Provençal Lamb Stew, Pommes de Terre au Persil


Nothing says French like an authentic French stew, especially on a cold wintry day, and this one adds a twist that keeps all of the flavor locked into the stew. Here we took license with the original French country recipe, by adding the peas as a side rather than incorporating into the stew, and by creating a spectacular, buttery mash of pommes de terre au persil (parslied potatoes) as an accompaniment. This version retains all of the hearty meat and mushroom taste, and puts us in mind of Provençal forests deep in winter, while adding perfect accents with potatoes, parsley and peas.

This recipe will take a few hours to prepare, so give yourself ample time some morning or afternoon and by all means, enjoy the process, as you lovingly craft a dinner with complex flavor for cherished family and/or friends that they can't get just anywhere. As with most soups or stews, for some reason this one tastes better after it has been cooled and reheated, or the next day.


It's a wonderful dinner to serve, feels very elegant and makes you appear an accomplished cook, especially when accompanied by a fine beaujolais and crusty baguette.

Ingredients
2-3 lbs. lamb steaks (round bone), cut into 1-2" pieces
1/2 to 1 c. hearty red wine (use only wine that you would drink at table!)
3 tbsp. flour
2 medium onions, chopped coarsely (about 1 cup)
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in butter
1 lb. carrots, cut into 2" pieces
1 lb. frozen peas
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into thirds 
1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
4 - 6 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. freshly chopped thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Process
1. Sauté the mushrooms in 1-2 tbsp. butter and olive oil until deeply browned and set aside.

2. In a large dutch oven, add 1-2 tbsp. butter and sauté the lamb in stages so as not to cool down the pot, until richly browned and leaving a fond or tiny bits on the bottom of the pot.
These are the crusty, caramelized bits you want to render from the meat; they are called the fond.
They will add flavor and character to your stew.

3. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the juice of the meat, sauté the onion and garlic until wilted and soft, about five minutes, stirring frequently. 


This is how your onions will look after you've added the wine and the slurry.
4. While the onion is cooking, make a
slurry of 2-3 tbsp. flour and very hot water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the flour completely. Add to the cooked onions and stir until well incorporated.


5. Add back the meat, add in the carrots, mushrooms, bay leaf, thyme and stir well to incorporate.
6. Add more wine, about 1/3 cup. 
7. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stir to incorporate, lower heat and simmer on low heat, stirring every 10 - 15 minutes or so, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot.
8. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, boil the potatoes in salted water.
9. When the potatoes are cooked (about 10 minutes, or when a fork slides through easily), drain and mash in same saucepan, using a fork or a potato masher. Add 2 tbsp. butter and freshly chopped parsley, mix and set aside.
10. Prepare the peas according to package directions, and when cooked, add butter, salt and pepper to taste.
11. After a few hours, check the stew and adjust flavorings to taste.
12. Serve with peas and potatoes, crusty bread and a hearty beaujolais.  Bon appetit!



Party Pumpkin Squares


A pumpkin for your thoughts! Pumpkin is such a wonderful food, so loaded with health benefits, and available throughout the year, that it's a wonder we don't eat it more.  Now, during this season of pumpkin pies, pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin casseroles, I pulled out an old favorite of mine from many years ago and decided to give it a few new twists by adding ground cloves and allspice.  The result was "Pumpkin Party Squares," great for a buffet dessert because, like brownies, they need no forks or spoons to eat them .... unless, of course, you put a dollop of freshly-whipped heavy cream on them, as I did, or vanilla ice cream.  The result is a sumptuous dessert and is a real treat on a cold October or November night. A great gift for your Thanksgiving hostess, too!

Ingredients


For the crust:

1 package store-bought pound cake mix
1 egg, slightly beaten with fork
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
2 tbsp. melted butter

For the topping:

8 oz. container of whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten with fork
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin pie filling
1/3 to 1/2 cup of walnuts, or as desired

Process

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

(2) Mix crust ingredients in bowl and press into a lightly greased and floured 13" x 9" baking pan. Mixture will be crumbly but firm.

(3) Whip the cream cheese, eggs, condensed milk and pumpkin pie filling in a large bowl with an electric mixer or wire whisk until well blended.

(4) Add dry ingredients -- pumpkin pie spice, salt, cinnamon -- and stir to combine.

(5) Pour filling on top of crust. Sprinkle with walnuts.

Bake 45 minutes until set.

Cool, cut into squares, and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, or just as they are!