If you close your eyes and listen very carefully, you can hear the groans of the individuals who took part in the only part of St. Patrick’s Day they wish to….drink excessive amounts of flat green beer. However you wish to celebrate, is up to the individual. I prefer to have a pleasant recollection of my St. Patrick’s Day, rather than pray to “the porcelain god” all night. I actually took almost 10 days preparing for my St. Paddy’s day, which resulted in what I consider a full (if not exceeding) recovery of my crimes against corned-beef last year. I truly wanted to show my husband what good Irish food tasted like.

It began with my list of things that I had to get done. Thankfully completing my census form was a blip on the radar and the weather was absolutely stunning. Adorned with my Mayo County, Ireland tartan (where my family hails from), my Celtic knot broach, Claddagh earrings, Trinity pendant and an emerald green shirt…I was off to do what needed to be done. First, drop off my Tassimo to be sent in for repair. (Tangent time: my Tassimo hot beverage maker is something I’ve come to love, hate and pretty much rely on. It is quite an amazing machine, being able to not only produce coffee by the single cup, it makes Lattes, Cappuccinos, Hot chocolate, Tea…it is pretty spiffy. I must have asked for it for years until my husband finally gave in to what he thought was a silly obsession. Now he, and his father, are hooked. Unfortunately, mine took a turn for the worst. And since it was a gift, I don’t have any receipt to get it repaired under warranty. Preparing my French Press every morning has not been awful, but I’ve become accustomed to the ease of brewing one single cup of my choice. Not to mention the money saving capability of it making a latte for me. I did not have to bow to Starbucks any longer! For crying out loud, it makes a macchiato! I have found it to be worth it’s counter-space depleting size, so I get to live without it for a bit longer and pay to keep it from that great electronics graveyard in the sky. At least I have a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby and they brew a mean cup of coffee.) With my coffee maker on it’s way, it was time to get the missing piece for my St. Patrick’s Day cooking/celebrating: the beer.

I truly do not understand why anyone would want to drink green beer. I mean, St. Paddy’s day makes it pretty much acceptable to eat or drink anything green, but any other day we would give consuming green goods a serious second or third thought. Aside from green veggies, we’ve been taught green is not necessarily good. Not to mention, most bars just mix green dye in a relatively inexpensive light beer and it makes it go flat! But again, to each their own. I prefer Guinness, which I am learning is a acquired taste. But it’s not about only eating and drinking “Irish”, it’s about participating. So, I went to the local “liquor super mart” where I’m sure they had more than enough Guinness. (Now, this digression may suggest that I should be attending some kind of meeting, but it’s an observation I’ve made in the last 12 or 16 months. We have a few large liquor stores {none nearby} that sell an amazing variety of wines, liquors, mixers and things I’ve never heard of. We would go there frequently when we lived closer not only because we could shop for new and exciting things, but also because they were able to offer pretty good prices. You could even join a club of theirs to get general discounts, and take part in sales, {And they would forward your information to the nearest AA chapter.} which we did. However, since the decline of the economy began to hit here, {we literally watched the destructive “economic tidal wave” come from both coasts, and blast us here in Colorado..simultaneously} I noticed it hit this liquor store pretty hard. One day not long ago, I drove into the parking lot and immediately noticed the iron mesh over all the windows and huge construction-style concrete barriers all across the front of the store. This place could probably take a direct mortar hit and fare pretty well. Even the sliding glass doors were slowed when opening by the metal mesh installed on them. Needless to say, it was a drastic change since I had been by last. I went in to get some wine, and brought my purse. I don’t carry a diaper bag for a purse, just enough to hold the essentials. As I walked in, I noticed a sign stating “NO BACKPACKS OR LARGE PURSES ALLOWED!!!” I didn’t think anything odd about it, to be honest. The NATO blockade let on that they had experienced some theft. Apparently when the economy gets tough, the tough get drunk…on stolen booze because they can’t afford it. Also, the flat screen TVs hanging at every register and many location all around, showing photos tagged with ‘Have you seen this thief?”, made it painfully obvious that they were taking a hit. As I waited for the blast-reinforced sliding door to squeak open, I was immediately intercepted by a woman working for the store. “You CAN NOT bring that purse in here!” No “hello” or even asking to have me leave my purse in the car. My purse could barely fit a few of those “airline” size bottles, but I couldn’t have stolen them anyway! That section was guarded by a large chain and person standing guard. I look just past this woman to see another woman checking out…holding her purse. I gesture towards this young lady {holding a larger purse} and ask why she gets to bring her purse in. I have had my purse stolen from my car before…I get seriously nervous about leaving my purse in my car for nay period of time. Not to mention, now all the store knows I have to leave my purse in my car. The argument with this woman will obviously be futile. I return to my car and come back with my wallet. At this point, her “pleasant mode” kicks in and she apologizes for her very blunt behavior. I’m uninterested in what she has to say…I just want my damn wine. I get what I’m after and make it a quick checkout. This woman is still accosting females coming into the store, scaring the hell out of some of them. At this rate they won’t need to worry about theft, they won’t have any customers left. Even when the economy recovers, they’ve created a less than pleasant environment that will take a while to recover from.) When I cook with alcohol, I usually purchase more than what I think I need. For a few reasons: 1)I end up using more in the recipe than I thought I needed and 2)I love to pair that drink with the food I cooked it with. It just tastes great. So, I got an 8 pack of Guinness (in the can) and a 4 pack of an Irish beer I had not tried. After a quick pit stop to visit with a great friend, it was time to come home and get to celebrating.

