It’s becoming a regular occurrence for me to call upon my friends from The Rogue Estate to create themed menus. We hadn’t done a full-scale meal since our insane Super Bowl Sausage Fest. With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, we decided to tackle Irish food.
First things first: corned beef and cabbage is an Irish-American food. Corned beef didn’t make its way into to the Irish culinary vernacular until after Ellis Island. Back in Ireland, most people were too poor to afford beef, so corned beef is very much an American St. Patrick’s Day tradition. Don’t get us wrong, we love corned beef, but it has no place in a traditional Irish meal.
Like any Hungry Dudes/Rogue Estate undertaking, we made everything from scratch with as much adherence to tradition as possible. Of course, this means things can get messy, but we’re okay with getting our hands dirty.
Historically, every spare part of the animal was used, minimizing waste and maximizing the period of time a family could eat. Blood pudding is one such food, made mostly with grains like oats and barley to get the most out of whatever blood was left after slaughter. Not for the squeamish, making your own blood sausage will leave your kitchen looking like Dexter paid your home a visit. Polish Market (or any Eastern European market, for that matter) will stock blood sausage. Don’t be afraid of blood sausage either; its flavor is quite pleasant.
One thing Ireland had plenty of was potatoes. Served at nearly every meal, potatoes were and still are a low-cost source of nutrition. A simple yet hearty dish, colcannon used to be a full meal for many, but now would be more appropriate as a side dish. From the Gaelic word meaning “white cabbage,” colcannon is mashed potatoes with sautéed cabbage.
Texturally pleasing, colcannon is one of Ireland’s national dishes. Since both potatoes and cabbage were such staples, it makes sense to bring them together. Our version was topped with green onion, bacon and butter. Frying colcannon patties the next day makes for excellent Irish-style potato pancakes.
Apples are also plentiful and make for a wondrous soup. Combining apples with parsnips, curry, cumin, heavy cream, hard cider and stock made for a velvety, pleasantly tart and earthy soup. The simple preparation yields an amazing depth of flavor. It’s a perfect bridge course between appetizer and entrée.
Ireland is an island, so it makes sense that one of our courses should be seafood. “Many coastal Ireland meals begin with a seafood course,” says Ian Malbon, a Rogue Estate member.
Mussels are served all over Ireland, usually steamed in vinegar with the leftover boiling water (bray) served as a supplementary drink. For us, however, vinegar and water was not appealing enough. Enter Oyster Stout. Oyster Stout is a dark beer brewed with oyster shells – it tastes of roasted malt and the sea.
Steaming the mussels in the oyster stout along with a trinity of garlic, shallots and leeks made for a truly memorable bowl that was a pleasure to pick and pluck through. PRO TIP: mussels are alive when purchased. Never cook a mussel with an open shell, because that means it has died. If a shell is partially opened, tap against the countertop. If the shell closes, cook it – if it doesn’t close, pitch it.
Remember the bray I mentioned a paragraph or so ago? Well, what’s better than a bray made of vinegar and water? One made of oyster stout. I will neither confirm nor deny that we did shots of the leftover bray after eating the mussels. All I will say is: don’t be afraid to drink this magical liquid.
There will also be some liquid left in your bowl after your mussels have been eaten. Don’t go all barbaric on the bowl and slurp it. Rather, make a quick batch of soda farls. Farls are pan-fried Irish bread mostly served at breakfast. Pan-frying in a cast skillet gives a perfect golden-brown crust while leaving the interior soft and chewy. Prepare the farls prior to steaming the mussels. Serve with the mussels and commence bray dipping.
If you were to visit the fields of Ireland, sheep and lamb would undoubtedly be grazing on the grass. Usually reserved for special occasions, lamb would be roasted or grilled. For our purposes, we prepared lamb chops seasoned simply with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary. Once seasoned, we placed the chops on a hot grill and cooked them for a short time. The resulting medium-rare chops were both tender and luscious. There’s no need to complicate lamb chops.
In the interest of being thorough, the lamb chops were served with colcannon, braised leeks, sautéed mushrooms and mushy peas. Mushy peas are available at Meijer or any store with an international foods aisle. This canned delicacy is starchy king peas that have been mashed into a paste-like consistency. We doctored them up with a little mint and green onion. Their sweetness is an ideal accompaniment to lamb – especially with the added mint.
Because of Ireland’s history of animosity with England, the Irish have a fascination with Spanish culture. For our dessert, we took Seville oranges and burned them. Well, it’s not that simple, but burnt oranges are an after-dinner treat. There are orange-flavored confections and then there’s this. Using almost the entire orange (minus pith and seeds) makes this dish insanely orangey. Fair warning, use ample amounts of sugar and/or honey when making this dish. Seville oranges are intensely bitter, so sugar will offer balance.
Of course, no Irish meal would be complete without Guinness, Harp and Jameson. The soup, of course, pairs perfectly with hard cider. We recommend sharing a beer or two with friends before dinner and possibly a shot of Jameson afterwards. Of course, practice safe drinking, but with all of this food, drinking won’t be that big of a concern anyway. Now isn’t that a change from the usual St. Patrick’s Day festivities?
Article was originally printed in Real Detroit Weekly