Dinner, Spring, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Weekday Ragout

Are you coming off a weekend soaked in booze? Cinco de Derby/The Kentucky Mayo, whatever you called it you celebrated two holidays at once. Mint Julep in one hand, Margarita in the other, sombrero and seersucker, you made a long weekend out of one day. 

And now you may or may not be paying for it. Everyone has their favorite hangover cure, their own magic bullet of eggs+hashbrowns, and today I give you mine. Ragout. 

ragout |raˈgo͞o|noun: a highly seasoned dish of meat cut into small pieces and stewed with vegetables.ORIGIN from Frenchragoût, from ragoûter ‘revive the taste of.’ 

You see, taken literally, ragout is something one does to bring life back to an old beat up cut of meat. And today, you are that meat. I had a pound of tough lamb stew-meat in my freezer (don’t we all?) and decided to give it a long slow bath in tomatoes and onions. If you’re struggling to make dinner tonight, be it for family or yourself, try this. Buy some cheap, tough meat (not the kind found on street corners mind you) and ragouter. 

Ragout is more process than recipe. I give you my current combination: caraway, lemon, rosemary and lamb, but let this serve as an invitation to experimentation. As you drag your mind out of Saturday’s gutter clean out your food stocks. Have some old meat in the freezer? Perfect. Onions, garlic, herbs, lemons, spices all languishing, unused in the bottom drawer of your fridge? Save them from desiccation and bathe them tonight. 

While the ragout may take time, most of it is inactive i.e., you can come home from work and get this going while you shower, decompress, tidy up a bit and then dinner will beckon you to the kitchen for a taste. You’ll know it’s ready when the meat has indeed been given a second lease on life, when it bursts from its rubbery cocoon and relaxes into soft threads. 

Dress some pasta in this sauce and snuggle into the corner of your couch. Eat out of a giant bowl while you troll the television for Bravo’s latest take on reality. You will indeed ragouter, revive yourself.

  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 pound Lamb Stew-Meat
  • 2 small or one large White Onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Caraway
  • 5 Garlic Cloves, smashed
  • 2 long sprigs Rosemary
  • Rind of half a Lemon
  • 1 15-oz can Whole Tomatoes
  • 1 cup Water (if needed)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Get Busy

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When it is rippling and wicked hot, toss in the lamb chunks to brown. Give them a turn once the first side is sufficiently toasted.
  2. Add the onions and caraway, stir, give it a little salt, and let them cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
  3. Stir in the garlic cloves, rosemary, and lemon and cook for five minutes.
  4. Pour the tomatoes into the saucepan and stir everything to combine. If the meat isn’t covered by the liquid, add a bit of water. Taste the ragout, add salt and pepper, then put a lid on it, drop the heat down to simmer and let it cook for at least 1 ½ hours (you can let it go for 3 if you’ve got the time).
  5. Remove the lid and simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce.
  6. Put on your pajamas, dress a big bowl of pasta and revive yourself.