Irish Lamb Stew — The Weekender

By: Marisa McClellan

It’s January and that means it’s time for clean slates, new goals and a general reshuffling of priorities. I’ve long since learned that I don’t do well with large-scale resolutions, so I try to keep my hopes for the new year manageable instead of massive.

So this month, instead of trying to drastically revamp my diet or throw my gym routine into overdrive, I’m focusing on cooking at home more. It seems simple, but I’ve found that there’s no easier way to eat better than to make it myself.

For me, this means large batches of soups, whole roast chickens, kale salads (they keep so much better than lettuce-based ones), egg bakes with lots of vegetables and house-warming stews. Best of all, these are all dishes that yield enough for three or four meals.

In my mind, there’s no tool more supportive to my eat-home-cooking goal than a couple of tasty leftovers in the fridge. I know lots of folks shy away from day (or two) old food, but truly, there are so many things that get better after a little time to mingle and marry.

On New Year’s Day, I made a batch of Paula Deen’s Irish Lamb Stew. Hunks of lamb are browned and then left to braise with a mountain of onions, leeks, celery, cabbage and tomatoes. While it was good that first day, it made a phenomenal dinner on day 2. On day 3, my husband took the remains to work for lunch. Hooray for home cooking!

Whether you make this stew for your Weekender, or you opt for another favorite soup or casserole, treat yourself to something homemade this new year.

Before you start browning your meat, here are a few things you should know:

— Paula’s recipe calls for a lamb roast that you then cut up into cubes. If you want to cut down on the work required, look for lamb stew meat. It will save you time and aggravation.

— Feel free to bulk up the vegetables. Though the recipe doesn’t call for carrots, I added them to my stew pot, and I doubled the amount of cabbage. It stretches the meat further and makes for a healthier bowl of stew.

— This recipe freezes really well. If you have a small household, consider making a batch, portioning out half of it into 2-cup containers and stashing those in the freezer. Makes a really easy dinner for busy nights.

Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round,  is now available.

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