Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"It's Just Cooking" Lamb and Lentil Chili w/sweet potato

It's rare that I'm not happy!  But that was my first feelings when I, #1 saw the cuts of lamb that I had to choose from at WF (and the $$), #2 debated on how complicated I wanted to make my life, then bought some anyway, and #3 now had to deal with it.

I originally went to WF for those beautiful shoulder chops I got the last time.....but none to be found.  Whole Foods has two types of lamb right now, "local" grass fed, and New Zealand.  The price difference was only going to be substantial because I needed over 2lbs (local grass fed about $1-3.00lb more) but on this day they had no option of any NZ, and no shoulder chops at all.  As a fairly experienced home cook I should know that when you go to the market you should take into account  what looks good that day, what they have available, and even sometimes what's the best value.  You should not have your decision carved in stone before you get to the market!  Anyway...

The only lamb that was under $10 a pound was the local grass fed "stew" meat, bone in ($9.99lb).  Usually I jump at 'bone in' stew meat, but this was almost all bone!  All I could see were the bones that looked, to me, like neck/shoulder, but I still bought it because the bone lulled me into visions of super rich stew! (can you imagine if they sold it as "lamb neck" meat @ $9.99lb ?  Who would buy it? lol I mean, besides me?). Because it was basically $10 per lb I only bought 2lbs, and for $20 I thought I would hardly get any meat off of it...darn.  Dumb.  I was not motivated to do anything with it, and I almost just threw it in the freezer for another day but here's what I came up with:


Lamb and Lentil Chili w/sweet potatoes

2 lbs lamb stew meat (browned and removed to the side)

onion, 1 med
celery, 2 stlaks
red bell, 1
jalapeno (I only had one)

all cut into small dice (picture on left), then saute in oil until onion/veg are soft and translucent. Add

chili spices (chili powder 2 tbl, ground oregano 1 tbl, 2 tbl ground cumin, and I forgot 1 tbl paprika, oops!)

once you smell the spices toast, add

2 tbl tomato paste (toast for 1-2 min)
1 can diced tomatoes
3-4 cans of water (use the tomato can to measure)

1-2 bay leaves
1 head of garlic (bottom third cut off to expose cloves)

Oh, and all along the way you should be seasoning each step with a GPS (generous pinch of salt).  Finally add

1 cup lentils (brown or green)
1 lg sweet potato/ yam, shredded (pictured on left)

add the browned lamb back into the pot with the rest of the ingredients.

Lock lid in place, bring pressure to high, lower pressure and cook 30 minutes.  A pressure cooker reduces cooking time by about 1/3, so if you are doing this in a dutch oven on top of the stove you would,

cover with lid,
bring to a boil,
lower to a simmer slightly covered,
and cook until meat is tender,
about 1 hr.

Remove bay leaves, garlic bulb.  Also if using bone in stew meat (like I did) you have to remove it, let it cool and shred the meat from the bones and returning the meat to the chili.

You may also be able to braise this in an oven, so instead of finishing on the top of the stove, place covered pot in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hr (after bringing to a boil). (remove the lid the last 20 minutes, making sure it doesn't dry out).

So why wasn't I happy?  I didn't think there was enough meat (especially for the $$) and I was pissed!  That unmotivated me to want to put in any extra work, in the form of a ton of veg prep, and is why I choose lentils over the extra step of pre soaking (or fast soaking ) beans.  Once I got over it and remembered "it's just cooking" I decided to try and make it work.  The only reason why I put a sweet potato in it was that there was one on my counter sprouting and I didn't want to "waste it"!  But it shredding it worked our beautifully!

Really the only drawback is that I had to remove the meat and let cool long enough to remove the shredded and melted away from the bone!  It's dee-licious!  I don't know why I made such a freakin' fuss!  And in fact, I discovered a couple of things I really liked about this recipe that I had never done before!

The shredded sweet potato practically melted into the chili, you would never notice it at all. But it gave the stew body and flavor.  I had decided to use a cheese grater to shred the raw yam because I didn't feel like dicing it as small as I had the other veggies and I didn't want the chili to have even small chunks of yam.  Funny thing is, because I was still a little po'ed while prepping this I was regretting going through the trouble of grating it at all because it was not my favorite Garnet or Japanese yam, and I was thinking I should have just thrown it away!  So glad I didn't because I will be doing this again with most of my future chili recipes, if not all of them!

And using lentils was genius (okay, I might be over exaggerating!).  The reason I diced the veg small was to match the lentils, that, and because I did not want chunky veg in my chili.  When it was finished I thought about using my immersion blender (the meat was removed) but it was perfect as less step!

Fingers crossed I take a great picture of the finished product!  But This is another recipe "keeper"!


Diana said...

I saw the word "sweet potato" and had to read on!
Did you add that sweet potato uncooked or do you cook it first?

Tracy Reifkind said...


It's uncooked and shredded on a cheese grater (food processors grating blade is broke :( )

It's really, really, really good! It just kind of "melts" into the chili that way!

Diana said...

Sounds excellent! Can't wait to try this! I'm gonna throw this in my elk chili!

Tracy Reifkind said...

Diana, you are going to love it!