Friday, 27 April 2012

NAVARIN PRINTANIER: A French Lamb Stew


A really, truly delicious lamb stew!!!  Navarin printanier is French for lamb stew. "Navarin" refers to a stew which contains lamb, and the word "Printanier" alludes to springtime and to the first tiny vegetables appearing in the garden. 

This stew is made from lamb shoulder, a tougher cut of meat which becomes truly flavourful when properly cooked. The stewing method tenderizes tough pieces of meat and allows the flavours of the ingredients to blend deliciously. The dish needs to cook for about 2 hours, partly on the stove top and partly in the oven. In the end, the lamb comes out very tender, the vegetables are sweet, and the sauce is perfect! 

Meat from the shoulder of lamb is fatty, so a good amount of fat trimming needs to take place before it's ready for cooking. This type of meat also contains some bones, which I saved for cooking but discarded before serving. Adding bones to the pot makes the dish that much more flavourful. All too often making stew means cooking with beef. This lamb version is an absolutely delicious change!   
A previous rendition


Ingredients:

olive oil for sautéing     
2 pounds lamb shoulder, excess fat removed, bones separated. I purchased two pounds and the breakdown was as follows: one pound stewing meat, half a pound of fat which was discarded, and half a pound of bones.      
3 tablespoons flour       
2 cups broth       
6 Roma tomatoes chopped well after the skin and seeds have been removed
3 garlic cloves chopped  
1 small red onion, chopped   
1 pound small onions, such as pearl onions, skins removed   
3 carrots        
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered 
1tablespoon sugar
1 cup frozen peas    
salt and pepper    
a bouquet garni (tie it up) made up of rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs, and two bay leaves     
salt and pepper 
1/2 cup of water  
a few rosemary leaves, a few thyme leaves, and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 


Directions:

·        After removing the fat from the lamb cut the meat into 1½ inch pieces. Keep the bones. Bones left in while cooking bring added flavour to the stew. Once the stew finishes cooking, the lamb will be very tender, and the bones will just pop away from any meat and can be discarded before serving.
·        Use paper towels and dry the meat well because it will not brown if let damp.
·        In a Dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown the lamb on all sides. Brown it in batches without overcrowding the pan, and add more olive oil to the pot as needed.  
·        Remove the browned lamb to a plate and reserve. If there is a lot of fat in the pot, discard it. If the pot has just a lot of brown bits in it, by all means, leave them alone.
·        Season the meat with salt and pepper and sprinkle the flour on top. Stir the meat so that it's coated with flour.
·        Return it to the pot and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. This process of sautéing meat with flour will help to thicken the sauce.
·        Add the red onion and garlic. Mix and sauté for about two minutes.
·        Add the broth, chopped tomatoes and the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, making sure you gently incorporate into the broth all that brown goodness stuck to the bottom of the pot.
·        Place in a 300F degree oven and cook for two hours. While the lamb is cooking prepare the vegetables. Each vegetable will have to be precooked separately. 
·        First, remove the onion skins. When dealing with small onions there is a very easy way to do this: cut off the root and stem ends. Let the onions cook in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain them, and when they are cool enough to handle, pick them up one by one. You'll be able to squeeze their skins right off.
·        In a skillet, heat a little of the olive oil and sauté the onions until they turn brown. Add the 1/2 cup of water, a few rosemary leaves, a few thyme leaves and two tablespoons parsley. Simmer slowly until the liquid evaporates, about half an hour.
·        Add the peas and half of the sugar. Stir for about a minute or two and then remove them to a plate and cover to keep them warm.
·        In the same skillet heat a little more olive oil and add the carrots, potatoes, a few rosemary and a few thyme leaves. Stir for about 2 minutes and then add the rest of the sugar. Cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are browned.
·        When the lamb has cooked for two hours, add the potatoes and carrots but still keep the onions and peas reserved. Mix and cover the pot.
·        Raise the oven temperature to 375F and place the pot back in the oven. Cook for another 45 minutes or until the lamb is really tender. Make sure there is enough liquid in the pot. You may or may not need to add a little bit more.  
·        Discard the bouquet garni and the bones.
·        Stir in the peas and onions, and serve.

·    Like all good stews, this lamb stew will need to be ladled into soup plates. And, like all good stews (perhaps it's a cliché to mention it), it will taste better the next day.