Global Gourmet column
Celebrate St. Paddy’s with Irish Stew
Move over corned beef and cabbage—this dish is the Real McCoy.
Perhaps you’re planning to make corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day. If so, perhaps we can convince you to reconsider. Corned beef and cabbage isn’t so much Irish as it is Irish-American, a dish created in the 18th century when newly-arrived immigrants combined their beloved potatoes, inexpensive cabbage and another culture’s meat, Jewish corned beef.
Back in Ireland, and for centuries beforehand, pork and lamb were more typical than beef, and yet still great luxuries for the dinner table—sheep were most valuable for wool, milk and cheese-making. But when a sheep became old or was otherwise past its prime, it’d often end up in the stew pot. Add some potatoes and a few other inexpensive, readily-available vegetables and you had, yep, Irish stew.
Basic and beyond
As with any “authentic” recipe, there plenty of versions of this one and plenty of people who’ll swear theirs is the real deal. But most would agree that, at its most basic, Irish stew is a simple peasant dish made by slowly simmering tougher cuts of meat with potatoes, onions and water. Variations include using beef instead of lamb and adding carrots or other root vegetables. In some parts of Ireland, adding barley to the stew is typical. And still others use beer for some of the cooking liquid.
Clean, with a touch of green
All those twists are worth trying, but for my clean version of the dish, I stick to the basics, with one exception—I cut down on the lamb and heavy up on the vegetables, adding not only carrots, but parsnips and peas.
For depth of flavor, I use beef broth instead of water as my cooking liquid. And for a hint of brightness, plus even more color to honor the holiday, just before serving I sprinkle it all with fresh green parsley.
Make Irish Stew your own
A few modest variations to try:
Try beef instead of lamb
Substitute beer—Guiness Extra Stout, naturally—for up to 1 cup of the liquid
Brown the meat before adding the vegetables and cooking liquid
Simmer the stew on the stovetop instead of braising it in the oven
Add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste
Add a roux—a mixture of butter and flour—to thicken the stew
Add other vegetables like celery, mushrooms, turnips or leeks
Add other herbs like bay leaves or sprigs of thyme
Make it in a slow cooker
Serves: 10. Hands-on time: 35 minutes. Total time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.
Irish Stew couldn’t be easier—just combine the ingredients in a pot, put the pot in the oven and wait. And it’s even better made a day ahead—the falling-apart potatoes will break up into the liquid, making it thicker and more flavorful.
2 lb lean boneless lamb, cut into 1-in pieces
2 lb russet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1-in slices
1 lb carrots, cut into 1-in lengths
1 lb yellow onions, cut into 1-in dice
1 lb parsnips, cut into 1-in lengths (larger pieces halved)
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper, plus additional to taste
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus additional to taste
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen and thawed peas
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
ONE: Preheat oven to 250°F. In a large, oven-proof stockpot on medium, combine lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips, broth, pepper and salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and transfer to oven. Bake, covered, until lamb is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
TWO: Remove from the oven; stir in peas and additional pepper and salt to taste. To serve, sprinkle with parsley.
Nutrients per serving (about 1 2/3 cup):
Calories: 273, Total Fat: 5 g, Sat. Fat: 2 g, Monounsaturated fat: 2 g, Polyunsaturated fat: 1 g, Carbs: 33 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugars: 8 g, Protein: 23 g, Sodium: 373 mg, Cholesterol: 59 mg