Several years ago my husband and I traveled to Europe and the UK. At each destination, our wanderings were influenced by my love of two things (not surprisingly), food and literature. In Florence, our trip was built around Dante and red wine. In Paris, it was Hemingway and croissants. In London, it was Dickens, Shakespeare, Austen… and Chips (hold the fish).
Ireland was one of the countries on our itinerary I was most looking forward to. After all, everyone always says the countryside is nothing short of perfection, and that the people are amazingly friendly and welcoming. Sure, I was excited to see the lush, rolling hills, and, like every other American, I do love an Irish accent, but for me, this stop was about James Joyce and Guinness.
I read both Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake my sophomore year of college. Notoriously difficult, these novels served as a litmus test indented to weed out less serious students—those who had settled on an English major because they kinda liked to read. While I survived, I came away thinking that if I never read another piece of Joyce I’d be perfectly content.
Then came Modernist Lit my junior year. Joyce’s short story collection Dubliners was, not surprisingly, on the reading list. As the title implies, the stories are all inspired by the poles of the Irish consciousness: Catholicism, Irish nationalism, and British Imperialism. To say that I love this collection is an understatement. These stories changed the way I read, analyze, and teach literature.
Though Joyce moved from Ireland at age 22, his writing is highly influenced by his country of birth. While I was visiting, I wanted to soak up as much of the atmosphere as possible (though, obviously a lot has changed since he took up residence there). So, in an attempt to feel a greater kinship with this amazing author and the country that was so influential to him, I did what seemed natural: We drove, awestruck, through the countryside, wandered through the city, and eventually made our way to a small local pub where I happily ordered up a Guinness.
With St. Patrick’s day on the horizon, I encourage you to lift your pint to the greatest Irish novelist of all time: James Joyce. Enjoy a Guinness (or Murphy’s, Smithwick’s, or Harp, if that’s more to your liking) and check out the following recipes, all using Guinness, that work to create your perfect St. Patty’s day meal.
Drinks: Irish Half &Half
1/2 pint Guinness
1/2 pint Harp
Pour into a tall glass and enjoy!
Appetizer: Cheese and Guinness Fondue
2 lb grated Cheddar cheese;
½ pint Guinness
6-8 tsp Worcester sauce;
salt & pepper;
1 tbsp cornstarch
Put grated cheese into a 7-inch fondue dish or enameled iron casserole and melt gently, stirring continuously. Add remaining ingredients and stir until the fondue thickens slightly. For dipping use chunks of French bread or toast.
Special Note: If a normal 7-inch or bigger dish is used, one pint of fondue is the right quantity. For half the quantity, a smaller dish must be used.
Dinner: Guinness Corned Beef
4 pounds corned beef brisket
1 cup brown sugar
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle Guinness
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the beef completely and pat dry.
Place the brisket on rack in a roasting pan or Dutch oven. Rub the brown sugar on the corned beef to coat entire beef, including the bottom. Pour the bottle of Guinness around, and gently over the beef to wet the sugar.
Cover, and place in preheated oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours. Allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing.
During the last hour, you may put vegetables in the roasting pan as well. Try a wedge of cabbage, new potatoes, onion, carrots, etc. You may need to add a little more Guinness with your vegetables.
Dessert: Chocolate Guinness Cake
1/4 cup cocoa powder (to dust the baking pans)
2 sticks butter
1 cup Guinness
2/3 cup Dutch process dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
Heat oven to 350. Lightly dust two greased 8 inch spring form pans with cocoa powder. In a heavy saucepan or microwave oven, heat butter, Guinness, and cocoa powder until butter melts. Let cool.
Sift dry ingredients together. Add the Guinness-cocoa mixture, and beat thoroughly for 1 minute on medium speed.
Add the eggs and sour cream and beat 2 minutes on medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Place pans on a wire rack, cool for 10 minutes, remove the sides, and cool completely. Use a long serrated knife to even the tops of the cakes.
Using a flexible spatula, spread each layer with a thin coating of chocolate frosting, stack, and cover the sides with frosting.