April 27, 2018

Lucky Irish Stew

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Try my Irish stew this St. Patrick's Day and you'll feel lucky. At its most basic and traditional, Irish stew includes plain old lamb, potatoes, onions and water. Some might frown at messing with Ireland’s national dish, but time marches on in the kitchen. My Irish Stew is slow-braised with Guinness and embellished with carrots, celery, herbs and three types of alliums. I also skim some of the fat.

4 lb (2 kg) lamb shoulder, trimmed (about 3 lb/1.5 kg), cut in 1-1/2 to 2-inch (4 to 5 cm) chunks
1 tbsp (10 mL) or more kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp (45 mL) canola oil, divided
1 tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter
3 small leeks (white + light green parts), thickly sliced
3/4 cup (175 mL) Guinness or other stout
1 cup (250 mL) water or low-sodium chicken stock
3 large sprigs thyme
1 large bay leaf
2 lb (1 kg) waxy white or red potatoes, peeled, cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
6 oz (175 g) red pearl onions, peeled (about 1 cup/250 mL)
6 medium carrots (about 1 lb/500 g), cut in 1/2-inch (1 cm) segments
3 small stalks celery, thickly sliced + leaves chopped
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped parsley, divided
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped chives

Place oven rack 1 tier below centre. Preheat oven to 300F (150C).

In large bowl, toss lamb with 1 tsp (5 mL) salt and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper. Toss with flour to coat.

In large dutch oven (preferably cast iron), heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) oil on medium-high until shimmery. Shaking off excess flour, add third of lamb in single layer. Sear, turning once, 2 to 3 minutes, until browned. Using slotted spoon, transfer to medium bowl. Add another third of lamb, brown, then transfer to bowl. Add remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil. Brown remaining lamb, then transfer to bowl. Remove pan from heat. Using tongs and paper towel, gently wipe out excess oil but leave browned bits stuck to bottom of pan.

In same dutch oven, melt butter on medium heat. Add leeks and 1 tsp (5 mL) salt. Cook, stirring often, 2 minutes, or until softened. Stir in Guinness, then water or stock, scraping bottom of pan. Return lamb and its juices to pan. Add thyme, bay leaf, remaining 1 tsp (5 mL) salt and remaining 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper. When liquid comes to boil, cover and transfer to preheated oven.

Braise 1 hour, or until lamb is tender. Using fine-mesh sieve set in large bowl, drain stew. Return solids to dutch oven, discarding thyme stalks and bay leaf. Let sauce sit 10 minutes before skimming off fat. Return sauce to dutch oven. Stir in potatoes, pearl onions, carrots and celery. Cover and braise 1-1/2 hours, or until vegetables are tender but not mushy. Stir in 3 tbsp (45 mL) parsley.

Before serving, sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) parsley and chives.

Makes 6 servings.

  • Always use lamb shoulder (never the lean, dry leg cut) for stews and curries. It does have a lot of fat and gristle that must be trimmed, so take that into account when shopping. 
  • Stout is a type of brown beer. Irish Guinness is the world’s most popular brand.
  • You can use a gravy separator boat to skim the fat from the sauce.
  • To peel pearl onions, blanch them 1 minute in boiling water, rinse with cold water, then pull off the skins.

Credit: Susan Sampson
Tested in Imperial