Irish Lamb Stew – a taste of home, no matter where you’re from

Saint Patricks Day - Irish Stew
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!  I confess I don’t know a lot about the real dishes of Ireland; the dishes people grew up eating around their family tables.  I only know that around here, people eat corned beef and cabbage and drink copious amounts of Guiness Stout.  In order to do something a little more authentic than four leaf clover shaped cookies, I consulted my fabulous and too-far-away friend, Elisha Clarke on some of her favorite Irish dishes.  Elisha was born and raised in Ireland and TODAY is her birthday!  I very much feel the luck of the Irish because I know her!  She is an amazing photographer and I hope one day I can go hang out with her in Ireland and see first hand the beauty she gets to photograph every day.
Irish Stew with Country Bread
When I asked her about dishes she grew up loving, she listed five or so and Irish stew actually wasn’t one of her favorites, haha.  But then she sent me a link to a cute, Irish celebrity chef doing this stew on Jaime Oliver’s show and he made it look so simple and delicious, I had to try it!  It came together easily and as it cooked for over an hour, I had time to relax with my family!  As I took the first bite, I was immediately transported to my own dining table as a child.  My mom made beef stew quite often and would let it simmer on the stove while we were at church.  I always loved it and she served it with saltine crackers that we’d crush up into our stew.  Tasting this very similar Irish lamb version made me smile – thousands of miles separate the humble meals of working class Americans and working class Irish, yet we are instantly connected by a warm meal.  Elisha mentioned that her country has very poor origins and so therefore, the traditional dishes are very humble in nature.  I think all the best dishes in any culture originate from people making the best of what they have been given.  My family did it, Elisha’s family did it, and if I were to guess, I’d say that probably most of you could relate to that story, as well.  A simple bowl of warm stew on a cold evening can comfort and connect family and friends, no matter how far apart.
Irish Stew
Irish Lamb Stew*
serves 6

2 TBS vegetable oil
2lb 3oz lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 inch chunks (could also use beef chuck roast)
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced
1 bay leaf
4 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 1/2 cups beef stock
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
3 TBS butter cut into small cubes
salt and ground black pepper to taste
slices of country bread, to serve

Place a large, flameproof casserole pot over a high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and brown the lamb pieces in two batches. Remove and set aside on a plate. Reduce the heat to medium–high, add another tablespoon of oil and fry the onion, celery and carrot for 4–6 minutes or until the onions have softened.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Return the meat to the pot, along with the bay leaf and stock, season with kosher salt and ground black pepper and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and push the slices of potato down into and across the top of the stew, dot with the butter and give a final seasoning of sea salt and ground black pepper. Cover and place in the oven to cook for about 1½ hours or until the meat is tender, then remove the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes until the potatoes have browned.

Serve the stew in deep bowls with crusty, buttered bread to mop up all the juices!  Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

*minimally adapted from Donal Skehan’s beautiful recipe

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Pot Roast Pies

Pot Roast Pie
It’s official.  I’m in fall-cooking mode.  Bring on the orange vegetables and the slow cooked meats and the braising liquids.  Bring on the pies with custard fillings and mulled wine.  Let the apples stew in cider and the cinnamon sticks abound, we have officially fallen into the best time of year!  I love how the natural seasons for foods are meant to put a little extra meat on your bones to survive the cold winter months.  Even though most of us have climate controlled air year round, I still appreciate the way shopping seasonally will naturally guide you through the year.  I am jumping the gun just a tad, but since the 10 day forecast has us in the 40s at night and the 70s in the day, I’m embracing the way things feel.  I have waiting a long, hot summer to start dreaming of stews and caramelized butternut squash.  I’m ready.

Let’s start with bringing back the Sunday pot roast.  Matt and I want to have that tradition for our family.  Growing up, we both regularly had pot roast on Sunday afternoons after church.  It’s the natural ease of letting something cook on the stove or in a slow cooker while you’re at church.  Mom always make yeast wheat rolls to go with it.  Some of my favorite food memories came from that meal and I will feature her winning recipe on this blog soon!  Matt has made a few amazing versions and I tried a recipe I saw on Pinterest yesterday and it was remarkably easy and very flavorful!  Then, today for lunch, I played with the leftovers and came up with little pot roast hand pies, covered in pan juices.

Pot Roast Pie with Pan Juices

This was a good move in all directions.  Leftover pot roast from yesterday with potatoes and carrots.  Chopped up a few pieces of each component and tucked spoonfuls into the only pie dough worth memorizing and baked.  I didn’t want to add too much of the leftover cooking liquid from the roast inside the pies because I didn’t want them to be soggy as they cooked and leak out everywhere.  So, once the pies came out, I ladled warm, beefy pot roast juices over the pie itself and it soaked up just enough for the crust to not be too dry, yet it remained crispy and flaky and buttery.  Best. Fall. Lunch. Ever.  Too bad the baby wouldn’t partake.  She really missed out.  Too many eggs for breakfast, I guess.  Although, I think on a day when she is super hungry, she will really like this.  I can just see her cute little hands holding a tiny pie.  Ah, well.  Maybe next time!

