everyone who knows me knows how proud i am to be irish. granted, i am a typical american mutt (or melting pot, if you will), but still i like to point out the fact that my great grandfather immigrated over from ireland, and while his irish blood has been watered down with every other ethnicity by the time it’s reached me, i still like to claim, “i have irish from all my grandparents, so that makes me at least half, right?” RIGHT??? thank you for the validation. 🙂
maybe it’s the freckles on my face that, as a child no matter how hard i tried to rub off or cover up with makeup these “imperfections” they never disappeared, cause me to identify more closely with my irish heritage. or maybe it’s the natural strawberry red highlights in my brown hair, an exact color that is hard to find here, but in ireland i saw every where i turned. or perhaps even it’s my desire to belong to a group of people that have been (no matter how long ago in history) outcast by society, a desire to belong to the minority in order to give a deeper purpose behind my passion for helping those society has a prejudice against. but as small of a trace as that blood may be in my body, there is something irish there that causes my soul to leap in dance when i hear an irish jig, to ache when it hears an old irish ballad, and to laugh and sing and shout along with irish drinking songs. and it even (much to my best friend’s amusement) caused me to exclaim under my breath the second i stepped off the airplane in dublin, “oh. these are my people!” (i know, BIG dork.) but i will proudly claim my irish heritage ’til the day i die.
besides, they have great beer and damn good whiskey.
with that said, ANY recipe that has beer in it, in my book, cannot go wrong. so when a co-worker (also irish) brought for lunch one day this soup she had made, i knew i had to have the recipe. it comes from a cookbook called The Irish Pub Cookbook, by Margaret M. Johnson. I’ve only made two of the recipes so far (the second recipe, brown soda bread, i will post tomorrow, so that you can make it to accompany the guinness stew), but the rest of the recipes in it look to die for. i made some adjustments to this, so it’s an “adapted from” recipe — among other changes, i HAD to throw some whiskey in there…for good measure…and to make my ancestors proud of me. 🙂
1 lb. beef sirloin, cut into 1-inch cubes (i am completely clueless when it comes to red meat, so don’t feel restricted to sirloin. this last time i made it, i bought a rump looking thing, and in my opinion, the meat was more tender than i remember the sirloin being.)
salt and pepper to taste
flour for dredging
4 T. butter
½ c. olive oil
1 c. chopped onions
2 c. beef stock (the last time i made this, i actually used chicken broth, and it tasted just fine)
2 c. Guinness (or any stout or porter will do. a chocolate/double chocolate stout would be delicious!)
½ c. irish whiskey*
5 carrots, diced
4-5 medium sized potatoes (you can even mix this up with a sweet potato or two. the original recipe called for 4 parsnips and 1 turnip)
3-5 springs fresh thyme, depending on what your tastebuds tell you
1) season meat with salt and pepper. dredge in flour. in a stockpot, melt butter with oil over medium heat. cook meat 5-7 minutes, or until browned. add onions; cook for another 3-5 minutes.
2) add broth, guinness/beer, and whiskey (and go ahead and take a shot of whiskey to warm you up on this cold winter night). bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low. simmer 30 minutes. (if you are making the brown soda bread recipe, make it now during this 30-minute down time.) add remaining ingredients. simmer for 45 minutes, or until veggies and meat are tender. feel free to add more salt if you feel like it needs it.
get creative with your veggies and herbs. try adding celery, or parnips and turnips like the original recipe calls for, or even leeks. experiment with other green herbs, like tarragon or marjoram. maybe even a bay leaf or two. i’ve even seen other recipes use lamb instead of beef, if you feel like forkin’ over the dough to buy lamb.
serve and devour heartily.
*trivia of the day: did you know there is a difference between WHISKY and WHISKEY? the word spelled “whisky” (with no “e”) is reserved only for that made in scotland — scotch. whiskEy, on the other hand, is the rest of the stuff: whether irish, canadian, or american (like jack daniels). now, here in america you may not see labels abide by this rule (in fact, many american distillers scoff at this scottish snobbery and will use whisky–no “e”–on their labels just to spite the scotch distillers), but in the UK (and especially among scotch distillers who want to distinguish between scotch whiskey and “the other stuff”) that is the general rule to follow. so i will trust them — i mean, for pete’s sake, they invented the darned stuff anyways so they would know! so if you go into a bar and order whiskey, they’ll pour ya a whiskEy; but if you want whisky (no E), you have to ask for scotch. tricky stuff, this alcohol. and then there’s bourbon, which is also whiskey but a specific kind of whiskey — think back to your geometry class days: by definition, a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square. it’s like that: bourbon is a whiskEy, but not all whiskEy is bourbon…and most certainly whisky (scotch) is not bourbon at all! now that i have you all thoroughly confused, go ahead and take a shot of whatever whiskey/whisky/bourbon you have on hand…then it will all make sense in about 5 minutes.