Homemade Lamb Stew
I hope everyone had a fantastic St Patty's day.
I guess this recipe is a day late, but I wanted to share with you a crock-pot recipe for lamb stew that my wife prepared for some friends visiting from out of town. She made the lamb stew in our new 6 and ½ quart programmable touch screen slow cooker from Crock-Pot.
Fancy, right? I replaced my 3-½ quart crock because it was ancient, too small and didn't have a timer for auto shut off, so when it came time to replace it, I went all out!
We made this stew in a crock pot but you could also prepare it in a large Dutch Oven. I love making stews in the oven with my Le Creuset 9-quart oval French oven. If you go this route, it will take less time, and you can brown your ingredients in the same cookware as you braise them in.
About the Lamb Cut
The meat cut you use for lamb stew is essential. You want it to come from the shoulder area - you have the Shoulder Arm Picnic, Shoulder Arm Roast, Blade (Boston) Roast, & Blade Steak to choose from.
These cuts are much less expensive than the meat you would purchase for grilled lamb chops or leg of lamb or lamb roast and in my opinion, have more flavor when slow-cooked.
As with any meat you're going to braise (cook for a long time partially submerged in a liquid), you need these tougher cuts because they are more fibrous and hold up better with long slow cooking. In addition, the moist heat breaks down the connective tissue, including collagen, which melts and turns into gelatin that gives the sauce that amazing lip-smacking body.
However, you don't want a lot of extra fat, so you might have to trim some off before cutting your meat into 1 and ½" chunks.
I found some already-cubed lamb shoulder meat at my local Farmer's Market butcher shop, Stolzfus Meats. The butcher, "Bongo" Dan, has spent years butchering local meat for the market and is a wealth of information on all meat cuts.
If you're wondering how he got his nickname, Dan told me,
I happened to see him one afternoon at a Phillies game at Citizen's Bank Park on the Jumbo Screen playing air bongos for the Bongo Cam. Priceless!
This recipe for lamb stew takes about ½ hour to prep and then 5 hours in the crock pot set on low. If you prepare it in a Dutch Oven in the oven, it cooks for approximately 2 hours.
Either way, it can be served right away, but like many braises, it tastes better the next day if you can wait that long to eat it! When making this in the crock pot, I like to brown the lamb meat before braising it in the oven for several reasons.
- In my opinion, browned meat looks better than meat you just throw into the crock pot.
- Searing the meat gives it a brown crust that adds an additional layer of flavor.
This recipe calls for lamb stock. You can make it yourself if you have access to lamb bones or purchase it online from one of the vendors selling commercial quality lamb stock.
Lamb Stew Recipe
- 2 pounds lamb shoulder meat trimmed of fat and cut into 1½ inch cubes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- flour for dredging
- 2 medium onions roughly chopped
- 2½ cups lamb stock chicken stock if you can't find lamb stock
- 2 carrots peeled and sliced
- ⅓ pound of mushrooms
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme dried will work too
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley minced
- Season the meat with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Be sure to shake off any excess flour. If you don't, the flour can burn, making a mess on the bottom of the pan. Just a light dusting is fine.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a preheated fry pan over medium-high heat. Add the meat and brown all sides when it starts to shimmer but is not smoking. Don't let the meat touch, so if your pan isn't big enough, brown it in batches. The best tool for turning the meat is a pair of kitchen tongs, one of the essential tools in your kitchen. When the meat is browned, transfer it to the crock pot.
- Saute the onions in the same pan. Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and then the onions. This is a good time to season with a bit of salt but not too much. Cook the onions until deep golden brown, frequently stirring so they don't burn.
- Add ½ cup stock to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits (fond) stuck to the bottom. Add the fresh thyme. Add the onions and the deglazing liquid to the crock pot.
- Add the sliced carrots and mushrooms to the crock pot along with the remaining 2 cups of stock, cover and set to low. I have read it helps to first place a layer of aluminum foil over the top of the crock pot and then the cover. Not sure if this helps but sometimes I make the effort.
- Cook on the low setting for about 5 hours or until the meat is tender.
- Many recipes I read say to spoon off any fat that accumulates at the top. I have never found this easy to do, but I know it is worth a try. Sometimes I make a stew the day before, so I can let the fat rise to the top and congeal when refrigerated. Then all I have to do is spoon out the layer of congealed fat. Enough about fat.
- Add the parsley to the pot, stir and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
- If the sauce is too thin, you can always make a quick thickener with a bit of flour or cornstarch mixed with water (a slurry) and add it to the pot. The only problem with this is that if you don't bring the starch up to a boil, your sauce can taste a little, well, starchy. So, if you have to thicken the sauce, you might have to turn the crock pot to high for a little while to cook off any starchy taste.
Question: if using the dutch oven in the oven method, what temperature do you let it cook at for two hours?
Hi Elise, 300 degrees F should do nicely. And it may be less than 2 hours or more than 2 hours depending on your oven, the pot you are using and the size of the chunks of meat. Please use my recipes as well as ones you find in books and magazines as starting points. They have no idea of your equipment or ingredients or skill level. I know professional chefs that saute on high but I'm not quick enough to cook at that heat so I stick with medium-high heat. Hope this helps - RG
When you brown the meat in batches as I must, cooking for a family of 12, how do you keep the fond from burning? I always end up having to rinse the pan between batches and losing so much of that deliciousness.
Good question CJ. I asked my friend Chef Jenni this question and she said, " I would brown-deglaze-pour off the goodness-add more oil, brown-deglaze, pour off, etc until he's all done."
I might try reducing the heat a little so you don't end up burning the fond and then adding a little more fat for the next batch. I'll ask around for some more suggestions or maybe someone will read this and comment. - RG
Sounds like a lovely Easter meal for my large South African family.
1. How many does this recipe serve?
2. I'll make it in my crock-pot the day before serving and refrigerate. What is the best way to reheat without overcooking? Much appreciated
Hi Donne, thanks for writing from South Africa. How many it serves really depends on who you are serving and what you are serving with it. I never can understand how any recipe can say it will feed this number of people without knowing who those people are. This is especially true when it comes to stews. I'll say 6 - 8 to offer an answer, but are they kids, young kids or teenagers, hungry men or men on a diet...you see what I mean.
I think serving it the next day may even make it taste better. You get a chance to remove any fat that floats to the top and the flavors have time to meld together. I would reheat the stew in a large Dutch oven in the oven at a low temperature until it hot enough to serve. You can also reheat it on a stove top being careful not to let it heat up to fast or burn.
Let me know how it turns out for you. RG
I get what you mean about servings. We have nearly all of your categories in our family! This South African doesn't know what a dutch oven is, but I have a slow-cooker so planning to reheat in that. Thanks so much for your reply.
Try dipping fresh whole lettuce leaves to suck up the fat while still in liquid from. The fat sticks to the lettuce leaves and you just pop them into the bin.
Just made this, very tasty! Thanks for the recipe
Hi there! This looks great, and I'm going to try it out on Monday, for a more traditional St. Paddy's dinner. Quick question: The picture of the crock-pot above seems to feature peas and potatoes as well. Am I missing something in the recipe? Cheers in advance.
The Reluctant Gourmet
That's because I recently prepared a crock-pot lamb stew and took a better photo than the one I had. This one had peas and potatoes and was also delicious so by all means add some peas and potatoes to your stew if you like them.