The weather is now cooperating with fall food. For the past week or so, I have been craving chili, soup or stew. A bowl full of homey warmth, crusty bread and a spoon. Toss in a Guinness and I'm in heaven. I made a batch of chili to take for Sunday football at my favorite little sports bar. It was pretty good, I went a little crazy with the tomato paste, though. Combined with some fritos, grated cheddar, chopped onion and a nice dollop of sour cream, I can't really complain. I can share the recipe later, if anyone requires a recipe for Texas Red, but, today I'm all about the lamb. Irish Stew, my latest hankering to slake at my own hand. Monday, I pulled some lamb arm chops out of the freezer and did a "quick thaw" in some cool water. I trimmed the fat and gristle and removed as much of the meat from the bones as possible. Used the scraps to make a broth and the outcome was delicious! As much as I am longing for the first batch of vegetables from the garden in spring, in August or so, when it's a balmy 100 degrees and stupid humid, my thoughts turn to hearty winter fare. This isn't a difficult one pot wonder to pull off, so don't be afraid to try it.
1 1/2 lb lamb, cut into cubes
1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, scraped or peeled and diced
2 or 3 medium potatoes, cleaned and diced (skins are your call, I'm a skin girl)
3 cloves garlic, peeled, mashed and rough chopped
3-4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour, more if needed for dusting
salt and pepper
4 cups of lamb stock or beef broth
If using a bone-in cut of lamb, trim fat, debone and cut into cubes (I normally aim for 1/2 inch). To make lamb stock, put all bones, fat and other trimmings (gristled bits) into a 2 or 3 quart pan over medium-high heat. If you don't have very much fat, add about 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil to prevent the lamb from sticking. Stir and turn the pieces every few minutes until all of the bones are browned and the fat is rendered and crisp. Cover with 4-5 cups of water and cook, stirring occasionally, at a low boil.
While the stock is cooking away, prepare all vegetables. Add flour to a plastic zip top bag, or baking pan and season well with salt and pepper. Dredge lamb cubes until completely dusted with flour. In a dutch oven, heat up 2 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil over medium heat until shimmering. Brown lamb on all sides in batches, try not to overcrowd. Once all lamb has been browned and drained on papertowels, check the level of oil in the dutch oven. Saute onion and garlic in leftover oil. Using about two tablespoons of oil, add 2 tablespoons of your dusting flour and stir until browned and well incorporated. Pour in broth or stock and deglaze the pan. Add the browned lamb, carrots and potatoes and simmer for 45 minutes, or until meat is tender and vegetables are done. Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. The broth should be slightly thickened from the roux, but, not the consistency of gravy. If it's too thin, stir 4 Tbsp of flour into 1/2 cup of water, until there are no lumps and stir into the stew. If too thick, add stock or water to thin.
Options: I "pantry/fridge" cook, so, if there are a few ribs of celery hanging out in the crisper, or an errant bell pepper, I chop them and add with the onion and garlic. When I have frozen green peas (and I almost always do), I add them at the end. Freshly minced rosemary or thyme would add nice depth, I just overlooked darting out to the herb garden for them. Cayenne, it's all-purpose and goes with everything in my house, add it, heat 'er up. Don't be afraid to experiment a little, stews are very forgiving, unless you turn them into the Dead Sea, can't help ya there. You don't possess a little lamb? Use beef or pork, and don't feel compelled to pay over $2.50/lb for "stew meat", get a roast cut on sale and dice the mother up. Seasoning. My general rule of thumb, if it smells right, it's gonna taste right. Taste it anyway, and don't double dip if you have company, just saying.
P.S. Think your stew recipe is all that and a sleeve of saltines? Leave it in the comments. Go for it. I'll cook it, so long as sardines and sauerkraut are not involved. Unless, it's this.
P.P.S. It's November 4th, you got your McRib on, yet?