By Terry Boyd, Blue Kitchen
2 tablespoons canola oil (plus more, if needed)
1 tablespoon butter
1-1/4 pounds lamb, cut into bite-sized chunks (see Kitchen Notes)
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, divided
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 bay leaf
12 ounces dark beer, such as a stout [can be omitted]
12 ounces chicken broth or stock
1 cup water (plus more, if needed)
1 turnip, peeled and cut into chunks
3 carrots, peeled and sliced on diagonal into bite-sized chunks
5 red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-sized chunks, but not peeled (1-1/2 to 2 pounds)
For roux (optional):
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
Season lamb with salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme. In a dutch oven, heat canola oil and butter over medium-high flame, swirling to combine. Brown lamb in batches, 3 or 4 minutes per batch, transferring to a bowl as it is done. Reduce heat to medium and sauté onion until translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes, adding more oil if necessary. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add flour and remaining thyme, stirring constantly until flour is slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add beer and stir, scraping up any browned bits in pot. Stir in broth, water, turnip and carrots. Return meat to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, cover pot and simmer stew for 1/2 hour.
Add potatoes to pot and cook covered until potatoes are almost tender, about 1/2 hour, adding water by 1/4 cups, if necessary (it probably won't be). Uncover pot and continue cooking until lamb is tender, another 15 minutes or so. Meanwhile, check the sauce. It will probably be fairly soupy; some people prefer it this way. If you’d like your sauce a little thicker, make a quick roux. Heat a small skillet over a medium-low flame. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of flour, stirring with a whisk. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to brown. Add a scant 1/4 cup of water, stirring to blend. Stir resulting roux into stew pot and let it cook a few minutes longer. Adjust seasonings and serve immediately.
Selecting lamb for stew. You can sometimes find lamb stew meat, pre-cut. If not, look for boneless lamb shoulder or bone-in lamb shoulder chops. If you opt for the chops, cut into chunks before cooking and trim away some of the excess fat (but don't go crazy here – a little fat adds flavor). Reserve the bones and brown with the meat, adding them back to the pot along with the browned lamb for added flavor. Remove bones before serving.