I have to admit, I’ve always been more in tune with the Italian half of my ancestry. But what can I say? The Italian relatives were always so much fun. And the food! First came Great-Grandma Soup (you probably know it as Italian Wedding Soup), then the antipasto platter filled with meats, cheeses, and vegetables, and, of course, spaghetti and meatballs.
And I’ll never forget Uncle Tony, calling out while carrying a ham that resembled his round, pink and red-veined face, “We’re gonna have a little snack-a.” All a couple hours before a huge meal of polenta, red sauce and sausage served on a large cutting board.
But my mother’s side of the family also contributed to my genetic makeup, courtesy of her German father and Irish mother.
With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, I started thinking about that one-quarter bit o’ the Irish in me, and realized that even my mother gravitated toward Italian cooking when I was growing up. What did that say about Irish food? I wondered what did the Irish eat besides corned beef and cabbage?
So, I set out on a quest to learn more about Irish cuisine and what some of the local Irish pubs are serving.
, where all types of people gather for a beer and a debate or two, normally doesn’t serve food, but for St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll be cooking up some corned beef and cabbage and Irish stew.
regular menu includes several Irish dishes such as the ubiquitous corned beef and cabbage; Shepherd’s Pie—ground beef simmered with mushrooms, onions, carrots, peas & herbs in a rich stock and baked with a topping of mashed potatoes au gratin; and bangers & mash with Guinness gravy. Bangers are mild sausages traditionally made with pork, spices, and bread crumbs, and steamed rather than smoked.
Not ubiquitous after all, corned beef and cabbage isn’t on the menu at , but you’ll find other specialties such as the Irish Wolfhound, a banger sausage smothered in grilled onions, peppers and Dijon and served on a grilled hoagie. The Parish also serves bangers and mash as well as their version of Shepherd’s Pie: Ground chuck simmered in Guinness stout with garlic, celery, onions and baked with peas, carrots and a mashed potato and cheddar crust.
Other Irish dishes I discovered are coddle, a hearty mixture of potatoes, sausages and bacon (there’s also a seafood version); soda bread, a “quick bread” made with baking soda instead of yeast; lamb and potato stew; and fish pie, similar to chicken pot pie.
So I’m thinking, maybe I’ve been missing out on a lot of tasty food all these years. And that maybe it’s time for that one-quarter Irish part of me to exert herself and get busy in the kitchen!
For starters, here’s a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie.
Pre-heat oven to 375°F
* 2 lb potatoes, peeled and quartered
* 6 T milk
* 1 stick (8 T) butter, room temperature, 1 T separated for later use
* Salt and ground black pepper
* 1 T olive oil
* 1 cup chopped yellow onion
* 1 cup diced carrot
* 1 cup sliced white or crimini mushrooms
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 2 cups ground lamb (or ground beef)
* 1 cup beef stock
* 1 cup beer (preferably Guinness)
* 2 T finely chopped flat leaf parsley
* 1 cup frozen peas
* 1 T flour
* 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1. Boil the potatoes in a pot until soft then drain into a colander. In the same pot, heat the milk and 7 tablespoons of the butter until butter has melted. Add the potatoes and mash, seasoning with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet. Over medium-low heat, sauté the onions and carrots for approximately five minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
3. Add the ground lamb to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned. Add the stock, beer and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Toward the last few minutes of cooking, add the peas.
* Mash the flour into the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and, using a whisk, add in small pieces to the ground meat sauce, whisking constantly until the sauce has thickened slightly, approx 5 minutes.
* Place the meat and vegetable mixture into an ovenproof casserole dish and cover with the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the potato and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the cheese is browned. Serve immediately.