Navarin d’agneau is a stew of lamb (or, in an earlier age, mutton) simmered in
wine with potatoes, carrots, onions and turnips. In the spring it is called Navarin Printanière and will include fresh peas. The ingredients may be cooked in red wine, but white is more traditional.
If the stew is simmered in red wine, a red would logically be the most enjoyable wine to open with it. When simmered in white, however, a Navarin can pair equally well with either a white or a red in your glass. We invited a couple of friends to join us recently, and offered a selection of both red and white wines to accompany the stew. Neither color proved inherently better than the other.
Lamb Navarin Simmered in White Wine
You can start cooking the Navarin a couple of hours before serving, but like most stews, this one benefits from being made a day or two ahead of time so that the flavors can mellow and fuse together.
Preheat oven to 450°
About 3 pounds of lamb neck, leg or shoulder cut in 1-2 inch cubes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons peanut or olive oil
1 cup minced onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
3 carrots, sliced
2 turnips, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the lamb in a plastic bag and add the flour. Shake the contents until the cubes of meat are well coated with flour (alternatively, place the meat in a bowl, add the flour, and toss together). Transfer the cubes of meat to a strainer and shake off excess flour.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot and brown the lamb. Add the onions and stir over medium heat until they just begin to color. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two, then add the bay leaf and rosemary. Add the potatoes, carrots, and turnips, then stir in the wine, chicken stock, and soy sauce. When the mixture comes to a boil, give it a good stir and cover the pot. Lower the oven temperature to 400 and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the lamb is very tender. Taste for seasoning.
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The basic idea behind using this recipe for “Wine With” was to test our theory about its versatility. Well, it passed with flying colors, matching well with a fairly wide range of wines. Not surprisingly, light-bodied whites like Pinot Grigio or Muscadet proved too delicate, while a few hearty reds (a Zinfandel, for example) were overly robust. But so long as you avoid those extremes, you’ll likely be pleased with whatever you pour, making this Navarin a wine lover’s dream.