A friend of mine always said that you should tackle March like an Irishwoman—and by that she meant, sitting in front of the fire with a pot of tea (and maybe some scones), a couple of balls of yarn, and a crochet hook, with an Irish stew bubbling away on the stove. I suppose a proper Irishwoman would be using knitting needles instead, but as knitting remains a mystery I have yet to unravel, I will have to make do with a crochet hook. Irish stew, on the other hand, I can manage quite nicely. This year we were blessed with a long fall, and the local Brussels sprouts lasted through December. They were cheap and all over the Public Market and I got used to cooking with them. When I saw some (probably not local) at the market the other day, I grabbed them up for my Irish stew. Cabbage would work just as well. The trick to this stew, my mother taught me, is to sauté the vegetables in butter, browning them slightly, before you add them into the stew. It improves the flavor, helps avoid mushy vegetables, and makes the whole house smell warm and inviting. Put a tablespoon or two of butter into the pot–I use my big cast iron pot–and cook the onions. Remove the onions, add more butter if necessary, and cook the Brussels sprouts (or cabbage.) Remove the Brussels sprouts, add more butter if necessary,and cook the carrots. Use plenty of butter (I like from grass-fed cows for this recipe and it will give the whole thing a nice, wholesome taste. If you have time—which I never do—you can cook the potatoes the same way. Sautéing the onions, Brussels sprouts (or cabbage), and carrots is important; sautéing the potatoes isn’t so much. Remove the last of the vegetables (don’t add more butter this time) and put about a pound of stew meat in the pot to brown. I usually use venison, but grass-fed beef or lamb would be just as good. Once the meat is browned, put the vegetables back in the pot. Add the potatoes if you haven’t already cooked them, and add just enough water to keep everything from sticking. About a quarter cup of red wine is good, too.
Once the stew is boiling, turn it to low and sit down with a glass of wine, or another cup of tea, and wait until either the potatoes turn mushy or it is time to eat.
Enjoy a nice bowl of stew (maybe with some brown bread and plenty of butter) to chase away the chill of a March evening. If you liked this post, please share it!
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