Now that The Holidays are officially over, now is the time of year that I truly loathe.
The cold. The snow. The ice. The wind.
Last weekend we got a couple of inches of snow in our neck of the woods. My husband and kid were both thrilled, and gleefully shoveled the sidewalk and driveway like a couple of kids in a candy store. I remained inside with the cat and frantically Marie Kondo-ed items that didn’t “spark joy” to me any longer (Netflix, I blame you).
It was on this day that I thought a nice, warm and hearty stew would be a goo idea. So, I looked through my copy of The New Nordic – which, thankfully, gives me lots of joy so I chose to keep it – and came across a recipe that I’ve made before and remember enjoying: Stout Lamb Stew.
The New Nordic, if you’re not familiar, is mostly broken up into different sections based on the primary locations where the Nordic people source their food, such as The Sea and The Forest. This recipe was in the section of the book called “The Land,” which fits nicely since it plays on the earthy, grainy flavor of the stout co-mingling with the lamb, onions and cranberry.
The ingredients were super simple to locate, although the lamb was a bit pricey; to be fair, I got the fancy-pants grass fed version, which may have had a factor in the cost. First, I cut the lamb into cubes and browned them in some oil (the recipe calls for “rapeseed oil” but Canola Oil is a decent substitution, which I used). Since I don’t cook with lamb that often, I tend to forget that since it’s fattier than the ground turkey and beef that I normally cook with that it’s more like bacon when it cooks – that is, it splashes and pops, a lot. One of the splashes unexpectedly hit me on the side of my neck, which made me yelp and say what my 5-year-old would refer to as a “Very Bad Word.”
After throwing in some flour to soak up the liquid and dodging fatty splashes from the pan, I set the lamb into a casserole dish and topped it with a couple of cups of stout to soak while I fried up a sliced onion, some celery and garlic. When they turned soft, I added in a couple of whole cloves and some vegetable stock to deglaze the pan. Then, I covered the casserole dish with foil, then topped the foil with the glass cover and put it in a 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I got to lounge around for 1.5 hours – oh no. For a majority of that time, I did a task that surely must be included amongst the top circles of Hell: taking the skin off of a whole bunch of pearl onions.
If you think working with regular old onions is bad enough, well, my friend, I’m here to tell you that it can get so much worse, as pearl onions are a veritable nightmare to deal with. They’re so stinkin’ small, and the skin is so tough to get off, and even thought they’re small those little buggers still make your eyes burn like hades. After finishing one bag, I outsourced the majority of the next one to my super brave husband, who I owe a freaking unicorn to for helping me out. Thankfully by the end I remembered a trick that worked for getting the skin off of garlic that also helped in our case – putting the onions in a glass jar after cutting the ends off of them, and shaking them up. This helps either remove or loosen the skin so it’s much easier to remove.
The pearl onions were added in about halfway through cooking, and dried cranberries (which, thankfully, we didn’t have to do a thing to) were added in during the last 15 minutes. As for the lentils, those took about a half hour to cook. I actually soaked them ahead of time for about 6 hours, primarily to help lessen their ability to cause…ahem…flatulence. After those were done, I added a tablespoon of dried dill (I didn’t want to get fresh dill just for this recipe and then potentially not use it for anything else), because, well, Scandinavia.
I knew the stew would be good, but after a blustery, cold and snowy day, it almost felt like an indulgent treat at the end of the day. We all ate the stew with the lentils scooped into it, not separately as the recipe intended, primarily because we liked the texture of the lentils with the stew (and, I may or may not have overcooked the lentils).
The lamb soaked up a lot of the stout flavor, and was fall-apart-in-your-mouth tender. The pearl onions and cranberries gave it a nice subtle sweetness, and the lentils provided some good texture. I was surprised that my kid gobbled it right down, since he typically loudly proclaims that he doesn’t like onions, and I essentially gave him a bowl full of miniature versions of the very things he thought he hated.
Hmmm….maybe dealing with those damn pearl onions was worth it, after all.
This recipe was made and adapted from The New Nordic: Recipes from a Scandinavian Kitchen.