I was excited to see that we got some lamb in our latest Stillman’s meat share. Half of it was ground lamb, which I used for moussaka, and the other half was stew meat. Warm, bright weather doesn’t make me want to rush inside to braise anything, but lately we’ve been having just as much rain and gloom as sun, so the Le Creuset hasn’t been retired just yet.
For a little springtime inspiration, I leafed through The Cook and the Gardener by former New York Times writer Amanda Hesser. I like this book not only because the recipes are arranged by month and season, but also because there’s something about the author’s relationship with her timeworn French gardener that reminds me a bit of my Farmer. Only their dynamic seems a lot less psychotic. To each her own.
This braise is greener than the average stew, but just as satisfying. It pairs spring lamb with asparagus, peas, tarragon, and chervil. Tarragon, I know and love, but somehow chervil wasn’t ever on my radar. Which it should be. It has that lovely anise flavor that I enjoy so much in fennel and liquor. If you know someone who hates licorice, go ahead and taunt them with this dish with extra chervil. They’re crazy and they deserve it.
Lamb Stew with Asparagus and Peas
I served this with roasted potatoes one night and buttermilk biscuits the next. You need something to soak up all the wonderful gravy, besides your fingers.
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1½ lbs. lamb stew meat (or shoulder or leg cut into 2-inch pieces)
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 carrot, peeled and diced finely
3 Tbsp. flour
½ cup white wine
5 cups beef stock (or veal, chicken, lamb, or vegetable stock, or water)
1 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped, stems reserved
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
10 stalks asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears cut into 1-inch pieces (or, in my case, last night’s leftover roasted asparagus)
2 cloves garlic, crushed, peeled, and minced
1 tsp. chopped, fresh tarragon or chervil (or both)
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large, heavy pot that has a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides (no bunching up—do it in two batches, if you have to). Remove meat to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Reduce heat to medium. To the pot, add the onion and carrot, and sauté until starting to soften, 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, and cook stirring quickly for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and reduce to 2 Tbsp. Add the stock and the lamb with its juices, increase heat, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, tie the parsley stems, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves together with kitchen string, and add them to the pot (you don’t need to tie them; it just makes it easier to fish them out later). Once boiling, reduce heat and place cover slightly askew to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook 1-1½ hours, until meat is falling-apart tender.
While the meat is cooking, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, and cook asparagus 1-2 minutes to take the edge off its crispness. Drain. In a small bowl, combine parsley, garlic, tarragon, and chervil. When the meat is almost done, stir in the blanched asparagus, frozen peas, and half of the garlic herb mixture. Cook 3-4 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper, and remove bundle of herbs. Serve stew sprinkled with reserved garlic/herb mixture.
Source: Adapted from The Cook and the Gardener by Amanda Hesser.