Bacon and Guinness Beef Pie

bacon and guinness beef pie for St. Patrick's Day

Irish food. Corned beef and cabbage and Irish Soda Bread of course, are the first thing that comes to mind – served with a deep, dark beer. Beer. Of several different styles and depths of color. Can I write a food column on beer? Well, it seemed that it would be a stretch without including some kind of recipe. But Irish dishes made with beer and served with beer? Now we’re talking. Beef Pie, hmmm, one of my favorites.

Whenever I encounter beef pie on a menu, I have to order it. It’s like a hot fudge sundae to me, 90% of the time, I just can’t get past it. I want to order something more exciting, my inner voice (the one that begins with “you should” and whom I occasionally need to tell, “Yes, well, thank you for your opinion, you may now sit down and be quiet.”) tells me I should order something different. But I just love beef pies.

bacon and guinness beef pie for St. Patrick's Day

They come with all sorts of cheeses – blue cheese in the stew, cheddar cheese in the crust, Irish cheddar sprinkled on top. Different beers change the flavor of the stew, but each is wonderful in its own way. Some prefer to make this pie with ale or a lighter beer but I like the deep flavors that a dark beer like Guinness brings. Beef pies topped with mashed potatoes and chives or cheddar have also seen their way into my belly. They’ve all been wonderful and this is my latest, favorite version.

A while ago I did a post on another one of my favorite Irish meals, the afore-mentioned Corned Beef and Cabbage, which we call New England Boiled Dinner. So you can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak, by having two wonderfully Irish meals with which to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

bacon and Guinness beef pie for St. Patrick's Day


Bacon and Guinness Beef Pie
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup diced onions, about 1/2 large onion
6 strips of bacon, cut into small slices
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced garlic; about 2 cloves
1 bottle Guinness beer or other stout beer
3 cups beef stock
1 fresh sage sprig, tied with a string
1/2 pound carrots cut into short sticks; about 4 medium carrots
1/2 pound frozen pearl onions; about 2 cups
1 pie crust (see recipe below)

Heat olive in large stockpot over medium-high heat. Carefully add meat and brown, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate small pan, render bacon and remove from fat. Set the bacon aside and discard the fat. When beef stew meat is browned, add onions, paprika, salt, and pepper and sauté for another 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add bacon and the flour and stir until the flour is incorporated. Add the beer, beef stock, and sage sprig and stir well. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours or until the beef is tender. Add the carrots and pearl onions and simmer until also tender, about another 10 to15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Transfer beef to a deep dish pie plate, a 9- x 13-inch casserole, or a soufflé dish. Roll out the pie crust to the shape of the pan you are using and pinch the sides over the edges.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

Pie Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice cold water (or more)
leaves from sage and parsley

Pulse the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor. Add water and mix by hand until dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball. Add more water if necessary.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and reserve one piece for another dish.  Roll out to 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick in the shape of the pan you are using and place fresh sage and parsley leaves on top. Roll out a bit more to press the herbs into the dough and then transfer to the top of the prepared dish.

Makes 2 crusts (freeze one for another dish)

Irish Soda Bread – Why mess with a good thing?

My Grandma wasn’t a fancy cook.  On the other hand, the recipes that she passed down to me are ones that I reach for time and time again.  They are tried, true and most importantly, good.  Her pancakes, her biscuits and of course her Irish Soda Bread (because, well that’s what today’s post is about), are ones I’m sure my daughters will use when they leave home.  I’m a creative girl, but there are just some things one doesn’t mess with.  Grandma’s recipes are such things.

On the Riggin, I’ll often serve this with New England Boiled Dinner, a traditional staple and a perfect meal for St. Patrick’s Day.

irish soda bread for st. patricks day
Shows the cross cut before going into the oven.
The recipe times two make four loaves for a crowd (or a boat load)!

Irish Soda Bread
This is another recipe passed down through the women in my family.  I’ve used dried apricots or raisins in place of the currants (my only nod to my inner creative).  I’ll also change it by leaving out the caraway seeds which is how my children prefer it.

