Irish Facts

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 – Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables

To paraphrase Hugh Kenner, the Irish never let facts get in the way of a good story.  Hence, the ‘Irish fact,’ beloved by those endowed with a craving for occasional emphatic assertion without which, the most rollicking stories are “but as porter poured on the floor.”

SWMBO and I were married on St. Patrick’s Day, 42 years ago.  So the day holds a special meaning for us.  And I am blessed with never having to write down the date of our anniversary to remember it.

This year, we spent another memorable St. Patrick’s Day in Naples, FL, guests of Mere and Hoddy, enjoying fine food, fine golf, and more laughter than anyone since Flann O’Brien has enjoyed, all while getting a decent tan and an enormous surplus of sleep.

Oh, and did I mention that, after chasing off a large alligator who was menacing Barbara, I managed to calm down and shoot a record 59 at the Royal Poinciana Cypress Course?   After which, Dennis, Annie, Barbara and I demolished a keg of Guinness while watching Oral Roberts upset the University of Illinois in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  (We took an Uber home.)

Of course, none of this is true, but some day I’m going to find a way make it the punch line of a good story – to make it, in other words, an Irish fact.

But here is something true that I mentioned in my last blog post: “The Duffy Sisters cooked a wonderful lamb stew for St. Patrick’s Day.”  It was as fine a celebration of our wedding anniversary as I have experienced, excepting the first one, about which neither Irish nor other facts will pass my lips.

In an attempt to catch up on my delinquent posts, as well as to turn your attention to another fine recipe from Ina Garten because, hey, it’s really good and it combines lamb with spring vegetables which we have a lot of these days, here is a blueprint for matching the Duffy sisters.

 

Lamb with Spring Vegetables

(adapted from Ina Garten)

Timing:                                                               About 2 hours

Ingredients:

3 pounds, boneless lamb shoulder, ¾-inch dice.

NOTE:  HERE WE SUGGEST A MAJOR SUBSTITUTION – use a boneless leg of lamb, the meat is more tender, easier to remove the fat from and, over all an improvement.

2 tablespoons canola oil

¼ pound of bacon, ¾-inch diced

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons of minced garlic

2 cups, canned beef stock

1 cup full-bodied red wine (Côtes du Rhône, e.g.)

1 cup diced tomatoes (San Marzano, if you can get them)

2 teaspoons minced thyme leaves

2 teaspoons minced rosemary leaves

1 pound of carrots, cut 2 inches thick on a diagonal

12 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, 1 ½-inch diced

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

6 small turnips (we used parsnips – couldn’t find the turnips)

10 ounces cippolini or pearl onions, peeled – we used frozen pearl onions and saved a lot of tedious peeling.

2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

10 ounces of frozen peas

½ cup chopped parsley

Prep:

Get butter out to come to room temperature

Heat oven to 350 F.

Trim lamb, if needed

Prep herbs

Dice bacon

Cook:

Heat the canola oil in a medium (10- to 11-inch) ovenproof pot or Dutch oven, over medium. Add the bacon and cook for 5 minutes, until browned. Transfer the bacon to a large plate, leaving the fat in the pan. Dry the lamb with paper towels and toss it in a bowl first with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and then with the 1/4 cup of flour. Raise the heat to medium high* and cook half the lamb in the bacon fat for 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned. Add the lamb to the plate with the bacon and brown the second batch, also transferring it to the plate. Add the garlic to the pot and cook for one minute.

*Pay attention – you may need to turn the heat down to avoid burning

Now, pour the lamb and bacon, along with any juices that collect, back into the pot. Add the beef stock, wine, tomatoes (including the juice), thyme, rosemary, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil, scraping up the brown bits in the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes, cover and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

While the lamb and bacon are cooking, peel and dice the carrots, turnips and potatoes, and onions (if needed).  (You’ll be adding the peas and chopped parsley at the end.)

After the first 30 minutes in the oven, add the carrots, potatoes, onions and turnips, cover and return to the oven for 1 hour, until all the vegetables are tender.

At this point, mash the 2 tablespoons of flour with the butter in a small bowl. Stir the mixture into the stew and simmer on top of the stove for 3 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the peas and parsley, season to taste and serve hot in large shallow bowls.

Wish everyone a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, even if it’s already April.  If they’ve been draining the Guinness, they won’t notice.