February 16th, 2011

The Epicure

Cooking with a Butcher's Apprentice, Part II - Irish Stew

In keeping with the "one pot, many meals" theme I've followed since I've arrived, and with an eye to the crazy amounts of lamb I've been working on, I grabbed a shank and some stew lamb on my way out of the shop on Saturday. I looked to Darina Allen of the Ballymaloe Cookery School for inspiration, but veered wildly from her to coax a little more out of the dish.

You will need:

4 strips of bacon
2 pounds of lamb stew meat (preferably from the neck, but shoulder will do nicely)
1 large lamb shank
2 large onions, diced
5 cloves of garlic
7-10 smallish carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
2 small turnips, peeled and sliced
8 or more potatoes, peeled
4 cups of water
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp thyme
Salt and pepper

The work:
  • Wake in the morning and cook the bacon until it is just browned and the fat has rendered. Enjoy your rashers with a pair of sunny-side up eggs. Be thankful that your dietary choices do not require you to forego simple pleasures like eggs and you don't always have to eat at the popular vegan breakfast place in the center of town. (Admittedly they make tasty food, but I just can't wrap my head around french toast with no eggs or milk. My biggest issue, though, centered on the fact that they to serve me almond milk for my coffee without inquiring about allergies. I mean, really...)
  • Set the bacon grease aside, make a shopping list, and gather up your laundry for your coming adventures.
  • Visit the crazy good bakery on the way to the laundromat and try to get the stoner kid behind the counter to grab the right loaf for you. Keep trying. He'll get it eventually, even if his first couple of choices were neither sourdough nor whole wheat.
  • Gather your ingredients from the previously referenced organic produce market while your laundry is in the washer.
  • Change your laundry, strike up a conversation with the older woman you met the previous week and watch as her interest turns into a kind of polite horror when you explain that you are in town learning how to cut meat. Note that she does not stick around to fold.
  • Return home and reheat the bacon grease over medium heat. Place stew meat in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Brown the stew meat without crowding the pan and transfer it to a very large pot. Do the same with the shank.
  • Cook the onions in the same pan until just turning translucent. Add to pot.
  • Add enough water to cover the meat and onions by about 1". Add bay, thyme, Worcestershire, and garlic.
  • Bring to a simmer on the stove top. Cover pot and transfer to a 200F oven and cook for about as long as it takes to watch two episodes of the X-Files on Netflix.
  • Prepare vegetables and add them in rough layers on top of the meat in the pot. Do not expect the liquid to cover all of the added vegetables. Return pot to oven and cook for 1 hour more.
  • Strain liquid, skim and degrease. Remove shank and strip the meat from the bone and fish out the precious bits of marrow. Return everything to the pot and adjust seasonings. Generously serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley or chives.