With the approach of this weekend's Irish Festival at the 5th Regiment Armory at Howard and Preston streets in Baltimore, local restaurants competed to see which could make the best Irish stew.
Chefs from six restaurants cooked lamb, vegetables and gravy seasoned with ale. But in the end, it was a bakery with an English surname that won over the judges. Here's the winning recipe from Atwater's bakery:
Atwater's Irish Stew
Serves 4 to 6
salt and pepper
5 pounds leg of lamb (trimmed and cubed)
1 pound pearl onions (peeled)
1 pound red bliss potatoes, 1/2 inch dice
7 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh sage
1 gallon of chicken stock
12 ounces Guinness or other thick stout
2 cups cooked barley
1 pint half-and-half (optional)
Season and brown lamb on all sides in hot pan. Roast vegetables in 450-degree oven until slightly brown and remove. Stir in flour with the vegetables and put back in the oven for 5 minutes.
Remove vegetables from oven and stir in meat. Add herb sprigs and add enough stock and the beer to cover meat and vegetables by 1/2 inch.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and place stew lightly covered with parchment paper or foil in oven for 2 hours. Remove from oven, stir in barley, half-and-half (optional) and season to taste.