Friday, March 18, 2011

St Patrick's Day

This year was the first in more then I'd care to admit that I missed the NYC St. Patrick's Day parade. I was bummed to say the least. It was a long day at work, and I had a headache and I tore my skirt. I went home tired, paradeless.

I needed to at least have a good, and St Patrick's Day inspired, dinner to restore my spirits. But not the fatty, salty Americanized popular fare: no corned beef for me, thanks. It’s a silly tradition - in that it’s not a particularly Irish food. Go to Ireland and try to find somewhere that serves corned beef & cabbage. You won't find it... Although as fatty and salty as it is, I wouldn't blame you for trying pretty hard. Real Irish food is awful. Any society that was happy to eat only potatoes was not coming from a place of great culinary tradition. There is a reason why you never hear much extolling the greatness of Irish Cuisine. Heck even Irish eateries in the US serve American food like burgers and grilled chicken Caesar salad. And before you get all huffy thinking "no! They always serve traditional Irish shepherd's pie!" I ask you think about what a "shepherd" is... They aren't shepherding cattle to make pie with ground beef like the American’s do. They herd sheep.

But true Irish shepherd's pie with lamb isn't as good as American shepherd's pie with beef, because somehow the Irish, with their magically undelicious cooking skills can make awesome lamb taste downright awful.  And check the ingredients label on that “Irish Soda Bread” you picked up at the grocery store.  Does it list yeast?  Yeah?  Then it is not actually traditional Irish soda bread, which is leavened with baking soda.  It’s simply another example of Americanizing, and improving, traditional Irish poison food.

The Irish do make one thing perfectly though. No American, or any other culture’s for that matter, versions comes close. I am of course talking about Guinness.

Give me a tall glass of black with a creamy head on top, any day. I love most beers and can always happily find one to suit my mood, and meal, if I'm eating while drinking. But if a place has Guinness on tap I look no further. Hands down, it’s my all time favorite. And I’m not alone – Guinness is and has long been one of the most popular beers on the planet.

And handy fact – not only is it an excellent source of iron, Guinness, ounce for ounce, is a light beer. It's got less calories then a Bud or Coors, Corona or Miller. And its not because it’s a stout, most stouts are very caloric. Heartland Brewery, which has locations throughout NY, has a wonderful oatmeal stout, as does Murphy's, an EU brand (its "Irish Stout" but owned by a Dutch parent company, Heineken). Both are super high in calories. But not so Guinness.

I made a marinade out of one of my Guinness Extra Stouts - a thoughtful gift from my beau the first time he came to my home, but I prefer Drought; Guinness is stout enough without the extra.

While my chicken marinated I boiled some cubed potato. I dredged the chicken at the last minute. It formed a lovely crust but it all fell off so I'm not sure if it was a good idea or not, but then again it shielded the chicken itself from the cooking surface of my lovely cast iron skillet, resulting in a soft, moist, evenly cooked chicken with no tough exterior. The flaked off flour crust tasted like crunchy chicken skin, which was nifty and gave me something to munch on while I made my gravy.

I strained my potato & pan fried it along with the chicken. After the chicken & potato were cooked I deglazed the pan with some Guinness and thickened the gravy with slurry made with Guinness.

And then finally I made myself a beautiful black & tan. It wasn't my cleanest line ever but it was a decent effort. I used a Sam Adams dark lager, because that's what I had, but ale would be traditional. I personally think Killian's and Guinness make the best black & tans, and certainly the prettiest, but really feel free to use whatever beer you like for your “tan” layer.

I make my black & tan with a special wide flat Guinness spoon, with a handy notch to steady it against the glass, but any spoon will work. First pour in your lighter beer. Fill the glass half way. Don't worry if there's a head on it. Balance your spoon on the edge of your glass, concave side down, curved side up. Slowly pour the Guinness over the spoon so it floats on top of the first beer. Take a moment to appreciate its beauty before drinking.

Guinness Chicken with Potato
1 bottle Guinness Extra Stout, divided
Several splashes hot sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
Salt & pepper
Skinless chicken breast
Whole wheat flour, divided
Butter & olive oil
2 small potatoes, cubed

To make the marinade whisk together some Guinness, oil, hot sauce, brown sugar, salt and pepper.  Add your chicken and let sit.  Chop your potatoes and boil them in salted water.  Melt some butter in some oil in your skillet over medium high heat.  Take the chicken out of your marinade and dredge both sides in flour, then add it to the pan.  Strain your potatoes and add them tot eh pan as well.  Let them all cook together, occasionally stirring/flipping the potatoes so they brown evenly, and flipping the chicken to allow for cooking about 7-9 minutes each side.

Once you have removed the chicken and the potatoes from the pan, pour in some Guinness and use a spatula to move it around, scraping up any yummy bits stuck to the bottom.  In a small bowl mix a small amount of Guinness with a few spoonfuls of flour to form slurry.  Add this to the simmering Guinness in the pan, stir and allow to cook several minutes until a nice thick gravy has formed.  Salt to taste.

Pour your gravy over your chicken and potatoes and make your self a black & tan and enjoy. 

It’s not “traditional” Irish food, but its Irish inspired.  And unlike actual Irish food, it’s edible.

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