Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Things were tough this time last year, with celebrations being cancelled everywhere as we all hunkered down to go through quarantine. Hopefully, things have improved enough where you are that you can at least have a couple friends over for a small celebration.
So what's this holiday all about anyway? If you're like me, you just remembering wearing green all the time as a kid because you didn't want to get pinched by everyone else. And kids were ruthless, man! You had to practically announce that you were wearing green or they'd be on you in a second.
Why all the obnoxious and painful pinching? Well, because-as folklore has it-it's a way to protect you from leprechauns. Evidently, if you aren't wearing green, they can see you and will pinch you because they are mischievous little scamps. But wearing green prevents them from being able to see you at all. Why does that concept of visual impairment sound a little familiar?
It's a good thing I have a little "Luck of the Fry-rish" with my 7-leaf clover. I never have to worry about not wearing green ever again. If you haven't seen that episode of "Futurama," go watch it today. Fair warning: it's a little bit of a tear-jerker, but a really good episode.
As adults, we get to enjoy the holiday for the other fun things: drinking and parties! According to historians, Americans started celebrating St. Patrick's Day long before America was even a thing. In our country, the first parade took place on March 17, 1601 in St. Augustine, FL. It seems like anything historical in this country is related to St. Augustine in some shape or form...
In Lexington, we usually have a parade downtown. In other years, we are inadvertently in semi-attendance because we are usually at LexCon. This year, however, LexCon has been rescheduled to September (hopefully I'll have some exciting book news about that later this summer...), so we won't get to see the parade through the convention hall windows and be annoyed with the blocking of streets for parking. Do they have a parade where you are? Or is St. Patrick's Day not a big thing in your city?
If we can, we try to host a small gathering at our house to eat Irish fare and drink Irish alcohol. Well, everyone else tries it. Since I don't like beer or whiskey, I'm kind of out of the loop on the drinking part, aren't I?
Speaking of food, did you know the tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage is an American invention? Turns out Irish-Americans couldn't afford ham, which is the traditional dish in Ireland. Corned beef is a cheaper substitute, so that's how we got that tradition! Personally, as much as I enjoy corned beef, I don't like cabbage and don't want it stinking up my house, so I make different things.
When we host, we try to have other foods that might be more traditional to Ireland, although I'm sure they have some sort of Americanized twist to them. I've got several ideas on my Pinterest from very talented people who shared Irish food recipes that you can check out. I'll list some of our faves below.
Bangers & Mash:
This very Irish-sounding dish is one of my hubby's favorites. It's essentially just some tasty, Hobbit-style sausage over deliciously seasoned mashed potatoes. It's best made in a cast iron skillet for that yummy seasoning. You know, everything tastes better in cast iron! Here's a recipe that I've found really satisfies.
Now, THIS is what I call a traditional Irish feast that speaks straight to my heart. I am a lover of all things potato, and, while the bangers & mash is good, it's not completely my flavor. Dublin coddle, on the other hand, that's what I enjoy. It's basically a hearty meat and potato stew that's slow-cooked for a couple hours. This is the kind of meal that you could leave sitting on low all day long until you're ready to eat it.
Now, you could cook it in a crock pot, I suppose, but I much prefer the dutch oven. I've made this and it is well-loved, let me tell you. And it's not for the weak. It is hearty and it will fill you up. But isn't that what you want when you're drinking all that alcohol? The great thing about Dublin coddle is there's no one right way to make this. You can shake things up a bit and add turkey sausage instead of pork sausage. Or, you can just add ground meat instead of the sausage links. Just be sure to include the bacon. You'll regret it if you don't, I promise. You can find the recipe I use here.
Irish Potato Bites:
That's why I like this holiday so much. Potato, potato, and more potato...
These little bites of potato goodness are the best side you'll make. I swear. The great thing is these potato bites can be used for any gathering, not just today! I will say, they are a bit time-consuming, but the end result is soooooo worth it. I've made these countless times for our friends and they always get devoured.
Some tips: Get yourself a melon baller. They're like $2-3 at WalMart and they will make the gutting process so much easier. I didn't have one for the first few times I made these and I was going crazy trying not to break these things with the teaspoon I had to use. You may also want to get one of those Potato Express things. We have one and it is fantastic! Literally, 4 mins in the microwave in this bag and the potatoes are soft and ready for mashing or whatever you're doing.
Essentially, these are mini twice baked potatoes. Delicious! You take a bunch of the little bitty baby reds and boil them until they're soft. Cut them in half (I usually trim the bottoms, too, so they sit flat on the baking sheet) and scoop out the middle. Leave a little bit of an edge, though, so they don't fall in on themselves! Then, mix the tater innards with butter, cheese, sour cream, and whatever meat you want and scoop it back into the shell of the potato. Bake and voila! The recipe I follow on Pinterest recommends using corned beef, of course, but you can use whatever you want so that it's not just a St. Patty's Day thing. Trust me, you don't want to miss out on these babies.
Those are the big things we make when we host a St. Patrick's Day feast at our house. I also have recipes for alcohol infused desserts and even Guinness dip for crackers and such! I recommend trying anything with Bailey's. It'll essentially act as a cream and give everything a really smooth, sweet flavor. I've tried a couple things with Guinness and I just didn't like how they turned out. But they're saved on my Pinterest board, so you can feel free to sample them to see what you like!
As for this year? Well, we're heading to the Tilted Kilt to enjoy some green alcohol and whatever good Irish-themed food their chef wants to cook. This year, I'm happy to leave the cooking and dish-washing to someone else! Whatever your plans are for the holiday, please enjoy them and do them responsibly. Always have a DD or call an Uber. Please.
Next week, we'll celebrate the master of fantasy (and just writing in general): J.R.R. Tolkien. Until then, stay safe out there and don't let the Leprechauns get you!