Corned Beef & Cabbage, Soda Bread and Shepherd's Pie!

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There is a lot of disagreement with where shepherd’s pie comes from, but there is no doubt that it is a favorite in Ireland. Of course, while it is a regular dish in many traditional Irish families, most people have it around St. Patrick’s Day with some good soda bread. Growing up in New York, I have had many different types of soda bread, some plain, others with currants, some with caraway seeds, and even had it with cheese on top. While I am fine with just a plain soda bread, from time to time I do like it with currants.

Irish soda bread:

To start with, I am going to make the soda bread, as it takes longer to bake. In a large bowl, mix:

• 4 cups flour

• 3 tablespoons sugar

• 1 teaspoon baking soda (hence the name soda bread)

Add 5 tablespoons of frozen unsalted butter, and crush together until the butter is pea size. Stir in 1 1/3 cup of buttermilk and an egg (the egg is optional; it will make the bread a little denser). Now if you can’t find currants, you can leave them out. I have seen people make them with raisins, but it is not the same. Mix with your hand until it is moist and sticky, don’t over-kneed. Remove from bowl and make into a round form, cutting a cross into the top.

My grandmother used to say that it is to keep evil spirits away, but really it helps the bread cook more easily. It makes me wonder if the older generation told the story of evil spirits just to remind you to cut the cross in the top. You can use a baking pan, but I like to cook mine in my Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet; it gives it a little extra-crispy bottom. Brush with more buttermilk and  place in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour until the crust is golden brown.

Guinness shepherd’s pie: Serving for four

For the potato crust:

• 1 pound rustic potatoes

• ½ cup milk

• ½ stick salted butter (I use the

  Kerrygold garlic and herb)

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 2 egg yolks

• Shredded parmesan cheese

Peel and cut potatoes, be sure to cut them about 1 inch and about the same size for all so they cook evenly. Boil for about 15-20 minutes or until they are soft to a fork’s touch. Add salt pepper, egg yolks, butter and milk and mash together. Shred in some parmesan cheese (be generous; this will help create the golden crust).

For the filling:

• 2 lb. lamb (while traditionally

  shepherd’s pie is made with lamb,

  it is okay to use beef, which really

  makes it cottage pie)

• 1 shallot or ½ white onion

• 1 clove garlic

• 1 can of carrots and peas

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire

  sauce

• 1 scoop of tomato paste

• ½ cup Guinness Stout (optional,

  you can use red wine)

• ½ cup beef broth

• Salt, pepper, white pepper to taste

• 1 teaspoon thyme

• 1 teaspoon rosemary

Using my pre-heated cast-iron skillet, I am going to pour in the oil, and start browning the meat. Add your salt, pepper, white pepper, thyme and rosemary. Shred your onion and garlic in and add in your Worcestershire sauce. Once browned, add your tomato paste and Guinness Stout. Let it reduce down a little about 2-3 minutes (for a thicker sauce you can use a little flour). Add your beef broth and let reduce for another 3-4 minutes. If it is too watery, remove some of the juice so it does not spill over, but also because it is not a stew—you don’t want it too watery.

If you are using your cast-iron skillet like I am, fill the bottom and you can add the potatoes on top and slide in the oven. If you are using a pan, fill about3/4 a way up, spread on the potatoes, shred some extra cheese on top, and fork it to give texture. Slide in oven for 25-30 minutes on 375 or until the top is golden brown.

Corned beef and cabbage

To be honest, when I was a kid, this was one of my least favorite Irish meals. It was not until I visited Ireland in 1993 that I really came to enjoy the meal and appreciate the flavor. Maybe in part because it was the first time I had it with Guinness and brown sugar in the broth. Or it could simply be that our taste for some things change over time, but I will stick to the Guinness story.

While I cook this in a Dutch oven pot as I am only making 3 pounds, this may not be possible if cooking large amounts. If you are going to cook the meat first and then the vegetables, be sure to use the broth from the meat to cook the vegetables so that the flavor carries over.

Ingredients:

• 3-4 pound of corned beef brisket

• 3 carrots cut into 1-inch pieces

• 1 head of green cabbage

• 1 ½ lb. unpeeled small red potatoes

• 1 teaspoon sea salt

• Pickling spices to taste

• 1 pint Guinness Extra Stout per lb. (optional)

• ½ cup brown sugar

• Parsley, thyme, rosemary (uncut)

In a Dutch oven pot, add your corned beef and carrots. The corned beef will come with a season pack; normally I don’t use season packs, but this one I do. You can always add more pickling seasoning to taste. Add in 1 pint of Guinness per pound,1/2 cup brown sugar and your fresh herbs (you can place them in an herb sock or just tie them together with string). Cover with water, about an inch over the meat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 2 and 1/2 hours or until the meat is almost tender.

Add cabbage, potatoes to your Dutch oven, cover and let cook for about 30 minutes or until the cabbage and potatoes are soft to a fork’s touch and the corned beef is tender. Place the beef on a cutting board and let stand for about 10 minutes. Be sure to slice the beef across the grain.

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