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Navarin of Lamb

  • SERVINGS: 8-10

Chef Philippe Boulot prepared navarin, a traditional hearty French stew made with chunks of tender lamb and potatoes, the day his first child was born. Now he and his wife, Susan, cook it to celebrate their most special occasions.

  1. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 6 pounds lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 -inch cubes
  3. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  4. 3 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  5. 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  6. 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  7. 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  8. Bouquet garni made with 1 fresh thyme sprig, 1 fresh rosemary sprig, 1 bay leaf and 3 fresh parsley sprigs tied in cheesecloth
  9. 3 pounds red potatoes, halved or quartered if large
  10. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  11. 1 pound pearl onions, peeled (see Note)
  12. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. Season the lamb cubes with salt and pepper and add one-quarter to the casserole. Sear the lamb over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Brown the remaining meat in 3 more tablespoons of the olive oil and transfer to the platter. Add the onions and garlic to the casserole and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 4 minutes. Add 1 more tablespoon of the olive oil and the flour to the casserole, stirring to coat the onions. Stir in the tomato paste.
  2. Return the lamb to the casserole. Add 5 cups of water and the bouquet garni, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender but not falling apart, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil over moderately high heat for 5 minutes. Drain and add to the stew. Continue cooking until the potatoes are tender and the lamb is very tender, about 15 more minutes. Discard the bouquet garni.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt the butter in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the pearl onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of the lamb stew liquid and 1/2 cup of water and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and well glazed, about 15 minutes. If necessary, add a little more water to the skillet during cooking.
  5. Stir the pearl onions into the navarin and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve.
Notes To peel pearl onions, trim the root ends, then soak the onions in very hot water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. The skins will slip right off.

Suggested Pairing

All this homey, satisfying lamb stew needs for a wine partner is a fruity, dry red that can harmonize with the rich but mild meat flavor and the sweetness of the caramelized onions. One choice: a California Zinfandel, such as the Storybook Mountain or the Haywood Los Chamizai Vineyard.

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