Cold Weather Comfort: Red-Headed Step Child Stew

I present for your discerning palates a recipe that has taken time to perfect. Lessons have been learned and lost, taste buds have been insulted, and children have gone to bed hungry as a result. All of this is behind me, and I give you my Red-Headed Step Child Stew.

You don't want to beat it, but I wouldn't get too attached- it is, after all, lamb.

As supermarket available meats are concerned, lamb is perhaps the most demanding to prepare. You can choose a stringy cut of beef from a docile cow, dry the hell out of free-range chicken, or burn the crap out of Miss Piggy's pork chops. And turkey? Well, the less said about that bird, the better.

All of these catastrophes exist with lamb as well, but with an additional consternation: gaminess. If you are used to preparing deer, bear or squirrel, the solution should be no surprise. Lamb should not be an impulse meal - good planning brings great results. Age the meat in a milk bath overnight, two nights if you really want to push the envelope of taste and tenderness. Think of a seductive vampiress soaking in a claw-footed tub filled with virgin blood. Same result.

Now, with this being an Irish-spawned stew, potatoes are a must. You're not going to want to peel these little spuds, but instead, leave the skin on. This adds flavor, color and vitamins. An added bonus is you don't have to peel them. Scrub them down, chop into 1" cubes and toss in the pot.

One last tip for flavor: Crock-pot this sucker. 10 hours, minimum, or 24+ for the juiciest results.

Ready? Here we go:
3 pounds potatoes. Cubed
2 pounds onions, rough chopped
3 pounds boneless lean lamb, milk bathed, then browned. Cubed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups beef broth
Extra broth to submerge all ingredients (varies for pot size)
Add the potatoes, onions, meat, herbs and spices in a large, ovenproof casserole with a lid, or crockpot with lid. Pour in the broth, adding extra liquid to ensure all ingredients are submerged, and cover tightly. If using the oven for a 'quick' fix, bake for 2 1/2 hours at 250ºF. Uncover and bake 1 hour longer. If going the recommended route, drop that dial to slow cook and let her rip. (The stew can also be simmered on top of the stove, using the same procedure.)

Serve with a nice loaf of bread, and a crisp Riesling for killer compliments.

Tomorrow, I will bring you the Reformation.

Eat well.