HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE ST. PATRICK'S?
Is St. Patrick's Day a holiday you celebrate? If so, how? At home? At a friend's home? In a restaurant or bar?
You can leave a response at Eat This Now, Seasonal Pantry's companion blog, at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com, where you'll also find links to some of my favorite Irish recipes, including for corned beef, from this column's archives.
I asked this question on Facebook last week and was both surprised and charmed by the responses. Among the expected answers -- corned beef and cabbage, green beer, Jameson Irish Whisky -- were unfamiliar tales of family traditions, such as setting Leprechaun traps and leaving tiny green footprints everywhere so that little boys and girls would realize the Leprechauns had been around over night.
I had no idea.
Although I am Irish, I did not grow up eating or even understanding the foods of Ireland, as my Irish father died when I was an infant and my mostly Russian mother wasn't much interested. As soon as I was living on my own, at age 16, I quickly found my way around corned beef, cabbage, lamb stew, soda bread and such and today look forward to the holiday so that I can indulge in a taste of the childhood I might have had, had my father lived.
Who can resist a good potato pancake? No one I know. This Irish version, known as boxty, is as close to the classic version as possible, but with several serving suggestions following the recipe that are not. All are, however, absolutely delicious.
Traditional Irish Boxty
Makes 4 to 6 servings
8 ounces boiling potatoes, peeled and grated on the largest holes of a box grater
8 ounces boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
-- Kosher salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
-- Butter, for frying
Line a medium strainer with cheesecloth and set it over a small bowl; put the grated potatoes into the strainer and set aside.
Put the other potatoes into a small saucepan, cover with water, season generously with salt and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes thoroughly, transfer to a mixing bowl and mash with a fork.
Lift the cheesecloth holding the grated potatoes and twist it tightly so that the starchy liquid flows into the bowl. Set aside.
Fold the grated potatoes into the mashed potatoes.
Stir or sift together the flour, baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt and scatter over the potatoes. Pour the reserved starchy liquid over all, followed by the buttermilk. Mix thoroughly.
Melt about 3 tablespoons of butter in a heavy saute pan set over medium heat. When the butter is foamy, drop in the batter, 2 tablespoons at a time, leaving plenty of room between each addition. Use the back of a metal spatula to flatten each cake. Cook until the cakes rise slightly and are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and cook 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the cooked boxty to a baking sheet or serving platter and continue until all have been cooked.
Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200-degree oven for up to 30 minutes.
* alongside Irish stew
* with classic Cheese Rabbit, instead of toast
* topped with poached eggs
* topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and snipped chives
* use 4 tablespoons of batter instead of 2 for each boxty; wrap each cooked boxty around 1 or 2 creamed leeks (see recipe below) and serve with some of the leek's cream drizzled on top.
* fill 4-tablespoon boxty with lamb or beef stew and fold over like a small omelet.
There are excellent leeks at our farmers markets right now, tender, sweet and beautiful. Be sure to clean them thoroughly or you risk a mouthful or sand or dirt, which can hide between layers. Larger leeks often need to be cut in half lengthwise to remove this grit.
Makes 4 servings
8 leeks, about 3/4 -inch in diameter, white and pale green parts only, trimmed and thoroughly washed in warm water
4 tablespoons butter
-- Kosher salt
1/2 cup dry white or sparkling wine, optional
3/4 cup heavy cream, preferably local and organic
-- Black pepper in a mill
2 tablespoons freshly snipped chives
If the leeks are particularly long, cut them in half, crosswise.
Put the butter in a heavy saute pan, set over medium-low heat and when the butter is melted, add the leeks and turn them to coat them in the butter.
Season lightly with salt.
Add the wine or, if not using, 1/2 -cup water, cover the pan and cook gently until the leeks are slightly tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Uncover, add the cream and continue to simmer gently until the leeks are fully tender and the liquid has begun to thicken.
Use tongs to transfer the leeks to a shallow serving bowl. Increase the heat under the pan, season the sauce with several turns of black pepper and simmer until it thickens a bit more. Pour the sauce over the leeks, scatter the chives on top and either serve immediately or cover and keep warm until ready to serve.