By Kathi Dameron
Imagine a progressive bacchanalian feast of traditional cuisine and festive merriment. The setting was Dublin, Ireland and the weekend was coming to a close. It was our last night on our impromptu weekend getaway.
On that night the four of us in my group of weekend explorers could not decide on where we wanted to eat dinner. That was when we hatched our idea, a delicious and perhaps slightly hedonistic solution.
“Let’s restaurant hop!” one of us suggested.
In a cooperative spirit of eager anticipation, we selected a different restaurant for each course of our dinner. Our inspiration was a take-off from an entertaining idea that had been popular back at home before we had shipped off for our semester in London, England. Glossy American gourmet-type books and magazines had been showcasing intriguing feature stories on how their readers could create progressive dinner parties.
Succinctly put, that last night in Dublin could best be described as ‘progressive dinner meets pub-hopping without the stout.’ We were drunk, but not on intoxicating and forbidden ale, but rather on the great joy of traveling with friends and experiencing life’s serendipitous and unforgettable moments.
Among the foods that we sampled that evening was one of the rustic entrees that Ireland is famous for.
“You must sample me Irish Stew!” the lad with the slurred Gaelic dialect told us. “Ai let me bring you out a sample. ‘Tis the best in all of Ireland.” The waiter promised before scuttling off to the kitchen.
Within minutes our Irish waiter returned to our linen covered table with a warm from the oven fragrant loaf of Irish soda bread, and shortly thereafter with four small steamy bowls of rich and earthy Irish lamb stew that we all later confirmed as simply divine.
An authentic Irish stew is made with large chunks of vegetables. However, in my version of the recipe, the chunks are prepared a tad bit smaller so that each person’s portion of the stew can easily be ladled into individual round crusty loaves of homemade bread. These shepherd style loaves when hollowed out, brushed with flavor spiked garlic and herb melted butter and filled with mouthwatering lamb stew create a most delightful smile-popping presentation.
Add a crisp green salad, a basket of Irish soda bread, an impressive dessert, a carafe of Irish coffee, some fun Irish folk ballads and perhaps a small wrapped token of friendship at each place setting for a gracious Irish themed get together perfect for a St. Patrick’s Celebration with friends in the comfort of your own home. Before you know it, your dinner companions will be singing ballads of joy and appreciation for blessing them with a wonderful and memorable moment in time.
Old Fashioned Irish Stew Recipe
8 lamb chops
water or home-made lamb stock, to amply cover
1 clove garlic, minced
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
2 sage leaves
2 sprigs parsley
4 large carrots
1 large turnip
4 large onions
12 medium potatoes
butter or olive oil, herbs and garlic
individual bread bowls, you can use store-bought bakery rolls, frozen bread dough or hand kneaded homemade breads fashioned into individual bread bowls. Good quality hearth baked artisan bakery rolls can be just as delicious and are a fabulous time saver.
Place the lamb chops in a large saucepan. Add water or lamb stock, garlic, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Tie the herbs into a bouquet garni and place in the saucepan.
Bring to a gentle boil, and then reduce temperature to a simmer. Meanwhile wash and coarsely chop the vegetables in halves, thirds or fourths.
Layer the vegetables. Sprinkle each layer of vegetables with a light dusting of sea salt, fresh ground black pepper and any additional favorite seasoning you generally like to use. The top layer should be potato. Dot with butter or drizzle with herb or truffle-spiked olive oil, if you dare.
Return pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about two hours.
Meanwhile slice the top off of your individual bread bowls. Hollow out the center to create a bowl for each person, making sure to leave just enough bread on the bottoms and sides to facilitate vessel-holding attributes. Brush the interior of the bread bowls with garlic and herb spiked melted butter or olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.
Just before serving fill bread bowls with hot cooked stew and toast lightly.
(c) Kathi Dameron 2007
Kathi Dameron is a former caterer and event designer. She owns Kathi Dameron and Associates.She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org