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Serious Entertaining: Simple St. Patrick's Day Supper
St. Patrick's Day Supper Recipes
I've made my fair share of soda breads, corned beef, and Guinness cakes over the years. This year I'm keeping it simple with a menu that honors some of Ireland's best ingredients.
First Course: Brown Bread with Irish Cheeses
I love all breads, from airy ciabattas to elegant French baguettes. But sometimes I want a hearty, rustic, craggy bread. You know, a big old slice of nubbly, oaty bread that just begs to be spread with a layer of thick jam or a melting pat of butter.
This is that bread.
The Irish call it brown bread and they make it with a special coarse wheat flour*. The unrefined grains lend this bread a vaguely sweet, honey flavor as well as a hint of toasted oats. I like it cut into thick, soft wedges or even made into toast. For my St. Patrick's Day supper, I'll make a loaf and cut it into slices to be served with a selection of Irish cheeses.
The rolling green hills of the Emerald Isle aren't just stunning to look at; they're feeding herds of sheep, goats, and cows. It's no surprise, then, that the Irish make great cheese. For a first course, I'll put together a cheese plate that gives my guests a small survey of some of Ireland's best cheeses.
Cheddar: Start off with a mild cheese like a medium-aged Irish cheddar. Buttery yellow with a festive green rind, the cheddar I chose is smooth with a slightly grassy flavor. Don't worry if you can't find a specific brand; Ireland makes a wide spectrum of cheddars, from sharp to mild, and it's hard to go wrong.
Washed Rind Cheeses: Sitting just south of Dublin, County Cork produces many excellent washed rind cheeses. I bought a version called Ardrahan (pronounced Drah-han); a cow's milk cheese with a salty, nutty flavor. Make sure to tell your friends to eat the rind- it's pungent but delicious.
Blue Cheese: Since its creation in the early 1980s, Cashel Blue has become one of Ireland's best known cheeses. This extremely creamy and fruity blue is made in County Tipperary from a herd of Friesian cows. It's not as aggressive as some other blue cheeses, so everyone should enjoy its melting texture and slightly tangy flavor.
Main Course: Champ with Sausages
Though its food scene has really taken off, at its heart Ireland is still a meat and potatoes kind of country. And who could blame them? Champ is a simple but delicious dish where creamy mashed potatoes are mixed with a good helping of milk and butter and studded with scallions. Served with sausages, this is a complete main course, and the green parsley adds a festive St. Patrick's Day touch.
Dessert: Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate-Whiskey Sauce
Guinness is great, but don't forget about Irish whiskey. You could serve Irish coffee, but I'm in love with this chocolate-whiskey sauce poured over vanilla ice cream. It's the perfect dessert to finish a simple meal: easy to prepare and just a tad boozy.
* Using Irish-style whole meal flour is important to achieve the proper consistency and flavor of this bread. You can find it online at kingarthurflour.com
**These Irish cheeses and more are available by mail order at murrayscheese.com