Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Feast: Eating Your Beer

For nearly every St. Patrick's Day in the last 10 years I have been working and unable to drink beer.  For a huge beer geek like me this is a problem, and one which I seem to always forget about when the time comes to request days off on the schedule.  This year my schedule was free until I helped out a co-worker by taking this day for her.  Oops!  Maybe next year I'll remember...

So this year I decided to cook with beer instead, using some Irish beers I happened to have hanging out in my beer fridge.  I discovered a set of Irish cuisine recipes in this month's Beer Advocate magazine, written by Sean Paxton (The Homebrew Chef.)  I have cooked several of the fancy-foody recipes from his website with fantastic results.  I also tried his beer-centric fare at two NHC award banquets, so I felt confident in the source material.  I have made recipes from beer magazines that left out critical ingredients or steps (Draft) before, but have become a better cook in the last few years and make sure to carefully appraise these recipes before getting into the swing of preparing them. 

The main course was a pot roast with carrots, mushrooms and turnips braised in a crock pot all day with Guinness stout.  I just happened to have a four pound elk roast taking up space in my freezer and thought this would be a perfect time to use it.  Elk is very lean meat with very little fat and marbling, so cooking it correctly can be difficult.  Elk burgers and steaks are often a bit tough and dry if not left fairly rare, so I wasn't sure about how this would go.  In theory a long slow braise should get even the toughest cuts of meat to become more tender.  I first browned the meat in a pan and then placed it in the crock-pot.  Using the pan again (with all the yummy juices and fat still in there,) I placed the veggies in it and cooked those up.  My recipe called for 6 hours on high, but I would recommend either cutting the roast into a few pieces before cooking to increase surface area or to give it longer in the crock.  My roast was certainly cooked enough, but not really forkable, requiring use of a knife to cut it up at serving.  Very tasty though, as elk has a strong flavor compared to farm raised beef.

Along with the elk, I cooked up a heap of colcannon: a mixture of mashed potatoes and kale.  This was really tasty, but not the healthiest thing in the world (lots of butter and half&half in it.)  I figure this just evened out the decreased fat from using elk instead of beef.  I used most of a bottle of Smithwicks for boiling the potatoes and another couple ounces in the finished product.


Once the roast was done and the colcannon was warming, I reduced the strained pot juices and made a very tasty gravy from it.  As usual I had a bear of a time making the gravy the correct consistency, and think it may have stemmed from not reducing enough.  Eventually, with half of my kitchen covered in flour, I got it right and served up a tasty meal.  Sj had a Guinness with it and I gazed longingly at it while she drank.  The meal was very flavorful and filling, just what you want for St. Patrick's day.  And I have a week's worth of leftovers to keep the celebration going.  I did get my beer with dinner the following night, so all was not lost!  I highly recommend Sean Paxton's website (linked above) for some great up-scale recipes.

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