lamb stew with pol… i mean, grits

February 13th, 2010 · 25 Comments

a few months ago i bought some locally produced lamb shanks at the nashville farmers market and then tucked them away in my freezer for just the right day. and then yesterday, on a whim i sat them out to defrost and began snooping around the interwebs for some inspiration. i wound up on food52′s site and glanced at 2 different recipes – and then i was off. within a minute i had found just what i needed, and based on what was in the pantry and the refrigerator i got to cooking.

the shanks got salted and peppered and well-browned in olive oil. the meat was removed from the pot and in went a dice of onion, garlic, carrots and fennel. when it was all softened and just barely starting to color i added some pimenton, red chile flakes and fennel pollen. after a minute or so i added some of my chicken stock along with about 2/3′s of a bottle of decent zinfandel. i let that simmer for about 2 hours.

when the meat was easily removed from the bone, into the pot went the flesh of one navel orange and 3 tangerines along with some of the grated zest. and then to finish i added some diced up dates, preserved meyer lemons and green olives.

then i called it a night and everything went into the refrigerator.

and tonight it was dinner. and really, a stew such as this does well with an overnight rest. everything melds together and somehow the flavors deepen. it’s a given. we all know it, and we all do it. right?

a few months ago i also bought a package of yellow grits. it was an impulse buy. i liked the look of the labeling and i am a huge polenta lover and i just figured, why not? grits are pretty standard fare down around these parts but i never really make them. no reason. i’ve just not hit a ‘grits phase’ yet. for those of you who may have wondered, the difference between grits and polenta is twofold. the grind and the type of corn used. the following is taken from the anson mills site:

Dent or Flint?

Corn is classified by the type of starch (endosperm) in its kernels. The premier mill corn of the American South, known as dent (the name derives from the dent that forms on the top of each kernel as it dries), has a relatively soft, starchy center. Dent corn makes easy work of milling–it also makes phenomenal grits.

Flint corn, by contrast, has a hard, starchy endosperm and produces grittier, more granular meal that offers an outstanding mouthfeel when cooked. One type of American flint–indigenous to the Northeast–was, and remains, the traditional choice for Johnny cakes. In Italy, flint has been the preeminent polenta corn since the 16th century when Spanish and Portuguese treasure hunters brought Caribbean flint to the Piedmont on ships."

The first corn was taken to Italy in the hold of ships to hide gold and other treasures from pirates on the high seas. However there were famines and the people used it for food. Finding that they liked it, they began to cultivate it in Italy and another New World crop became part of Italian cuisine.

the stew was quite good and i highly recommend that you use this as a jumping off point for whatever you have laying around. chicken thighs, legs, beef, pork…

it’s hard to go wrong.

Tags: lamb · polenta

25 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Claudia @ Honey From Rock // Feb 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Guess I need to try grits. And, your version of a Lamb Tagine sounds so good, with the extra citrus and all

  • 2 Laura @ Hungry and Frozen // Feb 13, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    This is almost making me wish it was winter here. Love the sound of the fennel and orange together…I could eat polenta by the bucketload, soft, grilled, whatever. I am clearly in a ‘grits phase’.

  • 3 Amy (Minimally Invasive) // Feb 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Aha! Thank you for the grits vs. polenta primer. Alton Brown devoted at least part of an episode to demonstrating that the two are exactly the same, which seems obviously wrong if you’ve ever had good versions of both. He typically annoys the shit out of me, but when that aired, it hit a new level. (That said, I do like his first album, Golden Age of Wireless.)

    This stew sounds amazing, especially with your finishing touches. Is fennel powder just ground fennel seeds or a whole different animal?

  • 4 Amy (Minimally Invasive) // Feb 13, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Also, I have a square cake pan of leftover polenta in the fridge, but it’s a little too soft to grill or fry. What should I dooooo with it?

  • 5 ethel // Feb 13, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    I love stews in winter and may actually make this but I have a question..must I use perserved meyer lemon? I love the blend of all the fruits with the meat and grits (which I have never made).

  • 6 claudia // Feb 13, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    amy – i meant fennel pollen. i just changed it. thank you… and a pan of polenta in the fridge. oh, you know me – warm it and put a fried or poached on top with whatever greens or vegetables or meats. polenta is also pretty nice all mapled up. so many combo’s, so little time.

  • 7 Barry // Feb 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    This sounds great. I love lamb stew and it never occurred to me how well it would go with grits. Which I also love.

