NAVARIN PRINTANIER (French lamb stew with spring vegetables, for six)
“The navarin… was originally a ragout of lamb and turnips (navets), a real tradition that persists in non-lamb stews with turnips, which chefs also call navarins. When the lamb navarin includes spring vegetables as well as turnips, it is a navarin printanier, from the French printemps, spring.
“Chalk one up for the lowly turnip. It gets no respect in France….a whole nation of turnip-scorners diss the vegetable every time they sneer at a bad play or film. In the idiom of French theater, a navet is a turkey. And the weakling has turnip blood (sang de navet) in his veins.” Raymond Sokolov, The Cook’s Canon
3 pounds boneless leg of lamb
2 to 4 tablespoons rendered fresh pork fat or cooking oil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons flour
2 to 3 cups brown lamb or beef stock, or canned beef broth
¾ pound ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced and chopped (about 1 cup pulp) or 3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon thyme or rosemary
1 bay leaf
6 to 12 peeled boiling potatoes
6 peeled carrots
6 peeled turnips
12 to 18 peeled white onions, about 1 inch in diameter
1 cup shelled green peas
¼ pound (1 cup) green beans cut into ½ inch pieces
3 quarts boiling water
- Preheat the oven to 450*.
- Cut the lamb into 2 inch cubes and dry it with paper towels. The meat will not brown if it is damp. Brown a few pieces at a time in hot fat or oil in a 10 to 12 inch skillet. As they are browned, place them in a casserole.
- Sprinkle the lamb in the casserole with sugar and toss over moderately high heat for 3 to 4 minutes until the sugar has caramelized. This will give a fine amber color to the sauce.
- Toss the meat with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, then with the flour. Set the casserole, uncovered, in the middle level of the preheated oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Toss the meat and return it to the oven for 4 to 5 minutes more. This browns the flour evenly and coats the lamb with a light crust. Remove the casserole and turn the oven down to 350*.
- Pour out the fat and add 2 cups stock or broth to the sauté skillet. Bring to a boil and scrape up the coagulated cooking juices. Then pour the liquid into the casserole. Bring to a simmer for a few seconds, shaking and stirring to mix the liquid and the flour. Add the tomatoes or tomato paste, garlic, thyme or rosemary and the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer for 1 minute, then add more stock if necessary. The meat should be almost covered by the liquid.
- Put the lid on the casserole and set it in the lower third of the preheated oven. Regulate the heat so the casserole simmers slowly and regularly for 1 hour. Then pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve over a bowl. Rinse out the casserole, remove any loose bones and return the meat to the casserole. Skim the fat off the sauce in the bowl, correct the seasonings, and pour the sauce back into the casserole. Then add the vegetables, which have been prepared as follows:
- While the lamb is simmering, trim the potatoes into ovals 1-1/2 inches long, and cover with cold water until ready to use. Quarter the carrots and turnips, cut them into 1-1/2 inch lengths and pierce a cross in the root ends of the onions so they will cook evenly.
- Press the vegetables into the casserole around and between the pieces of lamb. Baste with the sauce. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, cover and return to the oven. Regulate the heat so that the liquid simmers steadily for about 1 hour longer, or until the meat and vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven, tilt the casserole and skim off the fat. Taste the sauce again and correct the seasoning.
- While the casserole in the oven, drop the peas and beans into boiling water and boil rapidly, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are almost tender. Immediately drain in a colander and run under cold water for 2 to 3 minutes to stop the cooking and set the color. Put aside until ready to use.
- The stew may be prepared ahead to this point. Set the casserole aside, with the cover askew. Bring it back to a simmer on top of the stove before proceeding with the recipe.
- Shortly before serving, place the peas and beans in the casserole on top of the other ingredients and baste with the bubbling sauce. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes or until the green vegetables are tender.
- Serve the stew from its casserole or arrange it on a very hot platter.