Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

With St. Patrick's day coming up, I decided to ask a lively Irish friend what she recommended as an alluring menu for the holiday. She like my suggestion of soup and then steak with stout in the sauce. I was a bit stumped for dessert and I said I hesitated to give a recipe for dessert with more booze. "Well, she laughed, it's Irish, after all!"


Irish Whiskey Tomato Bisque

Guinness Tri-Tip Steak with Mushrooms

Toffee Shortbread


Irish Whiskey Tomato Bisque

Serves 4

Galway Bay our local Irish pub along with their Irish brothers, the Killarney House (Davidsonville) and Brian Boru (Severna Park) all serve an Annapolitan favorite-Irish Whiskey Soup and Tomato. Wouldn’t want Mike to devulge his mother’s recipe (and I don't even have that recipe) but here is a scrumptious stand-in since you can’t always make it out to the pub for dinner.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, juices reserved
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Dash or 2 cayenne (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Irish whiskey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh chopped tomato and chopped basil for garnish


In a large nonreactive saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and bay leaf and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice, broth, tomato paste, basil, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer stirring frequently for 20 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.


In a food processor or blender, puree soup in batches until smooth. Return to pan and stir in cream and whiskey. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes, and serve toped with tomato and basil.

Guinness Tri-Tip Steak with Mushrooms

Serves 4

The tri-tip cut is considered one of beef’s best kept inexpensive secrets as more than one source has informed me. You may have to ask your local butcher such as Mike Smollen at My Butcher and More in Annapolis or your local farmer to have it cut for you, since the carving is done by packers for supermarket beef. It has become a favorite amongst the few in the know and I know because I have tested recipes for my new cookbook with this cut. The tri-tip roast or steak (also called a triangle roast) is the 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds of meat that sits at the bottom of the sirloin. Not only does it have a great flavor, but also tends to be lower in fat than most other cuts, so it's a good lean cut and that means it fairs best when cooked to medium rare.

'Bittersweet balance' is the term given to that most Irish of beers-Guinness Stout which adds the perfect character for St. Patrick’s Day to the yummy steak entree.

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dark Guinness
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 4 tri-tip steaks, at least 1-inch thick (about 5-6 ounces each)
  • 3 tablespoons very cold butter

Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl, then whisk in beer. Pour marinade into large resealable plastic bag. Add steaks and refrigerate for 24 hours turning bag occasionally.

Remove steaks from marinade and pat dry; Place marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then cook for 5 minutes to reduce.

Heat a large saute  pan on medium-high and add olive oil. Add mushrooms to hot pan and sear until golden brown. Place on serving platter. Return pan to the heat and place steaks in hot pan and cook until well browned and thermometer inserted into center registers 125°F to 130°F for medium-rare, about 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer steaks to cutting board and let rest 5 minutes while finishing sauce.

Meanwhile add reduced marinade to saute pan and heat; scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan. Gently stir in butter one tablespoon of butter at a time to make a creamy sauce.

Place steaks on a platter and serve drizzled with Guinness sauce.

Toffee Shortbread

Makes 16 pieces

Buttery shortbread, a layer of caramel-like toffee, and deep chocolate ganache make these cookie bars a favorite with Irish families. That good old Irish whiskey can also be added to the toffee ingredients by the tablespoon just decrease the condensed milk by the same amount.


  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6-ounces quality dark chocolate, cut into small pieces



Shortbread: Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar. Stir in the flour until well mixed. Press the batter into a 9-inch square pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Let cool.


Toffee: Melt the 1/2 cup of butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, condensed milk, and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring continually. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour over the cooled shortbread.


Topping: Melt the chocolate in a double boiler stirring just once until smooth. Pour over the cooled toffee. Cut into 16 squares.


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