I've been reading Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Now that my day job consists of working for non-lunatics, dinners have gotten back to normal: instead of rush, harried and thoughtless meals or take out, I can actually plan and prepare good suppers for my boys. Goin is an alumna of Chez Panisse, so it's understandable that she marches the seasonal cooking road; and I've decided that despite the paltry access to fresh and seasonal produce here, I'm going to try to cook and eat seasonally, if for no other reason than to make sure that Puggle is getting the right fruits and vegetables at the proper time. I am so looking forward to Annie's love (Philip) planting in the garden for us...
In any case, there was a recipe for saffron chicken that made my brain go, "YUM!" but when I brought it up at lunch with Hubby today, he frowned and said, "It's St. Patrick's Day though. We should be making corned beef and cabbage."
Ick. "Do you want corned beef and cabbage?" I asked.
He paused. "Actually, I'm thinking a Guinness stew might be nice."
During our trip to Ireland, we enjoyed several versions of Beef and Stout stews; and yes, of course it's St. Patrick's Day but it was 70 degrees out today and hardly the right time of year for something so rustic. But also in Goin's book is a St. Patrick's Day menu which included a chocolate and Guinness cake with Guinness ice cream. Goin swears that she's not the type to make dishes out of weird ingredients but says the stout really does enliven the cake and ice cream.
And being a whore to my blog, it was hard to resist the challenge (and conceit) of an All-Guinness meal.
I learned two things from tonight's dinner: 1) you simply cannot go wrong with stew regardless of time of year; and 2) it is entirely possible, despite previous sentiment otherwise, to overload on Guinness. The stew: absolutely delicious and fulfilling; the cake: kinda iffy and a little on the icky, weird side; but the ice cream was a pleasant surprise.
Lance and Margie, two of our cohorts from the Ireland trip, had given us an Irish cookbook on our return, and there was a recipe for Guinness and Beef which looks deceptively simple -- it's actually a 3 hour process, but the dark, flavorful stew at the end is entirely worth it. First you brown the meat and saute mirepoix and leeks; Guinness Stout and reduced beef stock are added, then simmered for 90 minutes or until the meat is tender, after which the meat is removed, the liquid drained and the vegetables discarded; then streaky bacon bits, shallots and mushrooms are sauteed in butter, and flour is added to lay the roux, which thickens the liquid; and finally, the meat returned to the pan. Ladled over piping hot mashed potatoes made from heirloom fingerling potatoes, it is not possible for a stew to be more perfect.
Alas, would that the same were true of Goin's Chocolate Guinness cake. Now, to be fair to her, I did miss an important step. I forgot to add the cocoa powder so essentially I made a Guinness bundt cake over which I poured melted bittersweet chocolate in a post facto attempt to add in the chocolate. The cake, however, was just funky -- too spicy (it has cinnamon, nutmeg and whole cloves) and too...mealy to be luscious or enjoyable. It looked pretty but certainly didn't live up to its aesthetics (kind of like a culinary version of, "Don't ruin it by talking."). The Guinness and molasses were overpowering in the cake and while I'm aware that the taste problems may (and probably do) rest on my accidentally forgetting the cocoa, the resulting cake was so bleah that I have no wish to repeat the exercise, even with the correct ingredients. But the Guinness ice cream was absolutely outstanding: rich, creamy and just right sweet, like a vanilla-scented pint of plain. Who knew such a bizarre concoction could yield something that could stand up to its principal ingredient with aplomb?
So two out of three isn't bad for the All Guinness meal.
Beef and Guinness Stew and Chocolate and Guinness Cake with Guinness Ice Cream
If you would like any of these recipes, email me at ablithepalate (AT) gmail (DOT) com.