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Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.
Today: Stew. A perfect winter meal for the whole family.
These days I'm having trouble keeping up with the human garbage disposal that has taken over my child's body. Clara came down with her first real bug over Christmas, and after 10 days of picking whinily at her dinner, she's back in full force; all of a sudden she has doubled the amount of food she can ingest at one sitting.
One of my New Year's resolutions was to up my game in terms of cooking ahead on the weekends, and to bring my lunch to work more often. (Okay, to bring my lunch to work ever.) I'm basically cooking for 3 full-sized humans due to Clara's recent appetite, so it's time to turn to stew. It's winter, so slow-cooked dishes are pretty much all we want to eat anyway, but one of the truly great things about stew is that it delivers a balanced meal in one fell swoop. When you're cooking for a baby, this all of a sudden becomes much more important.
Stews are also a model of versatility -- there's no better way to clean out your fridge (and your pantry). And they freeze beautifully, so you can make a double batch now and save some for February or March. Of course by then, you'll probably be dreaming about asparagus and strawberries.
At the bottom of this post you'll find a recipe for one of my latest favorites to make for the family, lamb with butternut squash (and plenty of carrots). The sweetness of the vegetables make a great counterpoint for lamb's -- how to put it delicately -- muskiness.
If lamb and butternut squash aren't your bag, here are a few other stewy things that might do the trick. (Note: Add a cup or so of cooked barley, farro, or couscous to any of these to really make a complete meal.)
Secret Ingredient Stew (leave out the red wine if you like)
Serves 6 to 8
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pound lamb shoulder, in 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cups roughly chopped carrots
2 cloves garlic, chopped
28 ounces chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef stock
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
2 cups cubed butternut squash (1/2-inch)
Photos by James Ransom