Friday, December 23, 2011

Poor Lambert!

Today's blog stars Lambert from Eloise Jarvis McGraw's The Forbidden Fountain of Oz. I have two things to say: First, I thought I'd share the little-known fact that in the early drafts of the Forbidden Fountain manuscript Lambert was actually named Billabong! I also decided to share Eloise's own recipe for Lemon-Lamb Ragout. It sounds very tasty! Poor Lambert ...

Lemon-Lamb Ragout
By Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Serves four generously. For a party of six, use 1-1/2 times these amounts. For eight, double. If making half recipe, only cut sauce by 1/4. This recipe may be made using veal or chicken instead of lamb, but I think lamb is best of all.

3 lbs. boneless lamb, in 1-1/2 inch cubes (This requires about a 5 lb. leg of lamb. Lamb shoulder may be used but involves much more waste.)
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. oil
2 slices of bacon, diced
1/2 tsp. marjoram (dried)
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. salt
(Thickening Mixture) 3 Tbsp. flour mixed with 1/2 cup cold water
1 can (13 oz.) chicken broth, regular strength
1/4 cup dry Vermouth
1 bay leaf
a clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
6 quarter-inch slices of lemon
1 package frozen or 1 can of artichoke hearts
1/2 cup cream (optional)
6 additional very thin slices of lemon for garnish
Fresh dill or dried dillweed for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Trim fat from lamb, dry it thoroughly in paper towels. In a lidded flameproof casserole, about 4-5 quart capacity, melt butter, add oil, slowly brown bacon. Add lamb a few pieces at a time, removing them (and bacon) as they get brown enough, until all are pale brown. Return all lamb and bacon to casserole. Sprinkle with the marjoram, cayenne, and salt, stir, and let cook on low heat about five minutes; meanwhile, heat in a saucepan the chicken broth with thickening mixture stirred in, adding Vermouth when sauce has thickened slightly. Stir sauce into meat (all returned to casserole by this time, of course), add the bay leaf, garlic and Worcestershire sauce. Lay the lemon slices on top. Bring casserole to a boil, then cover and place in lower third of the preheated oven. Reduce temperature of oven if necessary to keep meat at a bare simmer. Cook 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until meat is fork tender. Tip casserole and skim off all fat. Discard lemon slices and bay leaf (if you can find it).  

Up to this point the recipe may be made up to a day ahead, simply allow the ragout to cool, cover tightly with foil and refrigerate. To reheat, bring to room temperature and place in 325 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until stew is just bubbling.

To finish heated stew: Add 1 package of frozen artichoke hearts, cooked and warm, or 1 can artichoke heart, drained, rinsed, and warm (at least room temperature). Stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional). I often use half-and-half and it's just as good.

Transfer the ragout to a warmed oven-proof dish suitable for the table - about 9" x 12" with shallow sides to contain the sauce.

Garnishes: Put 6 very thin lemon slices in a row on the stew; sprinkle all liberally with 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp. dried dillweed (or more). Serve with rice or noodles.

A green salad and a good French bread are all you need otherwise, and a really good red wine such as Italian Barolo or Chianti Classico. This meal turns out satisfying but light, and dessert-lovers may spread themselves (no pun intended) on a fruity tart or pie, or maybe cheesecake.
—Eloise Jarvis McGraw

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