Ireland trip inspires Guinness recipes

The Guinness blue cheese burger. BY JACK CLEMONS
July 8, 2013

We’ve just returned from a trip to Ireland, where we made several delightful discoveries. First, despite apocryphal warnings about unimaginative cuisine, we found every meal delicious. From the homemade scones served by our B&B hostess (secret ingredient: Greek yogurt) to the variations on grilled salmon offered each evening at the local restaurants, we were never disappointed. In fact, quaint tearooms and fancy bistros alike touted farm to table and locally sourced ingredients.

Of course, the one ingredient we regularly encountered was Guinness. In the course of our travels, we made our way to St. James Gate in Dublin, the site of the Guinness Brewery from the time it opened in 1759. The founder, Arthur Guinness, must have been a man of great confidence: he signed a 9,000-year lease on an abandoned brewery in a city already well supplied by brewers.

He began his company by brewing ale until he learned of a new beer, known as porter. This was a darker brew, with a distinctive color and taste that came from adding roasted barley. The eventual formula included a mixture of malted, unmalted and roasted barley, hops, water and yeast. To this day, a crew of highly trained chemists and tasters manages the brewing process to ensure the formula is followed to an exacting degree.

Today, there are two variations on the original Guinness recipe. Cans and bottles labeled Extra Stout are the closest in flavor to the original rich porter with its hint of roasted bitterness. Guinness Draught is served in pubs and restaurants and requires a careful technique to pour the perfect pint, which ensures the nitrogen bubbles do their magic and create a creamy head.

Since we were already at the brewery, we thought it wise to take a lesson on this pint-pouring, succeeding so well we earned certificates attesting to our prowess at the process. The first step is to tilt the glass at a 45-degree angle under the tap, pull the lever toward you and fill the glass until about three-quarters of the way to the top. Then, the glass sits for about a minute as the nitrogen churns some of the liquid into a half-inch of creamy foam. Surprisingly, the liquid that appears to be black in the glass is actually a very deep red color.

To finish the pour, the glass is held under the tap and the lever is pushed away, filling the glass until the head reaches just past the rim. For the perfectionists among us, the exact time for this process is said to be 119.5 seconds; fortunately, no one timed us. We also learned the ideal way to drink Guinness: you don’t want a mouthful of foam, but the liquid below, so tilt the glass and give yourself a foamy moustache, letting the draught slide into your mouth, leaving the head intact through the very last swallow.

Although not regular Guinness drinkers, we did enjoy several of the dishes that featured Guinness as an ingredient. I’ve included three here that were adapted from the souvenir book about the history of the brewery. The burgers in the photo entailed some planning, as the ground beef marinates overnight in (what else) Guinness. Adding Guinness to the onion soup recipe brings a complex richness to the broth. These crepes have an unusual depth of flavor that works well with any savory filling, especially sautéed mushrooms in cream.

Clearly, Arthur Guinness had excellent instincts, since today his signature appears on kegs, bottles and cans shipped to 150 countries at a rate of 10 million pints a day.

Guinness Burgers*

1 lb ground beef
1/2 C Guinness
1 t butter
1 diced onion
1 beaten egg
1 t creamy horseradish
1/2 t paprika
salt & pepper, to taste
1 T butter
1 T blue cheese
1 t snipped chives

Spread the beef in a shallow pan and pour the Guinness evenly over the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook the burgers, melt the butter in a skillet and sauté the onions until softened; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, horseradish, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir in the sautéed onion and marinated meat until thoroughly combined. Form the meat mixture into 4 or 5 patties; place on a plate and cover with wax paper. Refrigerate for about 1 hour before cooking.

Combine the butter and blue cheese until smooth and stir in snipped chives. Place on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a small log; freeze until ready to serve. Cook the burgers in a skillet or griddle pan until well-browned on the outside and barely pink inside. Garnish with a 1/4-inch slice of blue cheese butter.

Guinness Onion Soup*

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
4 large onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 sage leaves, chopped
leaves from 2 thyme sprigs
salt & pepper, to taste
8 oz Guinness
3 C stock
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 T dark brown sugar

Melt the butter in a large saucepan with the oil. Stir in the onions, garlic, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat until onions are soft and translucent. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until slightly reduced and thickened, about 25 minutes.

Guinness Crepes & Mushrooms*

1 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 beaten eggs
1 C Guinness
1/4 t dried oregano
1 T butter
2 sliced green onions
1 lb wild mushrooms, sliced
1/2 C heavy cream
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 250 F. Melt the butter in a skillet; toss in mushrooms and green onion. Cook until mushrooms have released their liquid. Stir in cream, season to taste and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Cover and keep warm until crepes are ready. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a small well in the center; pour in the beaten eggs and Guinness. Add the oregano and whisk the mixture until smooth. Cook crepes in a crepe pan or nonstick skillet, using about 3 T batter for each crepe, making sure to tilt the pan to spread the batter evenly into a thin layer. Cook until bubbles begin to appear, about 3 minutes; flip the crepe and cook until crisp, about an additional 2 minutes. Place cooked crepes on a plate and keep warm in low oven.

* Adapted from Guinness, An Official Celebration

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