Before the fall: Lamb stew

 If you received this new post as an email from Marla in the Kitchen, listen to Willie and Frank below by clicking on the post title, “Before the fall.” You’ll be redirected to the blog’s website where YouTube videos can be played.

There seems to be a specific moment in mid to late September when the season shifts from summer to fall. The light is golden, spider webs hang in every corner, the air is sharp on the intake, and in the morning you find leaves floating in the bird bath. Then back-to-school supplies are everywhere, Costco brings out the Christmas wrapping paper, you can’t find a bathing suit or shorts, and you know for sure that summer is not going to last. Autumn is my favorite season, although October makes me sad—must be those Frank Sinatra songs about days dwindling down and leaves drifting by the window. 

Siskiyou County, Oregon

Even though I’m far past school age, the end of August brings with it the teeniest bit of childhood angst, then I remember that I don’t have to go back to school. The earliest memory I have is that of being taken down the alley behind our house (my inner child says “dragged”) to Kindergarten kicking and screaming every step of the way. When she dropped me off at Mrs. Henkie’s door Muth promised, “You stay here, I’ll be right back.” Forty-five years later I brought up this betrayal to Muth, but she wouldn’t have any part of it. “I did come back,” she insisted. 

My reluctance to be educated went on on for several weeks and finally Muth threatened, “All right then, don’t go to school. But you’ll have to stay in your room.” Music to my ears Brer Fox, but three days later, we were back to the drag and drop routine. Eventually I grew accustomed to being confined in a room that smelled like wet wool and had all the windows closed, with no outdoors available, my dog at home, soggy baloney sandwiches for lunch, mean boys, and tight shoes instead of bare feet. 

Yakima Avenue, Tacoma

Smokey Mountains, Tennessee

Vashon Island

Harvard University campus

You would think that I’d develop a spine by the time I went to college, but not so much. Every Sunday night, around the time my family was watching Bonanza, I called home on the dorm phone and begged to be allowed to return. ‘Fraid not much had improved by the time I got married at twenty. My young husband was stationed at the Dover Air Force Base and our newly-married drive from Iowa to Delaware (in my Dad’s 1954 Buick Roadmaster) was not my strongest hour. I did buck up, however, through that first Spring and Summer away from home, but in October I called home every day until Daddy gently said, “All these long distant calls must be costing you a lot of money.”

A fragrant pot of lamb stew with carrots and those forgotten green beans from the garden go a long way towards alleviating autumn blues. So if you’re feeling sad and lonely, bring out the stew pot, call your Mom, and sit back and listen to Willie, Frank, and Nelson Riddle

Hmm, seems like I’m on a lamb/green bean roll.

Lamb stew

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cups dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cubed or 1 pound baby carrots
  • 1 pound green beans
  • 1 large shallot, minced

Preheat the oven to 350°. 

Put the flour in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the lamb cubes in 4 batches, tossing to coat thoroughly.

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Brown lamb cubes; transfer to a plate. 

Return lamb cubes to the casserole. Add the wine, vinegar and bring to a simmer. Add chicken stock and tarragon and return to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the casserole and braise the stew in the oven for about 1 hour, or until the meat is nearly tender.

Add the carrots, green beans and shallot to the lamb stew. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole, return it to the oven and cook until the meat and vegetables are tender, about 1 hour longer. 

Add the carrots, green beans and shallot to the lamb stew. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole, return it to the oven and cook until the meat and vegetables are tender, about 1 hour longer. 


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4 Responses to Before the fall: Lamb stew

  1. Jenni says:

    Perfect — the memories and the recipe!

  2. Ginny says:

    A call to Mom would be long distance indeed.

  3. Barbara. Sweeties. Sister says:

    I usually have a rough September but this year I seem better. Made some yummy beef stew last night and have been eating all day. Welcome Fall. Im ready for you. Love you Marla. I wish I could call my mom. I would reminisce with her and tell her about my stew. And how much I miss her

  4. Jim says:

    Bring on fall because winter is right on her heels. Time for warm fire in the fireplace and snow shoe hikes at Mt Rainier. Yep bring it on..

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