The Quiet Man: Lamb Shanks Braised in Guinness Stout Recipe

Year Released: 1952
Directed by: John Ford
Starring: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, Victor McLaglen
(G, 129 min.)
Academy Awards (1952)
Directing: John Ford

"The first kiss is stolen by the man; the last is begged by the woman." H.L.Mencken

It's never too late to enjoy this thoroughly delightfully old-fashioned trip with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara to the green countryside of Ireland. Forget your 21st century sensibilities and relive a time when men were men, women feisty but feminine, the drinking hard, and the fighting harder.

The Quiet Man takes us back to an era when “politically correct” meant voting the way your union boss told you. It reflected the high-flying fifties, when we were feeling our oats, flexing our muscles, and flaunting our bold Yank ways. And after the throes of the Depression and the prolonged agony of World War II, we were ready to lighten up and look at the world with a glint in our eye.

The Quiet Man is a simple story of Sean Thorton, an Irishman born and bred, returning to his boyhood home of Innesfree after a rough stretch in America. Soon after he sets foot in the old country his eyes land on something more beautiful than the green hills or the thatched cottages – the red-haired Mary Kate. Of course there are some complications, such as never-ending courtship rituals, disputes over dowry, and biggest of all, Mary’s blustering brother, Squire Will Danaher, played with gusto by Victor McLaglen. 

It’s bigger than life, over the top and maybe a little cheesey to us today, but the shots of the courtship are spectacular. Today we have a brief encounter, banal conversation that masquerades as deep, and the two are under the sheets. John Ford takes us the long way to love, with looks of longing, passion postponed and interrupted, and plenty of knocks along the road.

If ever there were a bright-eyed Leprechaun come to life, it is Barry Fitzgerald’s Michaleen Flynn, who plays the matchmaker shepherding Sean Thorton (John Wayne) and Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara) through a stormy courtship and marriage. And storms there are, whether natural or man-made.

The barometer drops abruptly when Sean and Mary first see each other, with a rumbling of distant thunder the next day after mass. Bold Yank that he is, Sean positions himself in front of the departing Mary and fills his palm with holy water. Michaleen sees Mary dip her fingers and cross herself with this elixir, and he calls Sean a bold sinful man for “playing paddy fingers in the holy waters.” A real storm bangs the shutters and wails throughout the cottage when Sean steals his first kiss, he and Mary framed in the dark with the wind whipping through her hair. 

Sean’s first attempt to ask for her hand fails and we see a broken-hearted Mary framed against a rain streaked upstairs window. When he finally gets the okay to begin courtship, Sean must sit apart from Mary under the bleary but vigilant eye of matchmaker Michaleen. Mary joins the bold Yank in his rebellious ways, and the two escape on a bicycle built for two. Michaleen pursues, but gives it up when his horse, like a train returning to its station, stops at the local pub.

It doesn’t take too much to talk Mary out of a long Irish engagement and the two seal their pact with a kiss. And such a kiss! In an era when “the Kiss” was about all that was allowed on screen, it had to pack a wallop. And this one delivers. Framed in a gothic arch, they kiss in the rain, with such passion and soulful gazes that it is more sensual than all the obligatory “R” rated scenes of today.

The last twenty minutes of the film are pure heaven. Part Taming of the Shrew, part Bells of St. Mary's, and a fight scene of epic proportions. Enjoy each over the top moment.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

The final scene in The Quiet Man is at the dinner table, where Mary portions out the meat to the men in her life with smile of pure contentment. So radiant is the happy new bride, she doesn’t even scold them for being somewhat inebriated. With a deft hand she heaps thick meaty portions onto her heirloom blue plates, and anoints them with a rich sauce. 

Perhaps if she had known that these two had already drunk their dinners, she might have skipped the part in our recipe that calls for a cup of Guinness Stout. But since your hearts are pure and your breathalyzers legal, feel free to braise with at least the specified amount.

Lamb shanks Braised in Guinness Stout


  • 6 lamb shanks

  • Flour, for dredging

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 12 small white onions, peeled

  • 3 large carrots, sliced

  • 3 stalks celery, sliced

  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

  • Pinch of dried rosemary

  • Pinch of driedthyme

  • 1 cup Guinness Stout

  • 3/4 cup beef stock

  • 12 small potatoes, peeled


Lightly moisten the lamb shanks with water. In a large bowl or plastic bag, combine the flour, salt, and pepper and dredge the meat in the mixture. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the lamb shanks and cook on all sides until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a Dutch oven or flameproof casserole.

Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary, and thyme to the skillet and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring to scrape up the browned bits of the pan. Pour the vegetables and pan juices onto the lamb. Add the Guinness and stock, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the potatoes, correct seasonings, re-cover, and cook until meat is fork tender, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

To serve, place 1 lamb shank in the middle of 6 shallow soup bowls and spoon some vegetables and broth around. Serves 6.

Recipe Source: Margaret Johnson