Lamb alla Cacciatora
A Quick Lamb Stew With Fresh Rosemary
Adapted from "Culinary Classics & Improvisations" by Michael Field.
- Servings: 4 to 6.
This recipe is from a cookbook called Culinary Classics & Improvisations by Michael Field. Mr. Field, originally a classical piano prodigy, was a cookbook pioneer whose career was cut short when he died young and suddenly, in 1971.
The book is now out of print but it was hugely innovative for its time. Featuring global cuisines, Mr. Field used the book to encourage the practice of cooking once and eating twice. For example, his recipe for "A Classic New England Corned Beef and Cabbage" would become a "Paté of Corned Beef in Croustade" or "Red Flannel Hash." Or he'd follow a simple roast chicken recipe with ones for Paella or "Pollo Tonnato with Rice Salad."
At the time this method was referred to as transforming leftovers. But in fact most of his recipes could be anyone's primary event. These ideas may not seem particularly revolutionary to us today, but when Mr. Field wrote his cookbook in 1965 it was a time when shopping for olive oil in most U.S. markets could be an expedition.
It's important to point out that this recipe uses leg of lamb, not shoulder or other stew meat that's usually associated with a lamb stew. Leg meat cooks far more quickly than the shoulder cut and in fact can become too tough if overcooked. So resist the idea of browning it too aggressively or keeping in the oven for too long. Also, unlike many stews, this recipe actually tastes its best on the day it's cooked, not the day after.
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 pounds leg of lamb cut into 2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 cup finely minced onions
- 1 heaping teaspoon finely chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3/4 - 1 cup chicken stock (homemade or good boxed stock)
- 2 anchovy fillets, packed in oil that have been wiped clean and finely minced
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh flat leafed parsley
- Preheat the oven to 475° F.
- In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil until the oil is glistening hot but not smoking.
- Add the pieces of the lamb and quickly sauté over high heat until they are lightly browned. Transfer the pieces into an oven-proof French oven or other large casserole that has a cover. If your skillet isn't big enough to brown the lamb all at once, instead do so in batches to get a better result, pouring off any liquid that may gather in the pan in between the batches -- this permits the meat to brown better.
- When all of the lamb pieces have been lightly browned and transferred to the casserole, add the salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and rosemary. Scatter the flour over the ingredients and stir until all the flour disappears.
- Place the pot in the oven and cook, uncovered, turning the meat once or twice, to brown the flour-coated meat a bit more. This will take about 8 minutes.
- While the lamb is in the oven, in the same skillet you used to brown the meat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and bring back to a high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté, stirring often, until the onions are soft and golden brown.
- Pour in the vinegar (stand back so you don't get a nose-full of vinegar fumes) and keep the heat high so that the liquid boils away quickly. Add 3/4 cup of the chicken stock and bring it to a simmer.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325º F. Add the onion/stock mixture into the lamb and stir, cover the casserole and return to the oven.
- Cook for about 20 minutes, checking after 10 minutes to make sure that the liquid hasn't boiled off. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of stock if needed to keep liquid in the pot.
- Remove the pot from the oven and with a large spoon, remove about 4 tablespoons of the liquid and combine with the minced anchovies in a small bowl. With a fork or small whisk, mix until the anchovies seem to melt and add the mixture back into the hot casserole. Cook for an additional 10 minutes (the lamb will have cooked for 30 minutes total time in the oven).
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the minced fresh parsley, and serve with rice or buttered noodles or small steamed potatoes. Lamb is also always a perfect match with white cannellini beans or tender green flageolets.