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Monday, January 13, 2014

Lamb and Butternut Squash Stew {12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

Lamb and Buttternut Squash Stew |
Is there anything more comforting in the middle of winter than a big bowl of stew? I'm thinking, not a whole lot. From the heady aroma escaping through the cracks of the oven door, to each hearty stick-to-your-bones spoonful, stew is the embodiment of comfort food.

This particular stew came about when I found two carefully wrapped packages in my freezer that I'd sort of let slip my mind. A month and half or so ago, I found a nice little (and I do mean little) lamb shoulder at the market. I can't remember what I thought I was going to make with it, but I took it home and separated the meat from the bone. Chunks of deep red lamb meat went into one freezer bag, and the bone went into another.

I remember them sitting in the fridge for a couple of days, and then I must have gotten busy or decided not to make whatever it was I had in mind, because I transferred them to the freezer.  They were pushed to the back of both the freezer and mind mind in short order.

Lamb and Buttternut Squash Stew |
So, while purging rummaging through the freezer to see what I could find the other day, those neatly wrapped little packages were a pleasant surprise. And what better to pair them with than an adorable little Butternut squash I'd picked up the day before? Seriously, it was adorable. I know that term isn't often used to describe a Butternut squash, but it was all fun-sized and irresistible. I'd love to find small ones like that more often. I should've taken a picture. I know you'd confirm its adorable status.

The first day, I ate a bowl full and sopped up the juices with the end of a loaf of crusty bread that was hanging around. The second day, I had it over a scoop of warm farro. Both ways were equally delicious.

Lamb and Butternut Squash Stew (with homemade Lamb Stock)
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Lamb and Buttternut Squash Stew |
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2-1/2 hours
Keywords: braised entree soup/stew dairy-free nut-free soy-free sugar-free carrots lamb squash onions fall winter

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive (or vegetable) oil, as needed
  • ~1 pound lamb shoulder, in 1-inch cubes
  • kosher or sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch circles (or half moons if really large)
  • 3 fat cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, with the juices
  • 2-1/2 cups lamb stock (see below)
  • few sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 small butternut squash, cut into ~1/2-inch chunks (2 heaping cups cut)
  • finely grated zest of a lemon, to serve
  • fresh parsley, to serve

Preheat oven to 325° F. Pat lamb cubes dry and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Add half of the oil to a medium-sized Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in half of the lamb, and cook until golden all around, turning to ensure browning on all sides; this should take 5 minutes or so. Lift out and set on a rimmed plate. Repeat with remaining oil (if pan is dry) and lamb, transferring to plate once browned.

There should still be a thin coating of oil in the pan, if there's not, drizzle in a bit more. Add onions, carrots, and garlic and cook until they just begin to get soft, 3-5 minutes. Add the lamb and any accumulated juices back to the pot, along with the tomatoes and their juices, lamb stock, thyme, and rosemary. Turn heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring to release anything that may be sticking to the bottom.

Once it has come to a boil, put on the lid and carefully transfer the pot to the preheated oven. Cook until lamb is tender, ~2 hours. Remove from oven. Lift out the thyme and rosemary stems and discard.
Increase oven temperature to 425° F. Scatter the butternut squash cubes onto a lined baking sheet and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Slide into oven and roast until tender and caramelized in spots, 20-25 minutes. Gently stir into the stew, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed (see notes).

This can be served right away, with some finely grated lemon zest and chopped parsley scattered over the top, or cooled and served the next day (which, like many stews and soups, almost tastes better since the flavors have had time to get to know each other).

to make lamb stock:
When I buy lamb shoulder, it always comes on the bone. Once I've cut the meat away from the bone, I add the bone to my slow-cooker, along with some onion, carrot, and celery that have been cut into very large pieces. Add about 6 smashed garlic cloves, some thyme sprigs and parsley stems, a couple of bay leaves, and some whole black peppercorns. Cover with cold water by an inch or two. Put on the lid, turn it on low, and let cook overnight - 12-18 hours for best results. At this point, I strain it and ladle the stock into jars. Store in the fridge for a few days, or leave enough headroom, and freeze until. This yields me approximately 3 quarts.

If you don't have or want to make lamb stock, you could you beef stock (or low sodium broth).

In the recipe, the squash is roasted separately and stirred in at the end. I do it this way because I don't like mushy squash. Roasting it adds extra flavor and texture, as well. Plus, I like to leave on the skin for extra fiber, and if you're not roasting it first, it's not as good that way. If you don't want this added step, then simply add in the cubed butternut squash after the 2 hours is up (or lamb is tender) and cook for another 20 minutes or until squash is tender.

-stew adapted from Food52
Lamb and Buttternut Squash Stew |
I'm happy to be co-hosting 12 Weeks of Winter Squash with my friend Joanne of Eats Well with Others, again this year. We'd love it if you'd cook/bake along with us over the next 12 2 weeks. We will be sharing a new winter squash dish every Monday, but you can feel free to link up a squash dish that you've made anytime during the week, as the linky tool will be open through the end of the day on Sunday. Or, if you're a blogger, and would like to post along with us on Mondays, just let one of us know so that we can add you to the group!