Having been to Ireland a couple of times, I have an appreciation for St. Patrick and all that he did to help his people. The interesting thing was, here in the US we all wear green on St. Patrick’s day, but in Ireland, I didn’t see much green .. only a whole lot of fluorescent. We learned from the locals that one way of complimenting an Irish baby is to tell mom that the baby looks very “Celtic” .. loved that. While thinking about what libations to serve with my lamb Shepherd’s Pie, I was reflecting on time spent with Curt’s Irish Uncle Brendan, wondering if he had chosen Bushmills or Jameson to celebrate. Knowing that he’s a Catholic, he probably chose for the Jameson .. or he could have surprised me and reached for a Guinness.
In my book, there’s no better way to celebrate than gathering with friends over a good, hearty meal. Here’s what was cookin’ in my kitchen last Sunday.
I feel strongly that every St. Patrick’s Day feast should begin with fresh soda bread. Mmmm .. one of my favorites! I experimented with a new recipe from Epicurious, called Brown Butter Soda Bread. I was drawn to this particular recipe because it included fresh rosemary, rolled oats, and was topped with ground black pepper. Definitely a keeper!
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper plus additional for topping
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg white, beaten to blend
Stir flour, oats, sugar, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl to blend. Pour buttermilk and melted browned butter over flour mixture; stir with fork until flour mixture is moistened.
Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Knead gently until dough comes together, about 7 turns. Divide in half. Shape each half into ball; flatten each into 6-inch round. Place rounds on ungreased baking sheet, spacing 5 inches apart. Brush tops with beaten egg white. Sprinkle lightly with ground black pepper. Using small sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch-deep X in top of each dough round.
Bake breads until deep golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool breads on rack at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: you’ll get the most tender soda bread by kneading the dough gently, just until it comes together, so the gluten is minimally developed.
For our main dish, I decided to make some serious comfort food … Shepherd’s Pie. Found this recipe on Epicurious, as well. I decided to make it with half ground lamb and half beef just to keep things interesting, and added Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of nutmeg and increased the amount of tomato paste. Also jazzed up the mashed potato crust by adding a little sour cream and cream cheese. Delicious! I doubled this recipe, and made one of them in my Mauviel rondeau, which made for a beautiful serving dish.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 pound ground lamb (or substitute half with another ground meat)
1 cup beef or chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1 cup frozen peas
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk (any fat content)
Kosher salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion, carrot, and meat. Cook until browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Drain the fat and add the broth, tomato paste, and herbs. Simmer until the juices thicken, about 10 minutes, then add the peas.
4. Pour the mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish; set aside.
5. Meanwhile, bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes; drain.
6. Mash the potatoes with the butter, milk, and salt.
7. Spread them over the meat mixture, then crosshatch the top with a fork.
8. Bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes.
Tip • Instead of using a baking dish for the Shepherd’s Pie, keep the filling in the (ovenproof) sauté pan in which you cook it, top with the crust, and bake it all in the oven for a skillet version that won’t dirty another dish.
Lastly, what Irish meal would be complete without cabbage? Molly Stevens has an excellent recipe, World’s Best Braised Cabbage. Her recipe comes from friends in Richmond, Virginia who, as she says, “were smitten by a braised cabbage side dish at their favorite restaurant,” so Molly decided to try and re-create it at home. It’s so simple, once you make it, you won’t need to look at the recipe again.
1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 pounds)1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
1 large carrot cut into 1/4″ rounds
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil a large gratin or roasting dish.
2. Peel off and discard any bruised or ragged outer leaves. The cabbage should weigh close to 2 pounds so it will fit in a single layer in the baking dish. If necessary, cut away a wedge of the cabbage to trim it down to size.
3. Cut the cabbage into 8 wedges. Arrange the wedges in the baking dish, doing your best to make a single layer.
4. Scatter in the onion and carrot. Drizzle over the oil and stock. Season with salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Cover tightly with foil, and slide into the middle of the oven to braise until the vegetables are completely tender, about 2 hours. Turn the cabbage wedges after an hour. Don’t worry if the wedges want to fall apart as you turn them, just do your best to keep them intact. If the dish is drying out at all, add a few tablespoons of water.
5. Once the cabbage is completely tender, remove the foil, increase the oven heat to 400 degrees and roast until the vegetables begin to brown, another 15 minutes or so. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with fleur de sel or other coarse salt.
I HIGHLY recommend investing in Molly Stevens cookbooks, All About Braising (winner of a 2005 James Beard award) and All About Roasting (winner of a 2012 James Beard award). You won’t be disappointed! I was fortunate to attend a cooking class she hosted last year .. such a treat.
Dinner is served!