This Saint Patrick guy sure got lucky.

Over the centuries, the patron saint of Ireland held on to his holiday by a clover stem, because there is another Irishman to whom the Irish are equally as devoted: Arthur Guinness, who 250 years ago brewed his first beer in Dublin. Although he started with ale, it is his stout that outlived him and his sons and their sons' sons to become one of the most widely consumed beers.

(And Saint Patrick doesn't have the claim of being the namesake for the keeper of world records, either.)

In Ireland, 40 percent of the beer consumed year-round is Guinness. The dark, rich stout isn't quite as beloved in the States, with the exception of St. Patrick's Day, when bars such as Fado and B.D. Riley's sell more Guinness than they do any other day of the year.

But even if you're not a fan of drinking it, Guinness can add a magical touch to your dishes no matter the time of year that will make your guests think you had a leprechaun in the kitchen.

We've all had beer-braised bratwurst, but what about stout-laced mole or bread pudding? Guinness' distinct flavor can add a subtle complexity to everything from chili to ice cream and shepherd's pie to black and tan cupcakes. Guinness might be an Irish tradition, but it was at least one Cajun grandmother's secret to an unforgettable gumbo. (See recipe inside.)

One of the easiest ways to incorporate Guinness into your cooking is to think of it as a stock or braising liquid. It adds a warm depth that can't be replicated by a salty cube of bouillon dissolved in water. Don't believe me? Try braising those brats in stock and then again in Guinness and see which you prefer.

When cooking pot roasts, short ribs, pork shoulders or even corned beef, cover meat in liquid and cook on low heat in an oven or a slow cooker for at least three hours. (You can use just beer or equal parts beer and water or beer and stock, depending on how much flavor you want to soak into the meat.) Guinness can be added to stews at the beginning of the cooking process to lend a mellow roasted flavor to both the meat and the vegetables.

Guinness can also be mixed with vinegar, lemon or other acid and spices to make a marinade for beef or lamb before cooking in the oven or on the grill. And don't worry about getting drunk off a Guinness beef stew; almost all the alcohol cooks away. Like wine, Guinness can also be used as a deglazing liquid.

Baking with Guinness can be tricky because baking, in general, is much more finicky than other kinds of cooking. Stick with a recipe such as the chocolate stout cake recipe below when baking sweets with Guinness, but bread isn't as touchy. Just replace some of the liquid with Guinness — I'd start with one-quarter of the Extra Stout — and experiment with your favorite bread recipe.

One of the biggest fears of cooking with any beer is that it will get bitter when cooked. The flavors of beer intensify as the liquid reduces, so a hoppy beer will taste even hoppier if it's cooked for a long period of time, but because Guinness Draught is actually low in hops, it is ideal for reducing into sauces and glazes.

At Fado, kitchen manager Victor Furuki uses Guinness straight from the tap in ice cream, barbecue sauce and mustard. He says that reducing Guinness slowly over low heat will keep it from getting bitter, but if a reduced Guinness does taste bitter, add a little sugar to even it out. "There's a lot of sugar and starches in any beer, and if you get it too hot, it will get really bitter," he says. A low heat will also prevent the beer from foaming too much in the pot.

Some slow-cooker recipes that call for dark beers also include some sweet element like prunes or raisins to help cut down on the bitterness, but if you taste as you go, you can correct as needed.

Whether you're cooking with it or drinking it, make sure you know which Guinness you are buying at the grocery store. Guinness Draught is sold in both bottles and cans right next to Guinness Extra Stout, which is bottled. Both beers are dark and rich, but the extra stout has a stronger flavor and is more bitter than Draught, which tastes more like the foamy pint you'd enjoy pulled straight from a tap in a bar.

In cooking, the Extra Stout is akin to using a concentrated broth, and the Draught adds a milder flavor. For ice cream or sauces, I prefer Extra Stout because of its intense flavor, but in the gumbo recipe that follows, I used an entire can of the Draught, which gives just a hint of the roasted barley flavor in the end.

As far as stouts go, Guinness is pretty neutral compared to the imperial stout varieties that have strong hints of coffee or chocolate, which, of course, have their own uses in the kitchen.

And if you'd still rather drink Guinness than cook with it, consider one of the easiest and most indulgent desserts: a Guinness float. Add a scoop of ice cream to a pint of Guinness. Sláinte!

abroyles@statesman.com; 912-2504

Guinness Gumbo with Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp

A few years ago, my friend Swampy Pat taught me how to make gumbo like his Cajun grandmother always did, by adding a can of Guinness. It's a serious clash of cultures, but it works. Instead of okra, I used chard and collard greens from my backyard garden.

