This simple stew, made with lamb thighs, barley, greens and a large pile of onions, was not planned at all but by circumstance.
As usual when I went shopping with my 4-year-old daughter, Alicia, we arrived home in Seattle with a pile of ingredients and no real plan. Recently, that pile consisted of a leg of lamb and a 5-pound bag of onions.
The best braised lamb, and a bag of onions always reminds me of soupe à l’oignon, the French onion soup, (a favorite of my wife, Adri), so incorporating those ideas seemed natural. And that’s what I learned from ex-chef Jason Bond. In 2002, he was a culinary chef at Park number 9 in Boston, where he had me slowly sauté the onions over low heat until they were dark brown and sticky. We deglaze them with red wine and roast veal, then add the shredded beef and cook the whole thing just over low heat until the meat is tender enough to cut with a spoon and the broth reduces to a rich, glossy sauce. momentum.
At home, Alicia and I start by preheating the oven, then seasoning lamb thighs with salt and pepper, and then baking them in a Dutch oven. When the shanks are golden, I slice the onions – as well as some leeks in the fridge – while Alicia pounds the garlic in her mortar and pestle. (Crushing garlic is her domain since she’s strong enough to lift the pestle herself.)
Once the lamb was simmering, I set aside the hams and added the onions and leeks (as well as some diced carrots) to the pot as Alicia stirred. Her attention span didn’t allow for an hour of slow stirring, so I had to deviate slightly from Jason’s technique.
It’s okay. Despite what many recipes emphasize, onions don’t need to be cooked until they’re pliable and sweet to make a great soup. I’ve been making Jacques Pépin’s Lyonnaise-style version for years, a recipe that requires just 20 minutes of cooking on the stovetop. Part of the secret is that the broth is simmered after the stock has been added, then transferred to the griddle and grilled uncovered in the oven, so that the onion-rich broth on top can create a deeper caramel. As you eat it, those dark layers mix with the lighter broth underneath, adding sweetness and complexity to every bite.
We implemented a similar solution with our stew: After just 20 minutes of frying, we add garlic and ketchup to the onions (this adds to the body of the finished sauce), reduce coated with red wine and stock (store-bought braised chicken, for me I’m not crazy enough to make braised veal at home). We then dipped the lamb shanks back in the broth with a sprig of rosemary before transferring the pot to the oven with the lid cracked.
After a few hours, I sautéed some pear barley and spinach waiting in the fridge. (Alicia was gone by this point, so she had no say in the matter.) Then I let it all continue to cook until the barley was done, and the lamb was just tender enough to withdraw. from bone.
The finished stew, with its sweet and attractive aroma in just one pot, has resonated with families and chefs alike. We made a similar stew a week later, with short ribs in place of lamb, then again with kale in place of Spinach. (In the name of science, I made this last batch with onions that I fully caramelized for an hour before deglazing. It was deliciously sweet and savory; different, though not better.)
You can do the same, but if I may give you a suggestion: Whenever you cook slow braised in the oven, be prepared to leave the house for a 10-minute walk around the block to get the door open. and breathe in the fragrance with a fresh nose.
Cooking recipe: French onion braised lamb with barley and greens
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/dining/lamb-shank-stew.html Lamb stew with French onion twist