My father used to say that we were "Black Irish". I always thought that was because my family migrated from Ireland, had olive skin and dark hair, but there are a lot of theories as to where that colorful description came from. My favorite explanation is that in 1588 while trying to defeat the English, the Spanish Armada shipwrecked off the coast of Ireland and the survivors married into Irish society, thus creating a darker version of the traditionally light-skinned, red-haired Irish person. Sounds so romantic!
This stew celebrates the flavors of southern Spain but keeps the Irish tradition alive and well by using spring lamb and is served, of course, with potatoes. I recommend pairing this delightful stew with a local Murphys wine called Payaso from Villa Vallecito Vineyards, a blend of spicy Grenache and smooth, fruity Syrah. This flavor profile makes it the perfect wine to drink with this celebratory dish, especially because of Murphys' Irish heritage and the fact that "Payaso" means "clown" in Spanish—around these parts, St. Paddy's Day aka Irish Day has a tendency to get really silly. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
'Black Irish' Stew
2 T good olive oil
4 slices, thick sliced bacon, cut into a 1/2" dice
2 lbs ground lamb
1 med onion, peeled and chopped into a 1/2" dice
6 cloves garlic, peeled an chopped finely
2 t dried, minced garlic (for intensity)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into a rough 1/2" dice
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into a rough 1/2" dice
2 T oregano
1/4 t allspice
1 t ea cumin, coriander, sumac and turmeric
2 c good, fruity but dry, red wine
6 c chicken broth
1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 c frozen peas
sea salt & fresh ground pepper
parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a large soup/stew pot, add the bacon and fry until browned and crispy. Add the lamb, breaking up larger clumps but leaving small ones for texture, cook until browned. Add onions, carrots, parsnips, garlic and all of the spices. Cook. stirring occasionally until the veggies are softened, about 15 minutes. Add the wine, broth and tomatoes and stir well. Bring to a boil and skim off the foam. Cover and cook on low heat for about an hour until all of the flavors have blended. Right before serving, add the peas. This stew is even better the next day, so make it easy on yourself and make it a day ahead or freeze for longer. Serve with Champ.
2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 bunches green onions, cleaned and chopped into 1/2" dice
1 c cream, enough to barely cover the chopped onions
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 20-25 minutes until very tender. Drain and then return to the pot. Cover and continue to evaporate moisture by shaking the pot over low heat for another couple of minutes. Mash the potatoes with a masher by hand, adding the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Put the green onions in a small pan with just enough cream to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Mix into the potatoes and check seasonings, serve immediately.