Throngs of green-clad people. Pints of black or green-dyed brew. Plates of steaming corned beef and cabbage. These images have become synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day around the world. It started as an annual feast in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick. Legend has it that the Christian missionary drove all of the snakes from Ireland, and taught the native Irish about the Holy Trinity. While not an official holiday in the United States, almost every major city has events. Chicago, for example, dyes the Chicago River green each year, and New York City has a large annual parade.
In downtown Boston, where the city has celebrated St. Patrick’s Day since the mid-1700′s, Blast’s John Forrester gathered together a small group for an evening of Irish cuisine and beer. Beginning with pints of Guinness as Shepherd’s Pie was being prepared, the five guests sampled various Stout-based concoctions.
Guinness, by far Ireland’s most commercially successful beer, is often mixed with other types of beer and liqueurs. Both in the U.S. and in Ireland, the most common example is the “black and tan,” or “half and half — one part stout and one part lager or ale, such as Harp and Bass. Another popular mix was the “black fog” — a few splashes of Chambord, a Black Current flavored liqueur, and Guinness.
Overall, the crowd-pleaser seemed to be the Black and Gold half Stout and half alcoholic cider, such as Magner’s or Strongbow. There are, of course, countless other concoctions that will allow you to go beyond the standard pint of green-dyed Budweiser or traditional Guinness this holiday, so strap on that shamrock, throw on a green t-shirt, and start your own St. Patrick’s Day tradition this year.
“Craic” is an Irish term for a light-hearted evening filled with good food, drinks, music and laughter. While there are many ways to celebrate the holiday breweries, bars and restaurants are all known to have events–try inviting some friends over for an intimate night of Irish food and drinks this St. Patrick’s day. Instead of the stereotypical corned beef, hash and green beer, here’s a unique dish from the land of Erin that is sure to help bring a bit of craic to your St. Patrick’s Day party.
The Blast Shepherd’s Pie
2 to 2 1/2 pounds potatoes, such as russet, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup milk
Salt and black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
1 11.5 fl. Oz. bottle of Guinness Draught Stout
2 pounds ground beef
1 clove garlic
2 medium-sized carrots
1 large onion
2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 heavy dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon paprika or cayenne pepper
Hot sauce (optional)
Prep Work: Chop carrots, onions and garlic. Peel potatoes and cut into 1 to ¾ inch cubes.
Begin by boiling the potatoes with generous dashes of salt while you warm a skillet on another burner to cook the beef. While the potatoes cook, add a small amount of olive oil to the pan and the chopped garlic. When the garlic begins to smell fragrant, add the ground beef and cook for a few minutes. As the meat begins to turn brown, add salt, pepper and a third of the Guinness bottle. If so desired, add a dash or two of hot sauce as well. Once the beef is browned throughout, add carrots and onions, and stir often.
Keep an eye on the potatoes; when they’re tender, drain the water. Add milk and sour cream, and mash until mostly smooth. Once they’re at the desired consistency, cover and set aside.
To make the gravy, use another burner on medium heat and melt butter in a small skillet. Once the butter is liquefied, add flour, chicken broth, salt and pepper, and the remaining 2/3 of the Guinness. As you’re making the gravy, preheat the broiler on a high setting. Stir constantly so that the gravy does not melt, and no lumps of flour remain. Let it thicken as it cooks for a minute or two, and then add to the meat and vegetables. Lastly, add peas to the meat.
Take out a rectangular baking pan with 3 to 4 inch sides, and fill with meat and vegetables. Cover bottom of pan evenly and then spread potatoes over the meat, forming a top layer. Sprinkle fine layer of paprika or cayenne over the top.
Place the pan away from the heat source in the broiler and cook until top layer of potatoes are browned.