St. Patrick's Day is Thursday, so you may be looking for an Irish-inspired recipe for your family or friends.
We'll get to that in a bit, but let's first take a quick look at another Irish tradition you should not ignore this St. Paddy's Day. Irish beer!
It is fashionable these days to pair beer and food, and it is a great idea, so give it a try. As we are on an Irish theme, let's take a look at a few of the Irish beer styles available in Mississippi.
The Irish produce some of the best in the world.
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Guinness, first brewed in 1759, perhaps is the most famous. It is a dry stout, quite different from the American-style beer, and is well worth a try. Look for rich chocolate and coffee flavors.
Smithwick Irish Ale has been around for more than 300 years. It is a red Irish ale and has a sweet malty taste, but is a bit understated. It is a good ale for beginners.
George Killian's Irish Red is a lager that is a newcomer, having first been brewed in 1864. It is creamy, a tad bitter, and tastes of sweet caramel and roasted malt.
Murphy's Stout is a dry Irish stout. It is black and has a thick, creamy head, with hints of roasted grain and toast.
Now that you know a bit about a few Irish beer styles, what are you going to pair your newfound favorite with?
Perhaps it is a cliché, but why not an Irish stew? A traditional Irish stew is made with mutton and root vegetables, but there is no reason for the recipe to be too rigid.
There are purists who say it can be called an Irish stew only when it is made with neck of mutton, onions and water, but more often than not you will find carrots, turnips and barley as well.
A GOOD IRISH STEW
3 pounds lamb shoulder
1/2 cup flour
3 large potatoes
2-3 large carrots
4-6 stalks celery
4-6 chopped cloves of garlic
Optional sliced mushrooms
1 small bunch rosemary and thyme
2 quarts beef stock
1 12-ounce can of Guinness
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Salt and pepper
Cube the lamb and the vegetables; bite size is just fine. Season the meat aggressively, toss in the flour and then sear in a pan with hot oil. Remove the meat, add the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes. If you are using the mushrooms, add them now. Deglaze the pan with the Guinness. Add the meat, herbs and the stock and simmer for 2-3 hours. Taste and reseason as necessary. Remove the herbs before serving (tying them in a bundle will make this easier). Serve with cold Guinness.
SIMPLE MULLIGAN STEW
The focus of this stew is that almost anything will do well in it. Use any cut of beef, add or subtract vegetables, even sweet potato would be an interesting option. The true spirit of this stew is a bunch of fellows gathering around a fire and adding to a big pot, set on a wood fire, whatever they had been able to "harvest that day."
1 pound beef brisket
1 chopped onion
4-6 large carrots
2-3 large potatoes
4-6 cloves chopped garlic
2-3 tablespoons flour
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
1 small bunch Italian parsley
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes
Here is a stew idea with Southern roots. Please remember, a recipe is only a suggestion, so if there is something in this recipe you do not like, just leave it out. Feel free to substitute almost any vegetable, herb or spice you like. Make this recipe your own! You might enjoy making this as a savory meat pie by placing the finished stew in individual ovenproof bowls, and covering with a fitted round of frozen pie crust you can buy at almost any grocery store. Follow the package directions to bake the pie to a nice golden brown.
SIMPLE BEEF STEW
1-2 pounds beef cubed for stewing
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large sweet potato
2-3 chopped carrots
1 large red onion
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped bell pepper
½ cup chopped okra
4 cups beef stock
Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
Optional: Frozen pie crust for pastry topping
Season the flour with salt and pepper, toss the cubed beef in the flour, shake off the excess, then sauté to a golden brown in hot oil. Add the okra and cook for 5 minutes, now add the rest of the vegetables and cook 5 minutes more. Remember to season as you go. Add the stock and beef, bring to a simmer and cook until the beef and vegetables are tender. If the stew is not thick enough, add 1 tablespoon of corn starch to half-cup of cold water, whisk the mixture into the stew and bring back to a full simmer. Be careful adding corn starch as a thickener. If you add too much, your meal is ruined and all you will have is a bowl of paste.
Julian Brunt, who is from a family with deep Southern roots, writes Coast Cooking in Wednesday's Sun Herald and has a blog at sunherald.com.