I had four different possible ways to start this entry. Rather than choose one, I’ve decided to just include them all, and you can pick which one you prefer. If this were an actual recipe blog, this would be infuriating, since it just delays getting to the actual recipe. But this ISN’T a recipe blog – it’s just me babbling about our cooking. So here are your babble choices:
A. In 2011, within the space of a week, we saw two different Irish bands named after classified aircraft. U2 we saw at Spartan Stadium, with 70,000 of our closest friends. Bell X1, on the other hand, was at a tiny venue in Ann Arbor. Both shows had their appeal, and neither leant us the slightest insight into Irish food…
B. “I am so sorry.” I have an Irish coworker, James, who is aware of our food project. I’ve shown him the blog, and pictures of our efforts, and he was aware that his homeland was approaching. And for some reason, all he wanted to do was apologize…
C. “Raw scallops taste a bit like lamb testicles!” was NOT a phrase I expected to encounter while shopping for this (or frankly, ANY) meal. But there it was, floating around the butcher shop where I acquired the lamb roast for this stew…
D. At some point, I swear I am going to go back through this blog and do actual statistics on what fraction of the recipes start with chopping an onion. I will be SHOCKED if I find that the number is less than 80 percent…
E. When I was in college, my friend Ethan had a running gag of “jokes without punchlines” and “punchlines without jokes.” For example – “A nun, a priest, and a rabbi are walking down the street. The nun bends over to pick up a quarter, and the priest says to the rabbi…”
That last one has nothing to do with Irish food, but serves to make the point that NONE of those ellipses are going to get resolved, sorry.
So anyway, Ireland. First off, Irish food is NOT the same thing as Irish-American food, and as such there will be no corned beef and cabbage, nor will there be any green beer. That’s not even Irish American food, that’s just drunken idiots at 8 am on St. Patrick’s Day, and let me tell you I do NOT miss living in a college town.
Instead, we’re going to go with a basic lamb stew, which as far as I can determine absolutely IS traditional Irish food. We will start, as always, by chopping up some onions. Also potatoes, carrots, and lamb.
Once we’ve mised our en place, we need to render some bacon. If I had read the directions more carefully, I would have chopped up the bacon BEFORE cooking it, but at least we managed to NOT set off the fire alarm this time.
Bacon fat rendered, it was time to brown the lamb. No, first it was time to transfer the fat over to our Dutch oven, where I should have just rendered the bacon in the first place. THEN we browned the lamb.
Once the lamb is seared, it comes out, and the veggies go in to soften up a bit. then you return the lamb to the pot with some stock (I used beef – who has time to make stock?) the veg, and some pearl barley.
And at this point, you may ask yourself, “Self?” (you may ask) “don’t we still have six potatoes to add to this pot? How are we going to stir those in without making a colossal mess?” (Admit it – you thought I was going to make a “Once in A Lifetime” reference there, didn’t you?)
This was supposed to go in the oven for a few hours, but we just kept it on the stovetop on low heat, because we needed the oven at a completely different temperature to make the one dish that James actually DOES concede is pretty good – soda bread!
“Soda” in this case means baking soda, not Faygo. I don’t know where I’d even GET Faygo around here, but if I could, it wouldn’t be a good choice for making this (or probably any) bread. Soda bread uses baking soda and something acidic (usually buttermilk) for leavening. It requires no kneading, no rise time, and only has four ingredients. It is the most absurdly simple loaf of bread I have ever made.
And here’s the full meal, with a Guinness for me, and a Guinness lager for Leigh, who does not particularly care for stouts. Also some nice Kerrygold cheese.
And frankly – it was good! Not a bonkers complicated spice palate like some countries, but just hearty comfort food. We got a good cut of lamb, and I suspect that made a big difference in the quality of the dish, since the meat could speak for itself.
Oh, and the bread was absolutely bangin’. I am literally making another loaf as I am typing this.
Irish food is tasty, and there’s no doubt we’ll finish the big pile of leftovers this meal produced. Next up, Israel!