One of the great things about being Irish is March 17. For me, it's even better because it's only two weeks after my birthday: It feels like the party never ends!
Having had the chance to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and right here in Vancouver, I can attest that Irish-Canadians (and all of our friends) certainly know how to have a good time. Of course, this party takes place all over the world, and I must say it makes me very proud to have grown up in an Irish family.
But here's a secret: I had a hard time in my earlier years with drinking Guinness. I didn't know a lot about the beer. Fortunately (I write with one in hand), I now love the stuff. One of the great things about it is the pour. A friend of mine in Paris, who ran a small Irish pub, taught me how to pour a Guinness properly - and, most importantly, how to enjoy one. Suddenly, stepping out to a local pub to enjoy a nice pint was a must.
So, now that it's the big day once again, I want to share a dish that goes perfectly with Guinness - and uses it as well.
When I was young, my father had a thing for stews. With the last name Feenie, he really knew how to do one up. They were always very simple - carrots, beef or lamb, potatoes, of course, and a beef stock simmered for a good three hours.
In honour of him, here's a little Feenie magic. All I've done is added Guinness to the marinade, and some pancetta and gorgonzola to finish.
Happy St. Patrick's Day.
Irish Stew with Guinness-marinated Lamb Sirloin, finished with Crumbled Gorgonzola
1 pound of lamb sirloin
2 cans of Guinness
2 cheesecloth sachets, each containing 2 sprigs thyme, 2 bay leaves, 4-5 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
Salt and pepper
1 cup of pancetta, cut into large dice
One large white onion, cut into large dice
One large carrot, cut into large dice
4 cups of beef stock
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into large dice
1 cup of crumbled gorgonzola
Have your butcher cut the sirloin into large dice. Place sirloin in a bowl, cover with Guinness and add the sachet. Marinate for 4 hours.
Preset oven to 325 F. In a large oven-proof pot, heat half the oil and half the butter over medium-high heat.
Drain the lamb sirloin, and reserve the beer, but discard the sachet. Pat the meat dry, season well with salt and pepper and place in oil.
Sear the meat in batches for 1-2 minutes. Remove and reserve.
Place remaining butter and oil in pot and add the pancetta.
Sweat for 2-3 minutes, then add onions and continue to sweat for another 2-3 minutes. Add the lamb sirloin, carrots, the second sachet, the beef stock and the reserved Guinness. Cover and place in the oven for 2 hours.
Add potatoes and return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and divide the stew into four bowls.
Spread crumbled cheese on top. Serve with a nice glass of Guinness.
Beppi's wine picks
Averse to Guinness or beer in general with a big meal? No worries. This stew would match blissfully with a gutsy red wine from southern France. Top choices include full-bodied reds such as Gigondas, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes-du-Rhone, Minervois and Corbières. A peppery shiraz from Australia's McLaren Vale region or a syrah from California or B.C. would do nicely, too.Beppi Crosariol