Meditations

Smoky Lamb & Chipotle Stew


Smoky Lamb & Chipotle Stew

About a year ago I was faced with the task of roasting a leg of lamb in an unfamiliar kitchen. I pulled it off, barely, but we were left with a bunch of undercooked meat in the fridge that needed using the next day. A drool-inducing photo of a beef stew on the cover of that month’s Sunset Magazine caught my attention, and as soon as I had finished reading the ingredient list I knew exactly what we’d be doing with our leftovers.

This stew was a great find. I find myself coming back to it every now and then as warming soul food for a cold and lazy winter weekend. With a modification or three along the way, here’s my latest version. It’s a slow cooker, you’ll need to start this at 2 or 3pm in order to have it ready for a reasonable dinner hour. Plan on 4 hours or so from start to finish.

For the pot:

  • 1½ to 2lbs of stewing lamb (a prime cut would just be a waste)
  • 5 strips of thick-cut hardwood-smoked bacon
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 1 bottle dry red wine (I tend to grab the cheapest BC cab sav the liquor store has on hand)
  • 1½ lbs each of yukon gold potatoes and carrots
  • 2 whole chipotle peppers from a tin (without the adobo), or grind a single dried chipotle if you can’t find tins, or just use a couple of tablespoons of chipotle powder if you can’t find either
  • paprika (the original recipe calls for smoked paprika, but that has proven awfully elusive so I just use normal unsmoked paprika)
  • flour
  • olive oil
  • salt

To garnish:

  • sheep’s milk feta, or even better, a light blue cheese like stilton
  • chives, or green onions if not available
  • pepper

You can go all mise en place and have the ingredients ready to go before you start, but the long cooking times mean a bit of prep strategy is the better choice.

Start with the lamb. Cut it into rough 1½" cubes, and trim as much fat as you can, you’re not going to need it. Turn on the stove to medium heat, and pour some oil into the bottom of a dutch oven. Get it nice and hot, then drop in a few pieces of lamb, making sure there’s a gap between each; I can fit about 8 pieces on the bottom of mine at once. Partially cover, and cook until the underside of the meat is brown and the pieces stop sticking to the bottom. Should be about 4 or 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes until that side’s brown too. Remove the cooked meat to a bowl (leaving the oil), and repeat until the lamb is all cooked. It’ll take 45 minutes to an hour.

Right about now, turn on your oven and get it warming up to 350F.

While you cook the last batch of lamb, chop up the bacon and onions into ½" slices. Once the lamb is all finished add the bacon to the pot. Stir every few minutes until it’s well-cooked, but not crispy. Move the bacon to the bowl, retaining the fat. Drop the onions into the pot, add a few pinches of salt, and cook until they start going soft and translucent while stirring occasionally. Remove them to the bowl as well, still retaining the oil.

As the bacon and onions cook, mix together about a quarter of a cup of flour and a teaspoon or so of paprika, and chop the chipotle peppers. When you’re done with the onions, pour the flour in the pot and slowly stir with a wooden spoon for about a minute, until the flour smells like baking pastry. Drop in the chipotles, stir and cook another minute, and then pour in the bottle of wine.

Turn the heat up to high, add the lamb, bacon and onions that were sitting in the bowl, and stir. Once the wine is boiling and the oven is ready, cover the pot and put it into the oven.

Set the clock for an hour and a half, but near the end of that time peel and chop the potatoes and carrots — the former as medium-sized chunks and the latter into thickly julienned 2" long strips. Once the timer goes, put the pot back on the stove and set it to high, drop in the vegetables and stir until the liquid is boiling again. Then put the pot back in the oven and cook uncovered until the veggies are tender. It should take about 30-45 minutes.

Smoky Lamb & Chipotle Stew in the pot

Now it’s time to serve. Garnish with sharp cheese and fresh green onion, the flavours contrast the stew amazingly well. Complement each bowl some buttered crusty bread for sopping up the excess liquid.

You can see the original recipe on myrecipes.com

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