Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cibus Corner: Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, American Style

My sister's and my ancestry can very roughly be split into quarters: German, Scots, English and Irish. Our Irish side comes from my father's father, whose great-grandfather before him emigrated from County Cork, Ireland, to the Midwest in the mid-19th century. Like many Irish who came over at that time, Patrick Harrington (I swear that's not a pseudonym) was poor and uneducated. In fact, I believe he was illiterate. In but a few short generations, my Irish lineage has come a long way, and I often reflect on the opportunities that Patrick gave not just his children or grandchildren by leaving Ireland and come to the United States, but his great-great-great grandchildren (among them, me). But for Patrick's determination to flee the crushing poverty of his Irish homeland, I would most certainly not have had the opportunities that I was born into. Patrick's story -- and the Harrington story more generally -- is the classic American story of an immigrant family who made good.

In honor of our Irish heritage (which in many ways is our American heritage), Chef Babs and I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with some good old fashioned Irish-American food. I'll hand the keyboard over to Chef Babs to kick is off:

Every St. Patrick’s Day, I like to celebrate with my favorite thing: food. This is my version of an Irish meal, and, yes, I am aware that it is not entirely authentic. If you prefer, think of it as inspired by Irish cuisine and traditional Irish ingredients. This meal includes potatoes, oatmeal, and soda bread, so I think that it comes close enough. If you feel like it is not Irish enough for you, feel free to serve it with a side of kale.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread is actually a very easy dish to make, and, is quite good. You do not need to be a baker to make this bread. Irish soda bread does not need yeast, instead, it uses baking soda and buttermilk to rise. Another bonus of this bread is that it does not have to be kneaded. Simply mix the ingredients and throw it into the pan and into the oven. This is actually a very traditional recipe, the only twist in it is the dried cranberries. Feel free to use a cup of raisins if you would like to keep it traditional. In my opinion, the cranberries add a nice flavor and join an Irish tradition with an American ingredient. This bread is best served cold the next day with butter and jam.

3 cups flour ½ c. raisins
1 tbsp. baking powder ½ c. dried cranberries
1/3 c. granulated sugar 1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. salt 2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda 4 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x5” loaf pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, baking soda, cranberries and raisins in a bowl. In another bowl blend egg and buttermilk and add all at once to the flour mixture. Mix until barely moistened. Stir in the butter. Pour batter into pan. Bake 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Baked Potato Soup

This is one of my favorite soups and I eat it all winter long. It is also popular with everyone that I have served it to, and while they may not eat it in Ireland, what is more Irish than potatoes? I like making it in mid-March because the weather is beginning to warm up and it is probably the last time I will make it until the fall.

4 large baking potatoes 2/3 c. butter
2/3 c. flour 6 c. milk (may use skim)
¾ tsp. salt ½ tsp. pepper
4 green onions, chopped 12 slices bacon (may use turkey bacon) divided
1 ¼ c. shredded cheddar cheese 18 oz. carton sour cream (may use lite or non-fat)

Bake potatoes, cook and scoop out pulp. Discard the skins. Melt butter and add flour – cook 1 minute then add milk and stir until thickened. Add potato pulp, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp. green onion, ½ c. bacon, 1 c. cheese – then stir in sour cream (DO NOT let mixture boil after adding sour cream. Serve with additional cheese, bacon and green onion as garnishes.

Oatmeal Cookies

To be honest, I have no idea if oatmeal cookies are served in Ireland, but I know that when I was in Dublin I ate oatmeal everyday for breakfast. I could not escape it! This recipe I received from a past roommate. These cookies are very crisp and are not as soft and chewy as traditional American cookies, but I think they are a nice change of pace. European cookies tend to be thinner and crispier, so these cookies definitely get their inspiration from Irish tea-time treats.

10 tbsp. butter
½ c. sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. almond extract
3 c. rolled oatmeal (not instant)

Lightly butter cookie sheer and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the above ingredients in a bowl. Use fingers to press oatmeal into butter until it just holds. Roll dough into balls and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Press balls down with fork ends.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! -- and, as the Irish say:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


Christy said...

Oh wow I need to print off this oatmeal cookie recipe. Where do you get rolled oatmeal? Which section of the store?

Averill said...

Christy: At my grocery store at least, rolled oatmeal is right with the other oatmeal options in the cereal aisle. These cookies are really good (and I say this in spite of bias against oatmeal cookies). Let me know how they turn out if you give this a try!

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