella or Veal Scallopini is great, once in a while.
Yet what about lamb? Lamb chops are good if you don't mind frying. But if you have guests or lots of family to feed, a simple, yet hearty stew will satisfy. I have made Persian style lamb stew often referred to as Sabzi. It is a bit more elaborate, with all those wonderful spices and herbs.
Yet whether spiced up or not, lamb stew is basic and will not disappoint. Most of the set-back to good lamb stew is finding good fresh lamb that is affordable. Yes, it can get expensive. Still, it is all in how one shops for lamb.
Of course going to a specialty market, lamb will be a bit higher in price. Yet a regular customer can always bargain with the butcher to custom package the meat. For example, usually meat unwrapped behind the glass is sold by the pound. Ask for a half of pound or even a quarter pound, most butchers are happy to oblige and this can save on the tally at the checkout aisle.
Most of the time, butchers or grocery clerks will recommend buying neck, shoulder or shank of lamb. Boneless lamb or lamb cut into cubes is more costly. On the bone is economical if you are feeding lots of people. These are usually sold in pieces and meat on the bone makes for a much richer and flavorful stew. Again, how many pieces and size of pieces can be negotiated with the butcher to fit your budget. If you buy a pre-wrapped package, then the price on the sticker is the price you get.
If you want more meat to the stew but do not want to pay for more lamb. Then buy a bit of beef to help fill the pot. But ideally you want more lamb than beef, otherwise what's the point of having lamb, right?
Warehouse grocery outlets like Costco, Smart & Final and others often have packages of lamb, such as lamb shank. But they are only available at certain times of the year, like during holiday season. And, even then, watch out for the pre-cooked packages or the seasonings that can be added to the package. It is always best to add your own seasonings than to buy any meat that has been pre-seasoned, salted, etc.
My sister recommends simple seasonings and basic ingredients, such as onions, carrots, celery and parsley or cilantro. Searing the surface of the lamb meat on the grill or in a frying pan is best before placing in the stew pot. Searing helps seal in flavor and start the cooking process.
For me, I recommend broiling the lamb meat in the oven for about 15 minutes. A simple quick broil will give the lamb meet, a really good flavor - even on the bone. And, this lets the meat release its juices, which helps in making a gravy for the stew. Making a bit of gravy can help to thicken the stew if there is too much water from the vegetables. Adding some mushrooms also helps, especially in enhancing the flavor.
Once all the ingredients are in the pot, let simmer with a lid for at least an hour. Lower the heat if lid starts to shake or contents bubble up and start to spill out. Check and stir frequently to keep everything even and from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Lamb meat should fall away from the bone, is the indicator that stew is ready to be served.
Serve on plates over rice. A soup bowl, might be even better; that way family and or guests can enjoy the gravy all the more. Served over rice is traditional, but a flat egg noodle works too.

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