Lamb stew

Published August 4, 2011 by livinggraciously

Tonight I cooked lamb for the very first time.

This is embarrassing to admit, so while I’m at it, I might as well ‘fess up: I’ve never cooked duck, either. Or wild boar. Though I have cooked moose and caribou.

I grew up in a household where meat animals were limited to the big three. Turkey was a once-a-year variant on the beef/pork/chicken menu. My dad brought home venison once, and Mom cooked with it one time only before sending it all back to Dad’s hunting buddy.

We did have fish and shellfish now and then, but protein sources were highly proscribed.

When I grew up, I didn’t have a taste for the stronger flavors of lamb and duck. The first couple times I tried either, I disliked them intensely. And hubby 1.0 had grown up with the same protein limitations – except less fish – so there wasn’t any push for change. When we lived in Alaska we got some game meat, but having little experience with it and not being hunters we mostly stuck to all that lovely lovely fish and shellfish.

Then I remarried and Ferrett’s mom introduced me to good duck and lamb. I quickly developed a taste for both, when done well. When done poorly, however, they carry a vileness that far exceeds that of the less flavorful critters.

And that’s what made me timid of trying. Doing it badly.

But a couple weeks ago I was in Heinen’s Grocery when I was too hungry to be making good decisions, and that package of lamb stew meat just looked terrific. Lamb stew! With quinoa! I was convinced that it would be awesome.

Then I got home and ate something, and my timidity returned with my increased blood sugar. After a day or so, the lamb went into the freezer. I kept telling myself that I’d get to it, but didn’t.

I don’t know what it is about being hungry, but after going all day on an empty stomach (I forgot to eat, and then I had to be at the courthouse), suddenly lamb stew was on the menu again.

Now, usually when someone is undertaking a completely new cooking adventure, a certain level of caution is practiced. A recipe is chosen, and ingredients assembled. But when I decide to jump off a cliff, I jump ALL the way off. I had some ideas in my head, and just went for it.

Since I wasn’t getting started until 4:30, and since I was hungry and wanted dinner ASAP, I decided to cook the stew in the pressure cooker. I heated some vegetable oil in the bottom of the cooker, and dusted the lamb chunks in flour to which I had added salt, pepper, LOTS of garlic powder, a dash of ground cardamon and a dash of cumin powder. I browned those well, then added a chopped onion, four cloves of chopped garlic, a bunch of carrot slices, and a mixture of sliced portabella, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms I’d picked up at the store. About 4 ounces of sweet vermouth went in next, then enough chicken broth to cover everything. I cooked that all under high pressure for 8 minutes, then let it sit under pressure for another 10. In the meantime I cooked a cup of quinoa on the stove with a little extra water so that it would be well-hydrated. When the stew was done, I added the quinoa, and salt and pepper to taste.

It was delicious! Thanks to the pressure cooking, the lamb was very tender and tasty, and I’d chosen the right spices for it. Regrettably, I didn’t take a picture, because we finished most of it off.

I’m glad my first lamb experience was successful; I will be less fearful of trying it again.

We’ll have to see about duck….

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