My friend Alanna and I have been sharing recipes for close to 25 years now. From back in the day when we wrote out recipe cards for each other I have Nana’s Shortbread and Gourmet Mocha Cookies, not to mention Orzo with Spinach, written out in Alanna's handwriting and filed in my box. They are still favorites and made regularly in my kitchen.
When I worked on my Family Heirloom Cookbook several years ago, it turned out that Alanna was working on a similar project. A couple of thousand miles apart by then we still connected over recipes and food histories. There were places where I found I had food stories from my family but no recipe and Alanna helped me find recipes that matched in style and era of origin. Thus Old Bill’s Beaten Fudge was paired with my grandmother’s story of a Little Lost Boy in a way that still makes me smile at the symmetry and serendipity of life which is so lyrically manifested in food stories and traditions.
In many ways Alanna’s tastes are different from my own, hers tending toward influences from Canada and the midwest while my cooking heritage is German and southern. Still one of the things I love about cooking is, where food is concerned, I think that any two people can find common ground. Alanna was responsible for my reluctant introduction to Brussels sprouts and I made my Grits casserole for her consideration. She made Corn Chowder topped with cottage cheese and I made Gazpacho with croutons.
We found that we both loved to bake cookies. Often the same recipes caught our eye and still they turned out differently. Like the gingerbread cookie recipe we found we were both baking one winter. Alanna's cookies turning out uniform and delicious, while mine were decorated with bright royal icing, pretty but best dipped in a cup of coffee. We also started dabbling in vegetarian cuisine together.
Now that we are both blogging I find that we still treasure some of the same recipes. At Kitchen Parade you will find a recipe for Tiappino, an herbed fish stew that began with the same recipe as my Northwest Cioppino. The recipe has evolved a bit differently in both of our lives and we have both posted about it.
Once again I am posting a recipe that Alanna has posted too. This recipe began as a magazine clipping, most probably from Southern Living. We have each changed the recipe, at least a little, to make it better suit our own style and taste but at its core it is the same, a dependably rich stew made with stout. It can be made with beef or lamb, but I always make it with beef though I think that makes it less authentically Irish. I rely on the stout to give it a compelling Irish touch. Hearty and filling this is a great dish for warding off the late winter chill. Served in a Potato Bread Bowl, followed by a slice of Chocolate Stout Cake and a cup of Irish Coffee it makes a festive St. Patrick's Day dinner well worth sharing with friends.
Emerald Isle Stew
3 to 4 pounds boneless beef sirloin, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 12 ounce bottle of stout beer *
4 bay leaves
1 (10 ½ ounce) can condensed beef broth, undiluted
2 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound bag of baby carrots, or thickly sliced carrots
1 pound small new potatoes, or cubed potatoes
2 to 3 teaspoons dried tarragon
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup water
1 (17 ¼ ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven. When hot, brown the sirloin cubes on all sides. (This is best done in batches, adding more oil if needed, so that the heat in the pan stays high enough to brown the meat efficiently.)
When all the meat is browned put it back into the pot and add the onion, garlic, stout, bay leaves, beef broth, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add carrots, potatoes and tarragon. Cover and simmer 30 minutes more. Remove bay leaves.
Combine ¼ cup water and the flour until smooth. Pour into the stew in a thin stream stirring constantly. Cook stew over medium heat for 3 minutes, until thickened.
Meanwhile cut puff pastry sheets into shamrock shapes using a cookie cutter and following package directions.
Place the shamrocks on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Ladle stew into bowls and garnish with a puff pastry shamrock.
*Rogue's Shakespeare Stout is my favorite but in the interest of celebrating the Irish you may want to use Guinness.