Friday, August 26, 2011

Ordinary Mutton Stew

A couple of weeks ago, Jen and I happened to be out of town near a little butcher that I know and he almost always has some goodies stashed away that you can't find at your local markets around here.  So we picked up a mutton loin, bone in, complete with fat cap and skin still attached and hid it away in the freezer until I could decide what to do with it.  After some consideration I decided to do a stew with it as I have never had mutton before and what could be more traditional than a mutton stew?  Almost every culture across the globe, at one point or another, has developed a stew using sheep flesh so why not try my hand at that?  Plus, I like stews and soups as they are usually simple to prepare, require little to no attention after starting, store well, get better with a couple of days in the fridge, and last but not least, they reheat easily.  Folks are welcome to substitute lamb or beef for the mutton as I can't imagine many folks having access to it unless you live somewhere outside the US or happen to be, or know, a sheep farmer.

I did this in a 7 quart slow cooker and there was plenty of room for more to be added so if you've got a 3 or 4 qt slow cooker, you should be just fine.  Alternatively, if you don't have a slow cooker you can simply follow the recipe as listed and add everything to a roasting pan.  Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven at 250F degrees for 3 hours.

As musical accompaniment to this dish, I decided to go with Face to Face's song "Ordinary" as it takes me back a good 15 yrs or so down memory lane to my teen years, just as a good homemade stew should take you back to childhood.  Besides, this recipe is fairly, well... ordinary.  A meat stew is usually savory and doesn't have a lot going on in the "Wow" department.  It's homey, hearty, warm, and perfectly reliable as a good meal, especially in the winter months.  Ordinary. - Justin

  • 1 3lb mutton loin, bone in (approx 8 ribs)
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 large rutabaga
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley 
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 shot dry vermouth
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried ground tarragon
  • 1/4 dried ground herbs de provence 
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
  • 1 cup wild rice or pearled barley
If you've acquired your roast at a grocer or butcher, chances are you won't have to prep it at all, so in an effort to save time describing how to butcher and skin a sheep, we'll assume you all have done the former and we'll skip right to the veggies.  If your roast has rib bones, leave them in as they will exude the best tasting marrow into your broth while they cook!  If your roast doesn't have ribs, you can either leave it whole or dice it into 2 inch cubes.

Wash the carrots, potatoes, and the rutabaga and leave the skins on them as that is where all the flavor and nutrients are. Dice them all, and the onion as well, into roughly similar sized chunks, approximately an inch to an inch and a half and add them to the bottom of the slow cooker.  Add the kosher salt, black pepper, sage, parsley, chicken and beef broths, the sherry and the dry vermouth and stir everything to combine.  You want to make sure that the liquid comes up to the top of the veggies.  If you need to, add a little more broth or some water to raise the level.  Add the roast to the top of the veggies, rib bones up if you have a bone-in roast, cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

After 6 hours pull the meat off the bones and cut it into 1"h to 1.5" chucks and add back to the slow cooker along with the sea salt, white pepper, tarragon, herbs de provence, chives and rice.  Cook for another 2 hrs on low.  Serve with some good bread for soaking up broth.

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