Sergio’s Hearty Lamb Stew

Lamb stew is synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day for me, because this is the hearty stew I make every year in celebration of the holiday.  I don’t recall why or how the tradition started, but it continues to this day.

This recipe is a particularly good version because of the addition of beer, which adds a depth and interest few other stews can match.

If you like stick-to-the-ribs stews, this is the one to try.  Like all soups/stews, it’s better the day after it’s prepared, but it can be served immediately with pride, too.

Sergio’s Hearty Lamb Stew

Serves 16-18

Notes: Buy  a large leg of lamb, (3-4 pounds) rinse it, pat it dry and trim off some of the excess fat.  You want some fat to give it that characteristic lamb flavor, but not too much.  Trim the meat off of the bone and cut it into 1 inch cubes.  Reserve the bone.

For the beef or chicken stock, either make your own or buy a natural /low-sodium stock.  The best prepared stocks usually come in cardboard boxes, like a carton of milk.  Read the ingredients.  There should be nothing you can’t pronounce in the ingredients of a natural stock.

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup            olive oil

3.75 lbs           leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes (reserve the bone)

2 large             white onions, peeled, brunoise cut

4 large             carrots, peeled, brunoise cut

8 stalks            celery, brunoise cut

12 large           garlic cloves, sliced

8-10 cups         light chicken or beef stock

1 1/2 bottles    dark beer (like Guinness)

1 1/2 bottles     light beer (like Amstel Light)

1 bottle            (750mL) red wine (a shiraz, syrah, or merlot)

4 ounces          tomato paste

6 sprigs           fresh thyme

6 sprigs           fresh rosemary

4 large             bay leaves

6-8                   fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (skin on)

2 cups              peeled baby carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 lb                  fresh pearl onions, pealed (or frozen)

1 lb                  fresh shelled English peas (or frozen)

Salt and Pepper to taste

4 TBLSP         chopped fresh parsley

METHOD 

1 Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Lightly salt the lamb pieces.  Working in small batches, add the lamb (do not crowd the pan, or the meat will steam and not brown) and brown the meat, without stirring, until nicely browned on one side, then use tongs to turn the pieces over. Continue to cook in this manner until all sides are well browned, about 5 minutes.  Do the same with the lamb bone.  Remove the meat and bone and reserve on the side.

2 Add the onion, carrots, celery to the pan.  Add a bit more olive oil. Lower the heat to heat, and sauté the vegetables 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3 Raise heat to high, add tomato paste and stir with a wooden spoon.  Add the browned lamb meat & lamb bone, chicken/beefstock, Guinness, Amstel, red wine, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Stir to combine.  Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer gently for 2 – 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Discard bay leaves and the thyme & rosemary stalks.  Spoon off excess fat.  Remove the lamb bone, carefully remove any tender nubbins of meat from the bone, dice the meat and return it to the stew.  Discard the bone.

5 Add the potatoes and pearl onions to the stew. Raise heat to medium and simmer uncovered for about 8 minutes.  Add the baby carrots and simmer uncovered for an additional 8 minutes.  Add the peas and simmer uncovered for an additional 6-8 minutes

At this point, check for seasoning.  Add salt & pepper to taste. If you prefer a thicker stew, prepare a corn starch slurry: in a small bowl, whisk 4-6 tablespoons cornstarch with 1 cup of water or stock or beer until the slurry is smooth (no lumps).  Through a strainer, add the slurry mixture to the stew.  Stir with a spoon until the stew thickens.

7 Add chopped parsley and serve.

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