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 definitive Irish Stew is slow-braised with Guinness and embellished with carrots, celery, herbs and three types of alliums.

       Irish stew braised with stout. Credit: Susan Sampson


3 lb (2 kg) trimmed lamb shoulder, cut in chunks (1-1/2 to 2 inches/4 to 5 cm)
1 tbsp (10 mL) or more kosher salt
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 chunks (1 inch/2.5 cm)
6 oz (175 g) red pearl onions, peeled (1 cup/250 mL)
6 medium carrots (1 lb/500 g), cut in segments (1/2 inch/1 cm long)
3 small stalks celery (with leaves), thickly sliced
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 dutch oven from heat. Using tongs and paper towel, gently wipe out excess oil but leave browned bits stuck to bottom of dutch oven. Add butter. Melt 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 dutch oven. Return lamb (with juices) to dutch oven. Add thyme, bay leaf, 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. Adjust salt.

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

Makes 6 servings.

Shopping Cart: Always use lamb shoulder (never the lean, dry leg cut) for stews and curries. The shoulder cut has a lot of fat and gristle that must be trimmed, so take this into account when shopping. For this recipe, I bought 4 lb (2 kg) of lamb shoulder and ended up with about 3 lb (1.5 kg) trimmed lamb chunks.

S is for Stout: This is a type of brown beer. Irish Guinness is the world’s most popular brand of stout.

Tool Time: You can use a gravy separator boat to skim the fat from the sauce.

How-To: Peel pearl onions. Blanch them 1 minute in boiling water, rinse with cold water, then pull off the skins.