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 in/4 to 5 cm)
1 tbsp (15 mL) or more kosher salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper, divided
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) + 2 tbsp (30 mL) Guinness
1 cup (250 mL) low-sodium chicken stock
3 large sprigs thyme
1 large bay leaf
2 lb (1 kg) waxy white/red potatoes, peeled, cut in chunks (1 in/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 tbsp (15 mL) all-purpose flour
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.

In large dutch oven (preferably cast iron), heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) oil on medium-high until shimmery. 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 pan. Add butter. Melt on medium heat. Add leeks and 1 tsp (5 mL) salt. Cook, stirring often, 2 minutes, or until softened. Stir in 3/4 cup (175 mL) Guinness, then stock, scraping bottom of pan. Return lamb (with juices) to pan. 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.

Place fine-mesh sieve in large bowl. Strain 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 white or red potatoes, pearl onions, carrots and celery. Cover and braise 1-1/2 hours, or until vegetables are tender but not mushy.

In small bowl, stir together remaining 2 tbsp (30 mL) stout and flour. Stir into stew. Heat on medium 2 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat. 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. You can, of course, substitute.

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, then rinse with cold water. Trim the root ends. Pull off the skins.