It’s not St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not Irish. It’s not even remotely cold outside. So, why am I so excited about making Irish Stew for the first time?
I have decided to prepare a little surprise dinner to take to a friend and her husband next week on the night before they leave on a long anticipated vacation to Ireland for the first time. Of course, I needed to make a test batch ahead of time so that I wouldn’t run the risk of taking something less than desired, and it sounded so good that I just couldn’t resist making a batch for us right away.
While looking at some traditional Irish recipes, it didn’t take long to decide on a good Irish stew as the main course for our friends’ special dinner. I spent quite a bit of time looking at recipes and, ultimately, I decided on a recipe that I thought would be good and only slightly modified it to our taste. It is hands down the best stew I have ever eaten, too. Usually when I try a new recipe, I have to prepare it two or three times until I get it just the way I want it, but this one was just perfect the very first time for us.
I opted to use half lamb cubes and half beef cubes in this recipe. While I didn’t actually see a recipe with the meats combined, I found plenty of recipes that used one or the other. Lamb is the more traditional choice, but beef is often used as well. I just couldn’t resist giving it a try with the beef. Initially, I thought that I would just see which one my husband and I liked better and use it in future preparations, but we loved both meats in this dish and thought the dish was perfect this way. I just browned each of the meats separately in the fat, since I needed to brown them in my enameled cast iron pot in two batches anyway.
The butcher also cubed each of the meats for me. I purchased a chuck roast and leg of lamb and had a little more of the fat removed from the lamb cuts. I think most butchers will do this for free, and it’s certainly worth asking your butcher if you don’t know for sure because it is a big time saver.
Here is the recipe! It serves 3-4 people.
5 slices bacon (fattier pieces – inexpensive bacon works great)
In a large pot, (I used a large enameled cast iron pot), cook the bacon slowly over medium heat on the stove until well done to render out as much of the fat as possible. Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving as much of the fat in the pot as possible. (This is a step that I added. If you prefer, just add some canola oil to the hot pot to brown the meats and omit the bacon completely. I won’t be doing that, based on how well this came out with the bacon.)
1 1/2 pounds of cubed meat (either lamb, beef or both)
1 c. flour
salt and pepper
While the bacon is cooking in the pot, season the meat cubes well with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour until completely coated. After removing the bacon, brown the meat in two groups in a single layer in the pot over medium to medium high heat, turning with tongs as needed to brown evenly. After the meat is evenly browned, remove it to a plate, leaving the bacon drippings in the pan. The meat will not be cooked thoroughly at this point, only browned on the surface.
1 medium sweet onion, cut into slices and separated into rings
2 Tbsp. canola oil
After removing the meat from the pot, add some canola oil, if needed, to saute the onions. Cook them over medium high heat until they are just soft. Chop the bacon into small pieces and add it back into the pot, along with just a dash of salt.
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or more to taste)
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (or more to taste)
1 – 11 oz bottle Guinness
1 – 14 oz can beef broth
Add the meat back into the pot, along with the thyme, garlic powder, Guinness and beef broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook on the stove for 30-45 minutes, making sure that the meat is thoroughly cooked. There should be just enough liquid to just cover everything in the pot. If not, add more beef broth. Stir often to prevent any scorching on the bottom, about every ten minutes.
6 or 7 medium red potatoes, peeled and cubed (larger cubes work best)
8 oz peeled baby carrots
After the meat is thoroughly cooked, add the potatoes and carrots to the pot and continue cooking until they are just tender. I left the baby carrots whole and cut the potatoes into larger cubes about the same size as the carrots. After about 30 minutes, they were done and not overcooked.
1 – 2 Tbsp. uncooked white rice
Pearl barley is the more traditional option for this dish, but since I didn’t have it on hand, I simply used a bit of uncooked white rice. Just add it into the pot and let the stew cook covered on medium low heat until the rice is soft, about 5 – 10 minutes. The rice will thicken the stew a lot, which makes this dish just as it is supposed to be, thick and rich. Just be careful to not add too much rice or barley, but feel free to add a bit more, if needed, if the broth is still soupy. Add the rice a little at time if in doubt.
When the rice is soft, keep the stew warm in a 250 degree oven until ready to serve.
Fresh parsley (green tips only, no stems)
Just before serving, add the fresh parsley to the stew to brighten it up, stirring it into the stew well. Serve the stew hot with a good Irish soda bread or any other crusty bread you like.
This is such a great, classic dish, even in mid-May in 90 degree weather. I can’t wait to surprise our friends with this special dish next week to help kick off their wonderful vacation!