This will be the second or third day of sleep deprivation, I’m not entirely sure. Last night was due to contemplation about my future, having just received acceptance from one graduate school. Tonight is the onset of preparation for my annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner party, the celebration of the palest 1/4 of my heritage. Tonight meant starting the process of an awesome stew to feed at the very least 12 (luckily stew is one of those things that really is better left over, so I can keep it in the fridge for a day or two and reheat it thoroughly).
Tomorrow will be more preparation (making the base for vegetarian cottage pie, prepping vegetables, boiling potatoes, and hitting up the gym so the fact that I may have enjoyed tasting these things and sipping on a beer won’t show in my thighs. Thursday, of course, is S-day, with moderated debauchery in the form of a massive dinner party (my neighbors have been warned/invited). Friday I’ll be amazed if I’m still alive.
Granted, I’ve never been to Ireland, but the internet is fabulous place that lets us all reconnect with our past in interesting and often culinary ways. Here’s my synthesis of how to create a decent Irish lamb stew for 12 people:
Irish Lamb Stew
You’re going to need a very large stock pot for this one. There aren’t any potatoes, because I usually serve potatoes as a side since it’s an excuse to make champ.
- 6 lbs leg of lamb (boneless), cut into 2-3″ cubes. Could use lamb stew meat if where you live is fancy enough to carry cheap cuts of lamb. (I had to drop $35 for the leg…)
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 leek (washed carefully and sliced into 1″ pieces)
- 6 turnips (2″ dice)
- 1 parsnip (1″ rounds)
- 4-6 carrots (1″ rounds)
- 1 yellow onion (3″ dice)
- 1 celery root (2″ dice)
- Frozen peas (1 c)
- 2 cups pearl barley (optional)
And for the seasoning/sauce:
- 1-2 c Worcestershire sauce (ok, so I didn’t have any, so I had to use Chinese black vinegar…I’m a horrible person, but it works in a pinch even if it’s a bit thinner. It’s also vegetarian!)
- 2/3 c flour
- 2 bottles of beer (anything will do, as any alcoholic Irish person could tell you)
- Salt (kosher or sea)
- Black pepper
- Parsley (preferably Italian)
- Bay leaves
- 5 or so cloves of garlic (I also threw in a shallot just ’cause)
- A whole hell of a lot of water
- Maybe more flour
Cut the lamb into cubes and toss in a bowl with generous amounts of salt & pepper.
Heat up the pot with the butter & vegetable oil until it’s visibly bubbly. Throw in the lamb cubes. You’re going to need to stir this a lot and drain off the water about every 5-10 minutes (save this in a pot or bowl!!). Draining off the water is important, otherwise your meat will never brown. Keep cooking until the lamb has a nice dark brown color on at least a few sides of each cube. Remove lamb to a bowl or somewhere, saving fat in the pan.
Add to fat Worcestershire sauce, and the reserved lamb juice that you had drained off. Use this to deglaze the pan. Throw in the leeks and cook them until the leeks are nice and soft. Add in the 2/3 cup of flour, move it around so it absorbs all the juices and creates a roux (a paste-type thing). Add beer to the roux, stirring frequently. Taste this and add salt and pepper as needed. Note that you want this sauce to taste a little more bitter/salty than you would think, because the parsnips, turnips, carrots, and onions all bring a lot of sweetness to the stew.
Now you add the lamb back in, along with the vegetables and spices (thyme, sage, etc.) Add garlic. Add a lot of water, enough to cover all of the contents. This is when I threw in the barley, too.
Let simmer for ever and ever and ever and ever (we’re talking hours here), until there’s noticably less water and it looks like a stew and the meat is tender. You can add more flour if you need to to thicken the sauce more, but I’d advise whisking it into a paste separately at least with some water, to keep it from making lumps. A second batch of roux using lard or butter would be better still.
A slow cooker would be great for this, but unfortunately, who really has room to store a slow cooker big enough to hold food for 12 people?