St. Patrick's Day, Virginia-StyleMarch 16, 2013
This St. Patrick’s Day, revelers from Boston to Miami will be donning green, guzzling beer, and otherwise reveling in the luck of the Irish. Meanwhile, in Virginia, shepherd Craig Rogers will be hard at work tending to the herds of sheep that roam his Border Springs Farm.
Rogers, a former professor and small-business CEO, first moved to Border Springs to train sheepdogs for competition. He and his wife arrived on the property with six sheep and a border collie. “Then I became something of a sheep hoarder,” he says. “I ended up with six hundred sheep and needed to find something to do with them.”
After some thought, Rogers says, he arrived at a goal: “I decided to sell my lambs to the best chefs on the East Coast.” Five years and lots of good word-of-mouth later, Border Springs has become synonymous with high-quality mutton on restaurant menus all over the South. And Rogers is working hard as ever to keep the farm on top. “Some people are suspicious of career-changers,” he says. “But we sweat just as much, and get just as dirty, as anyone else. I use the title ‘shepherd’ very proudly.”
Mutton is a key ingredient on any Irish menu. To commemorate this weekend’s holiday, try Rogers’ take on Irish Stew, a simple but hearty shepherd’s supper.
Craig Rogers' Irish-American Lamb Stew
1 boneless leg of lamb or 3 lbs. cubed lamb
1 clove garlic
½ lb. rustic cut onions or better yet white pearl onions, blanched and peeled
¼ tsp. dried thyme
12 oz. Guinness, other stout beer (Rogers likes Flying Dog's Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout, made using Rappahannock River Oysters), or red wine
2 tsp. butter
1 ¾ cups lamb stock or beef broth
6 oz. tomato paste
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups frozen baby peas
¾ cups diced carrots
1 lb. white mushrooms, large ones halved
1 cup light cream or half and half
¼ cup flour
Brown lamb, garlic, onions and thyme, in butter in large Dutch oven or heavy saucepan with tight fitting cover. Add stout beer (or wine), lamb stock, tomato paste, salt, pepper. Cover and simmer 45 minutes. Skim off any excess fat.
Add peas, carrots and mushrooms. Cover and simmer an additional 15 minutes, or until lamb and vegetables are tender.
Whisk flour into cream. Blend into simmering stew and bring back to a low boil. Cook 2 minutes, stirring until thickened. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve with mashed potatoes or place stew in soup bowls and top with a covering of mashed potatoes.