Colorado Lamb-Barley Stew with Butternut Squash and Tarragon Mushrooms


And while the New Zealanders, Australians, Brits, Scots, and Irish would strenuously object, Colorado has close to the best lamb in the world.  It’s rare to find any in the store in Colorado itself–horrible pun, but there it is; I use it often.  We once had some Colorado lamb in a swank restaurant in London paired with high-priced French wine. (The quintessential pairing for lamb is Bordeaux.)  But I’m an American and I adore lamb with Oregon Pinot Noir.  The lack of Colorado lamb in Colorado groceries is a common complaint of mine. I apologize to those of you who’ve heard it before.

Want to buy American lamb?  Check HERE.

If you’re like me and you can’t find any Colorado lamb without ordering it online (and that’s something you can do in the states), choose any lamb shoulder or boned leg of lamb for the meat in this stew. You can find a good-looking, decently-priced boneless leg of lamb at Costco; cut it up, use some and freeze the rest for another day. Alternately, California or other American lamb is often found in the regular grocery chains.  Any will work and you don’t need too terribly much. Lamb is rich and that’s a complimentary way of saying it’s fatty and fattening.  Let’s call it a treat.  And who wants stew made with lean meat? What would THAT taste like? We’re talking stew here.

The cool fall rains began yesterday and while it poured, we ate out on the warm-dry covered deck, checked out the rainbow, and enjoyed our hot stew with a glass of red.  Crusty bread?  Oh yes, you’ll need that to sop up this stew.

This morning as Dave drove off and I began this post, thinking about this stew, the babies watched him leave, in their appropriated spots…  (You really goin’, Dad?)


If you’re looking for a wonderful fall Friday night dinner, start with this main dish; you need little else. Two for dinner?  You can eat off it all weekend or freeze some for a couple of other nights.  Need a gluten-free stew? Skip the barley and try brown rice instead or nix the grain altogether. Do try this:


COLORADO LAMB-BARLEY STEW with butternut squash and tarragon mushrooms

8 servings

I do not cook many things in the slow cooker, but this is one dish that would probably do well. As I haven’t tried it (though I have done other lamb stews), I checked online for you and discovered a similar recipe with slow cooker instructions here.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil–no need for extra virgin oil here, but use it if that’s what you have
  • 1.5 – 2 pounds Colorado or other lamb shoulder or leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, crushed red pepper
  • 2 onions, chopped, divided
  • 4 carrots, trimmed, peeled, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces, divided
  • 4 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence–can sub 1 tablespoon each dried basil and oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 6 cups water, divided
  • 2/3 cup barley, well-rinsed
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch diced butternut squash*
  • 4 small red potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup frozen tiny peas, optional
  • Hot sauce, if desired
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, trimmed, and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  1. Heat 8 or 10-quart heavy soup pot over medium flame. Add oil; heat through until shimmering.  Add lamb. Brown on one side; season well with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Turn and brown and season the other side. (A total of about 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
  2. Add half the onions, carrots, and celery; cook until vegetables are softening, stirring often.  Add garlic, parsley and Herbes de Provence and thyme.  Cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Pour in red wine; cook 3-4 minutes, stirring well. Spoon in the tomato paste and stir or whisk to blend.
  4. Pour in broth and half the water. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer and partially cover.  Cook, stirring once in a while, until meat is nearly tender — 1 to 1 1/2 hours, adding more liquid as necessary.
  5. Uncover and pour in the rest of the water. Raise heat and return to boil.
  6. Add barley. Stir in another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to a healthy simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until barley is softened, but not done.
  7. Add remainder carrots, celery, onions, butternut squash, and potatoes.  Stir and let cook until all of vegetables and barley are very tender, but not falling apart–perhaps 15 or 20 minutes. Turn down if cooking too quickly.  Add peas and cook another few minutes until hot through, if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a couple of drops of hot sauce if needed.
  8. In the meantime, sauté mushrooms in butter with tarragon until mushrooms are browned and tender. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper.
  9. Ladle stew into bowls and top each bowl with a few mushrooms.  Serve with crusty bread and butter

*You can often buy butternut squash peeled and chopped in larger grocery produce departments. If you’re butchering that sucker all alone, do yourself a favor and, after poking holes into it all over with a paring knife, microwave it for 5 minutes in a casserole dish before doing anything else.  Let cool for 10 minutes, peel, cut, scoop out seeds, cut more–much easier! (click on “butternut squash” in the ingredients’ deck and see first hand.)


WINE: As I said, I like Pinot Noir here, particularly Oregon Pinot Noir, but most any full-bodied red will do.

DESSERT:  Core and slice a few apples, sauté in butter and cinnamon; top with a drizzle of lemon.

Happy fall,


5 thoughts on “Colorado Lamb-Barley Stew with Butternut Squash and Tarragon Mushrooms

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