Easter Lamb Stew

Easter provided the perfect opportunity to work lamb stew into my year of soups. Hsing-ay does not like lamb so I only make it once or twice a year. But I adore lamb and especially like tender braised lamb that falls apart with a fork. I’m not entirely sure how lamb makes sense for Easter. Easter celebrates the risen Christ who is known as “the lamb of God”. So, we eat dead lamb meat for the party. Hugh? But this tradition offers the perfect excuse for me to cook lamb.

I recently snuck lamb chops into my own birthday meal. We collected 16 bones with scraps of fat and meat. I added lamb neck bones procured from a local organic farmer and roasted it all for 45 minutes. There was a turkey back near the expiration date in the fridge so that went in as well. I hoped that turkey would complement the stock and not obliterate the delicate flavor of lamb. I  made a rich and fatty stock in the pressure cooker several days in advance of my stew. The stock was good but I am curious how it would have turned out if I had double the amount of lamb bones and removed the turkey back.

My Dad was one of the dinner guests for our Easter feast. As he gets older he regresses more and more into the “meat and potatoes” American cliche. Oh well – I’ll work with that. I planned to spruce up the stew with a rich liquid base and roasted root vegetables (instead of cooking them in the stew). I began with generous amounts of butter to sauté onions, garlic, and carrots. Tomato paste, cinnamon, cayenne, and a few tablespoons of flour were added after the onions were caramelized. The stock had to be spooned in because it had solidified into jelly (an excellent sign!). I also added a cup of red wine and simmered this mix for 30 minutes and used a stick blender to get things as smooth and thick as possible. The flavor was rich and complex.

I purchased a sizable roast of lamb at Costco and cut it into large chunks which were heavily browned in the oven. The meat and liquid cooked on high pressure for 45-minutes followed by 20-minutes of natural depressurizing. The pressure cooker is my new favorite method for braising meat. Everything becomes uniformly tender, nothing burns to the bottom of the pot, and supposedly the flavors and moisture remain locked in the pot. This method is consistent and a great braise can be accomplished in one hour

I roasted large pieces of carrots and potatoes and caramelized pearl onions in butter. The flavor and color of roasted vegetables made a nice change from my typical stews. I put these pieces on top of the stew so their roasted char was on display. Chopped parsley offered a nice green and the final dishes looked magazine ready. The rich liquid was the star of the dish and everything came out as desired.

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