March 9, 2011 12:34:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Move over, Mardi Gras. St. Patrick's Day is fast approaching, and you don't have to be Irish to join in the observance. March 17 is a national celebration of the Emerald Isle, its history and rich culture. Far more than an excuse to chug tinted brew, St. Patrick's Day honors the man considered the patron saint of Eire (Ireland.)
In its country of origin, St. Patrick's Day may be marked as a holy day. In America, it's generally a celebration of Ireland itself. And what celebration is complete without food?
Many in Ireland -- and in America's Irish neighborhoods -- may start the day with a traditional breakfast of fried rashers of bacon, sausage, black pudding, fried tomato and egg and fried potato bread.
Broths and stews are a cornerstone of Ireland's cuisine, so Irish stew will be on most menus in restaurants and at home. Soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and colcannon potatoes are dinner time mainstays.
And, or course, the potatoes. It's been said the Irish talk about potatoes the way the French talk of wine. Long associated with famine and privation, the potato is currently a staple used ever-more creatively in contemporary Irish cooking. The whole gastronomy, in fact, seems to have turned a culinary corner. Current-day restaurateurs are borrowing techniques from around the world to use with the fresh local ingredients and fresh seafood Ireland can boast of.
If traditional spicy corned beef or colcannon potatoes with cabbage or kale aren't at the top of your list, but you'd still like to indulge in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, check out today's Irish-inspired recipes your family -- or party -- will enjoy.
They range from a shamrock'd cheese cake to a bite-sized rendition of the United Kingdom's shepherd's pie. Using convenient potato flakes and refrigerated biscuits at home in Clarksville, Tenn., recipe contributor Ellen Osborne makes and freezes an extra batch of these fast mini pies packed with meat-and-potato flavor.
"I'm as confident serving them to drop-in company as to my husband and three boys," she says. "If I'm not rushed for time, I'll sometimes make them with homemade biscuits and mashed potatoes."
If you just want to be festive, there are all sorts of ways to go green -- fizzy punch with floating lime sherbet, cocktails with creme de menthe, lime-flavored gelatin, pistachio ice cream. For green garnishes, there are mint leaves, lime slices and twists of lime zest, slice of kiwi, green olives, slices of cucumber, celery stalks and even ice cubes made from green punch.
So instead of just wearing Ireland's color March 17, put a little thought into greening up your table when you serve some of the "emerald" recipes below.
All eyes, Irish or not, will be smiling.
BIT OF IRISH CHEESECAKE
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
Four packages (8 ounces each) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur
· Heat oven to 325 degrees.
· Mix nuts, 2 tablespoons of sugar and butter; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake 10 minutes.
· Beat cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and flour in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add sour cream and liqueur; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each, just until blended. Pour over crust.
· Bake one hour five minutes or until center is almost set. Run a knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate four hours.
THIRTY MINUTE IRISH SKILLET
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
One package shredded hash browns
Two slices uncooked bacon, cut into small pieces
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cups chopped cabbage
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup apple juice or water
1 teaspoon salt
· In large nonstick skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook shredded hash browns according to package directions.
· Meanwhile, cook bacon, ground beef and onion in 12-inch nonstick skillet until meat is browned. Drain grease. Add cabbage, beef broth, apple juice and salt.
· Reduce heat to low. Cover; cook until cabbage is tender. Stir in cooked hash browns.
MINI SHEPHERD'S PIE
Makes five servings
Prep time 30 minutes
Bake time 20 minutes
1 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup chili sauce or ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
1-1/4 cups mashed potato flakes
One package (3 ounces) cream cheese, cubed
One tube (12 ounces) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1/2 cup crushed potato chips
· In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic and cook for one minute or until tender; drain. Stir in the chili sauce, vinegar and salt; set aside.
· In a small saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil. Pour into a small bowl. Whisk in potato flakes until blended. Beat in cream cheese until smooth.
· Press 1 biscuit dough onto the bottom and up the sides of each of 10 greased muffin cups. Fill with beef mixture. Spread potato mixture over beef. Sprinkle with potato chips; press down lightly.
· Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with paprika if desired. Serve immediately, or cool before placing in a single layer in a freezer container. Cover and freeze for up to two months.
n To use frozen pies: Thaw in the refrigerator for eight hours. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until heated through.
n To make one, slice a green pepper crosswise near the pointed end to get a small, three-lobed shamrock shape. (If your pepper has four lobes, you've got a lucky clover instead.) Cut a small slice for a stem.
n Toast half an English muffin, then top it with a slice of cheddar and the pepper shamrock. Place the muffin on a tray, then broil it in a toaster over until cheese is melted
EMERALD ISLE CAKE
Makes 9-12 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 40 minutes
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk or Irish whiskey
Green food coloring, optional
Slivered almonds, optional
· In a small bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. n Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Beat until smooth. Spread into a greased 9-in. square baking pan.
· Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
· For glaze, combine confectioners' sugar and milk or whiskey until smooth and fairly thin. If desired, stir in 1 to 2 drops food coloring until blended. Spread glaze over warm cake. Sprinkle with almonds if desired.
SPINACH BACON TARTLETS
Makes 30 servings
Prep time 25 minutes
Bake time 145 minutes
One package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese
One egg white
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons chopped green onions (white part only)
1 teaspoon salt-free seasoning blend
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Two packages (1.9 ounces each) frozen miniature phyllo tart shells
Three turkey bacon strips, diced and cooked
· In a small bowl, beat the first six ingredients until blended. Spoon filling into tart shells. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.