I had began brining my corned beef 10 days earlier, with the intent of getting some amazing flavor out of it. So, it was time to get that cooking. It had to simmer for 4 hours! It may not be the quickest preparation, but I was hoping it was going to be worth it. I had found a great traditional recipe to prepare it, but took some liberties by adding Guinness to the stockpot it would be cooked it. I was completely dedicated to the preparation I had found for my corned beef, cabbage and potatoes…until I found another recipe. That is always my downfall. I have my plan set…then something else catches my eye. I had a mental battle with how to prepare my cabbage and a Guinness later, I finally settled on a new method. I cut the cabbage into quarters and browned each side of the quarter in some very hot bacon fat. Once I got the color I wanted, I added some of the cooking liquid from the corned beef and let them braise. Another “We shall see” moment presented itself…(Recipe from Michael Ruhlman. http://bit.ly/9D3pJ4)

With everything simmering away, and my husband on his way home, it was time to pour him a Guinness. I wanted to attempt the shamrock that I’ve received in my Guinness on so many St. Paddy’s days. I took to the one true teacher of my generation: YouTube. I quickly learned I did not have the tools to create this little symbol like the pros do. After my pours settles, I gave it a go with a martini olive pick…this is as good as I can do:

My husband walks in the door and I greet him with a plate of snacks and his Guinness. The truth is about to be told. As I slice the corned beef it is just the right color! The cabbage is just falling apart and the potatoes are nice and tender. I had off a plate to my husband and disappear back into the kitchen to begin work on an idea I just came up with. I don’t hear a peep from him. I have to chime in and ask what he thinks, I’m dying to know. Before I can ask, he tells me the beef tastes great and he loves the cabbage. That stone that has been residing in my gut is finally gone. He likes it!

I munch on the dinner that I have become very proud of and stir the dessert idea I just came up with. We have some leftover cheesecake and I decide I need to pair it with a great Guinness sauce! I combine some Guinness, brown sugar, star anise and cinnamon and let it cook itself into a syrup. It’s just tart enough to not make the dessert sickening sweet, but sweet enough to pair wonderfully with the cheesecake. The anise gives a depth only licorice can and the cinnamon spices it up. For last minute, it wasn’t bad.

As we sat back to play “Rockband” on Xbox, sipping on our Guinness, I felt exhausted and so very content. My husband, willing to try corned beef again despite my crimes, was a satisfied and happy man. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. I felt like I did my heritage well. Between my display of my Celtic garb, cooking with Guinness, enjoying the music of Bing, the Murphy’s and Molly, Sin E Ri-Ra, and executing a satisfying meal, I felt pretty proud. Maybe I am really learning. More importantly, maybe I am understanding.

Next on the agenda…pastrami. Not a far cry from corned beef by any stretch, but certainly far more involved. I’m sure I will find out very soon (thru trial and error), if buying it from the deli is less expensive…most likely less laborious.We’ll see if I have the guts to make sauerkraut. For the sake of my kitchen, I’m going with “no”.