Two Sisters Cook: An Irish dinner
Published 8:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2018
March has arrived, and we’ll all be wearing green on St Patrick’s Day.
I want to plan a special Irish dinner to celebrate the holiday.
Linda: I know that corned beef and cabbage are traditional, but let’s suggest something different. What about an Irish stew?
Lucy: I have a good shepherd’s pie recipe. It might not be as Irish as corned beef and cabbage, but I think it would be a nutritious, peasant — style dish that would qualify for the holiday.
Linda: Shepherd’s pie is all the rage now. I frequently see it on restaurant menus, especially in Irish theme pubs.
Lucy: Well, to be authentic, the Irish would probably have used lamb. My recipe calls for ground beef, which is more American. But lamb could be used. Shepherd’s pie calls for a mashed potato crust. I like to make the mashed potatoes ahead of time so they’re ready for the recipe.
Linda: If someone wants to save time, mashed potatoes are available in the refrigerated section at the grocery store, often found in with the meat section. Also, I see that your recipe calls for sliced carrots and sliced celery. If you need another shortcut you can buy them already sliced.
Linda: What about Irish soda bread? I’ve read about this but never had any. I’m hooked on the “Molly Murphy” mystery series. She always mentions Irish soda bread while solving her mysteries.
Lucy: There are two types of soda bread: a coarse brown bread and a more Americanized version. Which is white and has currants and raisins. The brown bread needs to be made with Irish flour, which is difficult to find in this country. However, I stopped in Dutch Country Foods in downtown Landrum and talked to Nettie Musselman. She was very helpful describing different types of flour. Nettie grinds wheat right there in the store. It produces a flour with a similar texture to the Irish flour.
Linda: The internet offers various soda bread recipes and some specialty grocers, like Fresh Market, offer Irish soda bread around St Patrick’s Day. That would be the easy way to go. Now I wonder what we could plan for dessert. It needs to have a bit of green.
Lucy: What about the chocolate mint sticks? We’ve both had that recipe forever. They’re delicious and have a green mint filling.
Linda: Oh, I hope you still have the recipe! My copy is so old it’s too faded to read anymore. But it’s in your handwriting so I know it was originally your recipe.
Lucy: It’s been years since I made them. But they are good and will add just enough green to finish our dinner. So let’s get cooking!
Cheddar Topped Shepherd’s Pie
Sharp cheddar added to the mashed potatoes makes a snappy topping. Filling and topping can both be made a day ahead and refrigerated separately.
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Mashed potatoes from a recipe using about 4 potatoes or use pre-made mashed potatoes purchased at grocery store.
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 6 medium carrots, thinly sliced
• 6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
• 1 large onion, chopped
• ½ teaspoon dried thyme
• ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup tomato paste
• 2 pounds ground chuck
• 1 ½ cups (6 ounces) shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
Heat oil in 5 quart Dutch oven or sauce pan. Add carrots, celery, onion and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook stirring, 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil and simmer 1 minute.
Add 1 cup of cheese to prepared, warm, mashed potatoes. Mash until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of potato/cheese topping over filling; spread to edges with a spatula. Using a fork make decorative peaks; sprinkle with remaining ½ cup of cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes (if filling and topping were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.
Chocolate Mint Sticks
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
½ cup butter
2 eggs 1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
½ cup flour
Dash of salt
½ cup chopped nuts
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Beat eggs until fluffy. Stir in sugar, chocolate mixture, and mint extract. Add flour, salt, and nuts. Pour into a greased 9-by-9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes. Cool.
2 tablespoons soft butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk Green food coloring
¾ teaspoon peppermint extract
Mix all together in mixer until smooth. Spread on top of base after it has cooled. Put in refrigerator until cold.
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 ½ tablespoons butter
Melt over low heat and drip over cold cake. Spread evenly and place in refrigerator until set. Use knife dipped in hot water when ready to cut into pieces.
Get ready to wear green on St Patrick’s Day. Everyone can be Irish for the day.