Years before chefs across Dixie began incorporating foreign ingredients and flavors onto their menus, Cathal Armstrong was deftly integrating the dishes of the United States and his home country of Ireland at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia. Today, Armstrong oversees a small empire of dining establishments that run the gamut from a fish-and-chips joint to a critically adored cocktail lounge. In his cookbook, My Irish Table, he tells the story of his rise from dishwasher at a Dublin pizzeria to celebrated chef and restaurateur, and shares his recipes for Irish soul food: fish and chips, roast leg of lamb, creamy potato and leek soup. Any of Armstrong’s dishes could anchor a St. Patrick’s Day spread, but his Irish Stew, enlivened by a side of spicy piccalilli, is a classic make-ahead crowd-pleaser and a hearty, wholesome way to finish off a long day of festivities.
Food & Drink
St. Patrick’s Day Staples
Cathel Armstrong shares his classic make-ahead crowd-pleaser
photo: Scott Suchman
Irish Stew with Piccalilli
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (8-oz) lamb shoulder chops
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 yellow onions, quartered lengthwise
2 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large fresh bay leaf
2 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 cups water
3 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
Piccalilli (see below)
2 lbs. large (3-inch-diameter) white or golden beets, unpeeled but trimmed of greens and tips
6 tbsp. kosher salt
2 qts. water
2 cups cauliflower florets (cut into 1-inch pieces, about 10 oz.)
5 cups whole peeled and trimmed cipollini onions (about 24 oz.)
2 cups halved radishes (stem and root ends removed, about 12 oz.)
3/4 cup ground turmeric
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
4 cups Champagne vinegar
For the stew:
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.
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 1½ 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.
For the Piccalilli:
Cover the beets with cold water in a heavy saucepan and boil until fork tender, about 1½ 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 ¾-inch cubes. You should have about 3 cups.
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 submered. 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.
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. (Makes 5 pints)
Reprinted with permission from My Irish Table by Cathal Armstrong, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.
The stew can be made the day before and gently reheated on the stove or in the oven at 300°F for 30 minutes.
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