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Of all the days in March, the 17th is the best | WHIDBEY RECIPES

It may seem as though it took forever to get here, but we are, finally, nearing the first day of spring, March 20. The first “official” day of spring, that is; we all know that means little or nothing when it comes to what will actually happen as far as the weather goes.

That’s not all March holds in store for us, however. It happens to be a month packed with “special” days, such as Everything I Do Is Right Day, March 16; International Earth Day, March 20, which also happens to be Proposal Day; National Goof Off Day, March 22; and both Smoke and Mirrors Day and Take A Walk In The Park Day on March 30.

March is also Irish American Month, National Peanut Month (who knew?), Red Cross Month, National Women’s History Month and National Frozen Foods Month. And that doesn’t cover some other, more obscure so-called “special days” of March. Of course, we’re all aware that we should “beware the Ides of March (15th)” although I seem to have forgotten why. And let us not forget that this particular March will go down in history as the month a new pope was elected to take over as leader of the Catholic world. Wouldn’t it be spectacular if the announcement of a new pope came on Easter Day, which is early this year, March 31?

Personally, however, the day I most look forward to in March is the 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, I enjoy the story of St. Pat bringing Catholicism to Ireland (where they’ve been fighting about it ever since), and ridding them of snakes (there were none in Ireland to begin with, but that’s another story), but to be honest, for me it’s all about the food. Corned beef, cabbage, Irish soda bread, champ, beef and beer pie, carrot soup, and more.

Having said that it’s all about the food, let’s get to it without further blarney, but with a hearty “Erin Go Braugh” (Ireland Forever) wish for all the 34 million or so in this country who are of Irish descent, as well as the additional millions who become Irish for a day on the 17th.

RECIPES

As usual, the problem is where to begin; too many delicious Irish concoctions and “traditional” dishes, and too little space. Because I’m what would be known as an Orangeman in Ireland (Protestant, to keep it simple), let’s begin with something orange but very much a typical St. Patrick’s Day menu item. I can tell you, however, it’s tasty any time.

IRISH CARROT SOUP

1 onion, chopped

1 lb. carrots, peeled and shredded

4 T. butter

½ t. salt (or to taste)

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)

½ t. ground ginger

1 potato (russet, or white of your preference), diced

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or broth)

Heat the butter in a skillet; sauté the onion and carrot in the butter for about 10 min. or until soft. Transfer to a saucepan; add the stock/broth, seasonings and potatoes and simmer until vegetables are cooked tender; allow to cool a bit, then puree in a blender or food processor. Reheat and serve in warmed bowls with chopped chives and/or a small dollop of sour cream floating on top. Serves 4.

 

I don’t know why this next dish is called “champ,” but mashed potatoes by any name are OK with me, and are certainly an Irish staple. Traditionally, you should eat this from the outside to the inside, where there’s a “well” containing a bit of melted butter (sorry, this is definitely not a low-fat dish.) This is a wonderful accompaniment to the recipe that follows, corned beef with an Irish whiskey glaze.

IRISH CHAMP

2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup whipping cream

¼ cup butter

Sliced green onions, about 1 1/3 cups

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until very tender, about 15 min. Meanwhile, bring cream and butter to simmer in a heavy small saucepan over med. heat, stirring often. Mix in green onions. Remove from heat, cover and let steep while potatoes cook.

Drain potatoes thoroughly and return to same pot, then mash. Add cream mixture, stir until blended and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, with chopped chives as garnish, if desired. Serves 4.

 

This version of traditional Irish corned beef is quick, easy and delicious, thanks to the glaze that turns an already cooked and ready corned beef into your own unusual version, delicious with the above mashed potatoes.

GLAZED CORNED BEEF AND CARROTS

1 cup orange marmalade

½ cup Irish whiskey

Pinch (1/8 t.) ground nutmeg

1 T. Dijon mustard, plus additional for serving

2 to 2-1/2 lb. piece of lean fully cooked corned beef, from your local supermarket

10-12 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise

Fresh parsley springs

Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. In a saucepan, boil the marmalade, whiskey and nutmeg until reduced to about ¾ cup, stirring often (about 6-7 min.) Stir in mustard.

Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. In a saucepan, boil the marmalade, whiskey and nutmeg until reduced to about ¾ cup, stirring often (about 6-7 min.) Stir in mustard.

Generously brush the corned beef all over with the above glaze; place in the center of the sprayed baking sheet. Toss the carrots and ¼ cup of the glaze in a bowl to coat, then place around the beef. Sprinkle carrots with salt and pepper, to taste. Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven until carrots are tender and beef is golden, brushing occasionally with more glaze; about ½ hr. Transfer to a platter, garnish with parsley and serve with additional Dijon, as desired, and with the mashed potatoes (recipe above). Follow with Irish coffee, if desired. (You probably have a recipe, but if not, email me and I’ll send you one or more).

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