Thursday, March 18, 2010

Post St. Patrick's Day on the Central Coast

St. Patrick's day is one of my favorite drinking and eating days. You can start early ie 6 am here both in San Luis Obispo at McCarthy's and Paso Robles at the Crooked Kilt.
In previous years I used to start at home with a wee bit of Irish Mist in my morning cup of tea. Steve would join me with his spiked coffee. It was usually an uphill day of imbibing from there depending if we had the day off or not. In Chicago, where we lived for 7 winters, the whole city was Irish for a day. The Chicago River was dyed a bright kelly green. A sight to behold. I worked on the Chicago Board of Trade and Steve worked on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. CBT was soooo Irish. CME not so except for St. Patrick's day. My fellow commodity traders, clerks and runners would sneak off the floor as soon as the "Sign of the Trader" opened downstairs and have beers. Everyone would plan where to meet after the markets closed near the parade route. Steve would walk over from the CME and meet us with his buds, all "Jewish-Irish" and off we would go with beers in hand to watch Mayor Richard Daley Sr. lead Chicago's finest down State Street.

One of our good friends, Phil Derrig had a refurbished Pie Truck. It was a beauty with brass bumpers, painted that kelly green and filled with revelers. He would pick us up on Rush Street and drive us all over to our favorite bars. Butch McGuire's was first on the list, the Lodge, Mother's, eventually ending up at the River Shannon near where we lived at Cleveland Ave and Armitage. Guiness Stout flowed down the streets. The Murphys, Maguires, O'Rourkes, Murray-Bensons, Hennesseys and more were all hanging out of the Pie Truck singing and laughing until wayyy too late. Chicago bars close at 4 am. and re-open at 6 am.
Miraculously we all made it to work the next day only to meet again at 11am at the "Sign of the Trader" to ease the pain.

When Steve and I moved to San Francisco, we had already staked out the Irish neighborhoods and hangouts for St. Pat's day. Our good friend, Rosa Malone was an avid celebrator. It was tradition to take the Sausalito Ferry over to the city and start at Harrington's on Front Street where they blocked off that section in front of the bar. They had Bagpipe musicians, Irish dancers and a line a mile long for beer. Fortunately we could slip into the German pub , Schroeders, across the street and snag our drinks. Usually Rosa and I loved to wiggle our way into Harringtons just to be with all of the crazies. The best day was on a Saturday when the financial district crowds weren't there yet. One time we observed the local hippie mailman in full uniform bellying up the the bar for his pint. Loved it!! We would move over to the Richmond district to Pat O'Shea's Madhatter and maybe onto Buena Vista for Irish Coffees. Sometimes that order was reversed as we loved to eat lunch at the BV before starting our serious drinking.

I cooked in San Francisco each year for our friends, even Puff Schafer who used to wear orange on St. Pat's day just to bug me. We would usually have everyone over on the weekend, not on "The Day" as that would have been impossible! James Beard had a very good Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe that I used to use. Rosa and I had been to Ireland in 1980 and I had a little paperback cookbook with traditional Soda bread and other Irish fare in it. It helped to have tasted some of the real thing while over there. Some of the American soda breads are too sweet or doughy. I like the "brown" version with whole wheat flour.

March can be pretty chilly and rainy in S.F. so I started to experiment with Irish stews. I remembered the pale brown-full of potato versions that I had eaten in restaurants and knew I could do much better than that. One recipe caught my attention using Guiness Stout.
Over the years that has been my staple when I am not making Corned Beef.
This is my "Guiness Stout Stew"

2 lbs. chuck roast cut into 2"pieces (feel free to substitute Lamb shoulder)
1/2 c. flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 c. beef stock
2 bottles Guiness Stout plus one to drink while making this.
2 cloves garlic, crushed
bouquet garni of 6 It. Parsley sprigs, 6 fresh Thyme sprigs and 2 bay leaves
( wrap in cheesecloth)

Heat oven to 350
Place beef and seasoned flour in a ziplock bag and shake to coat the meat. Heat olive oil in a heavy casserole ( I use a dutch oven). Brown the beef in batches so it gets a nice carmelized crust. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Cover and bake in the oven for 2 hrs.

Meanwhile prep the veges. I have changed a few things over the years as we like more veges now and I love to roast some of them before adding to the meat.

1/2 lb. turnips, either white or the yellow rutabagas cut into large dice
1/2 lb. carrots cut into 1 " pieces
1 lb. yukon gold potatoes (I don't peel), cut into 1" piece
1/4 lb mushrooms, halved
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves
s & p

Toss veges with oil, rosemary, salt and pepper and put into a roasting pan or on a sheet pan and roast along side the stew for 45 min-1 hr. They will be fork tender.

Cut up:
1 green bell pepper and 1 onion into 1 " chunks

Remove the stew pot from the oven and add roasted veges as well as the raw green pepper and onions. Stir to scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pot. There should be rich juices. If it looks too dry add a little water to loosen up the bits. The veges will add more moisture.

Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the meat is very tender.

Notes: I used to cook this minus the potatoes and up the mushrooms to 1/2 #.
It was served over Colcannon, a traditional mashed potato-braised cabbage side dish.

This year I made my friend Bonnie Little's Cauliflower Gratin. I can post the recipe later. I want to fit in the Soda Bread without everyone falling asleep getting to the end of this.

One more thing, the stew safely serves 6. One year we had a crowd and everyone brought an extra person and I barely had enough. In fact Puff, the Orangeman, was trying to cut up the Cheeseclothed bouquet garni thinking it was beef. I just laughed and poured more wine.

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

2 c. Whole Wheat flour
2 c. Unbleached white flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. gr. coriander or cardamon (uh oh, my Swedish side is coming out)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. dried currants
1 1/2 - 2 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375
I mix the dry ingredients together in my 30yr old Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle attachment.
Add currants and 1 1/2 c. buttermilk. Mix to make a soft dough, adding more buttermilk if needed.
Knead on a floured surface until smooth. Form into a round disk. Put into a buttered pan, I use my 9" springform pan but a cake round or pie tin would work too.
Cut the traditional "X" on top.

Bake about 50 min. until richly golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
I have made the mistake of under baking this many times as the original time was 35-40 min.
Must be Irish time as it needs at least 50 min.

Serve with sweet butter. Toast the leftovers up the next day for breakfast with some good marmalade.

This year was low key during the day as I worked. I so wanted to be at the "Kilt" at 6 am with the girls from Schooner's, next year for sure. Steve did bring a couple of Guiness Stouts for Mary and I after closing. We went to Sandi Baird and Hank Donatoni's for a wonderful traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner and plenty of Donatoni Winery wine. She served 12! What a feat and a wonderful end to St. Patty's day 2010.


  1. Hopefully someone is reading these...More to come.

  2. I so love those St. Patrick's day memories.