Although I didn’t grow up over celebrating all things Irish, my parents gifted me with an unmistakably Irish name- Kelly O’Brien. Everywhere I went my friends parents and grandparents would ask in various accents “are ye Irish?”. I loved it. It gave me a connection to my ancestors and an identity that I was proud of. For the holiest of Irish holiday’s, St Patrick’s Day, my dad used to cook Corned Beef and Cabbage. He didn’t cook it every year, but he did cook it often enough to know it’s not my favorite Irish dish. When we set out to cook traditional Irish food I knew I wanted to go with the dish that is comforting, uncomplicated, and family style; Shepard’s Pie.
I’ve made Shepard’s Pie a lot. So this dish for me was less of a stretch project and more of a heritage celebration. I love Alton Brown’s recipes and I always use his for Shepard’s Pie. It calls for potatoes, peas, carrots, corn, onions and lamb. In the past I have made this recipe with ground beef instead of ground lamb, but there’s something about lamb that can’t be beat. It’s especially prominent when using lamb in stews, where the flavor really seeps into every vegetable and bite. Just use lamb, lamb is delicious.
When Sergio and Ashley arrived at my house I was in the middle of making the mashed potatoes. They brought over ingredients for Irish Soda Bread and cases of Guinness. I’ve never been a huge fan of Guinness, but when the occasion calls for it, there’s no replacement to be found. So we cheers’d and started cooking. One of the most fun parts about getting together to cook- is to actually cook together. If a dish can be made while we are all together, we will make it in the kitchen instead of ahead of time. It turns the dinner’s focus on cooking rather than a potluck get-together. We usually talk about different recipes we researched or interesting cultural facts we came across. Each week we also invite a guest or two to join us. For Ireland it was our friend Emily, who was moving to Denver later that week. Emily writes a blog that inspired me to write this one. Emily also went with Ash, Sergio, Conrad and I to Colombia two years ago- so we spent the evening reminiscing about Colombia and talking about our next adventures.
After all that reminiscing and some snacking on Irish Cheeses it was time for dinner! We sliced up the soda bread and pulled the pie out of the oven. We used the cast iron skillet because it provides an excellent addition of flavors and an even ratio of potato to vege/meat combo. I have used a dutch oven before when making a double batch. I highly recommended pairing HP sauce with Shepard’s Pie. It’s a British sauce similar to A1 that has a nice vinegar flavor to balance out the potatoes and cut through the lamb fat. The bread was oh so warm and a lot fluffier than I’d imagined. The raisins gave it a great flavor- I’m definitely going to make this one for myself.
I don’t have a broiler so we got a little creative in order to get that nice char on the potatoes.
For dessert I really wanted to celebrate the beer! I thought about making Irish Whiskey Cake but we already had a LOT of bread on the menu. So I made Guinness floats! I first had beer floats in college at a Hospitality Program Beer Event. Beer floats are best made with thick stouts or porters using vanilla ice cream. No recipe required.
This Sunday was also game 5 of the SF Giants World Series which called for some extra Irish luck for game time. I made up some Irish coffee. Can’t forget about the Jameson! SF Giants win 5 to 0!