Honestly, I don’t really get the corned beef fascination when celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Kinda right up there with consuming all things dyed green (ie. beer and the ever-so-irish bagel, yes that is sarcasm in my tone) but honestly, don’t want to go there right now. My idea of a great meal to honor the Irish patron saint is more like a lovely salmon, or better yet, in the spirit of ‘keeping it local’ my vote is for a lamb dish. Lamb shank in particular, something that can be slow-cooked for hours and, to really irish-it-up, in a deep dark irish stout.
Enter, Mint Creek Farms. Who says the farmers markets are all about fruit and veg? So blessed to have a growing number of meat purveyors at the markets, and one of the best is Mint Creek Farms. I mean who can’t love a farm that employs Great Pryennes
to actually do what they are supposed to do, guard sheep and not just sleep, and keep me safe from squirrels that dare to enter the back yard? Sorry, big digress.
Back to the lamb. Mint Creek Farms, located in central Illinois, produces, and I quote, ‘grassfed meats (and AMAZING eggs) raised on organic prairie pastures.’ Ok, you got me hooked, all that equals to me, is delicious, tender, lower in fat and higher in vitamins and anti-oxidant meat, not too mention humanely raised animals. Even my husband who is typically not a lamb fan was completely wowed…hum, was it my fab cooking or the Mint Creek Farm (psst this is the where to but/find link) raised lamb? A bit of both perhaps? Come on give me a wee bit of the credit?
Speaking of stout, I have been and always will be a dessert-girl. And after a hearty meal of Stout Braised Lamb Shanks, I just had to have something sweet to finish it off. For me, typically, that something sweet needs to be chocolate. Years ago I saw Nigella’s (as in voluptous-Brit food writer/journalist/media goddess, who seems to be on the top of many a husband’s “list”) recipe for Guinness Chocolate Cake. Simultaneously dismissive and intrigued, but always cast aside until this St. Pats. Why. Did. I. Wait. So. Long. Not only is this cake a breeze to put together, but it is oh so incredibly good. Nigella’s version calls for a cream cheese frosting (meant to mimic the frothy head on a pint of Guinness). Other versions have called for a chocolate ganache. Let me stress here, so not necessary. This cake is so beyond moist, a frosting of any kind is over kill. Then again, sometimes that is a good and necessary thing. Over-kill can also be achieved by a heaping scoop of ice cream on the side, just sayin’.
Stout Chocolate Cake (courtesy of Nigella Lawson)
1 cup of stout*
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Preheat the over to 350 degrees, and butter and line a 9 inch springform pan or bundt pan.
Pour the stout into a large wide saucepan, add the butter and heat (over medium) until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the stout mixture and combine. Then whisk in the flour and baking soda.
Pour the cake batter into greased and lined pan. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
*Stout: you can stick with Guinness, or better yet, in the spirit of keeping it ‘local’ Bell’s, Founders, Great Lakes all make tasty stouts. LOVE the Bell’s Cherry Stout for this recipe, it adds a whole new flavor dimension.
p.s. let me know if you want the recipe for the stout braised lamb shanks — oh. so. good.