Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Family Favorite: Lamb and Lentil Stew

Winter rode its horse through our town last week, bringing in its wake freezing temperatures and heavy rain. My thoughts naturally turned to comfort food and I decided to make hearty lamb and lentil stew, a recipe I first got from my buddy Dave back in 2007 when we worked together. I've changed it up a little since then (Dave's original version is more a soup than a stew), but it remains a family favorite. 

Whenever I make this meal, the girls demolish their bowls and sometimes come back for seconds. Often, when we are doing the "What are you thankful for today?" toast during this meal, one of the girls will say, "I am thankful for Mama's lamb and lentil stew." As any mama would tell you, that is HUGE.

You will notice below that this recipe takes about four hours of total prep and cook time, unlike most of our other family favorite recipes. Because it takes so long, I generally make a giant batch so we can have some for dinner and freeze the rest. This stew is seriously the best "emergency freezer meal" ever. EVER. 

Lamb and lentil and goodies oh my!

Lamb and Lentil Stew

Prep Time: ~20 minutes
Cook Time: ~4 hours 
Makes about five meals' worth of stew for 2 adults and 2 small kids

3 lamb shanks*, about 4 lbs. total
1 red onion, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 large carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups green lentils, rinsed and picked through
2 lbs. potatoes, cubed
2 quarts/liters beef stock
3 bay leaves
Dried or fresh thyme

  1. Saute onion, celery, carrots, and garlic in oil until slightly soft. 
  2. Sear lamb shanks on all sides until brown. I push the sauteed veggies to the side and create a little hiphop circle in the middle for the lamb shanks to be seared in.
  3. Add beef stock, bay leaves, and generous amounts of thyme, salt, and pepper. 
  4. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 3-4 hours. 
  5. Take the shanks out of the pot and add potatoes and lentils to cook while you are separating the meat from the bones and gristle. Make sure the liquid is just covering the vegetables. 
  6. Separate the meat from the bones and the gristle. The meat should practically fall off the bone after all this time, but the gristle and fat need to go. You can use two forks to do the separation, but I just use my hands. This is the worst, most tedious part of the cooking process, but it is totally worth the effort. Gristle and fat in your stew is not good eats.
  7. Add the meat back into the pot and simmer until the potatoes and lentils are tender (about another 30 minutes).
  8. Serve with a warm, crusty baguette so you can sop up all the stew. YUM!
*You can use other cuts, but bone-in cuts give the best flavor. I get my lamb shanks from the butcher at my local Asian store. Whenever I do a roast lamb, I use lamb shanks, too.