  • 8 Jennifer Hess // Feb 14, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I need to put in an Anson Mills order, stat. Had one source up here but they don’t seem to be stocking them anymore. I could eat grits and eggs everyday.

    Lovely lamb stew you got there – xo

  • 9 Heather // Feb 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Aw, you know you want to call it “lamb ragu with polenta”. I wouldn’t fault you for it. Looks lovely either way.

    I haven’t made grits in awhile. Thinking about it.

  • 10 Robert // Feb 16, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Fret,

    (queitly) Make ya Mama some grits girl……..

  • 11 nancy at goodfoodmatters // Feb 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I’ve been pleased with the lamb from chigger ridge ranch (the name slays) love all the complex fruit and spice notes in your tagine. and yes, grits and polenta are cousins, not twins—nice info.

  • 12 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Feb 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    So someone has a polenta/grits argument that finally makes sense. Thanks.

    If you ever buy the Bob’s Red Mill brand, they try to make peace with both sides and label the bag (Yellow Grits, also known as polenta) or some such thing.

    Your lamb looks delcious. I love how you added the citrus to the pot at the end. Yum.

  • 13 Donald // Feb 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    lovely!

    all the fruit? i like it.

  • 14 we are never full // Feb 16, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    i want to eat grits made properly before i decide to try my hand at it. but thanks for the lesson – i knew that the grind was different but didn’t know the corn was. learn something new every day! the weather this month is calling for these types of long braised stews. i had one on sat. night and it reminded me how much i love a good stew but just don’t make them as often as i should. lovely!

  • 15 rach // Feb 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    If I lived with a meat eater this is the kind of meaty feast I’d like to think I’d be cooking up. I really love lamb shanks, lots of nostalgia there.
    Looks delicious.
    Preserved lemons, preserved lemons, this is the fourth mention of preserved lemons I’ve read in the last two days from people I trust, I need to get preserving (or shopping).

  • 16 Lynn // Mar 19, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Here. I can finally admit to being a grit lover.

    Most of us hide in our little closets. That is, until we see something like THIS!

  • 17 Brett Sutcliffe // Apr 11, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    That lamb seems so soft and juicy. Love it.

  • 18 Patrick // Apr 24, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Aha! Thank you for the grits vs. polenta primer. Alton Brown devoted at least part of an episode to demonstrating that the two are exactly the same, which seems obviously wrong if you’ve ever had good versions of both. He typically annoys the shit out of me, but when that aired, it hit a new level. (That said, I do like his first album, Golden Age of Wireless.)

    This stew sounds amazing, especially with your finishing touches. Is fennel powder just ground fennel seeds or a whole different animal?

  • 19 Bruce // May 22, 2010 at 8:59 am

    amy – i meant fennel pollen. i just changed it. thank you… and a pan of polenta in the fridge. oh, you know me – warm it and put a fried or poached on top with whatever greens or vegetables or meats. polenta is also pretty nice all mapled up. so many combo’s, so little time.

  • 20 Emily // May 31, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Also, I have a square cake pan of leftover polenta in the fridge, but it’s a little too soft to grill or fry. What should I dooooo with it?

  • 21 John // Jun 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I would never think to try grits with lamb. To be truthful, I’m not a long time grits guy (even flavored) but I suppose this could be worth a try.

  • 22 Kawi gurl // Aug 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    I wish I could write like you. As Margaret Laurence once said “When I say “work” I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”

    Sent from my iPad 4G

  • 23 samsung ln55c650 // Aug 29, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog

  • 24 "what" web » What Does Pollinate Mean // Oct 30, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    [...] 8.cook eat FRET – lamb stew with pol… i mean, grits a few months ago i bought some locally produced lamb shanks at the nashville farmers market and then tucked them away in my freezer for just the right day. and then yesterday, on a whim i sat them out to defrost and began snooping around the interwebs for some inspiration. … lamb stew with pol… i mean, grits… http://www.cookeatfret.com/lamb/2010/02/13/lamb-stew-with-pol-i-mean-grits/ [...]

  • 25 Macossay // Dec 9, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Alton Brown is wrong again. Polenta is ground cornmeal. Grits are ground hominy — corn that has been treated with lye to soften it and remove the husk.
    Italians peasants who relied on polenta as a staple of their diet suffered from pellegra, caused by a deficiency of vitamin B. But Meso-americans, who ate hominy grits, did not. This is because treating corn with lye releases the vitamin B. The connection wasn’t made until 1914.

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