Thursday, March 17, 2016

An Irish Feast, March 17, 2016

When I was growing up, my mom and I always made potato soup for St. Patrick's Day. Now, I have shifted to a tradition of making lamb stew, colcannon, and soda bread for the holiday. I've been making the same stew (based on Darina Allen's Ballymaloe School recipe) and bread for years now, but am still tinkering with the colcannon. I'm not much of a baker but the soda bread gets better every time I make it. It makes a great breakfast on the 18th, too!

For me, the best use for Guinness is in cooking and my stew is the perfect place for it. I usually buy a six-pack of it, use one bottle, and give the rest to my 23-year-old the next time he comes to visit. This year, I cheated on the colcannon. I boiled thinly-sliced cabbage until it changed color, then drained it. While it was cooking, I crisped some diced pepper bacon in another pot. After the cabbage was well-drained, I stirred it into the bacon & cooked it further. Finally, I stirred in leftover cheesy mashed potatoes with a little milk. It was yummy, even though I forgot the scallions I usually add.

Lamb Stew
2 lb. lamb shoulder chops
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. oil
3/4 c. Guinness stout
1 lb. potatoes, diced (I used Yukon Golds this year, to good effect)
1 lb. baby carrots
1 bag frozen pearl onions, thawed
32 oz. beef broth
A couple tablespoons butter roux

Season the lamb with salt & pepper. Sear on both sides in hot oil, in a soup pot. Remove from pan. Add Guinness and deglaze pan. Return lamb to pot, along with veggies. Cover with broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer a couple of hours (until lamb falls off bones). Remove bones from stew. Add roux and cook another 10 minutes to thicken. Serves 4. 

Irish Soda Bread
3 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
 1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp. caraway seeds
1 c. raisins or currants
1 c. buttermilk (or 1 c. regular milk mixed with 1 tbsp. lemon juice, if you've forgotten to pick up buttermilk)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry blender until it disappears into the flour. If you don't have a pastry blender, you can mix it in with your fingertips. Add caraway seeds & raisins/currants. Whisk the milk & egg together well. Add to dough and mix lightly, using your hands, until it comes together. Place on a floured surface and fold it over on itself several times, shaping it into a round loaf as you work. Place on a foil-covered baking sheet and cut a cross in the top. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Cook another 15 minutes or so. Serves 6-8. 

This year, I also added some lime jello with mandarin oranges mixed in, to honor both the Catholic and Protestant folks of Ireland. My great-great-grandmother, Maggie, was a Scots-Irish Protestant who came to America in the 19th century. My granddad always wore orange on St. Patrick's Day and I wear orange and green. So, it was fun to have an orange and green dessert, too. Plus, I love any excuse to eat jello. Reminds me of my grandmom. 

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