Sunday Pot Roast Pie

Balsamic Orange Pot Roast*
serves 4-6

4 – 5 Lbs of Beef Chuck Roast
2 cups water
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbs of Soy Sauce
1 Tsp of Salt
1/4 Tsp of Red Pepper Flakes
3 Cloves of Fresh Garlic – Pressed
Zest of one orange
a few fingerling potatoes
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 2″ pieces

Put the roast in your slow cooker and surround with the potatoes and carrots.  Mix all the other ingredients together and pour over the roast.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Eat and enjoy and the next day…

The Best Pie Crust Ever
2 sticks of cold butter, chopped into little pieces
2 cups of flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 cup ice water

Put a cup of flour in your stand mixer with a paddle attachment and add the salt.  Mix to blend.  Add half the butter by small handfuls, beating on low until all the butter is fully incorporated into that cup of flour.  Then, add the next cup of flour and beat on low until completely blended.  Then, add the water sprinkle by sprinkle until the dough comes together and stays together when pressed with your fingers.  Separate into two discs, wrap in plastic and let chill for at least an hour.  Take out 20 minutes before making the hand pies so they will roll out easy.
2 sticks of cold butter, chopped into little pieces
2 cups of flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 cup ice water

Put a cup of flour in your stand mixer with a paddle attachment and add the salt.  Mix to blend.  Add half the butter by small handfuls, beating on low until all the butter is fully incorporated into that cup of flour.  Then, add the next cup of flour and beat on low until completely blended.  Then, add the water sprinkle by sprinkle until the dough comes together and stays together when pressed with your fingers.  Separate into two discs, wrap in plastic and let chill for at least an hour.  Take out 20 minutes before making the hand pies so they will roll out easy.

Assemble!

Take a few components from the leftovers – a bit of roast, some carrots and potatoes.  Chop well!  Heat up the juice from the leftovers on low on your stove.  Roll out your pie dough and cut out 4″ circles.  Fill the circles with 2 heaping tablespoons of roast mixture.  Place another 4″ round of dough on top and crimp the edges.  Brush with a beaten egg and bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned.

Place a hand pie into a shallow bowl and ladle a warmed cup of leftover pot roast juice over the pie and serve immediately!

*recipe adapted from The Chic Site

Italian Pot Roast on a Snowy Day

snow1

It’s a day to be a little quieter, more reflective, or maybe just be still.  It snowed last night more than it’s snowed in a few years and it’s still coming down outside.  The wind is crazy as it always is in Lubbock, TX, which makes the wind chill around negative ridiculous.  Matt is getting to work from home – one draw back of having a desk job is that on a snow day, you still have to work.  But at least it can be done from the comforts of home.  Hot cups of coffee and a sweet, bundled up baby in tow.  I had dreams of going to the grocery store today to stock up for another week of good meals, but I think I’ll just warm up the amazing pot roast we had last night, roast an acorn squash till it nearly burns and make do with what we have.  If you have any cut of meat in your freezer like a roast, pork loin, whole chicken, try this recipe.  Stay in out of the cold and just let the oven do the cooking today.

pot roast

Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Red Wine*
6 servings

Vegetable oil
4lbs boneless beef roast, preferably chuck
1 tbs butter
3 tbs onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 of a medium sized onion)
3 tbs carrot, finely chopped (about 1 medium sized carrot)
1 1/2 cups dry red wine (Barolo, California Syrah, Zinfandel or Shiraz are all fine choices)
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 tbs chopped, canned Italian tomatoes (we use Cento brand)
A pinch of dried thyme
1/2 tsp fresh marjoram or an 1/8 tsp dried
Salt
Black pepper, fresh ground

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Put just enough vegetable oil in a large skillet to coat the bottom of the pan.  Turn the heat on to high and when the oil starts to shimmer, put in the roast.  Brown it well on all sides, then transfer to a platter and set aside.  Set aside your skillet without cleaning it out for use later.
  • In a separate pot with a tight-fitting lid, large enough to accommodate the meat, put 2 tbs of vegetable oil, the butter and the onion and cook on medium until the onion becomes a pale gold color.  Add the carrot and celery.  Stir thoroughly to coat well, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, then add the browned meat back into the pan.  (We used a dutch oven)
  • Pour the wine into the skillet that you’d used to sear the roast, turn on the heat to medium high, and allow the wine to bubble briskly for a minute while scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen cooking residues stuck to the pan.  Add the contents of the skillet to the pot with the meat.
  • Add the beef broth.  It should come up two-thirds of the way up the sides of the meat, and if it doesn’t add more broth or water.  Add in the tomatoes, thyme, marjoram, salt, and several grindings of pepper.  Turn the heat on to high, bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then cover the pot and put it on the middle rack of the preheated oven.  Cook for about 3 hours, turning the meat every 20 minutes or so, basting it with the liquid in the pot, which should be cooking at a slow, steady simmer.  All the liquid may evaporate before the roast is done.  If that happens, add 3 or 4 tablespoons of water.  Cook until the meat feels very tender when prodded with a fork (about 3 hours.)
  • Remove the meat to a cutting board.  If the liquid in the pot is too thin and hasn’t reduced to less than 2/3 cup, put the pot on the stove on high heat and boil down, while scraping the cooking residues stuck to the pot.  Taste the juices and correct for salt and pepper.  Slice the meat against the grain, put the slices on a warm platter, arranging them so they overlap slightly, pour the pot juices over them and serve immediately.

We served this with roasted carrots and it was the perfect accompaniment.  I hope you all have a warm, cozy day and enjoy the momentary break from reality!

*Recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan’s amazing book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking