The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 9, 2007

Features

Top o' the mornin' to ye

I check my calendar. How many days are there until that special holiday I have been waiting for ? Once I learn that there are only eight days until "the wearin' o' the green" on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, I go to the living room to hunt for a tape of Boys of the Lough's "Welcoming Paddy Home" and look for a disk of The Chieftains "An Irish Evening, Live at the Opera House, Belfast." I love that Irish music and have heard both groups in person over the years.

As I turn on the music, I fondly recall one evening when my husband and I sat in the second row of the UMass. Lowell auditorium enjoying the Chieftains and their wonderful rollicking tunes. Then there was the time I met the Boys of the Lough who were staying at a home in Lexington where I went to buy tickets for their concert at MIT.

I go upstairs and open my dresser-drawer to make sure my green sweater is presentable for that special day, then head back down to the kitchen to assemble the recipes that I plan to use for the holiday. This year I'll be making several of the following dishes: Irish Stew, Colcannon, Boxty Pancakes, Rum-Raisin Shortbread and, of course, Irish Coffee.

Here are some suggestions for a way to celebrate a delicious and traditional St. Patrick's Day.

Irish Stew

Serves 4 to 6

6 medium-sized potatoes (about 2 lbs.) cut crosswise into _-inch slices

4 large onions (about a 1_ lbs.) peeled into _ inch slices

3 lbs. lean, boneless lamb neck or shoulder, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tsp. salt

Freshly ground pepper

_ tsp. thyme

Cold water

1. Spread half the potatoes on the bottom of a heavy 4-to 5-quart casserole and cover them with half the onion slices and then all the lamb.

2. Sprinkle with _ tsp. of the salt, a few grindings of the pepper the thyme.

3. Arrange the rest of the onions over the meat and spread the remaining potatoes on top. Sprinkle with _ tsp. salt and grindings of pepper, then pour in enough water just to cover the potatoes.

4. Bring the stew to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to its lowest possible point, and cover tightly. Simmer for 1_ hours. Check from time to time and add boiling water, a T. at a time, if liquid seems to be cooking away.

5. Serve stew from casserole, ladling into heated deep individual serving plate.

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Boxty Pancakes

(Irish Potato Pancakes)

makes about 10 pancakes

3 medium-sized potatoes (about 1 lb.), preferably baking potatoes

_ cup flour

_ tsp. salt

_ cup milk

_ tsp. caraway seeds

3 to 4 T. butter

Crisp fried bacon (Optional; I use Jones Bacon, it's the best.)

1. Peel the potatoes and drop them into a bowl to prevent their discoloring.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and milk and caraway seeds.

3. One at a time, pat the potatoes dry and grate them coarsely into a sieve or colander. As you proceed, press each potato firmly down into the sieve with the back of a large spoon to remove its moisture, then immediately stir the gratings into the flour-and-milk mixture.

4. In a heavy 8-to-10 inch skillet, melt 2 T. butter or fat over moderate heat. When foam begins to subside, pour in about 1 T. of the batter for each pancake. Cook 3 to 4 pancakes at a time, leaving enough space between them so that they can spread into 3_-to-4-inch pancakes. Fry them for about 3 minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown and crisp around the edges.

5. Transfer the finished pancakes to a heated plate and drape foil over them to keep them warm while you cook the remaining cakes, adding fat to the pan when necessary.

6. Serve the pancakes as soon as they are all cooked, accompanied if you wish by crisp bacon. This makes a nice luncheon meal for St. Patrick's Day.

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Rum-Raisin Shortbread

makes15 large cookies

RAISINS

5 ounces (1cup) raisins

_ cup dark rum

Bring the raisins and rum to a boil in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for several hours or overnight. When ready to bake the cookies drain the raisins in a strainer set over a small bowl; use leftover rum for something else.

COOKIE DOUGH

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

_ tsp. double-acting baking powder

_ tsp. salt

_ lb. (2 sticks) butter

_ cup confectioners sugar

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter until it is very soft. Add the sugar and beat well until completely smooth. On low speed gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, beating until smooth. Stir in prepared raisins.

2. Transfer dough to a large piece of wax paper, wrap, flatten slightly, refrigerate for about 1_ to 2 hours.

3. When ready to bake the cookies adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 375 degrees.

4. Place the dough on a floured surface and turn it over to flour all sides lightly. With a floured rolling pin roll the dough gently only until it is _ inch thick, no thinner!

5. Use a plain round cookie cutter about 2_ inches in diameter. Dip the cutter in flour before cutting each cookie and cut them as close to each other as possible. Rotate the cookie cutter slightly in order to cut through the raisins. Press the scraps together, chill them and reroll.

6. Place the cookies 1 to 2 inches apart on unbuttered cookie sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Reverse the sheets midway, top to bottom, front to back. Remove cookies with a wide spatula to cool on racks.

7. Serve with Irish Coffee.

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Irish Coffee

Granulated sugar

Hot, strong coffee

Irish whiskey

Heavy cream

For each person:

1. Into a stemmed goblet (for hot drinks) or a teacup, put 1 level teaspoon fine granulated sugar.

2. Fill the goblet or cup _ full with very hot, strong coffee. Stir quickly to dissolve sugar.

3. Add 1 ounce of Irish Whiskey (American Bourbon will do in a pinch) and stir once.

4. Top off with heavy thick cream poured over the top of an upside-down spoon held just over the top of the coffee, so the cream floats over the surface, about _ inch thick. Do not stir.

The true flavor comes only by drinking the hot coffee through the thick cream.


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