Thursday, April 15, 2010


Before rambling about Irish food and this dinner, I must confess that the Emerald Isle is a country that is near and dear to my heart. Both Amy and I have a fair amount of Irish blood running through our families. We were both raised to have great pride in our Irish heritage. During college I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland for a term. And when it came time for me to write my senior thesis for a history degree; I chose to devote it to a study of the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's. I have another confession to make as well. We did not randomly pull Ireland, but held the dinner in honor of a visit from my good friend Hudson, who also studied abroad with me in Ireland. I could go on for pages and pages about how much drunken hooliganery we had in Ireland and say all kinds of neat things about Irish history, but then we'd never get to the food.

Ireland is more famous for its booze and history than its food. But this is not to say that Irish food is dull. They offer quite a bit more than baked potatoes. Which is a good thing because Amy hates potatoes (don't worry we still made potatoes). Also much to Amy's benefit: the Irish have never been big on adding lots of spice to their food. English food appears spicy in comparison. Instead Irish food places an emphasis on hearty, rich, buttery food that remains strong in flavor despite the lack of spicing. Essentially, most of the food goes well with a dark stout and damp weather.

Colcannon: Mashed Potatoes With Braised Cabbage

Colcannon is a great combination of the two most famous standards: cabbage and potatoes. The only trick to it is making sure that the cabbage is well browned before mixing it with the potatoes. The final baking of the mixture is optional, but I find it best to have a crispy crust on top of it.

1 head green cabbage
3 lbs russet potatoes peeled and quartered
2 onions sliced thinly
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated white cheddar (optional)

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash the potatoes tossing in butter and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet melt 1/4 stick of butter over medium heat and add the sliced onion. Cook the onion stirring occasionally until the onion begins to brown.
3. Add the cabbage and sauté for another five minutes then add a cup of water and reduce the heat to low. Cover and continue cooking the cabbage for a further 20 minutes or until it is completely wilted and beginning to brown.
4. Combine the cabbage and onions with the mashed potato and place the mixture into a greased baking dish.
5. Preheat the oven to 450. Arrange grated cheese on top of the colcannon and bake until the cheese or the top of the potatoes are nicely browned. Serve at once or reheat later.

Soda Bread

Our friend Hudson made this bread while we were all at work. I've actually never made soda bread. Some year I'll get around to it, but I still haven't felt compelled. My mom makes large quantities of the stuff every year for St. Patrick's day and delivers loaves to all the friends and neighbors. For the past several years Hudson has performed this duty in my apartment when he's visited. Thanks, Hudson!

Six cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
3 teaspoons salt
2.5 cups buttermilk
1.5 cups golden raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 375 and using a mixer or a large bowl and your hands combine everything except the buttermilk.
2. Gradually pour in all of the buttermilk while stirring and a big doughy ball should form.
3. Knead the dough for about two minutes on a floured surface or in the mixer.
4 Divide the dough into two loaves and place them on a large baking sheet.
5. Cut a shallow cross onto the very top of each loaf but take care to not cut too deep or else your bread will look like ours did.
6. Bake for 45 minutes or until the outside is a golden brown. Be sure to check the temperature of your oven to ensure that you don't burn the raisins like we did.
7. Let cool several hours before serving and enjoy.

Mashed Carrot and Parsnip

We had a huge pile parsnips lying about and decided to whip these up to provide a bit more vegetable matter to the food. The roasting of the vegetables gives the dish a sweet and smoky finish.

1/2 pound carrots peeled and quartered
1.5 pounds parsnips peeled and quartered
Butter to taste
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish

1. Preheat the broiler and arrange the carrots and parsnips on the broiling tray. Pour a bit of melted butter over all the pieces before putting them onto the tray. And broil them for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are caramelized and tender.
2. Combine the vegetables with the milk and butter and grind them in a food processor into a thick mashed paste.
3. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Red Cabbage and Apples

Cabbage is too important in Irish food to only serve once during the meal. But to avoid too much repetition we used red cabbage. The sweetness of it goes great apples and butter.

1 small head of red cabbage cored and thinly sliced
1 medium onion thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter
2 yellow baking apples peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of currant jam (optional)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp allspice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat and add the onions and cook until they begin to wilt.
2. Add everything else to the pan and raise to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the cabbage has cooked down and is very tender. Serve.

Beef and Guinness Stew

When I originally planned out what I would make for an Irish meal, I immediately decided I would serve corned beef and cabbage. A good Irish friend of mine, however, said that wouldn't do and demanded I make beef stew. I suppose corned beef and cabbage has always been more popular with the American Irish. Well she was right this stew filled out the meal perfectly.

4 lbs stew beef (we used chuck) cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup flour
4 tbsp butter
1/2 lb carrots cut into circles
4 large onions roughly chopped
6 stalks celery roughly chopped
1 pint Guinness or other stout
1 pint beef stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp mustard
5 sprigs thyme
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms sautéed in butter.
1/2 lb shelled peas (frozen are fine)
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Dredge the cubed beef in the flour and in a large heavy pot cook with the 4 tbsp butter until well browned on all sides. Cut the heat and remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside reserving the juices for the vegetables.
2. Add the onions, carrot, and celery to the pot and gently cook until they begin to wilt about ten minutes.
3. Deglaze the pot with a bit of the stock making sure to get up any burnt bits and add the beef, stout, stock, mustard, tomato paste, and thyme. Bring this mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 2-3 hours or until the beef is tender. Or if the oven is free braise the stew at 325 for the same amount of time and be sure to give it a stir every so often.
4. Add the peas and mushrooms to the beef and cook for a further 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve garnished with fresh parsley.

Irish Cream

By the time we got around to making this I'm pretty sure we were a bit too far gone because neither of us managed to snag a picture of it. Just imagine a cool glass of Bailey's and you'll get the picture. Also once you make it, you'll wonder why you'd ever buy Bailey's. This took about 1 minute to make and tasted much better. I had no idea Irish Cream was just eggnog made with whiskey.

3 eggs
1 can condensed milk
1 cup whiskey
1 tbsp chocolate syrup
1 tbsp vanilla

Combine everything in a blender. Chill in the fridge and serve in small glasses. Enjoy.


This meal was a heavy pile of tasty food. Also it resulted in a huge mess because a lot of people came over; several of whom had also been to Ireland with Hudson and myself. It was a great time with lots of Irish music played and Guinness and whiskey consumed. This was tough on Amy because she had to work the next day. But I'm sure she feels it was all well worth it. We've been running a bit behind in our posting, but we're now nearly caught up! St. Lucia is next! Until then, Slainte!

1 comment:

  1. "Genius" is a less than adequate description of the opening photo. And the Colcannon looks deelish! Thanks guys!