Even though it can get tiresome to stand in front of the stove, the payback from a hearty winter stew is always worth the effort. How satisfying are braised meat and vegetables during these cold and rainy days? November is usually the month that I break out the Dutch oven and throw together any combination of meat, seasonal produce, wine and herbs and just go for it. Aside from the noisy browning phase at the beginning, making stew is one of the simpler cooking rituals with maximum impact. It can’t be overcooked, the scents of cooking fill the house and even reach the street, and it makes for fantastic leftovers. Plus, the only way I really enjoy eating red meat is when it’s been tenderized beyond all form, breaking into threads of browned goodness in a sea of vegetables.
This recipe is based on one in Better Homes & Gardens a few years ago that my mom made during one of our holiday visits. I’ve tweaked it to include lamb instead of beef; if you haven’t eaten much lamb, this is a good place to start! The butternut squash is in season right now, and its sweetness pairs well with the olives and herbs. My herb garden is going crazy right now, so it was a great excuse to use some lavender. This stew pairs well with bulgur mixed with a teaspoon of orange zest and as much parsley as you can chop.
Provencal Lamb Stew with Winter Squash & Olives
1 lb boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, cut into 6 pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 6 pieces
Provencal herbs: rosemary, lavender, thyme, marjoram, 4″ sprig of each, plus 1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 can whole Cento tomatoes, chopped
2 c. water
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
1/4 c. nicoise olives
1 clove minced garlic
1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the lamb pieces with kosher salt & ground pepper, and brown well in the oil. Set aside.
2. Add onion, carrots, celery, and herbs, and cook until slightly browned. Return lamb to the pan, and add wine to deglaze. Bubble away until almost dissolved, and add water, tomatoes and more salt & pepper to taste. Cover and cook 1 1/2 hours at a simmer.
3. Remove celery, carrots and herb twigs (the herbs themselves will be left in the stew).
3. When the lamb is almost tender, add the zucchini, butternut squash, and olives with a little brining liquid. Simmer another 30 minutes or more, until everything is tender. Taste for salt and serve hot, with a side of couscous or buttered egg noodles.