You can smell it before the bowl hits the table: chunks of beef, potatoes, onions and carrots, all glistening in a gravy that hints of Guinness, Worcestershire sauce and herbs. It's the stew served at just about every Stateside pub that sports a Celtic font.
Except it's not really Irish.
"Definitely gives people the wrong idea," says chef-restaurateur Cathal Armstrong, who just published "My Irish Table: Recipes From the Homeland and Restaurant Eve," with co-author David Hagedorn (Ten Speed Press).
The Irish stew in their book is closer to the real deal, but even that recipe calls for the non-traditional step of first searing the meat - lamb on the bone - to give it color. Armstrong confirms that a thin, bland broth, onions and potatoes are the other authentic components.
4 to 6 servings (makes about 5 cups); the stew can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
1 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder
5 3/4 cups no-salt-added chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 pound russet potatoes
4 ounces carrots
4 ounces leeks
4 ounces celery
4 ounces white or green cabbage
1 medium onion
1 bouquet garni, tied with kitchen twine (a few stems parsley and thyme and a bay leaf)
Freshly ground black pepper
14 ounces home-cooked or canned, no-salt-added cannellini beans (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Cut the lamb into 1-inch pieces, discarding as much visible fat as possible as you work.
Combine the lamb and broth in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil over high heat; skim off and discard any foam and fat from the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, then cut them into 1-inch pieces. Scrub the carrots well, then cut them into 1-inch pieces. Cut the white and light-green parts of the leeks into 1-inch pieces; soak in a bowl of water without disturbing them, then rinse well and drain. Cut the celery, cabbage and onion into 1-inch pieces.
Add all of the vegetables and the bouquet garni to the pot; increase the heat to high just to bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until the lamb is tender.
Add the cannellini beans, if using; cook for a few minutes, just until warmed through. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Serve hot, sprinkled with parsley and with warm Irish soda bread.
Nutrition per serving (based on 6): 260 calories, 27 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar