The Daring Cooks March Challenge: Brave the Braising - Lamb Stew with baby vegetables

The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

What is braising?
Traditional cooking methods may be classed as how heat is conducted through the food. First is moist heat (poaching, simmering, steaming or boiling) where heat is conducted through some sort of liquid; be it stock, sauces or steam. The second method is dry heat (roasting, baking, broiling, sautéing, pan frying) where heat is conducted by hot air, radiation or hot fat. Different methods are suited for different kinds of food. Braising, from the French “braiser”, offers us a combination cooking method – dry heat followed by moist heat. Typically, meat is seared in hot fat which helps to add flavor and aromas, improves color (browning), and texture (crust). It is then submerged in liquid and cooked slowly and gently at low heat. In a nut-shell that’s it! It should be noted that there are endless variations for braising including stove-top versus oven; partially submerged in liquid or completely submerged; or stews where there are many ingredients that are cut into smaller pieces.
Braising has several advantages over other cooking methods in that it provides for uniform cooking when done in an oven with heat coming from all sides instead of just the bottom of the pan as well it requires less attention as it’s cooked at a slow and steady temperature for longer periods. Other advantages are that it clears the stove top for other preparations, the dish may be prepared in advance and the flavor improves over time!

I love braising and have done it before - without knowing it that I was using this technique. My all-time-favourite Jamie Oliver provides a lot of braising-style recipes in his cooking books which I cooked a lot e.g. this one. I even made one with rabbit in a mustard and prune sauce wich was delicious (sorry, both posts are in German).
The recipes provided by Carol looked interesting, there was for example one for braised fennel (I love fennel and will try it someday). But I had something else in mind. I spotted a recipe for lamb stew when I visited my friends and run through the pages of a cooking book of theirs. They love French cuisine and had a cooking book with easy everyday-life recipes. I never made something with lamb before and I decided to cook this recipe for my birthday brunch and adapted it to become a little bit more braising-style (what means to just put it into the oven so I could prepare other dishes in the meantime). My guests at the brunch loved it, it was delicious for itself, with bread and with pasta.

Lamb stew with baby vegetables
adapted from Stéphane Reynaud's cookbook Vive la France!
makes 6 servings
  • 900 g lamb filet, cut into 4 cm (1,6 inches) large cubes
  • two onions, sliced
  • one leek, green part removed and sliced
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 200 ml white wine
  • one bouqet garni (I used celeriac, parsley, sage, dried thyme wrapped into a leek 'leaf' and a bay leaf)
  • 300 ml cream
  • 200 g baby carrots, quartered lenghtwise
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 200 g snow peas
  • 200g fresh broad beans (I used frozen ones)
  • salt and pepper
In a large heat-proof pot (the lid needs to be heat-proof too), melt the butter and fry the meat with the onions and the leek until slightly brown. Add the flour and fry at medium heat for another 5 minutes. Deglaze with the white whine and cook until the liquid is reduced to half. Preheat your oven to 200°C.
Add the cream, 100 ml of water and the bouquet garni. The meat and the bouquet should be covered nearly completely with the liquid. If not, add more water. Place the rest of the vegetables on top, bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Put the lid on top. I usually seal it by placing a piece of wet baking paper between pot and lid. Place the pot into the oven and let cook for about 40 minutes. The meat should be done and the vegetables should be very soft - if you don't like them that soft, you can add them to the pot after it has been 20 minutes in the oven. Remove the bouquet and season to taste before serving.


Audax hat gesagt…

You are so lucky to have this for your birthday and doesn't it look fabulous so creamy and juicy a superb job on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Poisonive hat gesagt…

Fantastic dish - so glad you enjoyed the challenge!

chef_d hat gesagt…

Yum, the braised rabbit sounds delicious and the braised lamb for your birthday brunch looks yummy!