There are two butchering seasons for lamb, fall and spring. Most of our lamb stew recipes are fall recipes, heavy on the root vegetables. But even though spring tempts us with flowering dogwoods and daffodils, there’s still plenty enough blustery cool weather for a good stew. This spring lamb stew takes advantage of the young green garlic you can find at farmers markets, peas, and new potatoes. What takes it over the top is the flavoring that comes from adding a couple of heads of roasted garlic to the stock. This lamb stew is also a easy on the budget, using “off” cuts like shoulder and stewing chunks (we bought 4 pounds of lamb stew meat for $10 at Whole Foods). The best parts about these cuts are that they are both cheap and flavorful, with lots of bone pieces and connective tissue that make a stew richer-tasting.
Spring Lamb Stew Recipe
- 2 heads garlic (full heads, not cloves, for roasting)
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-4 pounds lamb shoulder pieces, stew meat or shanks (you want 2 pounds of meat, so if you get bone-in, get 3-4 pounds)
- 2 minced shallots
- 2 minced celery stalks
- 1 large carrot, minced
- 3 minced stalks green garlic, white part only or 3 chopped garlic cloves
- 2 cups dry white wine
- Hot water
- 1-2 pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed clean
- 2 cups small peas (frozen are fine)
- 2 tablespoons minced green garlic, light green parts
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Roast the garlic. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Get some foil and make a well in the center of it. Strip off some of the outer papery covering on two heads of garlic and then slice through the top fourth of the garlic head on the stalk end, not the root end. Put the garlic in the well you made in the foil, then drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over the open cloves. Close up the foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. (See our roasted garlic recipe for more detailed photos for this step.) Once the garlic goes in the oven, take the lamb out to come to room temperature.
2 After about 45 minutes or so, start the stew. Get a large sauté pan and pour in the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Get it hot over medium to medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. You want it shimmering hot, but not smoking. Pat the lamb pieces dry with paper towels, and salt generously. Working in batches, brown the lamb pieces on all sides in the sauté pan. Don't crowd the pan (or the meat will steam and not brown), and don't stir the meat until a side has browned. Once the meat has browned, put the meat into a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid.
3 Meanwhile, remove the roasted garlic and let cool a little. Squeeze out the roasted cloves and mash into a little bowl. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees.
4 Once your lamb pieces have all been browned and removed from the pan, toss into the sauté pan the chopped shallots, celery, carrot and the white parts of the chopped green garlic and stir to combine. Sprinkle everything with salt. Sauté this for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. When they begin to brown, pour the veggies into the Dutch oven.
5 Add the mashed roasted garlic into the sauté pan and let it sizzle a little. Pour in the white wine and turn the heat to high. Deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all the browned bits, and mix the roasted garlic in well. Once this comes to a rolling boil, let it cook down for 2-3 minutes, then pour it over the lamb and veggies in the Dutch oven.
6 Pour enough hot tap water into the Dutch oven to almost cover the lamb. Don’t submerge everything. Some lamb should be just peeking out of the surface of the liquid. Cover and cook in the 300-degree oven for 2 hours and 15 minutes.
7 If you are using bone-in lamb pieces, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and use tongs to remove all of the lamb pieces from the stew. (You don't want any tiny lamb bones left in the stew.) Place on a baking sheet, spread out to cool quickly.
8 There should be a layer of fat on top of the stew. Skim this off with a large metal spoon or use a fat separator.
9 Once the meat has cooled enough to touch, use your fingers to remove all of the bones from the meat. Discard the bones and return the meat to the stew. Taste the stew and add more salt if needed. At this point you can make ahead a day or two. (If you are making ahead, for that matter, you can skip the previous fat skimming step and just let the fat solidify on top of the stew in the refrigerator, making it easier to remove when you go to reheat the stew.)
10 To finish, add the potatoes to the stew and turn the oven up to 350 degrees. Cover and cook for an hour (you may need more time if you’ve let the stew cool too much). When the potatoes are done, take the stew out of the oven and set it on the stovetop. Pour in the peas and the light green parts of the green garlic and cover for 2-3 minutes.
Right when you serve, taste the stew again. Add some salt and lemon juice of you want. Sometimes an acidic kick brightens the whole stew. Add a little at a time.
The stew will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Yield: Serves 6-8.