Getting Into a Stew – The Best You Ever Tasted

Here it is, that perfect one-dish wonderful meal for the holidays: Everyone loves it; you can make it in advance; it’s fool-proof. And, as my godmother Caroline says about almost everything: It freezes beautifully.

Lamb stew
Lamb and white bean stew. Photo by James Carrier from My, in reference to a recipe from Sunset magazine. (Theirs was for a lamb stew with white beans and artichoke hearts, which also sounded good.)

Even those who have to ask directions to the kitchen invariably find themselves in it at some point over the holidays. But novice or pro, you know the value of a really great go-to recipe, and this is one of my favorites.

It’s a lamb stew with pistou. In the Provencal dialect pistou means pounded, and the pistou is made from pounding – or mashing – together garlic, salt and herbs. This pistou calls for garlic, salt, and cheese. I came up with it for my first cookbook, like a hundred years ago, called Atlanta at Table, which has menus and recipes but also anecdotes and histories of entertaining in the South. When I finished that book – in 1996 – I thought I’d never want to see any of those recipes again – let alone make them. But I do. All the time. When you got a good horse, ride it.

Make this for now or freeze it to have on hand for a homey and casual meal for friends and family. Serve it with a fresh kale salad with roasted pine nuts and vinaigrette, and a crusty baguette or sour dough bread.

Lamb Stew With Pistou
You could also make this with veal or beef. The time-consuming part is the chopping. I do it in the food processor with the slicing blade, which purists object to... sorry. Once the prep work is done the recipe goes very easily, and you can work on something else while it's simmering. If you cannot find porcini or other dried mushrooms, just omit them and don't worry about it. They probably don't have them at the Piggly Wiggly in Tarboro (my home town in NC), and that's okay. The pistou gives this dish its silky, garlicky sumptuousness.
  1. 1 piece of bacon
  2. 2 pound lean lamb, cut into bite-size pieces
  3. 6 cups chicken or beef broth
  4. 1 cup chopped celery
  5. 1 cup chopped carrots
  6. 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  7. 1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes
  8. 2 cups chopped cabbage
  9. 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  10. 3/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup boiling water
  11. 2 (14-ounce) cans white beans (Great Northern or kidney), rinsed and drained
  1. 4 to 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  2. 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or other coarse salt
  3. 3/4 cup grated Fontina or Munster cheese
  4. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  5. 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the stew
  1. In a large, deep pot fry the bacon until brown but not crisp. Remove, leaving the grease in the pot, and dice the bacon. Set aside--you'll add it back later.
  2. In the same pot, over medium-high heat, brown the lamb in batches and season with kosher (or regular) salt and pepper. Set lamb aside.
  3. Again in the same pot over medium heat, add celery, carrot and onion, cooking until soft. If you need more liquid, add a little of the stock or juice from canned tomatoes.
  4. Next add tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with the spoon. Stir in rosemary. Add cabbage, lamb, bacon, mushrooms and their soaking liquid. Bring to boil, then lower heat and cover, simmering 30 minutes.
  5. Add beans and simmer another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the pistou.
  1. With a mortar and pestle or with a bowl and the back of a wooden spoon, mash all ingredients together and stir in about 1/2 cup of the stew broth. Set aside until serving. To serve, stir the pistou into the stew.
  1. If you are making this ahead to freeze you can go ahead and stir in the pistou, or you can make the pistou when you are ready to serve.
Frances Schultz
In sympathy: My heart and prayers go out to the families and friends of Corinne and Jeff Buckalew, their children Jackson and Meriwether, and Jeff’s colleague Rakesh Chawla. Their plane crashed today in New Jersey, en route to visit family in Atlanta.


  1. Frances found this..trying to locate your recipe for this delicious sounding stew..I rarely go into Facebook..but just had to respond when I read that you must have been friends of the tragic crash of parents and children..I read about it in the paper but could not imagine that I might know someone that knew them..sooooooooooooooooo sad..

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