Stout Fare: Two Classic Irish Favorites

March is Irish American History Month, as well as the month in which St. Patrick's Day falls (no coincidence, of course.)

It's also the time when Spring is so close you can almost taste it, but the chill outside is still so present that one wants hot, filling comfort food to bolster them for the final stretch to the all-too-distant warm weather. Irish pub food such as steak and stout pie, with a rich mushroom gravy and a crispy crust, and hearty traditional foods such as colcannon, are just the kind of meal you want for a chilly March evening.

Steak pies, often made with ale or stout, are a popular pub food. Hot and rich, they can include any sort of vegetables one wants to include, for a more complete meal, but for my purposes—and because I was serving it with colcannon, a potato dish containing cabbage and green onions— I stuck to mushrooms. They are most typically made with Guinness, but I opted for a local brew: Royal Tar Imperial Stout from Sebago Brewing Company. I recommend using your own favorite stout, but if you don't drink and prefer not to cook with alcohol either, you can substitute beef broth to build your gravy, but you will lose the depth of flavor that the stout brings.

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish, made with potatoes and either kale or cabbage, often eaten with ham or Irish bacon. I included the bacon in my dish, to give the cabbage a bit more flavor, and lend some texture. I also prefer to saute my cabbage, over the traditional boiling. This can also be a great dish to make with the leftovers from your New England boiled dinner, however, and you can take your own liberties with the ingredients—it would be delicious, if not necessarily traditional, with mashed carrots and rutabaga included.


Mini Steak & Stout Pies

Ingredients:

  • ½ package puff pastry (find in the freezer section of the grocery store)
  • 1 pound chuck steak or other inexpensive cut, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 pint of your favorite stout
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup maple syrup

Directions:

  1. In a gallon-sized plastic zipper bag, toss the steak with the flour, salt and pepper.
  2. In a high-sided saute pan, begin to heat one tablespoon of oil. Add steak and flour, and cook until crispy. Remove the steak pieces to a separate bowl and set aside.
  3. Add second tablespoon of oil, onion and garlic. Soften onion and garlic, while scraping up as much of the crunchy flour bits on the bottom of the pan as possible. Add mushrooms and cook until softened. Then, add beef broth and Worchestershire sauce.
  4. Scrape up any remaining bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, and return your steak to the pan. Add the stout a bit at a time, simmering on low until the gravy has thickened. Add the maple syrup last, tasting to determine how much is necessary—depending on how bitter your stout is, you may choose to add more or less.
  5. When the gravy is thick, remove from heat and portion into ramekins. Top each ramekin with a square—or round—of puff pastry.
  6. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes, or until crust has puffed up and turned golden brown.

Colcannoncanon

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound potatoes, boiled and mashed
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound cabbage, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 chopped scallions

Directions:

  1. Add milk and butter to potatoes, mixing well. set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, brown bacon until rendered. Add cabbage and cook until wilted.
  3. Combine potatoes with cabbage mixture, remove from heat, and add scallions.