The recipe calls for sour milk, which we now mostly call buttermilk, but in honor of my Grandma, I’ve left the orginal language.  To actually make sour milk, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the 1 3/4 cup of milk and let sit for 1 to 5 minutes to curdle.  Then add to recipe as instructed.

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 cup currants
1 1/2 cups sour milk, plus 2 tablespoons – extra if needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Mix in the sugar, caraway seeds and currants.  Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the milk with your hands until a ball forms. If there are still little bits of flour that are not incorporated, add a little bit more milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a complete ball.

Turn onto floured board and knead until smooth (about 5-10 turns).  Cut the dough in half and shape into two 6″ round loaves.  Place the loaves on a cookie pan.  Make two cuts on top of the loaves in the shape of a cross.  Bake for 40 minutes or until the top and bottoms are golden brown and a long toothpick or fork comes clean when inserted into the center of a loaf.

Cool before slicing.

Makes 2 loaves

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Cook the Book – New England Boiled Dinner with Mustard Sauce

This is a recipe that is often requested on the boat and will definitely steam up your windows at home. New England Boiled Dinner is a very traditional meal as the name suggests and can also be very plain (unless you have great corned beef and the mustard sauce). I get our corned beef from a local butcher and he won’t share his recipe with me! BUT, corning is a process by which you soak the brisket of beef in salted water seasoned with perhaps cloves, thyme, vinegar, all spice and other secret ingredients for a period of one to three weeks. This is of course a perfect recipe for St. Patrick’s Day – less than 2 weeks away!

Awhile back one of our passengers sent us the following email sharing an experience she had with New England Boiled Dinner. We love it!

“I made your New England Boil recipe for my parents. My dad is really proud of his ethnic heritage, doesn’t like anything different. Snubs his nose to “American” meals. So, they fly in from out of the country, I am making dinner. The house smells wonderful. They walk in and ask what I am making. He promptly pours himself a Chivas. I take the meat out of the water and start adding the vegetables. He walks over and pours himself another. I tell him a million times, he is going to like this meal. We sit down to dinner with the Irish Soda bread. He takes a bite of the meat, “Huh! This is pretty good.” He takes a bite of the vegetables, “Wow, this is amazing!” It’s like the guy was 5 years old fighting to high Heaven that he didn’t like something, was forced to try it to find out He Likes Green Eggs and Ham.”

New England Boiled Dinner with Mustard Sauce

Any leftover meat and veggies can be cut up and cooked into a hash.

1 brisket corned beef (about 6 pounds)
1 pound package carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
12 to 16 small red potatoes, skin on
12 to 16 small white onions, peeled
1 large turnip, peeled and cut into 11/2-inch chunks
1 large head of cabbage, cored and cut into eight wedges

Place the corned beef in a large stew pot and cover with water. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until fork tender (2 to 3 hours).
Remove the meat from the pot and keep it warm. DO NOT drain the water.
Place the potatoes and turnip in the pot, bring the water back to a boil and simmer 15 minutes. Add the carrots and onions, bring to a boil and simmer another 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, bring to a boil and simmer another 5 minutes. Strain all the vegetables into a colander. Slice the beef diagonally against the grain. Arrange the meat and vegetables on a platter and serve with Mustard Sauce (below) and Irish Soda Bread (next Friday’s Cook the Book (3/19) for the recipe).

Mustard Sauce

2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can evaporated milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup heated cider vinegar

Mix together the mustard, flour and salt. Add 1/3 cup of evaporated milk and whisk until there are no lumps. Put the sugar and the rest of the evaporated milk in a double boiler over medium heat. Whisk in the mustard mixture. Whisk in the egg yolk. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture thickens to a thick, ribbon-like consistency. Remove the mixture from the heat and whisk in the heated vinegar. Leave it in the double boiler until you’re ready to serve to keep warm. Pour into a pitcher and serve.

Serves 8

Exerpted from At Home, At Sea: Recipes from the Maine Windjammer J&E Riggin

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