One of my favorite memories of a recent trip to Ireland is spending time in an Irish pub with one of my best friends enjoying a few stout Guinnesses surrounded by a bunch of Irishmen amazed that we were actually enjoying their beloved brew. After a couple of rounds, the bartender asked if we'd like to try the pub's signature beef-and-Guinness pie. I'd never had it before, so thought there was no better place to try it.
And now, with St. Paddy's Day right around the corner, there's no better time to make it. Forget green dye and Lucky Charms.
Most Americans think of corned beef and cabbage as the dish to eat on St. Patrick's Day. Actually, I discovered on this trip, corned beef and cabbage is an American invention. You can find it in Irish restaurants that cater to Americans, but I didn't find it in any of the pubs frequented by locals.
Instead, most menus featured dishes containing Dublin's famous beer, including pasties and other meat pies.
This recipe is one I found in The New York Times on my return home and have made it several times, finding it comes close to that I had in Ireland. It calls for trotter gear, a jellied broth made from pigs' feet, vegetables and Madeira "that imparts an intensely flavorful, lip-sticking quality to any stew or soup to which it is added." Trotter gear is not readily available stateside, so cheddar cheese makes a tasty substitute. Making your own pastry using this recipe is worth the extra the time it takes, though if you're in a hurry, puff pastry or a refrigerated pie crust will do.
Serve the pie with a side of peas to add a little green. This is the ultimate kind of comfort food — creamy, rich beef stew enveloped in pastry that will bring out the Irish in you.
For the stew:
4 tablespoons butter
2 large red onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
10 mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
3 pounds brisket or stew meat, chopped into bite-size pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 sprig rosemary
About 4 cups (2 cans) Guinness or other stout
1 cup trotter gear or 8 ounces freshly grated cheddar cheese
For the pastry:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large, ovenproof pan fitted with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the carrots, celery, mushrooms and remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are dark in color and the moisture released by them has evaporated, about 15 minutes.
Season the beef pieces all over with salt and pepper. Add the beef, flour and rosemary to the pan, and cook over high heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
Add enough Guinness to just cover the beef. Cover the pan and put it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and stir. If using trotter gear, stir it in now. Return to the oven and cook for 1 hour more. If it remains thin, set the pan over medium-low heat, remove the lid and reduce the liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If using cheddar, fold in about half of it.
While the stew is cooking, prepare the pastry: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or your hands, quickly work the butter into the dough until it is the texture of coarse meal. Add ice water, a splash at a time, until a firm dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Place the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and, using a rolling pin, roll to the thickness of a computer mouse pad. Pour the stew into an 8-inch-square, 2-inch-high Pyrex dish or a deep 9-inch pie pan. If using cheddar, scatter the remaining cheese across the top. Place the dough on top of the pie and pinch it closed around the edges using the tines of a fork, then slash the center lightly with a knife. Brush with the egg yolk, place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is puffy and golden.
Girl Scout Cookies ... All Grown Up
Area adults can indulge in their favorite Girl Scout Cookie cravings at Cookie Creations, an adults-only event to benefit Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians. The event is scheduled to take place 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, at The Turnbull Building, 1401 Fort St.
Cookie Creations, open to Girl Scout alumnae, non-Girl Scouts and their significant others, features sweet and savory cookie-inspired dishes paired with libations from Brewski craft beer and Chattanooga Whiskey. Proceeds will be used to support Girl Scouts and provide life-changing experiences to girls in our community.
Tickets for this delicious event are $75 per person and may be purchased online at www.girlscoutcsa.org/CookieCreations.
If you are unable to attend, but would like to support Girl Scouts in our area with a financial donation, you can donate online or send a check to Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians, 1567 Downtown West Blvd., Knoxville, TN 37919.
Email Anne Braly at email@example.com.