ragoût d'agneau, revisited

LambStew1

Everyone should know how to make a good stew.

A good stew is like an abstract painting. Both favor expression over technique; neither require advanced training or technology. All you need is a good sense of what works, which (in both cases) takes practice. Soups and stews are one of the easiest ways to achieve maximum culinary impressiveness. All you need is a basic knowledge of stew components, the ability to perform said stewing, and a few hours of waiting time.

As the cold weather slowly seeps into Paris, stews and hot chocolate are making for some cozy evenings after a long day of class and commuting. Last year I posted a recipe for lamb stew, which we make consistently around here. But lamb can really be swapped for nearly any protein, and as I considered this, I realized that the basics for soup-making are literally always the same. So here goes:

Stew Basics

  • Meat with a bone in it (at least a pound)
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Leeks
  • Herbs/spices
  • Water

Seriously. That's all you need to make a stew of any kind. After this, the abstract part comes in. This is where you can add some flair, like a starch (noodles, potatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, rice) or play with the seasoning (herbs de provence, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, quatre epices, red pepper flakes, paprika) add extra veg (green onions, turnips, asparagus, squash...anything in season) and mix in complementary proteins (bacon, sausage, seafood).

StewPot

We usually base our soups off of what's on sale at the store, and this week there were some huge fatty chunks of joint-in lamb leg on sale. We also added some white and red beans just to change it up and give the soup a little more texture. After six hours in the stew, the bones slipped out and we were left with a thick, rich, melt-in-your-mouth, herby stew that warmed you from the inside out. Here's the recipe we created:

LambStew2
Lamb Stew 5

Lamb Bean Stew

  • At least 1 lb of bone-in lamb meat (any cut, we used leg)
  • 1.5 cups each white and red beans
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, cubed
  • 1 leek, stem only diced
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 bay leaf and 4 sprigs fresh thyme, bundled
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • 3 tbsp butter (or other fat source...duck fat, oil)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. In a large pot, sauté celery, carrots, leek, and onion in butter on medium-high until translucent
  2. Add garlic and herbs/salt & pepper and sear meat until browned
  3. Add enough water to cover ingredients and bring to a boil
  4. Reduce to simmer and let stew, stirring occasionally, for at least 2-3 hours (optimally 4-6)