Monday, March 3, 2008
Lamb Stew in Three Layers
Sunday night, I took a turn at cooking a new stew. Stew is how I first began to cook for large groups in college. My father has recipe for Beef Stew that I have grown up with. It is an incredibly simple recipe (Beef, potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, and a few seasonings), but it is my ideal for beef stew. That said, I have tried to branch into other kinds of beef stew before, but it has always ended in disaster. In particular, there was the beef and beer stew that we made about a year ago. It was a very nice rendition of beef in a brown sauce, but it hardly qualified as stew for me. So last night, I was not prepared to tackle another beef stew. Instead, I choose an easier opponent, a lamb stew from Gourmet Cookbook.
The first step in the recipe is to cut off and render the fat. Render? I render something inactive or, in my geekier moments, I render graphics - I do not render fat. For my companions in ignorance, rendering fat, refers to cooking fat over low heat, in an effort to melt it. At first taking special care to add fat to lamb (which is a fatty meat already) may seem counterintuitive, but it really did result in a stew with a full, rich flavor. After cooking the lamb meat, carrots, and onions in the rendered fat, the stew was then prepared in layers. That's right, layers - like a casserole. The bottom layer was lamb, then a layer of carrots and onions, and, finally, the potatoes. I have never used layers in a stew before, and I couldn't tell if it made a difference in the cooking. I may try this recipe again and not add the layers, just to see what happens.
If you have any interest in lamb stew, I would recommend this recipe as a lighter, fresher version of lamb stew. The short cooking time (1 hour of simmering), keeps the flavors from blending to the point of homogeneity, and the use of chicken broth and white wine (the recipe didn't call for it, but I thought it would make a nice addition) keeps the stew lighter then others made with beef broth.