St. Patrick’s Day was a big holiday at the White House. The Prime Minister of Ireland often came to Washington for the celebration, and invitations to the reception and entertainment were much sought after by those of Irish-American descent. We always created menus based on traditional Irish food (see menu below), and the entertainers were renowned Irish artists.
One year I had arranged for a troupe of dancers to perform, and we carefully established how many songs they would be performing (4), and the length of each song (20 minutes total). This was important because the President and the Taoiseach (the Prime Minister) were expected at a luncheon at the Capitol as soon as the event was over. The music was lively and toes were tapping as the group performed their whirling dances around the East Room stage, and just as the fourth song was concluded and the President was about to go onstage and thank the performers, they suddenly wheeled into another dance. I was surprised and dismayed, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it; the White House press corps was there in full force, and we didn’t exactly keep a shepherd’s crook around for moments like these. What’s the harm in five more minutes, right?
The fifth song concluded and the group hurled themselves into a sixth reel without so much as a pause. The President’s personal aide gave me his raised eyebrow “What’s going on here?” look, and I shrugged helplessly. Surely they would stop after this one! The Taoiseach and his delegation were looking at their watches; they knew they had places to be. I sidled up the side of the East Room, putting myself in eye contact with the group’s manager, who cheerfully refused to meet my gaze. I looked imploringly at the personal aide and shook my head. He nodded, and moved quietly to whisper something to the President.
As the sixth song concluded, I could see they were about to launch into yet another dance, and my heart sank. But the President leapt from his seat on to the stage with admirable timing and began to applaud loudly, thanking them for their performance and stopping them before they could go on. And it was finally over. It was a lesson; once you allow someone on the stage of the White House, it’s very difficult to keep them from doing whatever they like, and I’m not just talking about entertainers.
I love this Irish stew recipe, which has red wine and stout, and is made with beef rather than lamb. There are an endless number of Irish stew variations, and I want to be clear that this is ‘an’ Irish stew recipe, not ‘the’ Irish stew recipe. It came from Simplyrecipes.com; I made it on a Friday night, we ate it all through the Presidents’ Day weekend, and it just got more flavorful with each passing day. I hope you’ll give it a try; it will make you want to dance a jig!
Irish Beef Stew
Adapted from Simply Recipes.com
Prep time: 30 minutes prep time and one hour thirty minutes cooking time
- 1 pound beef stew meat, in large chunks
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 4 cups beef broth
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup Guinness stout
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot until it begins to smoke.
- Use one tablespoon of the salt to sprinkle on the beef, then place in pot to cook, allowing pieces to brown nicely before turning (about 4 minutes on each side).
- You want a nice dark brown color on the meat.
- Add garlic and allow to cook for about a minute before adding red wine, Guinness, water, beef stock, sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves.
- Allow mixture to simmer, then cover and cook for an hour, stirring as needed.
- While soup is cooking, melt the butter in a frying pan and add the onions and carrots.
- Saute on low temperature for 15 minutes or until onions are golden brown.
- Set aside until soup has simmered for an hour.
- Add onions, carrots and raw potatoes to the stew.
- Add black pepper and the rest of the salt.
- Simmer another 30 minutes until potatoes are soft.
- Remove bay leaves.
- Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.