I can’t believe I’ve never gotten around to blogging an Irish Stew recipe before, but better late than never. And I guess technically, I’m not late. There are still 3 more days until St. Patrick’s Day arrives, so that leaves you tons of time to gather the ingredients. Though I should probably confess straight from the git-go that this is not a traditional Irish stew recipe. Some liberties have been taken with it, but I believe that they are upgrades from the traditional recipe.
Not that the traditional version is bad. I’ve eaten some delicious bowls of that robust stew. However, I may have had a bowl or two that were definitely suspect. You know what I mean…tough, stringy meat surrounded by mushy veggies in a watered down broth. Boo! Perhaps I should have thought better of ordering this particular dish when visiting particularly dodgy pubs…but I’ll just chalk it up to life experience. This version of Irish Stew remains true to the original version in that it still contains lamb, potatoes, onion, carrots, parsnips and parsley. It veers from the traditional recipe in a couple of ways. Traditional Irish Stew is a white stew, meaning that the meat is not browned. Well, the meat is browned here. I feel this not only improves the appearance, but also serves to really deepen the flavour. That and the long slow cooking time results in a rich tender meat which seems to nearly melt in your mouth. The second big deviation is that a bunch of bacon has been added into the mix. What can I say? Everything is better with salty, smoky bacon and this hearty Irish Stew is no exception.
I knew this recipe was a winner when I fed it to the musicians that play in a band with my husband. I usually use them as guinea pigs for the various recipes I’m trying out. I didn’t think they’d be very excited about Irish Stew for dinner, but much to my surprize, they went wild for it.
Four of them neatly polished off a huge pot of stew before I could blink twice! “Some of the best stew I’ve ever had” was heard a couple of times. Ahhhh yes! Irish Stew Success!
recipe from: The Runaway Spoon
yield: 8 servings ( only four if serving hungry musicians)
- 3 pounds lamb stew meat, in 2-inch cubes (you can also use lamb shoulder or leg cut into cubes)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 pound bacon
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 4 cups beef broth
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 parsnips
- 3 carrots
- 2 – 3 yellow potatoes
- chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Pat the lamb cubes dry with paper towels. Mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a large ziptop bag, then drop in the lamb and shake it around to coat each cube with flour.
Cook bacon over medium high heat until the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain. Crumble bacon. Let the bacon grease cool a bit, then very carefully pour it into a glass measuring jug.
In a large Dutch oven, heat ¼ cup of the bacon grease. Remove the lamb cubes from the bag, shaking off any excess flour and cook them in the bacon grease until browned on all sides. You will need to do this in batches, removing the browned pieces to a plate. If needed, add a little more bacon grease to the pot and heat it up between batches.
When all the lamb is browned and removed from the pot, add 2 more Tablespoons of bacon grease and the chopped onions and cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent. When the onions are soft, add ¼ cup of red wine or Guinness stout and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cover and cook until the onions are soft and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a further 2 minutes. Return the lamb and about ¾ of the cooked bacon to pot. Pour in the beef broth, add the bay leaves and thyme and bring to a boil. Stir the stew well, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 1 ½ hours.
Peel the parsnips and carrots and cut into bite-sized chunks. Add to the simmering stew. Scrub the potatoes, but do not peel, and cut into nice chunks. Add these to the stew as well, give it all a good stir, cover the pot and cook for a further 1 1/2 hours or until the potatoes, carrots and parsnips are tender.
At this point, the stew can be made up to a day ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated. Reheat over medium just until warmed through. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems before serving.
Serve in big bowls, topped with the remaining bacon pieces and a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.