Log in

No account? Create an account
Lamb stew - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Lamb stew [Aug. 4th, 2011|07:50 pm]
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....

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/781286.html?mode=reply:

[User Picture]From: nex0s
2011-08-05 12:13 am (UTC)
I love love love lamb! And duck! And boar! And! Well....pretty much everything except for sea urchin :)

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 01:16 am (UTC)
Eating sea urchin was an interesting experience. Because even though it tasted vile, it flooded me with sense memory of playing in tide pools as a kid.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2011-08-05 12:42 am (UTC)
Sounds very, very yummy!

Now what I like to do best of all with lamb is roast a leg of it so that the middle is rare (first making little slits and inserting garlic slivers and rosemary). Then I make a broth with the bone, and then I make a wildly wonderful spicy stew with some new lamb kabobs and the broth.

Good twice!!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 12:47 am (UTC)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: mermaidnchains
2011-08-05 12:44 am (UTC)
Quinoa Is fantastic when done right. I however am timid to try making it again, as I screwed it up bad.

I used a well made portion though, leftover, to make a FANTASTIC Greek salad. Quinoa really is miracle food. :)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 12:55 am (UTC)
I did it badly the first time, so I understand. I suspect that the secret may be to cook it thoroughly first before trying to incorporate it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: roaming
2011-08-05 01:40 am (UTC)
I too have always hated the taste of lamb and duck and "gamey" meats: veal is delicious but I won't eat it for humane reasons. But your description is AWESOME and I think I'll try it, especially since it seems like it took not much more than half an hour. My kind of meal: toss it all in, forget it, wait for the ding!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 03:05 am (UTC)
The pressure cooker is an amazing invention. I have one of the new electric ones that sits on the counter like a slow cooker and makes food magic.

It's taken me a while to get used to the stronger tastes, but now that I have learned, it's been worth it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: theinfamousmom
2011-08-05 01:45 am (UTC)
My mother cooked lamb chops fairly often, but she always drowned them in mint jelly. I hate mint jelly. Therefore I never did like lamb chops.

The way you describe the lamb stew, I think maybe it's time to do some gastronomical expermentation. :)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 03:09 am (UTC)
I was very pleased with the results.

Mint jelly that is made at home and served on the side can be a marvel. Bottled jelly slathered all over the chops is a sin.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: simulated_knave
2011-08-05 01:50 am (UTC)
Duck is actually pretty easy, if my fiancee is to be believe (and worth it). Potatoes roasted in duck grease are also divine.

The trick with lamb is that larger pieces are often filled with fat and silver skin, and have to be trimmed. That's a bitch. Worth it, but a bitch. Lamb also benefits from brining.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: fitfool
2011-08-05 02:14 am (UTC)
oh no! I think lamb needs to be cooked with that fat for flavor and then you can eat around the fat later if you're trying not to eat fat. I once decided to trim my lamb chops in an effort to be healthier and they came out tough and a little dry. Ever since then, I do not trim until after it's been cooked.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: gythiawulfie
2011-08-05 01:58 am (UTC)

Duck is fairly easy...

the hardest part is not having it come out greasy, which it can be if it's over cooked
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 03:12 am (UTC)

Re: Duck is fairly easy...

How funny. Ferrett literally just said that he likes duck unless it's greasy. And then I clicked on this comment!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: fitfool
2011-08-05 02:17 am (UTC)
I have some lamb stew meat in my freezer now waiting for some time when I can simmer for a long time. I have a pressure cooker but I'm still afraid of it and I've never tried using it for meat. But you make it sound so easy and so fast that I might have to give this a try. Thanks!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 03:29 am (UTC)
OMG, I love the pressure cooker so much! I'm lucky to have been given an electric one for Christmas and spent two weeks cooking with it from a cookbook. Now I'm comfortable enough with the cooking details to go "off book" and make stuff up.

But having lamb stew meat rendered tender in 8 minutes of cooking time? Priceless.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: pjhandley
2011-08-05 03:37 am (UTC)
I have a marvy recipe for slow-cooked middle eastern style lamb. If you'd like, I'd be happy to pass it along. :D
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 01:45 pm (UTC)
Would love it!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: coeli
2011-08-05 04:22 am (UTC)
Your stew sounds gorgeous!

I haven't cooked a lot of lamb myself, but that's mostly because of budget. A friend of mine does a terrific lamb stew with tomatoes, garlic, and rosemary and serves it over basmati rice. My mother browns ground lamb with lemon juice and cinnamon and mixes it with rice - also very yummy. (That's supposed to be a grape-leaf stuffing, but we decided long ago that the grape leaves are fiddly and not worth the bother.)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 01:49 pm (UTC)
Dolmas! I do love them.

For some reason I don't care for the idea of lamb and tomatoes as a combo. Can't explain it, but I think it's mostly a mental abstraction and I should actually try it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: anonymousalex
2011-08-05 01:09 pm (UTC)
Funny how our childhood menus can shape us. I grew up eating lamb all the time, but not pork (bacon, yes; ham, yes; pork, not so much). It took me a little work to incorporate that.

Your stew sounds lovely. Another thing I wouldn't have thought of, though thinking about it I couldn't say why. I guess I just didn't grow up with a lot of cardamom.

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 06:24 pm (UTC)
It really was just a pinch. I didn't grow up with any of it either - didn't know what it was back then. It was more opening the spice drawer and wondering, hmm, what to toss in...
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: stonehenge1121
2011-08-05 01:29 pm (UTC)
I have a phenominally easy duck recipe; I'll fwd it once I get to my computer.
good on you for trying lamb! Sounds faboo!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 06:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks in advance for the duck recipe!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: anivair
2011-08-05 01:56 pm (UTC)
Do yourself a favor and cook duck. Even if you just get a breast, cook it. It's not hard and it's my very favorite fowl. Just score the skin, cook the crap out of it in cast iron till it's nice and crispy, flip it and pop it in a hot oven for a few minutes. You can eat duck medium without any concern. Tastes like a good steak with perfect chicken skin on it. And the leftover fat is the best cooking medium ever.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-05 06:27 pm (UTC)
I shall! Thanks!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: kagomeshuko
2011-08-09 07:56 pm (UTC)
So, you like garlic? We love garlic in my family. Rarely is a dish made without LOTS of garlic powder (of course, garlic powder doesn't go in sweets!)

Nothing about lamb, duck, or game meats, but I got a spam comment that was a chicken recipe! It made no sense since it was only on an entry that had some links that I wanted to keep for myself before installing a different version of Ubuntu, so I put them in LJ.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-10 02:46 am (UTC)
How bizarre!

Yes, we love garlic. I bought some garlic at the farmer's market that is supposed to be quite a bit stronger than store, and I'm looking forward to cooking with it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)