Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lamb stew with Vinegar and Green Beans

I've been eyeing this little stew off for a while. I must say it didn't look like much in the book. The title pretty well describes the ingredients.

One of my favourite Italian dishes is the Lamb Stew with Tomatoes, Olives and Parsley from Giuliano Hazan's How to Cook Italian. So I held hope for this dish. I was a little confused by Marcella's reference to lamb being "on the bone". Was it meant to be on the bone when it was cooked? I didn't think so. I ended up buying a kilo of the chopped lamb I use when I cook Giuliano's dish.

I noticed that Marcella said to brown the meat deeply. Giulano says to brown his lamb stew lightly. I did brown the first batch deeply, or at least more than I do the other stew. The problem with multiple batches is that the subsequent batches have to deal with the juices from the first batch. This makes it harder to brown deeply.

I didn't think that would matter.

I then had to brown the onion. By then, there wasn't any oil in the pan or juices for that matter, so I used my common sense (the most important ingredient in cooking, according to Marcella) and added a little more olive oil.

The other difference with Giulano and Marcella's technique on the stew is that Giulano calls for the meat to be seasoned on the plate, whereas Marcella does it when it is in the pot.

This is the first time I have cooked with green beans for a long time, perhaps ever. This made me think of my grandmother: she used to cook them for roasts. She snapped the ends in the same way I was, following Marcella's directions.

And then the vinegar. So much of it. A certain someone in the house used to hate vinegar. But then she fell in love with it on salads (stingily applied, of course). But half a cup is a lot. I gave it a little taste before I put it in.


You can see my lamb and beans in the top left. On the top right I am cooking some barley for my soup, which is in the bottom left. The bottom right is the famous Hazan meat broth (which is still on the stove as I type).

A Hazan stove if ever there was one.

But back to the stew. It was in. It was away. Marcella didn't say to stir every now and then, as Giuliano does, but it didn't seem right not to. So I did. As time progressed, the flavour improved.

By the time the hour and a half was up, I was a believer. I tested the lamb carefully, as often I have to cook the cut I buy for longer than is suggested. It all seemed to be in order.

It was served following my Swiss Chard, Cannellini Bean and Barley Soup, which I will blog separately about. I heated a serving bowl in the oven and served the lamb in the middle of the table.

It was simple, and delicious.

The best bits were the sauce (very often the case isn't it), served with a well browned bit of meat (it really made a difference!) with a beautiful bean (which, Marcella would be pleased to hear, didn't taste like grass after so much cooking).

We kept eating it, picking away in the bowl, looking for the brownest bits of meat to eat with sauce and beans.

We decided the correct ratio of meat pieces to beans was 1 to 2.

Crusty bread also did a little hunting for sauce.

The vinegar convert declared that this was superior to the Giulano stew, but that could be because we eat so many olives, tomatoes and parsley.

This one will be made again, and gets put in the winners list. The question is how to brown the meat better after the first batch, while still retaining the juices for the cooking since they must add so much to the stew.

Perhaps the answer is to tip the juices off with each batch and use new oil each time (using less oil for each batch).

Has anyone else turned their mind to it between mouthfuls of lamb, beans and sauce?

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