Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, billed as the second largest in the country might be over, but the holiday is not. The patron saint of Ireland and Irish culture will be celebrated on Friday.
Dublin born and raised Brona Cosgrave, who is now based in New York City and related to W.T. Cosgrave, the first president of the Irish Free State, said that St. Patrick was originally from England, and was kidnapped as a child and brought to Ireland. Enslaved, he worked as a shepherd.
“In the tradition of the Celtic myth, he had a vision, a calling to Christ, and he escaped his slavery, fled to England and became a bishop,” she continued. “Later, St. Patrick felt compelled to return to Ireland, his place of enslavement.” There, he converted the Irish to Christianity and founded the Christian church.
The thing about St. Patrick’s Day, despite the green beer and excess imbibing, the green bagels and the green-tinted rivers, it’s a religious day, occurring during Lent.
“It began as a religious holiday of obligation. It's a day when Catholics go to Mass; put money in the offering plate. In Ireland, it’s more of a family celebration, as Thanksgiving is here. It’s the first family gathering since Christmas, and we have a big wonderful meal, often a roast,” Ms. Cosgrave said.
“In my family we had roast lamb, the first lamb of the season,” she said, “It was much in the tradition of Sunday dinner. With two kinds of potatoes, roasted and mashed, and a green: kale, cabbage or Brussels sprouts.”
But for your St. Patrick’s Day celebration, how about a rustic beef stew, heightened with spring vegetables and simmered in that quintessential Irish “black” brew — Guinness. Ms. Cosgrave, who “brushed up” on the stout while touring the popular Guinness museum, The Storehouse, said: “Guinness is deeply ingrained in Irish culture, especially in Dublin, where it is made.”
The company was started by Arthur Guinness. After receiving a small legacy he opened a brewery making stout in Leixlip, County Kildare. He moved his beer-making operations to Dublin in 1759, and signed a 9,000-year lease on a brewery, where most of Guinness is still brewed today.
Guinness, a dark, strong-flavored stout, has a distinctive creamy head, created by “being pulled with nitrogen. The bubbles go down, instead of up,” Ms. Cosgrave said.
If you purchase it in cans, there’s a little nitro pellet in the bottom, which produces some of the same creamy head, but nothing beats the stuff straight from the tap.
When growing up, Ms. Cosgrave’s mother would make a Guinness stew, but she only used a touch of the rich stout, thinking it was too strong-flavored for the children. The rest of the pint went to Grandma to drink — under doctor’s orders to drink a Guinness a day. High in iron and minerals, it was considered something of a health tonic.
“Granny Batt lived a full life to age 89,” said Ms. Cosgrave, who added, that, “for years in Ireland, if you gave a pint of blood, you got a glass of Guinness.”
Miriam Rubin: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @mmmrubin.
Guinness adds a pleasant bitterness to the stew, which is offset with sweet spring vegetables such as carrots, peas and sweet onions. For best flavor, use Guinness Stout in bottles. Lacking that, go for the Guinness Draught sold in cans. You can also make this with a good, dark craft stout beer.
1¾ pounds trimmed, boneless beef for stew, 1-inch pieces, patted dry
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, divided
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup beef broth, for deglazing
1 medium-large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
3 large carrots, peeled, 1 cut into small pieces, 2 cut into short sticks
2 large celery stalks with some leaves, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2½ cups Guinness stout
1 pound baby white or yellow potatoes, halved (3 cups)
3 small turnips, peeled and cut into wedges
1 cup frozen petite peas
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toss beef with thyme, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Coat with 2 tablespoons flour. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In 3 batches, add beef and cook, turning once, until lightly browned, adding another tablespoon oil if needed. Take care not to burn the bits in the pan. Remove browned beef to a bowl.
Add broth to pan, stirring to get up all browned bits and bring to boil. Scrape into a cup; let settle, then spoon off excess fat.
In same Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat.
Add onion, cut-up carrot, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often until tender, about 10 minutes. Add remaining 3 tablespoons flour; cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
Add beef and any juices from bowl and tomato paste; toss until coated. Add reserved broth mixture and Guinness. Bring to boil, stirring from bottom of pan to incorporate the flour. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake, covered, 1 hour.
Remove from oven and skim off any fat from surface Add potatoes, turnips and remaining carrot sticks and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cover, return to oven and bake, covered, 1 hour more until the beef and vegetables are tender. Stir in peas; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot.
Makes 4 servings.
— Miriam Rubin