St. Paddy’s Recipe: Irish Stew with Piccalilli

A hearty base for all that green beer guzzling!

Suds and spirits garner the most, ahem, buzz on Saint Patrick’s Day, but all that pint-raising wouldn’t be possible without a bellyful of something good to soak it all up. Maybe something with potatoes and big hunks of lamb shoulder? Dublin-born chef Cathal Armstrong, who runs a handful of restaurants in D.C. when he isn’t being nominated for James Beard Awards, has put together a bonny collection of recipes from his homeland. My Irish Table, which hit bookstores yesterday, highlights classics such as shepherd’s pie and fish and chips as well as more refined tastes from the Emerald Isle such as chilled asparagus with parmesan-black pepper vinaigrette salt-baked Dublin Bay prawns. His traditional Irish stew recipe calls for whole lamb shoulder chops and a side of the Indian-style pickle relish, piccalilli. It’s just the thing to fuel you for a day of sheepherding, pot o’ gold-searching, or the great American pastime of green-beer guzzling. Slàinte!

Irish Stew with Piccalilli from My Irish Table

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (8-ounce) lamb shoulder chops
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 yellow onions, quartered lengthwise
2 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large fresh bay leaf
2 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 cups water
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Piccalilli (recipe below)

Brown the chops: Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally over both sides of the lamb chops. In a flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Brown both sides of the lamb chops well (2 to 3 minutes per side), working in 2 batches so the pot is not crowded. Transfer the browned lamb to a plate and set aside.

Cook the stew: Blot the oil from the pot with a wad of paper towels. Add the onions, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf. Top the vegetables with the chops and any collected juices on their plate. Add the potatoes and water. Bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, cover the pot, and let the chops simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Adjust the salt and pepper seasoning to taste. Stir in the chopped thyme and serve immediately, with piccalilli on the side. The stew can be made the day before and gently reheated on the stove or in the oven at 300° F for 30 minutes.

Picalilli from My Irish Table

2 pounds large (3-inch-diameter) white or golden beets, unpeeled but trimmed of greens and tips
6 tablespoons kosher salt
2 quarts water
2 cups cauliflower florets (cut into 1-inch pieces, about 10 ounces)
5 cups whole peeled and trimmed cipollini onions (about 24 ounces)
2 cups halved radishes (stem and root ends removed, about 12 ounces)
¾ cup ground turmeric
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup Dijon mustard
4 cups Champagne vinegar

Cook the beets: Cover the beets with cold water in a heavy saucepan and boil until fork tender, about 1 ½ hours. Drain them in a colander and let them cool just until you can handle them. Peel them warm (the skin slides right off if they’re warm), then cut them into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 3 cups.

Brine the vegetables: Place the salt and 1 quart of the water in a 2-gallon zip-top bag. Seal the bag and massage it a few times to help dissolve the salt. Add the beets, cauliflower, onions, and radishes to the bag along with the remaining 1 quart of water. Seal the bag again, pressing out any air, so that the vegetables are completely submerged. Place the bag in a large bowl (to stabilize it) and let the vegetables sit on the counter for several hours, or refrigerate overnight. When ready to use, drain the vegetables in a colander, rinse them in cold water, and drain again.

Make the sauce: In large flameproof casserole, whisk together the turmeric, flour, sugar, mustard, and 1 cup of the vinegar to make a paste. Add the remaining 3 cups of vinegar and whisk until smooth. Over medium heat, bring the sauce to a boil and cook until it thickens, about 3 minutes, whisking continually to keep lumps from forming. Add the vegetables, stirring to coat them, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.