Beyond Corned Beef & Cabbage

Cooking with Beer by | Mar 2013 | Issue #74

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

The food of Ireland is of simple origins. Most dishes are made with very fresh vegetables and meats, seasoned with salt and pepper. The traditional Irish diet includes potatoes, grain (oats and barley), lots of dairy (milk, cheese, butter) and, given Ireland’s proximity to the ocean, lots of seafood (salmon, trout, mussels). The recipes in this article pay homage to the Old World recipes of the Republic of Ireland, but with a modern twist.

Irish-Style Pot Roast
Pot roast is not only a comfort food, but a great way to cook a chuck roast: low and slow, in a mixture of vegetables along with some tasty beer. Adding star anise, coffee grounds and earthy mushrooms enhances the natural flavors of the Irish Stout and infuses those flavors into the meat. Try this version of pot roast with a side of Colcannon for a great Irish meal.

Serves: 4–6

2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black peppercorns, freshly cracked
1 tsp thyme, dried
1/2 tsp star anise, ground
1/2 tsp coffee, ground
4 lb. pot roast, such as a boneless chuck roast
2–3 tbsp rendered fat, such as Irish bacon or olive oil
2 each yellow onion, large, peeled and sliced
1 each leek, large, washed, cut in half and sliced
1 lb. crimini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
5 each carrots, large, peeled and sliced
3 each turnips, washed and chopped
3 each bay leaves, preferably fresh
1/4 bunch thyme, fresh
16 oz Irish Dry Stout, like Murphy’s or Beamish
1 qt beef stock, preferably homemade
3 tbsp butter, unsalted, room temperature
3 tbsp all-purpose flour

In a small bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, thyme, star anise and coffee grounds. Use about 2/3 of this to season the pot roast, rubbing into all sides of the meat. If possible, re-wrap the pot roast and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours to fully season the meat.

In a heavy skillet preheated over high heat, add the fat/oil and brown the pot roast on both sides, 2–4 minutes. Remove from the pan and place into a Crock-Pot. Add the prepared onions and leeks to the skillet and let caramelize for 7–9 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with the remaining salt blend, add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 or so minutes, until the mushrooms have released some of their juices. Add the carrots, turnips, bay leaves and thyme to the Crock-Pot and turn on high, setting the timer for 6 hours. Deglaze onion/leek/mushroom mixture with the Irish Stout, stirring to remove any of the fond, and pour into the Crock-Pot along with the beef stock. Cover and let cook until the timer goes off—resist the temptation to open the lid!

Once the timer goes off, check the pot roast to see that it is fork tender. If so, carefully strain the beer/beef liquid into a saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and reduce the cooking liquid by half. In a small bowl, mix together the butter and flour, making a paste-like substance called a beurre manié. Using a whisk, add some of the beurre manié to the boiling reduction until it has thickened to a gravy-like consistency. Remove the pot roast from the Crock-Pot and carefully transfer it to a cutting board. Slice the meat against the grain, serve with the stewed vegetables and top with a ladle full of the Irish Stout gravy.

Colcannon is a classic Irish potato dish that is a favorite around St. Patrick’s Day.

Serves: about 4–6 people as a side dish

1 lb. potatoes, white or Irish, peeled and quartered
12 oz Irish Red Ale
2 tsp kosher salt
8 tbsp Irish butter, such as Kerrygold, or vegetable oil (for vegans)
2 each leeks, washed, sliced in half and cut into half moons
1 lb. kale, washed, stems removed, chopped
2/3 cup cream, half & half or soy milk (for vegans)
salt and pepper to taste
cut chives to garnish

In a medium-size pot, add the cut-up potatoes (peeled or not—your preference), add the Irish Red Ale (reserving 2 ounces) and enough cold water to cover the potatoes by 2 inches. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to create a gentle simmer. Cook for 20–25 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, in a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of butter and let melt. Add the leeks with a pinch of salt and sauté until they are transparent, about 5–6 minutes. Add half of the kale, cooking until the leaves wilt, about 2–3 minutes. Then add the remaining kale and cook another 2–3 minutes. When all the kale is wilted, add the cream/half & half/soy milk, along with the reserved 2 ounces of Irish Red Ale, and let warm through. Turn off the heat and keep warm.

When the potatoes are done, pour through a colander and let drain for a minute, removing as much of the water as possible. Place the potatoes back into the pot and, using a potato masher, pulverize them to remove all lumps. Fold in the hot leek/kale mixture and adjust the seasoning with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Transfer the potatoes to an ovenproof serving dish. Make a few small wells in the center and add the remaining butter to it. Place under a broiler and lightly brown the top of the Colcannon for 2–5 minutes, depending on how closely set the dish is from the top of the broiler. To keep warm, place in a 300°F oven until ready to serve. Garnish with chives just before serving.

Alternatively, this dish can be made with parsnips instead of potatoes, and leeks as a substitute for the onions.

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

“Cream” (Ale) of Curried Parsnip Soup
This easy-to-make Irish soup is a perfect starter for any meal, or serve in a large bowl, paired with an Irish Stout for lunch.

Serves: 6–8 portions

4 tbsp Irish butter, such as Kerrygold (use vegetable oil for vegans)
2 each onions, yellow, large, peeled and sliced
2 each leeks, washed, sliced in half and cut into half moons
2 tsp kosher salt
3 each garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp oats, flaked
1 tbsp barley or all-purpose flour
2–3 tsp curry powder, such as Madras Curry powder (depending on your liking)
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and cubed
16 oz Wexford Irish Cream Ale, Sixpoint Sweet Action or other Cream Ale
1 qt vegetable stock
1 pt half & half, preferably organic, or soy milk
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
cut chives to garnish

In a Dutch oven or large pot, over medium heat, add the butter (or oil) and let melt. Then add the sliced onions, stirring to coat evenly with the butter and lightly season with kosher salt. Let the onions cook for 5–6 minutes, or until they become transparent. Add in the leeks and cook for another 4–5 minutes. Add in the chopped garlic, curry powder and flour, stirring well to create a roux and let the curry aroma bloom. After about 2 minutes, add the parsnips and deglaze with the Irish Cream Ale, scraping any fond (browned bits from the bottom of the pot) with a spatula. Add the remaining vegetable stock and bring the soup to a gentle simmer, adjusting the heat if needed. After 20 minutes, check the parsnips to make sure they are fork tender. Pour the half & half or soy milk into the pot and stir to combine.

In the pitcher of a blender, add some of the cooked soup in batches, filling only 1/2–2/3 full. Be careful not to overfill the blender with hot liquid, as the steam mixed with the swirling soup can spray out from the lid and burn. It’s best to cover the pitcher with its lid, and then use a kitchen towel to hold the lid. Starting on low speed, purée the soup until it’s mostly smooth and then increase the speed to high to create a super-fine purée. Pour this finished soup into a clean pot, fill the pitcher with the remaining soup and repeat the process. When all the soup is puréed, mix well and taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt or pepper as needed. Keep the soup warm until ready to serve and garnish with chopped chives.