They Say Cassola, We say Cazuela

By now you know we have a penchant for lamb dishes—and for Spanish recipes—so this Catalan Stewed Lamb with Potatoes and Green Olives was calling our name loud and clear when we ran across it in Fine Cooking magazine.

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We do own a cazuela, but if you don’t, you can use a dutch oven or straight-sided skillet instead. And we always use a heat diffuser when we cook with it to prevent cracking.

TIP: A cassola is a traditional Catalan shallow terra-cotta casserole dish. When shopping for one anywhere outside of Catalonia, you’ll most likely see it called by its Spanish name, cazuela.  Some manufacturers recommend using a heat diffuser to protect the cassola from direct flame and help the food cook more evenly. If you don’t have a cassola, you can use a 12-inch-wide heavy-duty Dutch oven or straight-sided skillet instead.

Olives offer a salty contrast—and a pop of color—to rich, tender pieces of lamb in this hearty dish with the starch from the potatoes thickening the stew. Bone-in lamb pieces are traditional, but boneless lamb makes for easier eating, so we chose boneless lamb top—partly because we couldn’t find any lamb shoulder.

By using our own rich homemade chicken stock, incorporating a healthy pinch of saffron and a dose of pimenton, we added a lot more depth of flavor, and highly recommend you do the same.

Step 5 indicates “Cover with a large pot lid or foil… and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes if using bone-in lamb or 30 minutes if using boneless.” We think this is a typo and the allotted times should be reversed because meat with bones usually takes longer. Since we were cooking boneless lamb, we did so for only 10 minutes before moving on to Step 6.

To round out our meal, we added a tossed salad and a bottle of Garnacha.

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The halved tomatoes without seeds, before and after grating.

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Grating the tomato halves into a bowl to catch all of the juices.

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Slicing the lamb down into approximately 2-inch cubes.

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Browning the lamb cubes in the cazuela.

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The seared meat is removed from the cooking vessel and put on a platter that will be covered with foil.

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 lb. boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces, or bone-in lamb, such as shoulder, shank, or neck, cut into 1-1/2- to 2-oz. pieces (ask your butcher to do this)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil; more as needed
  • 1 medium yellow or red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, halved, seeded, and grated
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1-1/2 cups unsalted chicken or beef stock; more as needed
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2-1/2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (about 4 large), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup unpitted green olives, such as manzanilla, Cerignola, or Castelvetrano, rinsed
  • Crusty bread, for serving

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After the lamb is removed from the cazuela, the chopped onion is cooked with the browned bits.

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The tomato and pimenton are added to the onion until the mixture darkens in color.

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If using a cazuela, you can bring it directly to the table and let people serve themselves.

Directions

  1. Pat the lamb dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-1/2-inch cassola (on a heat diffuser if recommended by the manufacturer) over medium-high heat. Working in batches so as not to crowd the cassola, brown the lamb on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch, adding more oil as needed. Transfer each batch to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to low, and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently and then tapping down the mixture with the back of a wooden spoon until thickened and darker, 10 to 15 minutes, adding a little water as necessary to keep it from drying out and sticking.
  4. Return the lamb to the cassola and turn to coat well. Drizzle with the wine, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and bay leaf, increase the heat to medium high, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Cover with a large pot lid or foil, leaving it slightly ajar, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes if using bone-in lamb or 30 minutes if using boneless.
  6. Add the potatoes and olives, replace the lid slightly ajar, and cook over low heat until the lamb and potatoes are fork-tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour, adding more stock if needed to keep the sauce moist. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve from the cassola with the bread, and be sure to warn everyone about the olive pits.

by Jeff Koehler from Fine Cooking

OUR NOTES: Crumble the saffron and add to the dish along with the stock. Add a tablespoon or two of pimenton with the tomatoes; and use homemade beef or chicken stock if at all possible.

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A nice bottle of Spanish Garnacha pairs well with the meal.

 

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