Salt and pepper

4 chicken thighs

1/2 cup flour

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 sticks celery

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 links andouille sausage, sliced

8 cloves garlic

4 cups chicken stock

1 can Guinness Draught

Thyme

Bay leaves

1 Tbsp. Creole or Cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere's, etc.)

Hot sauce (optional)

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

One bunch greens, such as chard or collards, chopped

Juice of half a lemon

In a large pot, fry chicken thighs, skin on, that have been seasoned with salt and pepper. The goal is to cook the chicken and render the fat, so once the chicken is cooked, remove meat and leave hot fat in pot. Stir flour into fat and cook for several minutes, stirring frequently, to make a brown to dark brown roux. Add onions, bell pepper and celery and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until onion is almost clear. Add sausage and garlic and continue cooking for another five minutes. Add water, Guinness, bay leaves, thyme, Creole seasoning and hot sauce to taste. Simmer for at least 20 minutes or up to 45 to combine flavors. About 10 minutes before serving, add shrimp and greens and cook until shrimp are pink. Add lemon juice and serve with white or Cajun rice and crackers.

— Addie Broyles

Chocolate Stout Cake

Rich, dark and toasty stout beer plus deeply flavored molasses give the chocolate flavor of this cake some wonderful nuance. With this recipe, you can bake one big beautiful cake, perfect for entertaining, or a dozen irresistible miniature Bundt cakes, perfect for gift giving. Yields 1 large Bundt cake or 12 mini Bundt cakes.

10 oz. (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature; more for the pan

2 1/4 oz. (3/4 cup) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed); more for the pan

1 1/4 cups stout, such as Guinness (don't include the foam when measuring)

1/3 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)

7 1/2 oz. (1-2/3 cups) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

6 oz. semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped

For the glaze: (optional)

3/4 cup heavy cream

6 oz. semisweet chocolate

Position a rack in the center of oven and heat to 350 degrees. Butter a 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan (or twelve 1-cup mini Bundt pans) and then lightly coat with sifted cocoa powder. Tap out any excess cocoa.

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring stout and molasses to a simmer. Remove pan from the heat and let stand while preparing cake batter.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment) or a hand mixer, cream butter in a large bowl on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add brown sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop to scrape sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape bowl after each addition. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding flour and stout mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Stop the mixer at least one last time to scrape the bowl and then beat at medium speed until batter is smooth, about 20 seconds. Stir in chopped chocolate.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan (or pans), spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Run a knife through the batter to eliminate any air pockets. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 45 to 50 minutes (about 35 minutes for mini cakes). Set pan on a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Invert cake onto the rack and remove the pan. Let cool until just barely warm.

For the glaze: Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute and then whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool for 5 minutes. Drizzle the cake with glaze and cool to room temperature.

— From Fine Cooking magazine, author Nicole Rees. Also at FineCooking.com.

Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

7 oz. milk chocolate (A little more than 4 regular-sized Hershey bars. You can also incorporate some dark chocolate into this amount.)

4 large egg yolks

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

pinch of salt

1 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup Guinness (Extra Stout if you want a strong Guinness flavor, Draught if you want it more subtle)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

sprinkle of nutmeg

Break up chocolate and put in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.

In a medium saucepan, warm milk, sugar and salt until warm, but not hot. To temper the egg yolks, slowly pour the warm milk and sugar mixture into yolks, whisking constantly. Once you've warmed the egg yolks, pour the milk, sugar and egg yolk mixture back and saucepan and continue to heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula. Scrap the bottom and the sides of the pan as you heat the mixture and don't let it get too hot or else eggs will start to cook.

Once mixture thickens enough to coat the spatula, pour custard through a strainer over the milk chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Whisk in the cream, then whisk in Guinness, vanilla and nutmeg. Stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill mixture for at least an hour in the refrigerator and then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Makes about one quart.

— Adapted from recipe by David Lebowitz in 'The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments'

Dry Stir-Fried Cashews with Star Anise Salt

The only thing that goes better with Guinness than St. Patrick's Day is this crunchy, salty snack. I first fell in love with Guinness in an Irish bar in Madrid, of all places, mainly because of the thin, greasy potato chips that suddenly tasted irresistible when paired with a cold, velvety pint. Quite possibly the best potato chip I've ever had, even to this day. If Guinness can do that to a potato chip, imagine what it can do to the filling of a mashed potato-topped shepherd's pie or to French fries that are dipped in a Guinness mustard.

4-5 star anise pods

2 tsp. salt

8 oz. roasted unsalted cashews

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

In a medium pan, lightly toast star anise pods over moderate heat, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer pods to spice grinder and add salt. Cover and grind until pods are finely ground.

Toss cashews with oil to coat very lightly. This will enable the star anise salt to adhere. Add cashews to pan and toast over moderate heat, stirring frequently until they take on some additional color. Remove from heat and toss with star anise salt. Stir well. Yields 1 cup.

— From 'At Home by Steve Poses,' available at www.athomebysteveposes.com