Every year for St. Patrick’s Day, I put a corned beef in the crock pot to slowly cook throughout the day, make a loaf of Irish soda bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins, and mix up a couple of green beers. It is a St. Patty’s Day tradition around our house, even though we are not of Irish heritage.
This year, I wanted to create a few twists on traditional St Patrick’s Day menu items and substitute the meat with wild game. I started doing some research on customary Irish foods, and learned a few things that kind of flipped my world momentarily upside down. First, in Ireland they do not traditionally eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day. They usually serve lamb or bacon. That really put a twist in my plans. Second, the green beer thing is not actually a thing in the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland. In fact, many of the traditions I have learned since I was a kid, like pinching anyone that did not don green, are customs and traditions that evolved in Irish-American cultures.
One of the biggest things I love about cooking is the connections created between the food and customs, traditions, or even just interesting facts that pop up. While my research into traditional St. Patrick’s Day foods was not what I expected it to be, the mere task of looking up some ways to work differently with corned beef directed me into a full on discovery of how St. Patrick’s Day was founded, which traditions are from Ireland and which grew from Irish-American cultures, and even the different celebrations that occur around the world for St. Patrick’s Day.
For this recipe, I stuck with the Irish-American tradition of corned beef. I love the flavor profile created in a corned beef. It is a salty, sweet, and pickled taste. I wanted to try that kind of seasoning on wild game. So, with from a chunk of elk meat, some corned beef seasonings, and a dry stout beer brewed in Ireland, I made an elk hand pie. This meal is a twist on two other meals: corned beef and cabbage, and Guinness pot pie.
To start, place a pound of potatoes in a large pot of water. I used fingerling potatoes and kept the skins on. You could also use red, Yukon, or russet potatoes. I think a fun twist for next time will be to replace the potato with a sweet potato. Also, you can peel the potatoes if you aren’t a fan of the skins. Turn the heat to high and bring the potatoes to a boil. Once the water is boiling, place a lid over the pot, turn the heat off, and allow the potatoes to cook for five minutes. Set the timer for this part, because you only want to parboil, or partially cook, the potatoes. For this dish, you want the potatoes to remain somewhat firm, not mushy, and also they will continue to cook more in the meat mixture and finally in the oven. After five minutes, drain the potatoes and set them aside to cool down.
For the elk meat, I ran mine through a coarse grind one time. For this recipe, I used the 3/8″ hole meat grinder plate. It is also a good idea to have the meat at a relatively cold temperature, or even partially frozen, when grinding. This will help to prevent the machine from pulverizing the meat, or as some people term it, “mashing” the meat through the plate. I made a pound of ground elk for this recipe, and had enough mixture by the end to create about a dozen hand pies. You could easily cut this recipe in half if you don’t want that many pies, but they freeze really well so I always make a big batch and eat the rest later.
Preheat a large skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add a medium size onion, chopped into bite size pieces, and allow to sauté for three minutes. Add two cups of shredded cabbage, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook an additional five to seven minutes. The cabbage should be soft by now, and the onions should be starting to turn translucent. Remove the cabbage and onions from the pan and set aside.
To the already preheated skillet, drop in the pound of ground elk meat. Season the meat with a teaspoon each of ground cloves, ground mustard seed, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, all spice, and dill weed. Cook the elk until it is browned, about seven minutes. While the meat is browning, dice up the now cooled potatoes into bite size pieces in preparation for adding to the skillet.
Deglaze the skillet with the bottle of Irish dry stout beer. Also add in two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and return the cabbage and onions to the pan. Add the diced potatoes as well. Keep the heat high, and allow the beer to reduce down by half, which takes about five minutes. Turn off the skillet and let the mixture cool down.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While waiting, roll out the pre-made pie crusts. I rolled the dough a bit thinner so I could get more pies from the crusts. If you like a thicker crust on your pies, simply buy a couple of boxes of the premade dough. Use a biscuit cutter to make circles for the hand pies. I actually don’t own a biscuit cutter, so I used a bowl and a knife. A cup also works well in this situation. Place the dough circles on an ungreased cookie sheet. I lined my sheet with aluminum foil to make the clean-up a bit easier. Pile each circle with a couple of spoonfuls of the meat mixture and then top with a second circle. Pinch around the edges using a fork, poke a small vent in the top, and brush each pie with an egg wash.
Bake the pies in the oven for 12 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Well, I hope you enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day recipe with a twist on corned beef and cabbage. The pies, with their flaky crusts, give hints of corned beef seasonings paired with the sweetness of cabbage. Each bite is like a full meal, with potatoes, onions, meat, and cabbage. Enjoy!