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Saint Patrick's Day Irish stew

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The Runaway Spoon

(Read caption) Enhance the flavors of a simple Irish stew by browning the lamb first and adding crispy bacon.

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Like many traditional dishes of the British Isles, my first taste of Irish stew was in the dining hall of my college at Oxford. And it wasn’t a particularly good experience. Tough meat, watery broth, soggy vegetables. But I never gave up on the notion; I just think I liked this dish in theory more than in concept. But a warming, hearty lamb and vegetable stew is just a plain good idea, so I stuck with it.

I have read many Irish stew recipes over the years and they are all pretty simple and plain, which I think is a hallmark of Irish cuisine. And I’ve made many versions, too, but I always felt they needed a little oomph. So I’ve added some bacon for smoky saltiness and browned the meat for extra richness. Some of the impetus for sticking to the dish is that I now find beautiful pasture-raised, local lamb, and good meat makes all the difference. I love the contrast of peppery parsnips, and sweet carrots, and of course, no Irish Stew would be complete without potatoes.

Irish stew
Serves 8 
If you don’t find ready-to-use stew meat, ask the butcher counter to cube lamb shoulder or leg for you.

3 pounds lamb stew meat, in 2-inch cubes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 pound bacon

1 large yellow onion, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

4 cups beef broth

3 bay leaves

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 parsnips

3 carrots

2 yellow potatoes

chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Pat the lamb cubes dry with paper towels. Mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a large zip-top bag, then drop in the lamb and shake it around to coat each cube with flour.


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