High IQ Irish Stew
- Bay Area's Climate Cries Out for Stews
David Steinberg, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, May 5, 1999
For many, stews are the ultimate comfort food. One good thing about living
in Boston in winter was coming in from the miserable sleet and freezing
rain into a kitchen redolent with the smells of a long- simmering stew.
Curling up with a steaming bowl and a hunk of crusty bread could (almost)
make me forget the soul-numbing chill.
Those days are (thankfully) past but I still love stews, so trying out the
recipes in ``Stews: 200 Earthy, Delicious Recipes,'' by Jenna Holst, was a
wonderful chance to explore these comfort foods.
Even though there's no snow here, in many ways the Bay Area has the perfect
stew climate: Long after winter has passed, cool nights are common enough
to encourage experimentation with these quick-and- easy meals. What's more,
the leftovers let us take full advantage of the nice weather without a
whole lot of cooking. Holst is out to convert you to thinking of stews as
something that doesn't have to be heavy, fattening meals-in-a-bowl. With
this book in hand, it's easy to agree. Plus, the book is as useful to the
cook who needs to follow a recipe to the letter as it is to those who can't
help modifying a recipe even under threat of bodily injury. Holst also
accompanies each main recipe with suggestions for accompanying side dishes
and gives recipes for them later in the book.
The introduction is as integral to the book as any recipe. It is here that
Holst develops her philosophy of stews: what can be substituted where
(types and quantity of fat) and what can't (fresh seafood).
Nowhere is this more evident than in her recipe for High-IQ Irish Stew. Her
directions are simple, clear and have ample room to personalize this lamb
dish. The result of following her recipe -- without modification -- was
hearty, delicious and as easy as chopping the vegetables. But simple
additions or substitutions can just as easily transform it into your
personal signature recipe.
The book is filled with unique recipes like Turkey Sausage and Roasted
Peppers under Mushroom Polenta. Holst includes this hearty recipe in a
section labeled ``Stews Under Cover,'' which includes updates of such
standbys as pot pies, casseroles and polenta.
She says this wonderfully colorful, intensely flavored dish is based on a
northern Italian casserole, but it is far more like a polenta lasagna, and
a define crowd-pleaser, even for those who don't like polenta. This recipe
reheated beautifully and was delicious even when served cold.
Yet another unusual application of stewing is Holst's desserts like Pears
in Ruby Port and Vanilla. While the preparation is very simple, the results
are elegant. Recipes like this give the book powerful appeal. A good friend
saw my copy of the book, asked to borrow it and held it hostage. After I
wrested it from him, he immediately went out to buy it.
In this user-friendly book, Holst has combined imaginative recipes and
clear, straightforward directions with winning results. So just because the
weather is balmy, you can still have stew; they're not just for winter
``Stews: 200 Earthy, Delicious Recipes,'' by Jenna Holst (Macmillan, 1998,
HIGH IQ IRISH STEW
-- 1 tablespoon butter
-- 2 medium leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
-- 2 pounds trimmed boneless lamb from leg or shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch
-- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
-- 3 medium carrots, coarsely sliced
-- 1 medium turnip, about 4 ounces, coarsely chopped
-- 2 large potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and cubed
-- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
-- 1 teaspoon salt
-- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
-- 2 cups water
-- 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
INSTRUCTIONS: 1. In a stew pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the
leeks and cook, stirring, until the leeks are soft- centered, about 5
minutes. Transfer the leeks to a plate and set aside. 2. Add the following
to the pot in layers: half of the meat, half of the onions, half of the
carrots, half of the turnip, half of the potatoes, and half of the leeks.
Top with all the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Do not
3. Repeat the layering. Pour the water into the pot, but do not stir.
4. Cover the pot. Over medium-low heat, simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until
the lamb is tender. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve.
Note: The dish may be made ahead and reheats well. Like some stews with
potatoes, I do not recommend freezing because the potatoes get mealy.
PER SERVING: 385 calories, 42 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 14 g fat (6 g
saturated), 134 mg cholesterol, 506 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.
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