There was something about Josh Landau’s beef stew. Something different, something fragrant and herbal … something wonderful.
Of all the stews at the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ Annual Stew Cook-Off, held last night at Finnigan’s Wake, Landau’s stood out. So I asked him what he put in his beef stew that made it so tasty.
Landau, the garde manger (sous-chef) at Colleen’s at 22nd and the Parkway, wasn’t giving away many secrets about his stew. (Neither was anyone else.) But for the benefit of gastronomic idiots like me, Landau was perfectly willing to share just one secret.
“It’s lamb,” he said. “There’s no beef in it.”
But I don’t like lamb, do I?
Well, not until last night, anyway. Seems everyone else knew it was lamb, but my past experience with cooked sheep has been that it tastes more or less like a live sheep smells.
Ah, but I was in the hands of a master. And the judges—amazingly, they were able to tell the difference between a cow and a sheep—concurred with my amateur assessment and awarded Landau first prize.
Landau said he worked hard to tame the usual “gaminess” of the lamb in his stew. How? His lips are sealed. “A little bit of fresh rosemary and thyme,” he acknowledged, not very helpfully. “And garlic … what’s food without garlic?”
The recipe has been in his family, Landau said. (A family that includes the actor Martin Landau, Josh’s uncle.) “I just changed it a bit to suit my own palate,” he said.
The victory was especially grand for Landau, who was competing in the event for the first time. He’d also never made Irish stew before.
Taking second was another first-time contender, the team from the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians Div. 1 (Center City). Representing the division were Ann Marie Parkinson and Kathy Higgins. They had toyed going with a lamb-based recipe. The only other contender using that ingredient was Phil Bowdren of AOH Div. 51 (Fishtown). “We were thinking about it right up until this morning,” said Ann Marie, “but at the last moment, we changed our minds.”
The division had a little help from the Red Rooster Inn in Northeast Philadelphia. “It’s their recipe and mine that we mix together,” Ann Marie said. “I started with theirs, and then I added in some family secrets.”
Winner of third place was Paddy’s Well.
The event is one of the showcases fund-raisers of the Hibernian Hunger Project. Proceeds go to groups like “Aid for Friends”, which provides meals for those in need.