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Irish lamb stew

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March 12, 2008

Serves 6

In dishes like Irish stew, which was recognized as a national dish of Ireland as far back as the 18th century, tough mutton meat would have to be cooked long and slow to become edible. Old recipes often contained just lamb, onions, and potatoes. Modern ones with carrots and other vegetables are cause for controversy. Many believe that the stew is representative of Ireland's history and as such should be eaten quite plain. It's important to skim the broth while the stew is cooking so that you get a nice clear cooking liquid at the end. The dark green of leeks and parsley stems enhance the broth at the beginning of cooking. Use the tender white part of the leeks and parsley leaves in the stew.

BROTH

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium leeks, green tops roughly chopped
1 bunch parsley stems
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
1 medium onion, skin on and quartered
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
6 cups chicken stock
1. In a large flameproof casserole over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Add the leeks, parsley stems, thyme, onion, and peppercorns. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softened but not browned.

2. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer while you sear the lamb chops.

LAMB

3 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder chops (about 8 chops)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups chicken stock
2 medium russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds small gold creamer potatoes, peeled (or another waxy potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces)
4 carrots, cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
1 pound boiling onions, peeled
3 medium leeks (white part only) sliced into 1-inch disks, separated, and rinsed well
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1. Sprinkle the lamb chops generously with salt and pepper.

2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Sear the lamb chops in batches, 2 to 4 minutes per side, or until browned. Add the lamb chops to the pot of simmering stock.

3. Pour the 2 cups stock into the skillet. Cook, scraping up any bits that are stuck to the pan. Pour the stock mixture into the pan of chops.

4. Return the pan of chops to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes, skimming occasionally and discarding foam on the top.

5. Remove the chops from the pan. Strain the cooking liquid, discarding the solids. Return the liquid to the pan with the chops and russet potatoes. Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming occasionally.

6. Add the creamer potatoes, carrots, onions, and sliced leeks to the pan, with more water, if necessary, to just cover vegetables. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until carrots are tender.

7. Add the parsley and thyme, taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Simmer 5 minutes more (total simmering time is 1 hour and 20 minutes). Keri Fisher and Matty Murphy

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