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Irish Lamb Stew

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My grandfather ate with this fork!
Antique Walnut & Pewter Fork circ. 1880 Bohemia
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Recipe by: Chef John V., A Good Cooking Recipe!

History: This is not a hot and trendy dish but it is comfort food to anyone Irish and anyone who likes to eat. I have prepared it many times in a professional environment. I have also seen it prepared differently by many an Irish chef. Patrick O'Burne had his recipe, Michael O'Leary his and Noel Cullen yet another; all of their stews were white in color and broth-like, merely lamb, potatoes, onions with a dash of nutmeg. Serving this stew as a lunch dish in the Ritz-Carlton dining room required a bit more visual appeal so I added perfectly cut carrots and parsley chopped the second before it was served to a customer from a polished copper pot nested on a linen napkin. Steaming hot and tender, all you need is crusty bread and perhaps a pint of brew to make a perfect Irish feast!

Comments: This recipe is done in several steps. It takes a bit of time but you're not working every second; there is plenty of time to organize and clean up during the process.

Serving size: 6-8

Preparation time: about 2 hours 30 minutes

Amount/Measure/Ingredient

5 lb. lean lamb, cut in 1 inch cubes
1 small bay leaf
1/4 cup salt
1 gallon boiling water
then---
4 quarts cold water
1 sachet bag (See recipe below)
1 tbsp. salt

Procedure:

Blanch (see below) the lamb in the water with bay leaf and salt, skim the scum and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and wash in cold water several times. Place the lamb with 4 quarts cold water, sachet bag and 1 Tbsp. salt into a clean pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 ½ hours, skimming the scum and fat that collects on the surface during cooking, do this as needed. After 90 minutes the lamb will almost be tender, don't worry, it will cook more in the next step. Remove the meat from the broth and let it air cool for a few minutes on a sheet pan lined with a sheet of parchment paper. Strain the broth through a very fine mesh strainer, keep it hot and simmering. 

Amount/Measure/Ingredient

2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick---stored in cold water
2 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 cup clarified butter
1 tsp. ground white pepper
1 Tbsp. salt 
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. clarified butter to wipe the pot

Procedure:

Sauté the onions with the clarified butter, white pepper and salt until translucent. Drain and pat dry the potatoes you have peeled and sliced, and toss with softened onions and nutmeg. In a large Dutch oven or deep sided lasagna or baking pan, wipe the inside with a tablespoon of clarified butter. Place a layer (1/3) of the potato and onion mixture into the buttered pan, top with a layer of cooked lamb (1/2 of it), another (1/3) layer of potato mixture, lamb and finishing with the remaining potatoes. Slowly pour the simmering, hot stock over all, bring to a rapid boil, cover tightly and place in a 350 degree oven for 60 minutes. 

Garnish:

Prepare the carrots---
1 1/2 pounds carrots, cut jardinière; blanched, cooled, then glazed with butter, sugar, salt and white pepper, seasoned as needed
1 cup parsley, stemmed, washed and chopped

When the potatoes are quite tender, remove the braising pan from the oven and let it sit undisturbed for 20 minutes. Then skim the butter that has come to the top and with a kitchen fork swirl the ingredients quickly in a circular motion to break up ½ of the potatoes and to thicken the gravy. Check the seasoning. Spoon into warmed serving dishes, top with several pieces of carrots and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Blanch---means to bring the liquid to a boil, add the meat, skim the surface of the liquid and cook no more than five minutes, before draining and rinsing the meat several times in cold water. This process firms the meat, and cleans it of unwanted stale meat juices. The liquid has no value and should be discarded.

Sachet bag, Sachet d'epices

Portion: Sufficient to season approximately 1 gallon (3.75 liters) of stock, soup, sauce

Amount/Measure/Ingredient

3 or 4 parsley stems, chopped about 4-5 inches long
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, fresh or dried 
1 bay leaf, medium size, size of soup spoon
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked 
1 garlic clove, smashed about 2 tsp.

Procedure:

Rinse the cheese cloth in cold water to remove the sizing. Place all ingredients on a piece of cheesecloth approximately 4 inches square. Gather up the edges and tie with butcher's twine, leaving a long tail of string to tie to the stockpot handle.

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