Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
One of the very few religious holidays associated (and wholeheartedly celebrated) with an immeasurable amount of beer consumption, St. Patty’s is much more than dancing leprechauns and drunken debauchery. Here are some interesting facts:
- Saint Patrick was not Irish, but British, and became Ireland’s most well-known saint because he converted thousands of pagan Irish to Christianity. March 17th was the day he died instead of his birthday.
- The original color associated w/ Saint Patrick was blue, but became green since most people associate the holiday with Ireland- “The Emerald Isle”. The quintessential Shamrock has a religious background as well, representing the Holy Trinity: each leaf represents one of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- There are currently more Irish in the US than Ireland. Population in Ireland is 4.7 million, while an estimated 34 million Americans are Irish descendants. While St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the world’s largest parade since 1762, and Chicago has been dyeing the Chicago River green since 1962.
Naturally, we plan to join our fellow cerevisaphile for a few good pints, but instead of the usual green beer, we thought we would cook up a few popular Irish dishes and pair it with some of our go-to beers:
Corn beef and Cabbage
If you make a trip to Ireland today, good luck finding corn beef and cabbage in a righteously local restaurant or pub. The Irish treasured their cattle for the milk and dairy products, and preferred eating pork or lamb over beef.
Corned beef and cabbage comes by way of the American melting-pot experience, and became popular as a result of Irish immigration to New York City. The recent arrivals loved their Jewish neighbors’ cuisine and started throwing slabs of Jewish corned beef into a pot of cabbage and potatoes. By the way, for you cooking neophytes, there’s no corn involved in the making of corn beef: the term to “corn” is to “cure” the meat, ie preserving the meat through a process of applying salt, sugar (and other spices/flavorings). Salting and slow cooking the brisket results in a meltingly-tender, flavorful meat (and it’s signature pink hue) that is friendly to the wallet and satisfying to the palate.
Pairing: Go with a Red Ale- hints of sweet fruit, a bit of body, and light on the hops. Strong toasted malt character pairs fantastically with the corned beef, and keeping those hops low helps to keep the cabbage from tasting too “cabbage-y”
Potatoes play an important role in Irish cuisine because they grow well in rugged soil and poor weather conditions. They came into favor in the 18th century and played an important role in shaping the history and relations of Ireland and England during the 19th century potato blight and resultant famine. Dark history aside, there are infinite uses for potatoes, which makes it a very flexible, damned-delicious food ingredient.
Colcannon is a particular favorite of ours: a well flavored version of mashed potatoes from the Irish. Traditionally made with aromatics such as leeks, onions, chives, along with cabbage or kale. This is a winter stable and often consumed with boiled ham or Irish Bacon.
Pairing: anything blonde…dry, light bodied with low hop bitterness. The crispness of a good Blonde alleviates the heaviness from the cream and butter of the colcannon.
Pairing: Try the Wicklow Wolf Brewing Co– Falconer’s Flight- Blonde Ale
Irish “stout” Stew
Hearty and wholesome, Irish stew is one of our all-time favorites in winter. Modern Irish culinary standards call for lamb in the stew because sheep are deemed more flavorful and are more commonly raised than cattle in Ireland. Mutton is used in traditional recipes because, like coq au vin, older animals are likely to end up on the dining table than their young counterparts who spend their early lives contributing to wool and dairy production.
But beef is much more commonly used in the US, so use whatever protein you’ve got available to you. Stout beer is used as the base of the stew to add a dark, rich flavor profile. Root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and turnips are usually added, though don’t be shy–if you’ve got celery or parsnips lying around, they deserve a spot in the pot as well. This is a dish perfect for a Dutch oven or slow cooker and makes a great freezer meal for a quick defrost on a cold winter day.
And since Guinness (or any stout of your choice) is required as the cooking liquid of this dish, it makes pairing a very easy choice: The dark chocolate and coffee flavor will reinvigorate the dining experience once more when you drink it along the dish you so effortlessly put together.
Chocolate Potato Cake
Chocolate became fashionable in Dublin in the 1600s, and the Irish love their chocolate so much that its consumption rate is one of the highest in the world. Chocolate cake recipes start making their appearance in the 1700s. Since Ireland is laden with potatoes, incorporating it into dessert makes sense, as do the unusual properties of potatoes: they make cake lighter and prolongs its shelf life. This recipe from Martha Stewart is both effortless and decadent, and is sure to be a crowd pleaser at your St. Patrick’s Day soiree.
Pairing: The Highwater Brewing’s Campfire Stout opens with lightly burnt marshmallow, coffee, and hints of chocolate on the nose. For a stout, it’s light on its feet and is a match made in heaven for the cake. And if you aren’t feeling the beer (or are looking for a strategic double-down), this is the opportune moment to take those Irish Whiskeys out of your liquor cabinet and serve some flavorful Irish coffee to end the evening.
Tell us what you usually eat and drink for St. Patrick’s and what dishes you plan to try this weekend!