A few years back I posted a recipe for lamb stew. It's a good recipe, but when I went back to read it recently, I thought it could stand a bit of editing.
The recipe was fine, you understand. But I like to think my writing -- and my writing of recipes in particular -- has improved somewhat and I felt a little embarrassed by the older version. So here is the new one.
And before you say, 'but St Patrick's Day was last weekend! Why do I want to make Irish stew now?' let me ask if spring is not sometimes cold and raw where you are? Spring is a fine time to make lamb stew, for lamb is in season. You could also use beef, if you prefer.
You can make this in a dutch oven or in a slow cooker. The advantage of a slow cooker is that you can start it the night before and leave it on low until lunch or dinner the next day, but if you don't have a slow cooker, you can use a dutch oven to equally good effect.
1 lb lamb
1 lb onions
1 lb waxy potatoes
1 pound carrots
3 tbs butter
3 tbs flour
15 oz Guinness (or other dark stout)
If using a dutch oven, preheat the oven to 250 F (120 C).
Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch dice and set aside in a bowl of water to soak for 30 minutes. You do not need to peel them. Slice the carrots into thick rounds. Slice the onions into wedges or thick rounds.
Sometimes you can find lamb cut up for stewing, but if you can't, you can cut up a piece of neck or leg or whatever you have available. The neck, if you can get it, is a good choice for stewing. Season the lamb chunks with salt and pepper, and a little chopped parsley and thyme if you like.
Heat a small amount of oil in the skillet and sear the lamb chunks, turning them with tongs or a fork so that they are browned on all sides. Do this in batches; the goal is to get a Maillard reaction going, and too much meat in the pan will make it too wet for that to happen. Transfer the lamb chunks to a bowl and set aside.
Add more oil and the onions to the skillet, stirring until the onions are well browned. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may want to do this in two batches.
Once the onions are ready, begin filling the slow cooker or dutch oven: Put half the onions in the bottom, followed by half the potatoes and carrots, and then half the lamb. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients.
Return the skillet to the heat and add the butter, scraping the bottom of the pan as it melts to loosen any browned bits. When the butter has melted, add the flour, and stir constantly until completely combined with the butter and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the stout a little bit at a time, stirring constantly, until completely incorporated into the roux, again, about 3-5 minutes. The gravy will be thicker than seems right. Do not be tempted to thin it. The juices from the lamb and vegetables will do that as the stew cooks. Pour the gravy over the other ingredients.
If using a slow cooker, put on the lid and set on low. If you start this the night before, give it a stir in the morning before you take off for whatever adventures you have planned for the day.
If using a dutch oven, put on the lid, and slide into the oven. The stew will be ready in about 2 hours. Stir it once about halfway through the cooking.
If you need an accompaniment, may I suggest my sister's brown soda bread?