Chicagoans take St. Patrick’s Day seriously. Irish, until recently, was estimated to be the top ancestry of our great city. Tomorrow morning the Chicago River will be dyed green and 800,000 people will gather to observe the famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade (fun fact: Harrison Ford running through the parade as Dr. Kimble in The Fugitive was entirely unscripted and shot with a hand-held cam – with the mayor’s permission, of course).
We were invited to join friends in a progressive dinner, and though I cannot claim strong Irish heritage, I will happily celebrate in the warmth of their homes. We’re providing the main course and I’ll be making my Guinness braised beef with colcannon, the Irish dish of mashed potatoes with cabbage. Colcannon can taste, shall we say, undynamic? Traditionally the cabbage is steamed, chopped, and stirred into potatoes, but here I’ve laced generously buttered potatoes with garlicky creamed cabbage. Taking it a few steps further, I’ve combined the two dishes and turned them into a cottage pie by shredding the beef and topping it with the colcannon, baking until lightly browned and bubbly. Those short on time or inclination can heap generous scoops of colcannon into shallow bowls and top with slices of the slow-braised beef and its deep, rich sauce.
Guinness Braised Beef with Colcannon
for the beef:
- 1 3-lb boneless chuck roast
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 medium carrots, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 big sprigs thyme
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups Guinness Irish stout
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 cup water
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pat chuck roast dry with paper toweling and season well with salt and pepper. Place a 3-quart cast iron casserole, dutch oven, or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add olive oil, heating until oil shimmers but not to the point of smoking. Brown roast for 3 minutes on each side, until a golden brown crust has formed. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add carrots and onions to pot. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add garlic and thyme sprigs, give it all a good stir, and cook for another minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook one minute more. Toss in the bay leaf, pour in Guinness, beef broth and water, raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes.
Add roast and any juices from plate to the pot. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in oven for about 2 1/2 hours, until fork tender. Carefully remove roast from pot and place on a large cutting board.
Skim fat from sauce with a large spoon, place pot over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Simmer until sauce has thicken and reduced by about half (you should have approximately 2 – 2 1/2 cups when reduced. Test sauce for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.
Meanwhile, remove any fatty pieces remaining in the roast. If you do NOT plan to make into a cottage pie, slice meat across the grain and return to sauce, gently warming before plating with colcannon (recipe below).
If you plan to make into a cottage pie, shred meat with two forks, return to sauce and stir to combine, then raise oven temperature to 425 degrees. Ladle mixture into a shallow 2-quart casserole dish. Spread colcannon evenly over top and put casserole dish on a foil lined sheet pan before adding to oven (to catch bubbling-over sauce). Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden and bubbly around the edges. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.
for the colcannon:
- 2 1/2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons softened butter, divided
- 1/2 head of small green cabbage, finely chopped (about 4 cups)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
Place prepared potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, and add a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, cover with a slightly ajar lid, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are completely tender when pierced with a fork. Drain well, return to pot, and mash thoroughly with 4 tablespoons of the butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cabbage, season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, sautéing until tender but retaining a bit of bite, 8 – 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté a minute more. Stir in heavy cream, and allow to warm through.
Pour creamed cabbage into mashed potatoes, stirring until thoroughly combined. Test for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if desired.
Chicago River image via Brian Kersey/Getty Images