Generally speaking, I think of stew as a winter dish. It's comforting, stick-to-the-ribs kind of fare, perfect for cold blustery evenings. In fact, usually around this time of the year, I retire my dutch oven in favor of my grill pan and give up on the whole stew thing.
The funny thing is that even as the chill goes out of the air, I still enjoy a good braised dish. Enter David Tanis and his St. Patrick's Day inspired Irish Stew. Made with lamb, it's just perfect for these very early days of spring. Lamb is lighter than beef and this stew has a decidedly springier vibe.
Be prepared. This recipe makes an absolute ton of stew so either (1) invite a crowd, (2) cut the recipe
in half, or (3) plan for lots of leftovers.
Recipe: Irish Stew
David Tanis, New York Times, March 11, 2015
3 pounds lamb shoulder cut in 2-inch chunks (or use thick shoulder chops)
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds onions (about 6 medium), cut in wedges
1 pound carrots (about 6 medium), cut in 3-inch lengths
4 cups chicken, veal or beef broth (or water)
1 large sprig thyme
3 pounds russet potatoes (about 12 small), peeled and halved, or cut in 2-inch thick slices
Pat lamb dry and season well with salt and pepper. Put oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Brown meat on all sides, working in batches.
Set meat aside and add onions and carrots to pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook vegetables, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Return meat to pot, add broth and bring to a simmer. Put in thyme sprig and arrange potatoes on top (it’s fine if potatoes are not completely submerged). Season potatoes, cover pot and transfer to oven.
Bake for about 1 hour, until lamb is quite tender when probed with a skewer or paring knife. Remove fat from top of broth. Ladle stew into shallow bowls and serve.
Alternatively, cook stew on stovetop instead of baking; keep covered at a gentle simmer for about 1 hour. For a thicker stew, crush a few of the potatoes from the stew and simmer in broth, or thicken with a slurry of flour and water (about 4 tablespoons flour).