In “Walking the Poems of Ireland, Marilyn J. Middleton writes: “The landscape of Ireland became a poem upon my mind. I had seen those ghostly misty landscapes before. I had touched the ancient high crosses and felt the feelings of pilgrims long before that had touched them also. Touring Ireland was for me like going somewhere where you knew you belonged and finding some lost part of yourself …
“We arrived at the little seacoast harbor town of Dingle. … The sea here gave harvests of wild mussels, salmon, and shrimp.”
I have not traveled to Ireland, but I know the feeling that this author conveys in her book. I have experienced it in Germany when visiting the small, medieval villages that seem to have never changed. I have also experienced this feeling on the North Fork, where I have lived for the past 44 years, and as a chef I realize how much food has to do with our memories of a place. Here are some Irish-inspired recipes that may help you enjoy the holiday of St. Patrick.
Cabbage, Kale, Finnan Haddie Soup
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy soup pot at very low heat. Add 2 chopped leeks (white part) and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme. Cover and sweat for 10 minutes.
Stir in 1/4 cup flour to make a roux, then whisk in 4 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Peel and slice 4 red-skinned potatoes into quarter-inch slices and add them to the sauce. Increase the heat and let them simmer until just tender, about 20 minutes.
Chop 4 cups of cabbage and add to the soup. Remove the leaves from 1/2 bunch of kale, wash and tear them into bite-sized pieces and add to the soup. Continue cooking at medium heat until cabbage and kale are tender, about 10 minutes.
In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup heavy cream until simmering. Cut 8 ounces of finnan haddie into small pieces and add to the cream. Let it cook until fish is fully cooked, about 10 minutes, then add to the soup. Season the soup with a few grinds of pepper and serve. Garnish with finely chopped green onions.
Note: Finnan haddie is salted and cold-smoked haddock from Scotland. It is available locally from Braun Seafood.
Spinach, Beet, Bacon and Horseradish Salad
Trim and wash 6 medium-sized beets, leaving the skin intact. Wrap them loosely in foil and place on a sheet pan in a 400-degree oven. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove, cool, slip off the skins and cut into small wedges.
Wash 1 package of baby spinach and spin dry in a salad spinner.
Cook 4 slices of bacon until crisp, chop coarsely and set aside.
Cut 4 ounces of Danish blue cheese into small pieces and set aside.
For the dressing add 1 chopped shallot, 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/3 cup olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper to a small mason jar. Cover and shake vigorously.
Toss some of the dressing with the spinach and arrange on 6-8 salad plates. Toss a little of the dressing with the beets and place on top of the spinach. Sprinkle the bacon and cheese on top along with a few thin slices of red onion.
Finish the salads by grating a little fresh horseradish over the top (or placing a small spoon of prepared horseradish on the side).
Slow-Poached Wild Salmon with Mussels and Green Sauce
Begin by making the poaching liquid (court bouillon). Add to a large, shallow saucepan 2 cups water and 1 cup white wine. Add 1 chopped leek, 1 cup chopped onion and 1 cup chopped celery. Season with 1 thinly sliced lemon, 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs of thyme, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns and 2 teaspoons kosher salt.
Bring this mixture to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let it steep for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut 1 1/2 pounds of wild, boneless, skinless salmon fillet into 6 pieces. Place the fish in the warm court bouillon, making sure it is covered by the liquid (if not, add a little water). Put it on low heat, cover and gently simmer (do not boil) the fish until it is just cooked, about 5 minutes. (It should be a little underdone, about 140 degrees internal temperature.) Remove the fish and set aside.
Strain the poaching liquid into a large pasta pot. Clean and rinse 2 pounds of mussels and add them to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. As the mussels open, remove them with tongs or a slotted spoon.
When all mussels are removed, strain the liquid and let the sediment settle to the bottom. Pour off the clear liquid into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it reduce by half and cool.
For the green sauce, coarsely chop 4 cups spinach, 1/2 cup parsley and 3 scallions and set aside.
Add to the bowl of a food processor 1 egg, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Process until smooth, then stream in 1 cup of the reduced cooking liquid. Gradually add the chopped greens and process until coarsely chopped. Drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil and taste for seasoning.
To serve, remove most of the mussels from their shells, reserving some for garnish. Place the salmon in a large casserole and pour in the green sauce and mussels. Heat in the oven just before service. If desired, serve with colcannon, carrots and cabbage.
Lemon Sponge Pudding
Cream 6 tablespoons butter and 1 cup sugar, using the paddle in an electric mixer, until they are light and fluffy.
Separate 4 eggs and set the whites aside.
Add the yolks one at a time to the butter mixture at low speed, then drizzle in the juice and zest of 2 lemons.
Scrape down the bowl and add 2/3 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue mixing and drizzle in 1 3/4 cups milk, then transfer the batter to a large bowl.
Using a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold them into the batter with a rubber spatula.
Add the batter to a large ceramic soufflé dish and place it in a roasting pan. Put it in a 350-degree oven and pour 2 quarts boiling water into the roasting pan to make a water bath. Bake until the top of the pudding is light brown and the filling is firm, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve.