You know, corned beef isn’t really Irish. Or, maybe better yet, the Irish don’t eat corned beef. It was a main export to Britain at one time, but it was far too expensive for the Irish people to eat. They relied on lamb and potatoes. So for this St Patrick’s Day, why not skip the corned beef and cabbage and have some Irish stew with an American twist.
Stews are easy to cook, really. Sear the meat. Sauté the vegetables. Deglaze. Add liquid, and stew for a few hours. It’s not a difficult meal to prepare. While the cooking time is long, mosts of that time is idle. You can go about your day and enjoy the aroma wafting from the kitchen. This recipe can adapt to the ingredients you have on hand. We’ve made this version a few times this winter on a Sunday were we had chores to do around the house and family coming over to help eat it all. (No worries if you don’t have or want guests. It freezes very well.)
Traditional Irish stew consists usually of just lamb, onions, and potatoes. My wife isn’t especially keen on lamb, so we split the lamb with beef. And I like some variety in my root vegetables, so we subbed in some carrots and turnips for some of the potatoes. And we wouldn’t be writing a recipe here if we didn’t includes some beer in the cooking. You can make your own adjustments to fit your tastes.
total prep and cook time: 3 hrs
- 2 lbs boneless beef chuck roast or 2 lbs pre-cut stew meat
- 2.5 lbs bone-in lamb shoulder
- 3 large onions, roughly chopped
- 1 lb red potatoes, cut into ~1″ cubes
- 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
- 1/2 lbs turnips, peeled and cut into ~1″ cubes You can substitute some other root vegetables, or use all potatoes. Just have about 2 lbs total.
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2 or 3 sprigs of thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1-1/2 cup water
- 12 oz Irish or American stout You ought to use a dry Irish-style or sweet stout. Avoid using anything especially bitter.
- Trim the lamb from the bones. Keep the bones for later. Trim off any excess fat from the lamb and beef (if you bought a whole roast) and cut them into 1″–2″ cubes. Try to make the pieces as uniform in size as possible. Salt and pepper the meat.
- Preheat your oven to 300°F. Put your oven-safe dutch oven over medium-high heat and add just enough oil to barely cover the bottom. Once that is hot, add about a third of the meat chunks. You’ll have to work in batches, so the pieces don’t touch each other. You’re wanting a good sear on meat, so don’t move them once they’re down for 2 minutes. Turn each piece and sear for another minute. You don’t have to brown every side of the chunks, three or four is good. When they’re done, transfer them to a plate or bowl. Add a little more oil and repeat until all the lamb and beef is browned.
- What’s left in your dutch oven is fond. Delicious, brown burnt bits of beef and lamb stuck to the bottom. Time to get that up! Add about a tablespoon more of oil and the onions. Turn the heat down to medium. Using a wooden spoon, try to scrape up all that fond and incorporate it into the onions. Cook, stirring and scraping often, for about 4 or 5 minutes or until the onions are soft.
- Reduce the heat and sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir until they’re evenly coated.
- Crack open that stout and pour it over the onions. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and scrape up any remaining fond you see sticking to the pot. Add the water in a few steps and stir to dissolve all the flour. Drop in the thyme and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer.
- Add the lamb bones, all the meat, and any juicy goodness left in the bowl. Bring the pot back to a simmer.
- Cover the dutch oven and put it into the preheated oven. Leave it there for 1 hour. It’s much easier to let the stew simmer in an oven rather than trying to keep it from burning on the stove. This step come courtesy of The New Best Recipe. One of the better and most thorough cookbooks we own.
- Carefully take the pot out of oven. Remove the lid and add the potatoes, carrots, and turnips. Just pile up the root vegetables on top of the stew. They’ll steam there without turning into mush. Put the cover back on, and put the pot back into the oven for another hour.
- Remove the pot, uncover and stir in the potatoes, carrots, and turnips. Let it sit for 5 minutes or so.
- Serve in bowls with some soda bread and a fine stout.
So this March 17th cook up some hearty Irish-inspired stew instead of that boiled meat. Serve it with soda bread and a nice import stout. Sláinte!