Winter comfort food from Ireland

Shaun Brady, chef at Brady’s Public House

It is a long way to Tipperary, specifically the town of Nenagh in south central Ireland. That’s where Shaun Brady, chef at Brady’s Public House in Kansas City, grew up. But in one bite of his from-scratch Irish food, you can travel there and back.

February is gloomy, here as in Ireland, where “if it’s not raining, it’s going to rain,” says Brady. “That’s when you want something warm and savory and filling.” His Steak and Guinness Pie fits the bill. “The whole idea of an Irish pie is it’s peasant food, a dish that servants on a grand estate would make with leftovers from the master’s dinner. And they had to stretch those leftovers to feed more people,” he says.

He elevates that simple cottage dish into something wonderful, with steak, the quintessential deep-bodied Irish beer, fresh herbs and winter vegetables, aromatics, and beef demi-glace, which you can find packaged at gourmet shops or better grocery stores.

Serve this pie with a fresh green salad and more beer, Guinness or perhaps a Harp lager.

Steak & Guinness Pie
Serves 4

2 pounds beef strip or sirloin steak, cut into small cubes
½ cup carrots, cut into ½-inch dice
1/4 cup onion, cut into ½-inch dice
1/4 cup celery, cut into ½-inch dice
1/4 pound mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 (12-ounce) can Guinness beer
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups beef demi-glace or rich beef stock
Salt and pepper
Water as needed
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator, then cut in 4 equal pieces

In a large pan, brown the beef. Sprinkle in the flour, stir to coat the beef, and cook, stirring until the flour begins to smell nutty. Deglaze the pan with Guinness. Add the demi-glace and let simmer until the beef is just tender and the sauce has thickened, about 30 to 40 minutes. Water may be added to help in the cooking process. Season with salt and pepper. Add vegetables and herbs and continue cooking until vegetables are fork tender, another 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Portion the beef mixture into 4 oven-proof individual ramekins or bowls. Top each with puff pastry. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

A World of Humble—and Not-So-Humble—Pie

Many cultures have some kind of a savory pie that is served when the weather turns brisk. Originally made from leftovers during lean times, these pies are now made from fresh ingredients and valued for their nostalgic taste of home.

Shaun Brady, chef at Brady’s Public House, is quick to tell customers the difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie. Shepherds don’t work with cattle, so a shepherd’s pie indicates it’s made with lamb. Cottage pie gets the beef and is usually topped with mashed potatoes. Brady seasons his with a little English mustard.

If you’re a fan of the Great British Baking Show on PBS, you’ve seen contestants make English raised game pie, a tall cylinder of deliciousness. Homemade hot water pastry surrounds a filling of layered ground pork shoulder, bacon, and pheasant. The British steak and kidney pie is a bit more of a tough sell and an acquired taste for the American palate—once you’ve cooked a kidney, you just can’t get it out of your taste memory, try as you might. The hand pie known as a pastie was the Cornish tin-miner’s lunch. In Wales, a fish pie gets a creamy filling sprinkled with herbs and a mashed potato topping.

Empanadas, the little handheld pies of Latin America, take on savory fillings as diverse as chicken and beef, vegetables and fish.

French Canadian tourtiere is a savory meat pie made with a mixture of pork and beef and quatre epices, a French four-spice seasoning that includes nutmeg, cloves, white pepper, and ginger, which you can find at Penzey’s in Overland Park.

And closer to home is the American Midwest, where we love savory pies of all kinds. Our hand-held pie is the bierock, also known as the runza, the staple of small Kansas communities and wheat farmers during harvest. A bread dough surrounds a filling of ground beef, onion, and shredded cabbage or sauerkraut. Most beloved is the chicken pot pie, at its best with a flaky pastry crust and tender vegetables in a creamy filling.

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