Easy Eats: Irish Style

11 Mar

St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching and the way I see it you’ve got two options. You can put on a green t shirt and head to town to get your party on, drinking green-dyed American beer while wearing a sparkly green hat resembling nothing ever worn in Ireland and make stupid potato and leprechaun jokes with the rest of the frat boys. Or, you could cook yourself some yummy Irish food and drink some legit Irish beer in the comfort of your own home, perhaps with some decent Irish tunes blaring away. Guess which one I’m going with.

We’ll begin with stew. A staple of Irish food – at least traditional Irish food since the Irish culinary scene is growing rapidly and I believe they’ve expanded beyond stew now. Like America has expanded beyond the cheese burger. Kind of.

Anyway.

Guinness Beef Stew

2 1/4 pounds stew meat
2 Tbsp. and 3/4 t canola oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup and 5 Tbsp. Guinness, divided
2 1/4 t light brown sugar
3/4 t thyme
3/4 oz Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped (yummy!)
1 small bag of baby carrots
3/4-1 pounds of baby red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
3 Tbsp. flour

Pat beef dry with paper towels, season with generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp. of canola oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the beef in batches, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to slower cooker. Continue until you’ve browned all your beef, adding more oil as needed.

Now add your remaining oil and onions. Cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add in the chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups Guinness, light brown sugar, thyme and chocolate. Bring to a boil and using wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Transfer to the slow cooker.

Add the carrots and potatoes to the slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 9 to 10 hours, or on high for 6 to 7 hours.

At the end of your cooking time, turn the slow cooker up to high. Whisk the flour and remaining Guinnes until smooth. Now stir your Guinness paste into the stew mixture. Cover and cook an additional 15 minutes until the sauce thickens. I like mine really thick, so sometimes I whisk up a little additional Guinness paste to make it even thicker. Depends on what ya like! Season it with a little extra salt and pepper.

Now to really enjoy this stew you need Irish soda bread. This isn’t quite ‘traditional’ because I do believe traditional Irish soda bread includes yellow raisins or something but I don’t like stuff in my bread.

This is a simple, simple, simple no fail homemade bread. It will take just a few minutes and you will be a happy happy happy foux Irish person when its finished.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp. white sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 Tbsp. baking power
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup margarine, soft
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg

And
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup butter milk

Preheat your oven to 375 and lightly grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Dough will be kinda rough looking!  Knead the dough just a bit. Form into a round and place on the baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of the loaf.

Mix the melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk and brush the loaf with the mixture.

Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Continue brushing the loaf with the butter mixture as it bakes, every 10-15 minutes or so.

Serve your stew and soda bread the proper way, with a pint of Guinness. Or if you don’t prefer Guinness, try a Smithwicks. It’s my personal preference for all meals and all days – not just this Irish holiday.

You’ll need desert of course and since I don’t know anything about traditional Irish deserts I’m going to suggest we celebrate by paying homage to great Irish boozes by way of the cupcake.

Irish Whiskey-Beer Cupcakes with Bailey’s Frosting

I’m not sure these fit in the “Easy Eats” category. They aren’t complicated but they do take some time. Beyond the time, they take a bit of cash since Guinness, Irish Whiskey and Baileys all come at a premium. Buy mini bottles or store brands. There are many versions of this recipe – I like this one from Smitten Kitchen.

We begin with the cake:

1 cup Guinness (or Murphy’s if your making these on the cheap)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in a pan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Warning – in my experience – this looks like sludge. I don’t know if its supposed to, but it always does and cupcakes taste fine. Do not taste this mixture. Cool it slightly.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just until combined. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.

Pour into cupcake liners and bake em up at 350 for about 17 minutes. Just keep an eye on them and use the ole tooth pick test to see if they are done.

Moving on to the filling…

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I like to use chips)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Place chocolate in a bowl (chop to small pieces if using large squares). Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Begin whisking the mixture and keep going until all the chocolate is melted, shiny and smooth, adding the butter and whiskey as the chocolate melts.

Allow the filling to cool until it thickens but is still able to be piped through a bag. In the meantime, cut holes in the middle of your cupcakes. You can do this with an apple corer or any brilliant way you come up with. Just get a nickle-sized round hole in the middle and go about 2/3 of the way to the bottom.

Put the filling into a piping bag (also known as a plastic baggie with the tip cut off at my house) and begin piping the filling into the cupcakes.

Frosting Time!

Note this makes just enough – double if you like a thicker layer of frosting.

3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Whip the butter in a bowl with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined.

Now frost and decorate however you like!

Shorter versions:

I know this is time consuming so in a crunch I have done both of the following. Skip the filling all together. Or, make the filling and before you allow it to cool or thicken, dip your cupcakes in the frosting to get a nice shiny layer on the top. Once those cool and firm up, pipe the baileys frosting right onto the top of the chocolate frosting layer.

You’re all set for a proper St. Paddy’s Day! Top it all off by plugging  The Dubliners, The Young Dubliners, Christy Moore, The Pogues and Flogging Molly into a Pandora station to get yourself an Irish music station that’s a nice mix of traditional, popular and punk rock Irish fun.

Slainte!

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