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Kiss me: I'm Irish.

You see this slogan on a lot of T-shirts lately, and especially today, of course. In my case, it happens to be true. I am Irish, though I likely won't don a T-shirt that announces it. Pale skin and freckles are enough of an announcement, I think.

There is an inherent wisdom to the timing of St. Patrick's Day that has nothing to do with St. Patrick himself or even with the intent of the holiday. Celebrated in this country since the 1700s as a way for Irish immigrants to pay tribute to their heritage, St. Patrick's Day officially commemorates the day of the saint's death, March 17, 1461. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and the only snakes he drove out of the country were symbolic ones, those that stood for the paganism that thrived prior to his successful efforts.

What is reflected in the holiday is the season: Green decorations mirror spring's green hills and pastures; flavors of the season, especially chives, leeks and lamb are echoed in many of the holiday's traditional dishes.

And as far as kisses go, isn't that what spring fever is all about?

This soup, similar to Scotch Broth, is a perfect spring tonic. I like to serve it in small cups as an appetizer before Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage or other traditional St. Patrick's Day fare.

Irish Lamb Broth

with Farro

Makes 8 to 10 servings

2?? pounds meaty lamb necks

-- Kosher salt

6 tablespoons semipearled farro, soaked in water overnight and drained

2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and minced

1 green garlic, cleaned and minced

2 carrots, peeled and minced

1 small parsnip, peeled and minced

6 cups thinly shredded cabbage

-- Black pepper in a mill

3 tablespoons very fresh mint leaves, cut into thin slivers

Put the lamb into a soup pot, season with salt and add 12 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, partially covered, for 2 hours. Skim the surface of the simmering water to remove foam and other impurities.

After the soup has been simmering for 90 minutes, add the barley and continue to cook 30 minutes longer; stir in the leeks, garlic, carrot, parsnip and cabbage and season again with salt. Cook for 45 minutes; remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Use tongs to remove the lamb from the liquid, being sure to remove any bones that have fully separated from the meat. Remove all the meat from the bones, discard the bones, chop the meat and stir it into the soup. Reheat, season with several turns of black pepper, taste and correct the seasoning.

Ladle into soup cups, top each portion with a bit of shredded mint and serve.

If you are serving a big group on St. Patrick's Day, you might offer two main courses, corned beef and cabbage, naturally, and lamb stew. This version is very easy to prepare and is both rich and delicately evocative of early spring. You'll want to serve some sort of potato dish alongside, anything from simple boiled new potatoes to the colcannon that follows this recipe.

Lamb Stew with Leeks, Green Garlic and Mustard Bread Crumbs

Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 cups coarse bread crumbs from good hearth bread, such as Village Bakery's Sebastopol Sourdough

2 tablespoon minced Italian parsley

-- Kosher salt

-- Black pepper in a mill

1 leg of lamb, boned, outer layer of fat removed

4 tablespoons all-purpose white flour

6 large leeks, white and pale green part only, cleaned

6 to 8 green garlics, cleaned and trimmed

3 or 4 small thyme sprigs

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup water or meat stock

First, make the bread crumbs. Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet set over medium low heat. When it is foamy, stir in the mustard and add the bread crumbs. Stir and turn the bread crumbs to thoroughly and evenly coat them with the mustard and butter. Continue stirring and turning for several minutes, until the bread crumbs just begin to take on a bit of color and start to become crisp. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Cut the meat into strips about 1??-inches long by ?? inch wide. Put the cut meat into a bowl, season generously with salt and pepper, add the flour and toss until all the meat is evenly coated.

Cut the leeks and the green garlics into thin rounds.

Arrange half the lamb in a clay pot or other large ovenproof pot and set the thyme sprigs on top. Spread the leeks and garlic evenly over the lamb, season with salt and pepper and top with the remaining lamb, spreading it evenly on top of the leeks. Add the wine and water or stock. Spread the bread crumbs over the top.

Put the pot with the lamb in the middle of a cold oven, set the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 3?? hours.

Remove from the oven and let rest, without uncovering it, for at least 15 minutes and as long as 30 minutes.

To serve, spoon a generous amount into soup plates.

Colcannon is a classic Irish dish, hearty and filling and perfect in cold weather. I think it is particularly good in March, when the wind is blustery and damp with fog. Although it is traditionally made with either kale or cabbage, most versions I've had use cabbage. In this version, I combine delicious Lacinato kale with dry-farmed potatoes from Two Rock. Although this recipe is for a large group, don't worry if you're only serving a few. Make pancakes out of leftovers; simply shape the leftovers into balls, dust with flour and saute in hot butter, pressing on each ball to flatten it to about ??-inch.

A Contemporary Colcannon

Makes 8 to 10 servings

3 to 3?? pounds small potatoes, preferably from Oh Tommy Boy or David Little, scrubbed

-- Kosher salt

6 ounces (1?? sticks) butter, preferably local and organic

1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice

1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thoroughly cleaned and thinly sliced

1 large or 2 medium bunches Lacinato kale, large stems removed, leaves sliced crosswise 1-inch wide

-- Black pepper in a mill

1 cup cream, preferably local and organic, plus more as needed

?? cup creme fraiche

2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

?? cup fresh snipped chives

Put the potatoes into a large pot and cover generously with water. Add about half a cup of salt, stir and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a bamboo skewer. Drain thoroughly.

While the potatoes cook, prepare the vegetables. Melt ??stick of the butter in a large saute pan set over medium how heat and when it is foamy, add the onion and leeks. Saute gently until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Add the kale and a splash of water, cover the pan and cook until the kale begins to wilt, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until the kale is fully tender, about 7 to 8 minutes longer. Correct for salt and season with several turns of black pepper. Cover, remove from the heat and keep hot. Put the cream and creme fraiche into a small saucepan, stir and warm over low heat; keep warm.

When the potatoes are cooked, put them into a wide deep bowl and smash them with a dinner fork; leave them fairly coarse, not fully mashed. Break half the remaining butter into small pieces and add it to the potatoes, along with the hot cream mixture. Fold once or twice; do not overmix.

Fold in the cooked vegetables and the parsley, again being certain not to overmix. If the mixture seems a little dry, heat another half cup or so of cream and fold it in.

Transfer the colcannon to a warmed serving bowl. Cut the remaining butter into pieces and scatter it over the top; sprinkle with chives, cover and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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