The cutting and chopping begin early today to fill two large pots atop the stove. In each will be layered large and thick slices of white onions and yellow potatoes. They’ll be followed by layers of cubed beef (too-greasy lamb is off the recipe). Then come the green onions, chopped celery, carrots and parsley.
The layers, each salted and peppered, are repeated until the pots are full; a quarter-pound of butter tops each. Then, poured into the pots, large bottles of red wine — the cheaper the better. It’s the only liquid used to produce what six or so hours later (and never stirred) will be this year’s St. Patrick’s stew.
The aroma of the sweet simmerings will mix with the sharper smells of a locust- and maple-filled fireplace, burning low and, just perhaps, mimicking the sod fire of my ancestors. Baking bread in the oven will be the final seduction.
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Friends will arrive, uncorking their favorite wines and uncapping the not-too-cold Smithwick’s ale, fresh from Kilkenny. The good conversation and laughter will be every bit as warm as the stew, bread and fire.
About as much of the stew as the brew will remain as the night ends and the dogs curl by the fire, dreaming of the bowls they licked dry in the kitchen as the guests, their bellies and spirits filled, take their leave.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone.
• Colin McNickle, the retired editorial page editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, now is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. He began his journalism career at local newspapers and radio stations. A 1976 graduate of Martins Ferry High School, he grew up in Colerain.