Irish Food in the Toledo Blade

It’s time to highlight Irish food
Article published Tuesday, March 11, 2008

St. Patrick’s Day is Monday, so it’s time for Irish food. Traditional Irish foods are gaining international attention, led by the Allen family at the Ballymaloe House in County Cork.

In keeping with that movement, Zingerman’s of Ann Arbor will bake loaves of Irish Brown Soda Bread at the Bakehouse through Monday. Dinners are planned at the Delicatessen and at the Roadhouse showcasing the flavors of Irish cuisine.

On Monday from 4 to 7 p.m., an all-you-can-eat Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner is $16.99 at Zingerman’s Delicatessen. On March 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. Irish Sweets Baking Class with Margaret Johnson will be at Zingerman’s Bakehouse. Cost is $40. Reservations at www.bakewithzing.com.

On March 19 at 7 p.m., Supper and Stories with Irish-American writer Margaret Johnson will be at Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Reservations are required at 734-663-FOOD.

A centerpiece of the cooking and baking is imported Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter. Made from milk of grass-fed cows, the butter’s flavor is evocative of the diet of grasses, according to Zingerman’s.

Kerrygold products are sold in local stores. For appetizers, a pub lunch, or a dessert cheese tray, serve a selection of Irish cheeses such as Kerrygold Dubliner, Blarney Castle, Cheddar, and Red Leicester. These are sold in area supermarkets and specialty stores. Serve with bread, crackers, toasted nuts, and fresh or dried fruits.

Irish dishes include Irish Champ, which traditionally has been considered “peasant fare,” but has been spotted on the menu at some of London’s finer restaurants. Creamy mashed potatoes are laced with scallions and are served in a peak; a small dip is made at the top and filled with melted butter, which is perfect for dipping each forkful of potato.

Irish soda bread is a quick bread made with baking soda and usually with buttermilk. It is speckled with currants and sometimes caraway seeds. Before baking, a cross is slashed in the top of the loaf.

The legend of Irish coffee credits chef Joe Sheridan in 1942 for serving coffee to tired travelers at the Foynes Airport in County Limerick, Ireland, according to information from Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey.

Mr. Sheridan sweetened the hot coffee with sugar, added a dram of Irish whiskey, and floated a dollop of lightly whipped cream on top. You get the coolness of cream and the hot of the coffee for “real Irish coffee.” It was transported to America where the Buena Vista Cafe in northern California began serving the first Irish coffees in 1952.

The Zagat Survey of restaurants describes the “famous Irish Coffee that still sets the standard” at Buena Vista Cafe, located on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

St. Patrick’s Day is also a day to serve corned beef brisket and Irish lamb stew. The latter is a traditional layered dish of equal parts seasoned lamb, potatoes, and onions. Water and stock are poured over all, the pot is covered, and the food is cooked slowly for two to three hours. It can be made the day before to allow the flavors to blend.

Corned beef and cabbage is an Irish-American invention. A six-pound brisket, serving 8 to 12, is covered with water, onions, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, and garlic and simmered for three to four hours until the meat is tender. Cut a head of cabbage into six wedges and place on top of the meat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Cabbage wedges can also be cooked in the microwave, which makes a tender, sweet vegetable.

Kathie Smith is The Blade’s food editor.
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