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Springtime Lamb Stew (Navarin d'Agneau)

Springtime Lamb Stew (Navarin d'Agneau)
A navarin is a lamb dish that celebrates the spring harvest. It brings together young, tender lamb and the first of the new season's baby vegetables. The sauce is lighter and less complex than those in the more robust winter casseroles. This brothlike sauce is well suited to the subtle flavors of the baby carrots, baby turnips, peas and asparagus tips. Fava beans or haricots verts are optional additions. The most typical accompaniment is boiled new potatoes, tossed in butter and parsley.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbs. (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 boneless leg of lamb, about 3 1⁄2 lb.,
      cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tbs. beef demi-glace
  • 3 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄2 lb. baby carrots, peeled
  • 12 baby turnips, peeled
  • 1⁄2 lb. shallots, peeled
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 24 asparagus tips, each 3 inches long

Directions:

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Working in batches, brown the lamb on all sides, about 15 minutes. When all the meat is browned, return it to the pot. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and onion and stir until the flour browns, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, water, demi-glace, parsley, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Stir the meat, add the garlic, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the carrots, turnips and shallots, cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 40 minutes more. Add the peas and asparagus and cook for 6 to 8 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat and vegetables to a warmed serving dish; keep warm.

Increase the heat to high, bring the liquid to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, and pour over the meat and vegetables. Serve immediately.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Provence, by Diane Holuigue (Time-Life Books, 2002).