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Savory Lamb and Prune Stew

February 20, 2013
by Shannon Hepburn

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Molly Stevens is the queen.  She is the author of my all time favorite winter cookbook All About Braising.  However, the following recipe comes from Fine Cooking magazine where she is a contributing editor.  A couple of things about this dish: I used roughly 2 pounds of lamb rather than 3lb. (which is what Molly calls for) and bulked up on carrots and onions.  Because I’m cooking with my grandfather’s very old cast iron dutch oven, I don’t bother with the parchment paper – my lid has a very good seal.  See if you need it.  The flavors in this stew are mellow and allow for the richness of the lamb to shine. As you have already surmised, this is not a quick weeknight meal – this is slow food for sure.  This recipe is not at all challenging, but does ask for a chunk of your time. And like most stews it’s even better the next day – so if you can swing it, make this a day ahead.

Lamb and Prune Stew
Serves: 5-6
  • 2 lb. boneless lamb stew meat
  • 3 Tbs. grapeseed oil or vegetable oil; more as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium celery stalks, coarsely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped (about ⅓ cup)
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup hard cider
  • 2-1/2 cups homemade or lower-salt store-bought beef broth
  • 2-1/2 cups peeled pearl onions (used one bag of frozen)
  • 2-1/2 cups 1-inch carrot pieces
  • 1 cup prunes, cut into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  1. Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Spread the lamb on paper towels to dry for 10 to 20 minutes before browning. (You can use this time to chop the onion, celery, and carrot). If the meat is very wet, pat it dry.
  3. In a 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Season about one-third of the lamb with salt and pepper and arrange it in a single layer in the pot (there should be at least ½ inch of space between the pieces). Brown well on at least 4 sides, adjusting the heat as necessary; each batch should take about 10 minutes to brown. Transfer the lamb to a large bowl or rimmed baking sheet as it browns and repeat with the rest of the lamb, seasoning with salt and pepper before browning. Once all of the lamb is browned, remove the pot from the heat to let it cool for a few minutes.
  4. Pour all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot. (If there is not enough, add oil to equal 2 Tbs.) Return the pot to medium heat, then add the yellow onion, celery, and coarsely chopped carrot. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add the cider, stirring with the wooden spatula to dissolve any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Raise the heat to medium high and boil to reduce by about half, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the beef broth and 1-1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil.
  6. Return the lamb to the pot along with any accumulated juice. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
  7. Crumple a 12×16-inch piece of parchment, then flatten it out. (Crumpling makes for easy handling.) Place the parchment directly on the surface of the stew, allowing the ends to come up the sides of the pot. Cover and put in the oven.
  8. After 1 hour of stewing, add the pearl onions, carrot pieces, and prunes to the pot. Cover with the parchment and lid, and cook until the lamb is fork-tender, 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours more (shoulder cuts will take longer than leg cuts).
  9. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Degrease the stew (if needed) by laying a clean paper towel over the surface of the stew and gently pushing it into all the bumps and dips, then quickly peeling it off. Repeat as necessary with more paper towels. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.