The Third Winter

I’ve been at home all day today, marveling at how quickly winter arrived.  Forget fall.  It would appear that fall will not be making a cameo this year.

The last few weeks, temperatures in the city varied wildly: 60 degree high and foggy Monday and Tuesday, 80 degrees and sunny for the rest of the week.  The season was having its annual identity crisis.  Should I continue on with this glorious indian summer, it seemed to ask itself, or bring on the winter weather a bit early?

This week, it’s finally decided on winter.  Yesterday at my part-time job, my part-time boss sent me out to run a few quick errands for the office.  Of course, right as I pulled on my coat and headed out the door, I looked through my window and realized it was spattered with rain drops.  And there I was, without an umbrella.

No matter, I’d thought to myself, as I exited the building, happy to see the downpour had let up, and that it was more wet and cold outside than rainy.  But there had still been enough rainfall that puddles were accumulating on the sidewalks and streets, and after 10 minutes of errands within a 1 block radius, my pant cuffs and shoes were soaked.

The last two winters I’ve lived in San Francisco, I’ve sworn I would invest in a pair of Wellington boots, those well-recognized rubber boots so popular in California.  Sitting in my office for another two hours yesterday, feet freezing (and with a bruised toe, no less!) convinced me that I would NOT suffer through a third winter without them.  I ordered a pair of wellies from J.Crew right then and there and hallelujah!  They were on sale.

So with my rubber boots purchased, my mind turned to gloomy, cold day food.  And nothing compliments new shoes and rainy skies so well as lamb stew.  Joe was on board too — the weather quickly convinced him that staying in our warm apartment, eating a hearty stew was a far better idea than working out.  With a bit of frozen meat and an armload of vegetables, I threw together one heck of a supper.  A good start to what will be another wet, cold winter.

Hearty lamb stew

  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb lamb stew meat, cut into 1 to 1.5-inch cubes
  • 3 medium sized carrots, diced small
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 8 cups beef or vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • handful of thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, seeded and medium diced
  • 3 medium sized red potatoes
  • 2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice (1/2 a lemon should do the trick)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • — kosher salt and pepper

In a shallow baking dish or plate, combine the flour with a bit of salt and pepper.  In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat.  Using tongs, dredge the lamb pieces in the flour, shake them of any excess powder, then add them to the pot.  Set the dish of flour aside — you’ll need it later.  Brown the pieces on all sides, then remove them to a clean bowl.  Lower the heat to medium.  Add in 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, along with the carrots, onion and garlic.  Season with kosher salt and pepper.  Cook the vegetables until they are just translucent and fragrant, then add in the tomato paste.  Stir the mixture constantly so that the paste does not burn, though some caramelization on the bottom of the pan is fine.  Once the tomato paste is incorporated into the hot vegetables, remove the entire mixture to another bowl.

Reduce heat to medium low.  Add in the final tablespoon of olive oil, along with 2 tablespoons of the flour dredging mixture.  Stir the oil and flour together quickly and constantly, for about 1 minute.  Then, add in the red wine, being sure to scrape up the brown fond from the bottom of the pan.  Once the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, add in the lamb pieces along with any accumulated juices, the stock, bay leaves, thyme and potatoes.  Season the soup well with salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the lamb meat is just tender.  Pour the lemon juice into the pot and stir.

Add in the vegetables along with the bell pepper, and simmer — now with the cover slightly askew —  for another 30 minutes.  Next, add in the peas, and simmer for another 5 minutes, uncovered.  If you would like a thicker stew, simmer a bit longer, still without a cover.  Otherwise, ladle into bowls, garnish with the parsley, and serve.

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