Cooks’ Exchange: Celebrating all things delicious and Irish
It was my intention to feature favorite recipes from old cookbooks and those passed down by family members and special friends during the month of March, forgetting that St. Patrick’s Day would be sandwiched in between. Determined to somehow make this work, knowing how important March 17 is to my Irish friends and countless others, a decision was made to touch lightly on Ireland, its history, folklore, and the mysterious little man known as a leprechaun.
Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle because of its beautiful green hills and fields and it is believed that it has been inhabited by people for more than 8,000 years. In the 1500s, King Henry VIII added the image of a harp to the money of Ireland and the Celtic harp has since been a symbol of the country.
St. Patrick was a missionary in Ireland during the fifth century. Having spent his teen years in Ireland as a slave, he went back home to Britain, then returned to Ireland to spread Christianity.
As for food, there are few, if any, Irish recipes to be found in the majority of cookbooks, but here is a recipe I clipped along the way that took first place honors for Dee Marczewski, Cudahy, in a Traditional Irish Bread category back in 2000 during the Milwaukee Irish Fest Baking contest. The event, held along the shores of Lake Michigan during the third weekend in August, boasts of being the world’s largest Irish festival.
Irish soda bread
4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup shortening
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture.
In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and egg. Add to dry mixture. Stir just until all is moistened. On a lightly floured surface, gently knead dough 10-12 times or until smooth. Place dough in a greased 9-inch round baking pan. Pat dough gently until dough reaches sides of pan. Using a sharp knife, cut an X in the top of the dough about ½ inch deep.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out lean and dough in the X appears dry. Remove from pan and place on a wire rack. Brush top of bread with melted butter. Cool 30-45 minutes on wire rack. Serve bread warm. Makes 12 servings.
Searching for Irish recipes meant looking through at least 100 cookbooks until finding one in a special “Central Market Cookbook,” featuring recipes from the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, farmers’ market. It is described as being a “beautiful, bright salad with a delicious taste that goes especially well with pork, lamb or veal.”
Irish tomato salad
1 small cucumber, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
6 scallions and tops
6 tablespoons fresh parsley
½ cup fresh mint
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt, optional
4 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
Red leaf lettuce
Mix together cucumber, green pepper, scallions, parsley and mint in blender for several seconds. Add vegetable oil, beginning with a few tablespoons and using up to ½ cup, as preferred. Add lemon juice and salt. Blend for several seconds. Pour mixture over tomato slices and let stand for 1-2 hours. Arrange over red leaf lettuce and serve. Makes 4 to 8 servings
Feeling a need to include a soup or chowder, here is one found in my “Table for Two Cookbook for Couples” by Warren Caterson that serves four.
Irish cabbage soup
½ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter plus 2 teaspoons butter
½ pound cabbage
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh parsley
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
4 red potatoes, cubed
6 thinly sliced mushrooms
4 ounces frozen peas, thawed
¼ pound kielbasa, sliced ¼ diagonal slice
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Saute onions and celery until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Cut cabbage lengthwise and remove the core. Slice into 3/8 -inch shreds. Add cabbage and parsley to the saucepan and cook for 10 minutes until cabbage wilts. Stir in flour and cook for 3 minutes. Add stock and potatoes and bring to a simmer. Stir well and cook for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 2 teaspoons butter in a small skillet and saute mushrooms until their moisture is released. Add peas and heat through. After soup has cooked for 20 minutes, add kielbasa, peas and mushrooms. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste
Last March, while shopping at a Winn-Dixie grocery store down in Florida, I noticed this recipe in their store publication and brought it back home to use in my next St. Patrick’s Day column, which happens to be today. Described as being a Reuben-inspired twist on the classic corned beef and cabbage pairing, the picture is mouth-watering.
St. Patty’s twice-baked Reuben potatoes
4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
½ cup sour cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped chives, plus extra for garnish
8 ounces thinly sliced corned beef, roughly chopped
¾ cup shredded Swiss cheese
¾ cup drained sauerkraut
1/3 cup Russian dressing
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet, rub evenly with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until tender, about 1 hour; let cool slightly. Split open the tops of each potato lengthwise with a paring knife. Gently pull potato open while keeping it attached at the bottom. Scoop out potato flesh, leaving a ½ inch shell.
Stir together potato flesh, sour cream, butter, chives, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper until combined; stuff potato skins with filling.
Divide corned beef, cheese, and sauerkraut over stuffed potatoes and bake until cheese is melted and filling is warmed, about 10 minutes. Drizzle with Russian dressing, sprinkle with extra chives, and serve. Serves 4
Here’s a perfect St. Patrick’s Day recipe found in “A Matter of Taste,” a 1989 3rd printing from the Junior League in Morristown, New Jersey.
Bailey’s Irish Cream cheesecake
8 ½ ounce package of chocolate wafers
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
Crush waters in food processor Combine cookie crumbs, sugar and butter, Stir well with a fork. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the mixture. Press the rest of the mixture evenly over the bottom and a little up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan.
2 8-ounce packages of “light” cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups “light” sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
¾ cup Bailey’s Original Irish Cream Liqueur
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a food processor, blend together cream cheese and sugar. Continue processing while you gradually add the sour cream and each egg. When well combined and smooth, add vanilla, cocoa powder and salt. Pour in the liqueur and blend well. Turn into prepared pan and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Turn oven off and let cheesecake stay in the oven for 1 more hour.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with reserved chocolate crumb mixture. Cool on a cake rack. Cover and chill thoroughly. Just before serving, remove spring sides of pan. Refrigerate. Yield: 8-10 servings