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.