What's Luck Got To Do With It?
The Friday Newsletter is giving this week the Irish Goodbye
I’m going to have to eat my words a bit.
It is the previously-stated and firmly-held editorial stance of this newsletter that holidays are, in fact, good. Controversial, I know, right? I like holidays, no matter how inconsequential, because they give the year structure and rhythm—especially here in the final stretch of winter, when we’re stir-crazy and just dying for a reason to celebrate anything.
Then mid-March rolls around, and one particular holiday tests this belief like it’s never been tested.
No, not the Ides of March; the only Brutus-involved violence I care about is delivered by the hands of the Ohio University Bobcat.
I’m speaking, of course, about St. Patrick’s Day.
Don’t get me wrong: I love surface-level Irish culture as much as any extremely-basic, one-quarter-Irish person out there; I like Guinness and Celtic music and U2 and Billy Connolly [EDIT: of course I knew he was Scottish. I was testing you. Yeah, that’s the ticket.] and pretty much anything that isn’t the Boston Celtics.
The holiday itself, though? It’s kind of a nightmare.
Perhaps I’m biased in this feeling by the decade I lived in New York City, where St. Patrick’s Day meant hordes of the tri-state area’s rowdiest young men descending on Midtown Manhattan to drink green beer, holler, and vomit on the street in broad daylight, but there’s been plenty a year where the sight of March 17th on the calendar filled me with more dread than excitement. Truly, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a heavily-inebriated 17-year-old in a New York Rangers jersey sprint across four active subway tracks because his friends were on the opposite platform, something I once witnessed on my way home from work on a Wednesday.
The holiday deserves better.
Ireland is a beautiful country with a rich culture, one that’s had a heavy influence on American culture, and I adore many of the things that should be associated with St. Patrick’s Day. So I’m going to embrace it on my own terms; take the corned beef, leave the green beer, and make the most of what we’ve got.
Friends? It’s Friday. As usual, I’ve got a loaded slate of ACBN-Certified Good Things to launch you into the weekend in style.
7) My working theory is that a normal hamburger does not have enough nitrates
One of the most unalloyed delights this time of year is that grocery stores stock up on relatively-cheap corned beef. I love corned beef. I mean, it’s saltier beef—what’s not to love? It’s a killer breakfast meat and an essential part of a Reuben.
On the one hand, I wish it were readily-available in the meat case year-round; on the other hand, I would literally die if it were.
Now, if you’re especially ambitious and in the throes of pre-vaccination cabin fever like I was a year ago, you could undertake the curing process yourself—buy sodium nitrate and curing spices, spend a week brining a whole brisket, and simmer it for hours in your largest pot. It was a fun project when I did. You could do this.
It’s a lot easier to just spend $12 on a hunk of corned beef at Kroger, though.
Of course, I can’t just be content with a normal preparation. That just wouldn’t be me. Last year, I turned a corned beef dinner into a burrito.
This year? I’m making an Irish burger.
The ACBN Irish Burger
1 lb ground chuck
1 lb corned beef
If you have a meat grinder, run both through together to create an even blend. If you don’t, dice the corned beef into small chunk and pulse a few times in a food processor, then mix with the ground beef. Form into six 1/3-pound patties.
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced thin
2 tablespoons butter
Saute over low heat, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned and softened
10 ounces Irish stout beer
1/4 cup brown mustard
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Add all ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat; whisk to combine and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until thickened to the consistency of steak sauce.
Preheat a non-stick or cast-iron pan or skillet to high heat (or, if you’re well-equipped, a baking steel on a hot gas grill). Brush the hot surface with butter, and press the patties in firmly, smashing with a spatula. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then flip, and bring to an internal temperature of 130F as measured with an instant-read thermometer.
soft hamburger bun
Place the patties on a toasted bun, top with sautéed mushrooms, and drizzle the stout sauce over top. Serve with some manner of fried potato.
Now that’s a burger. Didn’t even need cheese; plenty of big flavors on its own.
If you don’t want to complicate matters—well, first of all, I can’t relate, I love complicating matters—you could make a damn fine burger doing this with just regular ground beef. The corned beef did lend a nice salty tang to the whole affair, though, and felt especially on-theme for the holiday.
Either way, the sauce is a winner, and would go excellent with a steak as well.
6) I’m shipping up to [record scratch] Kentucky???
It’s no secret that I’m a bourbon aficionado; heck, it’s a small but crucial part of why I call Kentucky home. Bourbon’s great. But I don’t want to sleep on Irish whiskey as a category, because I’d be missing out on something unique and special in its own right. Irish whiskeys are usually a bit lighter-bodied and fruitier than their full-bodied, caramelly cousins from Kentucky, and they’ve got a nice background spice without verging into the smokiness of Scotch.
For many people, the Irish whiskey conversation starts and stops with the widely-available standby Jameson, and they’d get no quarrel from me—for many of my most bar-going years, Jameson-and-soda was my workhorse drink. There’s much more to Irish whiskey than that familiar face, though, and there’s an exciting new entrant to that canon from right here in Kentucky.