Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pour Me a Guinness!

Everyone's favorite holiday is upon us! St. Patrick's day! Origin's aside (let's be honest... it's become a real good excuse to drink in excess) St. Patrick's day is also the one day a year where everyone becomes a huge fan of Irish cuisine. Most people go straight for the corned beef and cabbage, myself? I wanted to experiment a little. While perusing two of my favorite recipe sites- Epicurious (a compilation of gourmet magazine's and cook book recipe's) and foodgawker (a site for food bloggers to share their achievements) I came across two recipes that sounded right up my alley with one common factor- Guinness!! The most delicious and surprisingly low calorie beer out there can also add a unique depth to both desserts and savory dishes. To showcase this beer in both aspects I tried two different recipes- Guinness Chocolate pudding with a Guinness Whipped Cream topping and Guinness & Onion Soup with Irish Cheddar Crouton.

Chocolate Guinness Goodness
Created By Chef Shane Coffey of Alias Restaurant in NYC

8 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
One 14.9-ounce can Guinness Draught
3 cups heavy cream
7 ounces high-quality bittersweet (70 to 72% cacao) chocolate, finely chopped

In large nonreactive mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar.
Open can of Guinness and slowly pour into large measuring cup with a pour spout, pouring down side of cup to reduce foaming. Pour half of Guinness (about 7 ozs) into heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan. Add 2 1/4 cups cream and whisk to combine. Set over medium heat and heat, whisking occasionally, until bubbles just begin to form at edges. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and whisk until smooth.
Slowly pour hot chocolate mixture into eggs, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. ( I cheated a little here to both save my arm strength- of which I have none, and ensure consistency I used my hand mixer on a low setting in my right hand while drizzling the chocolate mixture into the eggs with my left) Return mixture to saucepan and set over moderately low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and coats back of spoon, about 15 minutes. (Pudding will look separated.) Pour into blender (to save myself some cleaning I again used my hand mixer in a bowl this time on high.... there may have been some light splattering... whatever a clean kitchen is a wasted kitchen) and blend on high for 1 minute. Divide pudding among glasses, leaving at least 1 inch of space at top of each. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and set.
Meanwhile, pour remaining Guinness into small saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 1 tablespoon, about 20 minutes. Pour syrup into small bowl and let cool.
Beat remaining cream until soft peaks form. Add Guinness syrup and beat until combined. Divide cream among 6 glasses of pudding and serve.

I brought this treat to my weekly Glee watching party and it was very well received (granted it was just Abbie and her mom... but they really liked it!) Definitely one I would make again. The pudding is VERY rich but has a nice silky texture and the whipped topping really offsets the richness but without mussing with the flavor too much since they both have the silky hint of Guinness in them

Guinness & Onion Soup with Irish Cheddar Crouton
From Michael Chiarello Via The Fake Ginger (blog)

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (about 2 large onions)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 1/2 cups Guinness Draught (not Stout)
6 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
Country bread loaf, cut into six 1/2-inch thick slices, then toasted
1/2 lb Irish Cheddar, thinly sliced

Heat the olive oil in a 6 quart Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in the garlic and cook until just fragrant. Add the onions, season with salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium-low and saute the onions for another 20 to 30 minutes (really take your time here you want these onions to be melt in your mouth), stirring occasionally until they are a deep amber color.
Add the thyme, vinegar and beer. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, then add the beef stock and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook for 20 more minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler and set out individual oven-proof soup bowls. Discard the bay leaf, then use a ladle to transfer the soup to the individual bowls. Top with toasted bread slices, then 3-4 slices of the cheddar cheese. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Serve piping hot.

I have recently become a great lover of French Onion soup. The thing I love the most about it is the richness of the beefy broth and the stringy cheese with the bread soaking up the flavors. I have to say in all these aspects this recipe fell short. However to pay proper respect to this recipe- it was still very tasty and was a unique item on its own with just a similar style to classic french onion soup. I may have chosen a beef stock that wasn't going to bring the depth I was looking for. Some people also may not like an overly beefy broth. The Irish cheddar is a really tasty cheese though it doesn't quite get that stringy quality when melting into the soup. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!