friendship + food

Over Christmas a package from our friends Jay and David showed up on our doorstep.  In it was a lovely cookbook with complete menus arranged by season, The Vineyard Kitchen by Maria Helm Sinskey, and a bottle of wine, produced at the author and her husband’s Napa Valley vineyard.  I met Jay several years ago when we worked together for a communications firm.  He is one of the smartest men I know.  If you want to know anything about popular culture, he’s your go-to-guy.  In addition to having a wide understanding of what’s current, he is incredible at forecasting trends.  He truly listens to clients and delivers what they want and presents ideas they hadn’t even conceptualized.  But Jay is not only a ‘big idea’ guy, he provides all the tactics that will help ensure success.  These are only some of the reasons why his clients love him and his colleagues respect him. As a past colleague and as a good friend, he makes me laugh.  And makes me smarter.  Then Jay introduced me to David, and hello, another wicked smart man.  All I need to tell you about David is that he is a statistician.  Yeah, see?!  He’s a statistician and a wordsmith and someone, who on a regular basis, kicks my butt in scrabble.  An Australian, his accent is to die for and don’t even get me started on his eyes and smile. They are killer.  I love listening to Jay and David talk about politics and world affairs.  I always learn something new.

I really started to learn about great culinary places in Seattle through Jay and David.  They love food and they love how it brings people together.  So sharing meals with them is always a treat.  One of my best food memories was a work dinner at Ethan Stowell’s Union shortly it opened where Jay basically told the waiter to bring us one of everything Ethan thought we should try.  It was great.  So was the wine.  I can’t forget the wine, something we all love but a subject on which Jay and David are more knowledgeable.  So many great dinners out, like my first dining experience with them at Lark, and so many fun dinner/cocktail parties at their home, where they made everyone feel welcome and loved. Today was Jay’s birthday so I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate his friendship than by cooking something from the book they gave me at Christmas.   Though today started and ended with sun, there was a long grey spell in between.  And since it is about 10 degrees colder than normal, I’m still in comfort food mode.  So it was lamb stew tonight.  Which is the first main in the spring menu section of the book.  Here is my adapted recipe; adapted to add more of what I like, peas{!}, and less of what I don’t, carrots {ew}.  A liquid swap from water to stock and some changes to cut down on cooking time.  We’ll blame the late dinner start on a long, late afternoon run.  But we’ll blame the late workout on procrastination.

Lamb Stew
30 mins prep, 1 hour cook time
serves 8

4 medium carrots, peeled + sliced into 1″ bias-cut pieces
12 baby yukon gold potatoes, washed + sliced in half
14 cippolini onions
6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
3 cups frozen petite peas
4 lbs. lamb shoulder, cut into 1″ cubes
2-4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups dry red wine
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
6 cups beef stock

2 cups water
8 tbsp. flour
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Prep all the fresh vegetables.  After slicing the potatoes, place them in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from browning until it’s time to add them to the stew.  To prep the onions, trim the top and root end but do not cut the root base completely off.  This will allow the onions to stay together, even if you have to slice large ones in half. If your good at multi-tasking the fresh veg prep can be done while you are browning the lamb.  If not, give yourself  an additional 10 minutes of prep time.

Season the lamb cubes with salt and pepper.  In a large saute pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium high heat. Working in batches and adding more oil when needed, brown the lamb making sure not to crowd the meat in the pan so the meat can get a good sear.  Remove browned lamb and place in a large dutch oven pot.

After all the lamb is seared, add the wine to deglaze the pan.  Bring to a boil.  Using a wooden spoon, gently scrape up the browned bits.  Reduce heat to a rolling simmer to reduce, about 5 minutes.  Pour over lamb in pot.

Add the carrots, garlic and onions to the pot.  Add enough beef stock to cover the meat and vegetables; about 6 cups.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a rolling simmer.  Add the thyme, bay leaf and parsley.  In a small bowl, whisk together the water and flour creating a slurry.  Ladle 2 cups of the stew stock into the bowl, whisking to incorporate.  Add the slurry mixture to the pot; stir.  Cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add potatoes and cook for 30 more minutes.  The frozen peas should be added during the last three minutes of cooking.  Salt and pepper to taste, remove the bay leaf and serve!

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