For many with Irish heritage (or enthusiasm), corned beef and cabbage is the go-to meal for Saint Patrick’s Day. If you love lamb as I do, however, perhaps this is the year for a traditional Irish stew instead. Chunks of lamb braise to tenderness with broth, potatoes, carrots, and some herbs, resulting in a pot of old-country comfort food. An oatmeal skillet bread makes a great sidekick to the stew, and while it’s all cooking, you can keep hunger at bay with little blue cheese toasts topped with apple butter and walnuts. And a Guinness or two, I suppose. . . .
BLUE CHEESE TOASTS WITH APPLE BUTTER AND WALNUTS
Makes about 3 dozen
Cashel blue, a creamy cow’s-milk cheese, is the well-known Irish blue, but other mild varieties such as Gorgonzola dolce work here, too. Both the spread and the bread can be prepped separately a day or two ahead (store the cooled toasts in an airtight container). Recipe is adapted from one on kerrygoldusa.com.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup minced shallot (about 1 medium)
Salt and pepper
6 ounces Cashel blue cheese (about 1½ cups), at room temperature
2 ounces (¼ bar) cream cheese, at room temperature
5 slices bacon (about 5 ounces), cooked and crumbled, optional
1 ficelle, at least 12 inches long
6 tablespoons apple butter
36 attractive walnut halves, toasted and cooled
In a small skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the shallot and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 2 minutes. Scrape the shallot into a medium bowl, add the blue cheese or Gorgonzola, cream cheese, bacon, if using, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper, and stir until the mixture is uniform. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour for flavors to develop. Before assembling the toasts, return the mixture to room temperature.
Meanwhile, with the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim off the ends of the ficelle and bias-cut the loaf into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Arrange them in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly browned on both sides, 8 to 11 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Remove the toasts from the baking sheet and cool to room temperature.
Spread each toast with about 1½ teaspoons cheese mixture, followed by about ½ teaspoon apple butter and 1 walnut half, transfer them to a serving platter, and serve.
TIP: OATS EXPLAINED
Lamb shoulder blade chops can stand in for the boneless lamb shoulder roast. If you use the chops, some of the weight will be bones, which you’ll trim out, so buy extra.
8 medium carrots (about 1½ pounds), peeled
3½ to 4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder roast, trimmed of excess cut into 1½-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon neutral oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme and/or rosemary
3 bay leaves
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into ¾-inch pieces
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
With the rack in the lower-middle position, heat the oven to 325 degrees. Finely chop 2 carrots and set aside. Cut the remaining 6 carrots into 1-inch chunks and set aside separately.
In a medium bowl, toss the lamb with 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the flour. In a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half the lamb so that pieces are in a single layer (do not crowd) and cook undisturbed until deeply browned on the bottom, about 3½ minutes. Turn and cook until second side is deeply browned, about 3½ minutes longer; transfer the lamb to another medium bowl. Repeat with remaining lamb (adjusting heat as necessary to avoid burning); transfer to the bowl.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pot. Adjust heat under the pot to medium, add the chopped carrots, onions, thyme and/or rosemary, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to coat with the fat, cover, and cook, occasionally stirring and scraping the bottom of pot to dissolve the fond, until the vegetables are soft, about 6 minutes. Add the chicken broth, adjust the heat to medium-high, and scrape pot to dissolve remaining fond. Add the cooked lamb with accumulated juices, stir to combine, cover, and bake for 1 hour. Add the carrot chunks and potatoes, submerge them in the liquid, replace the cover, and continue to bake until the lamb and vegetables are very tender, about 1¼ hours longer. (If you’d like to thicken the stew, mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot).
Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Remove the bay leaves, add most of the parsley, stir, and serve, sprinkling each serving with the remaining parsley.
SAVORY OATMEAL AND THREE-ONION SKILLET BREAD
Makes 1 10-inch loaf
Use rolled (or old-fashioned) oats in this recipe, adapted from Country Baking by Ken Haedrich.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ teaspoons neutral oil
2 medium onions, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons minced or grated garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups rolled (or old-fashioned) oats
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup minced scallion whites and greens (about 5 large scallions)
With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium cast-iron skillet (or other heavy ovenproof pan) over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon butter and the oil until butter is melted and foaming subsides. Add the onions and ¾ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until the onion pieces are brown around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1¼ teaspoons salt. Whisk in the rolled oats and set aside. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs and brown sugar to combine. Add the buttermilk, scallions, and cooled onion mixture and whisk to combine.
Cut the remaining 3 tablespoons butter into small pieces and melt them in the hot skillet, about 30 seconds. Swirl to coat pan and pour excess butter into a small bowl. Add about 2 tablespoons of the melted butter to the liquid mixture and whisk to combine. Add the dry mixture and, using a flexible spatula, fold and stir until wet and dry ingredients are just incorporated (do not overmix). Scrape batter into the hot skillet, spread evenly, brush the surface with the remaining melted butter, and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Transfer the bread to a rack to cool, at least 20 minutes, and serve warm or at room temperature.Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.’’ Send comments to email@example.com.