Lamb Pot au Feu
By the time Blue Hill at Stone Barns opened, I had sourced enough lamb from local farmers and roasted enough chops to recognize a good lamb when I ate it. What I never considered was, “What does a lamb want to eat?”

As I watched the lambs at Stone Barns Center trot excitedly to new grass one July morning, it wasn’t hard to see that they actually cared a lot about their food. They moved quickly over certain grasses to get to others—noshing on fescue and blue grass while avoiding bull thistles and southern pine. Unfortunately, the vast majority of lambs are raised on grain (corn, mostly, and soybeans), which can lead to a host of problems because sheep — like cows and goats — are grass-eating ruminants by nature and don’t digest grain well. To remain healthy, they must receive a regular cocktail of steroids and antibiotics. (Besides the environmental and ethical concerns here, consider this simple taste imperative: A grain-fed ruminant has a higher acid content in its bloodstream, which makes the meat softer and less flavorful.)

To cook with the best lamb, seek out a farmer who recognizes the animal’s changing dietary needs, especially in winter when even free-ranging sheep can spend weeks indoors. Forward-thinking farmers supply a 100 percent pasture diet year-round by rotating the fields and by rationing and preserving grasses. That way, the sheep eat what they want, according to their nature, and we get to do the same. What’s tastier than that? 


  • grass-finished lamb shoulder, bone removed and tied

  • 3  Tbsp grape seed oil

  • carrot, cut into 1-in. dice

  • 1  stalk celery, cut into 1-in. dice

  • onion, cut into 1-in. dice

  • 1  cup red wine

  • 2  quarts rich chicken stock

  • 1  sprig rosemary

  • 1  sprig thyme

  • carrots, cut into 2-in. dice

  • parsnip, cut into 2-in. dice

  • turnip, cut into 2-in. dice

  • 4  Tbsp grain mustard

  • 2  Tbsp cornichons, minced freshly ground black pepper, coarse sea salt

Time Estimates

Prep time: 30 min  

Cook time: 3 hours and 30 min  

Total time: 4 hrs  

  1. Bring lamb shoulder to room temperature and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  2. In a large Dutch oven or covered cast-iron pot, heat grape seed oil on low. Add the 1-in. diced carrots, celery, and onion pieces and sweat until tender. Increase heat and continue to cook until the vegetables are golden brown. Add wine and cook until the liquid is almost completely reduced.

  3. Add the lamb shoulder to the Dutch oven. Cover with chicken stock, and add rosemary and thyme. Place in a preheated 280°F oven for 3­­-3½ hours, until the shoulder is very tender.

  4. Transfer the lamb to a platter and let sit, covered with foil to stay warm.

  5. Strain the remaining liquid into a pot and bring to a simmer, skimming excess fat that bubbles to the surface.

  6. In a separate pan, individually cook the 2-in. carrots, turnips, and parsnips (5 minutes for the carrots and parsnips; 3 minutes for the turnips). Place the cooked vegetables in a bowl and set aside.
  7. Reduce the remaining stock until it thickens. Add the vegetables back into the liquid. Stir in grain mustard and cornichons. Season broth with salt and pepper to taste.

  8. Slice the lamb. Place it in the center of a large bowl. Ladle the vegetables and a little of the broth over the meat. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt before serving.

Serves four.

Story by Madhu Puri. This article originally appeared in Plenty in February 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008.

Chef: Lamb is perfect winter dish
Lamb Pot au Feu, made from the best lamb, makes fabulous one-dish meal.