In the Pantry Challenge video series, Lauren Braun Costello -- chef, author and food stylist -- shows busy moms how to make meals using ingredients they already have in their pantries, solving their unique cooking challenges. In this episode, Lauren shows Jennifer C., a mother of two and a PR professional, how to make a hearty seasonal dish using tomato paste.
The key to a great stew is to cook things in stages. First, Lauren cooks cubed lamb in batches. (She recommends not stirring them around, so that they have the time to reach the desired deep golden color.) When the meat is done, she cooks the whole shallots, getting a deep caramelization, then removing them. After she pulls those out, it's time to cook the aromatic vegetables: carrots, onions and garlic. She adds the meat back into the pan, then adds flour, which will create a beautiful, thick, velvety sauce. Next up is the tomato paste. (This lends depth of flavor and contributes to the thickening.) She pours in chicken stock, then lets the stew come to a simmer. Once it's simmering, she covers the pot and puts it in the oven to braise.
When the stew comes out, she removes the meat and the bulk of the vegetables so that she can reduce the sauce without overcooking them. She reduces the sauce by about half, determining its doneness by checking to see whether it coats the back of a spoon. When it does, it's time to add everything back in -- including the shallots -- then cook it all down together. When the stew is ready, she finishes it with a little chopped parsley.
Get the Recipe for Lamb Stew with Caramelized Shallots.