I love St. Patty's Day. It's a holiday where people socialize and act genuinely happy. It doesn't matter if you have any Irish blood in you. It's more the spirit of the occasion.
And in keeping with that spirit I called on my dear friend Sally Ketchum, Michigan's finest food writer, for a little taste of the Old Country -- recipes for Popover Pudding with Irish Bacon, Bird Flanagan Potato Pancakes, and Pride of Erin Soup.
Feel free, of course, to wash the food down with a pint of Murphy's or Killian's... or maybe even Guinness!
Okay Sally, so feed our minds about St. Patty's Day then feed our stomachs with your great recipes.
Eyes are smiling in Irish-American kitchens this week, and the faithful just might recall the traditional pub songs like, "I've been a wild rover for many the years; I've spent all me money on whiskey and beer," -- and also corned beef and cabbage, Irish Stew with lamb, potatoes, lake fish, herbs like parsley and chives, and a variety of home-grown root vegetables.
Tradition says that Irish food lacks elegance, that it is heavy, starchy, and plain--reminiscent of a sooty pot hanging over a peat fire. However, Sarah O'Roarke, an Irish cook from California suggests that some recipes, like Bird Flanagan Potato Pancakes, are elegant, and fine enough for any table, especially with a classy dry white or an easy pint of Guinness.
As with many Irish recipes, the combination of bland ingredients, potatoes, eggs, bacon, and a few herbs might sound boring, but they combine to provide great flavors, and often great texture and color as well. Irish stew, traditionally made with mutton or lamb, is perhaps the country's most famous dish, so famous that there are an infinite number of recipes for it. Besides the usual ingredients of potatoes, and carrots, salt, parsley and thyme, various recipes might include celery, parsnips, turnips and bay leaf. Corned Beef and Cabbage, another famed Irish dish, is just that, the meat and vegetable, with cooks occasionally adding carrots or clove-studded onions.
However, beyond these well-known foods, there is great wealth of other traditional foods. Some of the old recipes, although not multitudinous, are delightful. They have the ring of tradition, but more; they are hearty and usually inexpensive with tastes that can, perhaps, only be described as "Irish" and "happy."
Irish food is honest food, an endearing quality, and accordingly, it is regional, local to Ireland's area's of pastoral beauty and rugged coasts. The north, around Belfast, is famous for the stews and gorgeous trout from the frigid streams, and, of course, potatoes. Southward from Belfast, areas still serve (and always have) "champ," the creamy comfort food of mashed potatoes, green onions, and butter, often with vegetables (frequently peas) and milk added.
Down near Carrageen, seaweed from the beaches and waters is not only edible, but it is consider a delicacy. Historically, seaweed saved many from the Irish famines.
Dublin, capital of Northern Ireland and perhaps Soda Bread, too. Its famed dishes include seafood, especially prawns from it craggy eastern coasts. The river Shannon with its world famous salmon winds south and turns west before Limerick, the surrounding area noted for succulent ham, and then there is blood pudding(the sausage called Drisheen by purists) in Cork. Many foods are found throughout the country, Kerry cake with its apples and hint of lemon, warm buttermilk scones, and Irish Seafood Pie, heavenly with cream and scallops.
Lately there seems to be a new enthusiasm for grilled foods. The old grills, antiques and highly valued, still might be in use in rural cottages, and modern, stylish frilling equipment appears in the smartest of kitchen shops in large cities.
The names of many Irish recipes are a tease: They ring with Irish humor, but the names often give no clue to the ingredients. This presents an interesting situation, for while Ireland, England and Wales have their own national specialties, people traveling throughout the United often bring recipes from home to other parts. Then citizens there re-christen the recipe.
Such is the case with Popover Pudding with Irish Bacon. It is the Irish version of England's "Toad-in-the-Hole," a dish that combines Yorkshire pudding with English sausages. Likewise, Scots call an Irish Oatmeal served as dessert, "Cream Crowdie."
Irish oatmeal it coarser and delightfully more chewy. The groats, hulled oat grain, are chopped, not rolled, so they take a bit longer cooking, but they are perfect for a Celtic breakfast. Toasted, sugared, and with cream--very carefully added to desired texture, Irish oatmeal makes a satisfying dessert in a cold early spring. If cooks cannot find it in specialty shops or health stores McCann's Irish Oat Meal is available on line at www.vermontcountrystore.com.
With all the hearty, if not heavy food, laden with potatoes and root vegetables, the proper beverage is apt.
Irish breakfast tea is widely available (Twinnings at local markets), and Ron Edwards, Tapawingo's sommelier suggests Ales, fitting with humorous names, like Goose Island Honker's Ale, Goose Island Hex Nut Brown Ale, St. Peter's Porter (Porter is the traditional Irish beer, usually strongly flavored and dark from roasted malt, usually high in alcohol content.) Hobgoblin Ale, and Ace Pear Cider from California for lighter Irish foods. Surely, too, a pint of Guinness adds an authentic Irish touch.
2 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large bunch of fresh chives
1 pound sliced Irish bacon (Canadian can be substituted)
about 1/2 cup vegetable oil
In a blender blend milk, eggs flour, and salt until just smooth. Transfer batter to a bowl. Finely chop chives to measure 1/2 cup and whisk into batter. Chill batter, covered, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Trim fat off bacon. In large nonstick skillet cook fat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the fat is rendered and solids are golden brown. Discard solids and increase heat to moderately high. Heat rendered fat until hot but not smoking and sauté bacon in batches until just golden, about 1 minute on each side. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour rendered fat into a measuring cup and add enough oil to measure 1/2 cup total.
In a 12 x 12-inch enameled cast-iron casserole (3 1/2 quart) or a 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass baking dish, heat oil mixture in the middle of the oven 5 minutes. Quickly arrange bacon evenly in casserole or baking dish and pour batter over it. Bake pudding in middle of oven until puffed and golden brown, about 50 minutes. Serves 8.
2 medium potatoes
1 whole egg
4 slices lean Canadian bacon
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Peel and grate raw potato; place in a bowl. Beat egg, and add to the potato. Slice the war lean bacon into thin strips (julienne). Add to the potatoes along with the diced onion, parsley, pepper, and cheddar. Combine thoroughly. I a crepe pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Pour the mixture onto the pan. Cook on both sides, until golden brown.
1 1-lb. cabbage, cored, quartered
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup grated peeled russet potato
1/2 scant teaspoon ground mace
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups canned low-salt chick brother
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Place cabbage in large bowl. Pour enough boiling water over to cover. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain well. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut cabbage into thin shreds.
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over low heat. Add onion, saute until tender but not brown, about 10 minutes. Ad cabbage and potato, stir 5 minutes. Stir in mace. Add flour, stir 2 minutes. Gradually mix in milk and broth. Bring mixture to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
Puree soup in batches in blender until smooth. Return soup to same saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. (can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Bring soup to simmer. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with parsley, chives, and Parmesan and serve. Serves 6.
Author: John McGran