The last time I had a recipe from George, it was a fun hot mess, not because of his snickerdoodles, but because I was baking under unusual circumstances. This recipe was a bit more pulled-together, but not by much, because…
But first! You should check out George Phillies’ books. Minutegirls is my favorite, not only because (full disclosure) I created the cover art and design for him, but because it’s a fun military science fiction and it’s a fat book. But if you want something lighter, check out his Against Three Lands, but something you should know: George writing ‘light’ is still incredibly well constructed and detailed. Any of his work shows that he’s spent a lifetime designing worlds for gaming, and his work shows that he understands economics on a level most of us don’t bother with.
But for this meal, the economic struggle was real. Ok, it’s a long story, but for whatever reason, we here in the US of America just don’t eat goat and sheep the way most of the rest of the world does. I personally love both, for different reasons, but that just goes to show that I’m weird, to begin with, for an American. So when I needed to acquire a lamb neck to make this stew, I was both excited and apprehensive. Lamb in Ohio is hard to find, and expensive. The halal market where I used to get it is now a hookah café. I knew of another one nearer to home, but less friendly. I ventured in, smiled politely a lot, and voila! One lamb neck, ready for stew. Also, at 5.99 a pound, reasonably priced for lamb.
Here’s a sample of why you’ll like George’s fiction, as it’s the tale of how this recipe came to be, and it made me laugh. I think you’ll like it, too, dear readers.
Greek Lamb Stew
There is a story behind this. My mother’s parents were Hungarian. My father’s parents were Greek. My parents carefully gave everyone minimum notice that they were getting married, so that my father’s parents would have enough time to recover from the news that he was not marrying a woman from my grandfather’s village, and not enough time to do anything else. In any event, my mother actually did not know how to cook at the time they got married. Fortunately, she had taken college chemistry, knew what boiling water looked like, so the first morning after they were in her now their apartment, and my father asked about breakfast, my mother was able to boil water for eggs and coffee. She improved a great deal.
In particular, my mother realized that in order to make peace with her husband’s parents she would have to learn how to cook Greek as well as Hungarian food. My father had Greek friends, older women, who were delighted to help. There came the day when she invited my paternal grandparents for dinner, cooked everything in the Greek style, and proceeded to see what would happen. There first came the point where my grandfather lectured at vast length about the glories of Greek history. From the Greek point of view, history consists of the glories of pre-Roman-conquest Greece and the Byzantine Empire. My mother blandly said, I am told, “that’s absolutely fascinating. But what the Greeks done since then?” My father had to flee to the kitchen so that his parents would not see him attempting not to laugh. However, my grandfather had already turned to the food, clearly loved absolutely everything, and in the end turned my grandmother and said “Yaya, this was all wonderful. We have a wonderful new daughter. You used to cook this way.” After that last sentence, relations between my parents and my grandmother took a little longer to improve.
In any event, the recipe: 3 pounds lamb stew meat (this is a neck or shoulder piece in square chunks)
one small onion per pound meat.
Brown the meat in a dry pan (do not add shortening!)
Chop onions, add to the pan when meat is browned, and sauté. Add salt and pepper. Add water to barely cover the meat and simmer.
Tomato type stew.
Add one can tomato paste (scant) with water and simmer until meat is tender. Remove meat and to sauce in skillet add a vegetable of choice: green beans, or peas, or okra, or zucchini, or: add about a quart of water to the sauce, bring to boil, and add two thirds of box of Rosa Marina, stir well, cover, simmer, stirring occasionally. The “minestra” can stick to the bottom of the pan if you are not careful. If the water cooks down before the Rosa Marina is tender add more water.
If you use this recipe with chicken rather than Lamb, brown the chicken in a little olive oil.
Cedar’s notes: I cut the recipe in half. None of the kids living at home currently will eat tomatoes in any form, so I knew this would just feed the First Reader and I. I also added about 6 garlic cloves, minced, with the onions to saute at the beginning, and then a handful of fresh herbs (mostly oregano and thyme) to the stew. I cooked it overnight in the crockpot, then pulled the meat off the bones and removed the bones. I cooked the pasta separately as the stew was already quite thick (my crockpot runs very hot. If it’s thinner, you could do the pasta in the broth). Finally, I served it with feta crumbled on top and fresh bread on the side. Mmmmm!