One day a year, we enjoy Irish stew, colcannon, shepherd's pie and soda bread. After St. Patrick's Day, many of us never give a thought to Irish food.
"For the longest time, people didn't think Irish food was very good, with its mainstay potato," said Shelby County's Viki Pidgeon, author of Ireland's Comfort Food. "In the last 10 to 20 years, they've come on strong with wonderful recipes. It's really much better food than it used to be."
Pidgeon said Irish food is becoming more popular. "Louisville has five Irish restaurants," she said. "Ten years ago, there was only one."
Although 33 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, Irish fare is rarely on our dinnertime radar.
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"A lot of times when people are buying my book, they ask me where to find ingredients. For the most part, the ingredients are available everywhere," Pidgeon said.
The ingredients that might make a difference in a recipe would be imported cheeses or Ireland's famous Kerrygold butter, which are available at Failte Irish Imports in downtown Lexington and at Trader Joe's stores in Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
If you don't dine at a restaurant on St. Patrick's Day, those Irish dishes that are familiar to you might not be part of the celebration. But you can observe the holiday by listening to Irish music, sampling Irish beers and snacking on Irish cheeses, Pidgeon said.
When Irish families gather to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, parents and grandparents share legends and customs. In her book, Pidgeon has an easy recipe for "salmon of knowledge chowder," and she suggests that parents read the legend of the little boy and a magical fish after dinner. The story can be found at Irishcultureandcustoms.com.
Several restaurants will serve a variety of Irish favorites on St. Patrick's Day. The menu at Triangle Grille at The Hilton Lexington/Downtown includes beef and Guinness shepherd's pie, below.
Beef and Guinness shepherd's pie
2 pounds choice beef tips (filet or sirloin)
Salt and pepper
1 ounce olive oil
1/2 cup diced white onion
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced carrots
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
4 12-ounce bottles Guinness stout
1 cup flour
4 small beef bouillon cubes
1/2 cup sweet peas
1 ounce granulated sugar
Prepared mashed potatoes
Season meat with salt and pepper. Pour olive oil into soup pot and sear meat. Add onion, celery, carrots, bay leaves, garlic and thyme. Lightly brown.
Add Guinness, then whisk in flour to thicken. Add bouillon cubes, and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour, until meat is tender.
Add sweet peas and sugar. Cook 10 minutes. Place stew in large, ovenproof bowl. Top with warm mashed potatoes. Place in 350-degree oven and bake 10 minutes or until potatoes are slightly brown.
Serve with Irish soda bread.
Here is Pidgeon's chowder recipe. Her book is available at Irelandscomfortfood.com.
Salmon of knowledge chowder
2 onions, peeled and chopped
4 potatoes, washed and sliced
41/2 cups vegetable stock, made from cubes
1 pound skinless, boneless salmon, cut into chunks
2 cans (151/4 ounces each) creamed corn
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 dozen hazelnuts, shells removed, finely chopped
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
Put onions and potatoes in large sauté pan. Add vegetable stock and simmer about 8 minutes, until potatoes are soft but not broken. Add salmon, creamed corn and a splash of milk. Continue adding milk until chowder is desired consistency.
Gently simmer for 5 minutes, until salmon is cooked through (you want it to flake).
Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts and parsley on top of individual servings.
Makes 4 servings.