4th Prize, Wisconsin State Fair, 2013


Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance



Wisconsin State Fair

August 4, 2013



Fourth Prize:

Nanna’s Irish Stew

Catherine Q. Rousseau, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin



Shake our family tree and who falls out? Quinns. O’Rileys. Duffys. Shanahans. Kileys. According to my great grandmother, “Nanna”, who lived to the age of 99, we come from a long line of Irish ancestors who immigrated to the USA from Cork County, Ireland in the 1840’s to escape the Irish Potato Famine which lasted from 1845 to 1852. This was a period of mass starvation and disease that resulted in the death of 1 million countrymen. The “potato blight” wiped out the crop that one third of the population was dependent upon. A million more emigrated from Ireland during this time. Ireland lost nearly a quarter of its population. *


Nanna regaled us with her stories about the “olden days” and wonderful meals. My favorite dinner was her Irish Stew which had nice size pieces of pork, plenty of potatoes, onions, carrots, rosemary and beer. In the early 1960’s, when frozen and canned foods became readily available, my mother began using canned new potatoes and cooked carrots to simplify the task of feeding our family of five. She also added frozen Brussel sprouts to the stew which are not Irish at all but added a nice dimension to the taste and appearance. Regardless, if the stew has beer in it and is made by an Irishman, it is Irish. This dish traditionally headlined our St. Patrick’s Day dinners when I was young. You can bet that come next March, it will make another appearance.


After a family dinner, all of the children, including myself, would sit at Nanna’s feet as she told us tale after tale of what life was like in the wild west when she was growing up. She described how she had encountered an Apache warrior, spear in hand, when she was only 8 years old. Our favorite story though was about Billy the Kid. My great, great Grandfather had won the respect of Billy when he defended Billy’s mother’s honor when a group of idlers were harassing her in Silver City, New Mexico. A few weeks later, Grandfather, having found himself in a bar brawl at Joe Dyer’s Saloon with the same group of idlers, was about to have a heavy wooden chair crashed over his head when Billy rushed in and fatally stabbed the idler, killing his first man. Were it not for Billy the Kid, you would not be reading this. I would never have been born. **


The china displayed in this exhibit was made by Johnson Brothers; the Friendly Village “England 1883” collection which became available in 1952. My grandmother purchased the china and it has been passed on down the generations. My older brother has the set now and I am sure he will pass it along to his children, hopefully along with this recipe. The photograph is of my Nanna with my grandmother taken in 1915. I am amazed when I look at the picture that I see some resemblance between Nanna and myself.


I cannot say enough about how pleasurable it has been to work on this heirloom presentation. My mother, who is now a youthful 79, and I had many conversations about our Irish heritage and cooking traditions as I was preparing this entry. Needless to say, I am thrilled to have explored our culinary history and even more so to share it at the Fair.


*Source: Nanna and Wikipedia.


**Documented in “The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid” by Pat F. Garrett



Fourth Prize:

Nanna’s Irish Stew

Catherine Q. Rousseau, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin



For the Stew:

Yield: 6-8 servings

2 TBSP olive oil

2 lbs pork shoulder, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 tsp The Spice House Tellicherry Black Pepper

1 1/2 tsp The Spice House Himalayan Pink Salt

1 tsp Spice House crushed dry rosemary

16 ounces beer

3 onions, halved

3 cups of low sodium chicken stock

16 ounces frozen Brussel sprouts

2 cans new potatoes, quartered

1 3/4 cup steamed carrots

1/4 cup thickener (you can use flour or cornstarch)

1/4 cup water



In a large sauce pan, brown the pork shoulder in the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add beer and rosemary. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add onion and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in stock and Brussel sprouts. Cover and cook until sprouts are tender, about 15 minutes. Add potato and carrot. Blend thickener and water to a smooth paste. Add one ladle of the juice to the paste. Stir completely to dissolve all chunks of the thickener. Slowly stir into pork mixture. Cook until liquid is thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring gently.