There was something about Joe Kerrigan’s Irish stew. Maybe it was the tarragon. Possibly the Worcestershire sauce. Perhaps all the beer.
Whatever the secret—and there was, unquestionably, something mouth-wateringly different about Kerrigan’s stew—it was clearly the people’s choice for best stew by an amateur cook at the annual Irish Stew Cook-Off at Finnigan’s Wake, benefiting the Hibernian Hunger Project.
One key difference Kerrigan was willing to admit to: the meat. Most of the contestants went with American-style beef, a few with lamb in the Irish fashion—and one entry included both. Kerrigan, a Fishtown florist and member of AOH Division 87, used beef brisket, cooked long and slow until fork-tender.
Kerrigan, who looks a bit like John Goodman, says he and his buddy Tom Sullivan started Thursday morning (the event was Thursday night) in Sullivan’s kitchen. And it sounds like Kerrigan’s not a neat cook. “We both were working on it,” he says. “We started at 11:30, and it’s been cooking since 1. At 2, we realized we didn’t have enough meat so I had to send him (Tom) out for more … I really destroyed his kitchen.”
The recipe started out as a variation on Kerrigan’s chili, which, in his own very humble estimation is “awesome.” All of his buddies were telling him to give the competition a shot. The 2009 cook-off was his first.
Taking first place in the pro category was the Starboard Side Tavern, also in Fishtown.
We have photos from the night.