Friday, March 17, 2017

On the Homefront: "The Wearing of the Green" St. Patrick's Day Table

Lucky the leprechaun Dalmatian is ready to share his pot of gold
(gold foil-covered chocolate nuggets, that is!) with all who celebrate
St. Patrick's Day (his favorite holiday), including the little sheep family
and the shamrock bunnies!

St. Patrick's Day comes 'round again;
Please join in the fun if you can!
The green does abound
And great food can be found
If you are a St. Paddy fan!

"The Wearing of the Green" is a rather sad Irish street ballad about the suppression of supporters of the Irish Rebellion in 1798 (you can listen to the song on YouTube at the bottom of this post).  The song mentions the wearing of the green for St. Patrick's Day, so I decided to run with that idea for my table this year.  I brought out as much green tableware as possible for the settings, including my new Cabbage Green Bordallo Pinheiro Bowls found recently at HomeGoods.  Here is my very green holiday table:

Fringed green placemat (from Target ages ago); spotted dinner plate (made in Portugal; from HomeGoods last year); dark green dessert plate (under bowl; from Target ages ago); Cabbage Green Bordallo Pinheiro bowl (from Homegoods recently); Pioneer Woman Cowgirl Lace Pearlized Handle Flatware in Green (from Walmart last year); fringed natural cotton napkin; pale green goblet.

Even my plant-filled aquarium in the background adds green to the scene!

The simple centerpiece is a false shamrock plant (Oxalis triangularis),
sold everywhere at this time of year.

Tea will of course be served, and the obvious choice is
Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea!

For my St. Patrick's Day menu this year, I decided to feature dishes that would work for a typical high tea.  Despite the elegant-sounding name, high tea is actually more of an early dinner, historically favored by day laborers who rose and retired early because of their work schedule.  High tea is comprised of simple but hearty fare, all washed down with cups of tea.  In a cooler month like March, I felt that warming comfort foods would suit this menu, so I chose soup, bread, and a strata plus a simple dessert.  Serve the bread with Irish butter, if possible (Kerrygold butter is usually easy to find right now).

St. Patrick's Day Menu:

Colcannon Soup*
Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Rolls/Irish Butter
Irish Cheddar and Leek Strata**
Irish Lemon Pudding***

4 T. butter
2 C. shredded cabbage
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used Melissa's Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes)
1 lb. leeks, rinsed well and chopped
5 C. chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch nutmeg
1 1/4 C. half 'n half (see Note)
3 T. minced fresh parsley or scallions for garnish

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the vegetables.  Cover and cook until barely tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.  Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Using an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth.  Whisk in the half 'n half and heat for a few minutes.  Spoon into bowls and garnish with the parsley or scallions.  Serves 6.

Note: If you are using Russet potatoes, peel them before cubing.  Since I already had buttermilk and low fat milk for the rolls, I used 1/2 C. buttermilk plus 3/4 C. low fat milk instead of the half 'n half.  This soup can be made ahead up to the point of adding the half 'n half (or milks).  Reheat and stir in the half 'n half (or milks) when ready to serve.

4 eggs
1 C. milk
1/4 C. Irish stout (or any dark beer)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
5 slices potato bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 5 C.)
1 medium leek, rinsed and chopped
1 bag (5 oz.) baby kale, slightly steamed and coarsely chopped
3/4 C. shredded Gruyere cheese
3/4 C. shredded Irish cheddar

Whisk the first four ingredients plus salt and pepper together in a large bowl until well blended.  Scatter half of the bread cubes on the bottom of a greased 9-inch square pan.  Sprinkle with half of the leeks and half of the kale.  Top the kale with half of the Gruyere and half of the cheddar.  Repeat the layers one more time.  Carefully pour the egg mixture evenly over the top, pressing down lightly on the bread to make sure that it is submerged.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

Bake the uncovered strata at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the center is set.  Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  Serves 6.

Note: I steamed the baby kale in the microwave on HIGH for one minute.  The original recipe called for roasted red bell peppers and challah bread, but I replaced these with baby kale and potato bread, which seemed a little more Irish to me.

***Irish Lemon Pudding

2 T. butter
1/4 C. sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 C. flour
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 1/4 C. milk

Cream the butter with the sugar in a large bowl.  Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and then add the flour.  Stir in the lemon juice and zest, followed by the milk, and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.  Fold the beaten egg whites gently into the lemon mixture just until incorporated.  Pour the mixture into a greased 8- or 9-inch pie or cake pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until very lightly browned and set.  Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar if desired and serve warm with whipped cream.  Serves 6.

Note: My lemons were large and juicy, so I reduced the milk to 1 C.


May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


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