I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Provencal Lamb Stew

Sunday evening rolled around and I walked through the streets of the East Village. The temperatures were warm compared to what we have been experiencing and the fresh air felt new and invigorating. I came upon the husband waiting for me outside of a teeny Japanese restaurant. We ordered, eyes wide and intimidated by the intensely efficient manor of the counter person, hoping to not step out of bounds and feel his wrath. With number in hand, we returned outside to wait as the order was prepared (not being enough space indoors to wait there). We caught up on our days, recounting the hours since we had last spoken until the sound of our number being called drifted through the restaurant door.

Chopsticks in one hand and plastic trays in the other we attempted to feed ourselves on the sidewalk while not making a huge mess. The okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes) and takoyaki (fried dough balls with octopus) were piled high with mayo, sauces and bonito. Full of umami and novelty.

After the wrappers were tossed, we made our way up the block and then down an almost hidden set of stairs to a bar that appeared even smaller than the restaurant, if that was possible. With a word to the host and a flash of IDs, the rope in front of us was lifted and we were guided back to the slightly larger, yet still cramped, back room. It was dark and dingy yet full of character as the walls were littered with the scrawled names of those who came before us. We were shuffled into a booth towards the back along with five of our friends. 

The server helped guide us through an exhaustive list of sake to those that were his favorite and a bottle was ordered. After it was poured we raised our glasses to toast the gathering and welcome the fun the night would bring. Conversation tumbled about, flipping and turning on itself in the way only the best talks do. As the bottles we purchased got lighter our souls got fuller, feeding on the knowledge and laughter being shared. 

What seemed like not enough time later it was time to wrap up the evening. Hugs were passed about and promises made to make this happen again soon. Each went their own separate way, being swept back up into the swirl of the city's energy as they disappeared down the street. 

It was a night of joy and learning and happiness that keeps one feeling full for days to come. A gift from the city to make up for rough days. A bright spot in the midst of gloomy winter.

Though the blog has been suffering a bit this month I have been cooking up a storm. But I've also allowed myself to be caught up in friends and the joys of the city as above and let some responsibilities lag. Sometimes a break can be just what you need to springboard into the next big thing.

Today I'm bringing you a simple Provence-inspired lamb stew. Simple yet filling and warming. I served it with crash hot potatoes on the side (because I can't seem to resist them) but you can feel more than welcome to just add some new potatoes to the stew itself to make an even heartier version.

Provencal Lamb Stew
serves 8
 1 c. dried cannellini beans
1 bay leaf
zest of 1 orange
3 springs rosemary
4-5 sprigs thyme
1 lb. lamb stew meat
2 TB olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
6 c. beef stock
2 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small bulb fennel, chopped
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in the beans and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least 1 hour (or you can soak the beans in cold water overnight, but I never remember to do this).
Take a square of cheesecloth and fill with the bay leaf, orange zest, rosemary and thyme. Tie the package shut with twine and set aside.
Sprinkle the lamb meat with a bit of salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat and then add the lamb once hot. Brown the lamb on all sides and then remove to a plate. Add the onions and the shallots, turn the heat down to medium, and cook until they onions are tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes and scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add the beef stock, carrots, celery and fennel to the pan and bring to a boil.
Drain the beans and rinse them and then add them into the pot along with everything else. Drop in the bouquet garni (i.e. bundle of herbs). Cover and allow to simmer until the beans and the lamb are very tender, around 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. Remove the bouquet garni and taste for salt and pepper. Serve.


That Girl said...

Your back alley experience sounds phenomenal.

Mary said...

Sarah, this post was intensely interesting. The way that you told the story of your time with friends was so beautiful! Thanks for sharing. I feel a bit more refreshed because of it.