Meaty stews can be rich comfort foods ... that often come at a nutritional price. But giving a bit of thought to your choice and quantity of meat can lower the cost of comfort.
When making beef stew, chuck is the best choice. Bottom round, which is leaner but still has enough fat to keep it moist and flavorful, also works well, especially if you cook it low and slow — that is, for a long time at low heat.
Pork butt and shoulder definitely make for flavorful results, but are high in fat. Lower-fat pork sirloin and tenderloin can make a sumptuous and tender stew. But they must be cooked for less time, usually under an hour, so they don’t end up tough and dry.
For lamb stew, leg meat is considerably lower in fat than other cuts and offers great flavor. The leg meat contains enough connective tissue so that it becomes relatively tender when cooked at a low temperature for a long time.
To keep things significantly healthier, always be sure to trim all meats of any visible fat before you cook them.
Another strategy for making a stew lean is to load it with vegetables. They add essential flavor and are filling, but low in fat and calories. Mushrooms in particular add a deep, satisfying flavor to stew, plus they have a chewy, almost meaty texture.
This Irish lamb stew has all the flavors you’ll want for a St. Patrick’s Day meal. And the prep couldn’t be simpler: combine everything in a slow cooker set on low. Enjoy it eight hours later.
The stew is made with lean, boneless leg of lamb plus plenty of potatoes, leeks, carrots and celery. Chopped fresh thyme and parsley add an aromatic layer, plus a welcome touch of bright green.
Irish Lamb Stew
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 3/4 pounds white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 large leeks, whites only, halved, washed and thinly sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped
In a 6-quart slow cooker, combine the lamb, potatoes, leeks, carrots, celery, broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir well. Cover the slow cooker, then cook on low until the lamb is fork-tender, about 7 to 8 hours. Stir in the parsley just before serving.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 266 calories; 7 grams fat (2 grams saturated); 65 milligrams cholesterol; 27 grams carbohydrate; 23 grams protein; 4 grams fiber; 427 milligrams sodium.
— Recipe from “EatingWell Comfort Foods Made Healthy,” The Countryman Press, 2009