Basque Lamb Stew
Updated, from the recipe archive. First posted in 2005. Enjoy!
Are you familiar with Basque cooking? Basque Country is a region bordering Spain and France at the Western end of the Pyrenees mountains. Basque descendants and communities can be found all over California and Nevada. (More on the history of the Basque people in the Wikipedia.) Lamb stews are typical of Basque cuisine, as are dishes that include both tomatoes and sweet red peppers.
My father first found the recipe from which we adapted this basque lamb stew in an old issue of Saveur Magazine. He has at least 20 years of back issues of Gourmet, Saveur, and other cooking magazines that he keeps around just waiting for a spare moment to review. We’ve made this stew several times and just love it. It seems a little odd in that the lamb is first marinated in herbs and white wine, and then braised in stock and red wine. Mixing wines in cooking is so rarely done, but apparently it does happen on occasion in Spanish cooking (we’ve found references in Spanish cookbooks).
Feel free to substitute some or all of the paprika with smoked paprika.
- 3 1/2 lbs. lamb shoulder, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, about 1 tablespoon chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 10-ounce can roasted red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
- 1 large ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup dry, full-bodied red wine
- 1 cup chicken stock*
- Freshly ground black pepper
* If cooking gluten-free, use homemade chicken stock or gluten-free packaged stock.
1 Combine the lamb, half of the garlic cloves, rosemary, and white wine in a medium bowl. Let marinate for 2 to 3 hours. Drain the meat, discard the marinade, and pat dry with paper towels. Mince the remaining garlic cloves and set aside.
2 Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan with lid, over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Salt the meat as it browns.
3 Remove the meat from the pan and add the onions to the pan. Cook, scraping browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
4 Return the meat to the pan with the onions and garlic. Stir in paprika, roasted peppers, tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf, and red wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, allowing the liquids to reduce a bit. Then add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Add freshly ground black pepper and more salt to taste.
Serve with rustic bread. If you want, try garnishing with fresh mint leaves (though I have no idea how "Basque" that is, it just tastes good.)