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Irish stew

Finding an Apple-friendly wifi connection in Ireland is harder than parsing the difference between Guinness and Murphy’s, the two rival national stout porter ales.murphys-irish-stout.jpg

Although Mr. Henry slightly preferred Murphy’s, a blind taste test between them might fool even the most seasoned pub crawler. (After the first two pints no one cares, anyway.)

Following a day riding around the Blaskett Islands on ten-foot North Atlantic swells, for dinner you need a hearty dish that won’t upset your queasy stomach.

Traditional Irish stew is lamb with potatoes, often prepared with carrots, leeks, onion, parsnips and rutabaga. Unlike other savory stews the meat is not first browned and therefore the broth is not dark.

Having eaten it daily in Ireland, Mr. Henry had a good idea of what it should be. You can use shoulder but Mr. Henry bought lamb neck, the tastiest and least expensive of cuts, but one that takes a bit more trouble.

Traditional Irish stew

three lamb necks in one-inch pieces
chicken stock
six potatoes, Yukon gold
two large carrots
two large parsnips
two leeks
one medium white onion
two cloves garlic, whole
bouquet of fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme
chopped parsley
zest of lemon
ground nutmeg
splash of Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper

Have your butcher cut the neck into one inch pieces. Bring lamb to a boil in chicken stock with garlic cloves and simmer until tender. Let cool so you can skim the fat. Remove the meat and the marrow, and cut into bite sizes. Discard bones and garlic.

To broth add diced onion and leeks you’ve first wilted in a sauce pan. Dice one potato and add this right away so it’s starch will thicken your broth. Then add potatoes cut in larger shapes as well as the other root vegetables.

Seasoning is mild. Like the song says, use “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” tied in a bouquet. For a richer aroma add ground pepper, a little grated nutmeg, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce.

You can cook on stove top (low) or in the oven (350º). When your vegetables are nearly done, about one hour, combine the meat and salt. As with any stew, prepare it ahead of time and let it rest so flavors may combine.

Never afraid to fiddle with her husband’s kitchen creations, Mrs. Henry tasted the broth and pronounced it redolent of osso buco, perhaps, therefore, in need of a gremolata at the table, which in this case turned out to be a simple mix of finely chopped lemon peel and parsley. Brilliant.

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Next came the question of what to drink. In an Irish pub the black brew on tap is without question the drink of choice. Light in body, dark in color, richly malted, toasted to a crisp, nutty finish, Irish stout porter is divine.

Contrary to general expectations, red wine was too strong for such a mild dish. Wine drinkers at the Henry table chose a sauvignon blanc.

Striving for a more traditional pairing, Mr. Henry enjoyed his stew with the superb new Manhattan Rye whiskey from Hudson Valley, the first distillery built in New York since prohibition. Sláinte.

Dingle jingle

In the Irish village of Dingle,
the Henrys decided to mingle.
When three pints of Guinness
had settled within us
we sang out the following jingle:

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In Dublin fair city
where streets are so bitty
we side-swiped a girl named sweet Molly Malone.
She whirled her Pierce Arrow,
through the streets broad and narrow,
crying “Jaysus, you eejits are a menace on the roads!”

In Ireland while driving
your hopes of surviving
depend on how close you can drive past the hedge
When a big bus comes at ya’
and threatens to splat ya’
you’d better stay left or you’ll never go home.
dingle.jpg
Road signs in Kerry
make locals quite merry
for they’re written in Irish and Irish alone.
When befuddled tourists
confront language purists
the tourists stay lost on these windy small roads.

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Windy small roads, windy small roads,
the tourists stay lost on these windy small roads.

Mr. Henry’s Appetite

Mr. Henry has a healthy appetite.

His invariable breakfast routine begins with a banana, a small piece of which he offers to his noble hound, Pepper, despite a strict household injunction against such departures from her regular diet. Since the rest of the Henry household lies asleep at this hour, however, this little transgression remains his little secret.

Sometimes mixed with raw rolled oats, raisin bran, and a touch of Grape Nuts for crunch, yogurt is a breakfast staple, as well. The intestines approve whole-heartedly. Coffee, that great Arabian contribution to world culture, is required for the well-being of Mr. Henry’s disposition. The buoyancy it imparts to Mr. Henry’s morning mood ensures that whatever horror the New York Times may report about national policy will not upset the intestinal balance achieved by banana plus yogurt.

Soon after returning from Pepper’s morning run, however, Mr. Henry begins casting conspiratorial glances towards the refrigerator and speculating about lunch.

Lunch is without question the pivot of Mr. Henry’s day, its central alimentary event, the Henry organism’s very purpose and mainstay.

An Arabic proverb declares: “Eat your breakfast, share your lunch, and give your dinner away.”

This is the soundest advice Mr. Henry has ever heard on the noisy subject of diet, and he did in fact hear it from a bona fide Arab gentleman many years ago in Tangier. In embracing this wisdom he lost the thirty pounds gained during Mrs. Henry’s pregnancy and has maintained a waistline that remains the envy of his peers. In casting downward glances Mr. Henry has a nearly unobstructed view of his feet. Indeed, so long as he doesn’t exhale, when wearing his racing Speedo at the J.C.C. he can make it from the stairs to the pool without compromising his dignity one iota.

Cahill's Farm Porter CheddarThere are, however, boundaries to his discipline. In this world there are temptations of many types — worldly pleasures of such fragrant intensity that no man, not even a man of Mr. Henry’s character and breeding, can long resist. Mr. Henry is speaking, naturally, of the cheese course.

The St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage party, an annual Henry household event, terminated with two divine Irish cheeses provided by Dr. Lorna: Cashel blue, a creamy not crumbly one, and Cahill porter cheddar, a nice farmhouse cheddar shockingly marbled with brown veins.

A Cold Guiness: One of Man's Greatesst AchievementsBottles of cold Guinness draught brought smiles to our faces. Inside each bottle you will find a curious little ceramic whirligig which when you pop the cap expels a jet of gas into the brew. The result is as light as the old standby stout is heavy, a surprisingly gentle, refreshing, and apt accompaniment to corned beef.

Leave it to the Irish to create a cheese laced with brown ale. When thinking of cheese, one’s imagination does not leap to visions of Ireland, and, frankly, Guinness stout does not call out for cheese, either. And yet a slice of cheese washed down by draught Guinness drunk cold from the bottle provided the perfect close to the meal.

At Mr. Henry’s house the cheese sits out.

It sleeps on the countertop like a tranquil pet.

Mrs. Henry is dismissive of cheeses left out to achieve “room temperature.” Harsh words have been exchanged on the subject. For Mrs. Henry cheese is an invitation to mice. For Mr. Henry cheese is a work of refinement and high craftsmanship, a binding tie to ages past, the highest achievement of animal husbandry, and the one completely irresistible food.

At long last, low-fat diets have beaten a retreat. Granted, those Henry friends and relations who have suffered heart attacks are forbidden to participate in round-table cheese tastings, but even that may be needlessly cautionary.

For Mr. Henry cheese is appropriate after most meals. The nineteenth century habit of an obligatory cheese course needs re-invigorating.

Let a thousand cheeses bloom!