PROJECT RECIPE: Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash

Have you ever been to Food52? You should bookmark it if you don’t have it already. Or better yet, subscribe and you get a weekly email. It’s pretty much a genius concept. Each week, the lovelies who run the website ask readers to submit their best recipes based on a featured seasonal ingredient. They try the ones they really like and select a winner. And you can go onto the website and get the winning recipe with notes from Amanda and Merrill.  Sorta like my PROJECT RECIPE idea. The website is so popular, it has grown to include a shop for cooks and foodies, a weekly column, guest posts and tons of tips and advice for home cooks. If I ever need inspiration for an ingredient that I find myself with and I just don’t know what to do with it, I always go there. Tons of ideas. Just search by your ingredient.

I found this recipe for Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash on the website a while back and it just called me in like a dinner bell. What’s not to love? A hearty one pot dish for a chilly night’s dinner. Winter squash. Lamb. I’m in.

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Project Recipe Verdict: Keeper. This recipe did not disappoint, obviously. Lamb gives it a bit of an unexpected twist. This lamb stew meat was luscious with just the right amount of fat marbled through it. I figured the stew would be bland as the recipe doesn’t call for much spice or seasoning, but is was dynamite. The lamb and tomato flavors don’t need much here because they marry so well.

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t have any butternut, but I did have a gigantic hubbard squash in the garage that I had been storing since last October. They will store in the right conditions for seemingly forever. I figured I better not push my luck too much with it though since the weather (hopefully) will be getting warm soon. It tastes almost like butternut. Maybe not as sweet, and definitely harder, so I braised it longer. About an hour total with the squash, and it was nice a soft. I checked the lamb after about an hour, and it seemed like it was close to done, so I added the squash then and gave it another hour. It’s really hard to overcook something like this. I also used vegetable stock instead of beef because I didn’t have any beef stock.

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The key here is to get a nice brown crust on the meat before you add all the rest of the ingredients. It really brings up the flavor and protects the meat from just becoming gray mush when you braise it. Don’t be afraid to turn the heat up high and really get it sizzling. If it sticks a little, no worry. You end up scraping up all the browned bits with the stock anyway, which helps build the flavor.

This was an easy (but not fast) one-pot meal. Definitely nice for a Sunday evening, since you can put it in the oven on a late afternoon while you do other things around the house. Since the hubbard I cut up to use for this has yielded about two and a half gallon bags of squash, which I’ll put in the freezer, I’ll definitely have to make it again.

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