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A pot of leek, potato, cabbage, kale and smoked eel soup. (Credit: John Ross)
A pot of leek, potato, cabbage, kale and smoked eel soup. (Credit: John Ross)

Chef John Ross’ St. Patrick’s Day menu column from the upcoming issues of The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review. 

I just want to put something straight

About what should be on your plate,

If it’s corned beef you’re makin’

You’re sadly mistaken,

That isn’t what Irishmen ate.

If you ever go over the pond

You’ll find it’s of bacon they’re fond,

All crispy and fried,

With some cabbage beside,

And a big scoop of praties beyond.

So please get it right this St. Paddy’s.

Don’t feed this old beef to your daddies.

It may be much flasher,

But a simple old rasher,

Is what you should eat with your tatties.

excerpt from ‘Good Grief – Not Beef!’
by Frances Shilladay (2004)

I am not Irish, but a Canadian born of Scottish and English descent. When March finally comes after a cold winter, that American St. Patrick’s Day tradition of corned beef and cabbage sounds pretty good along with the parades and the beer. But the ingredients that are actually eaten in Ireland are also delicious at this time of year: leeks, onions, potatoes, cabbage, kale, smoked fish, roast chicken and, of course, bacon. They are hearty comfort food at its best. The following Irish-themed meal was adapted from a 1981 Gourmet magazine article about Irish food.

Leek, Potato, Cabbage, Kale
and Smoked Eel Soup

Purchase 1 smoked, fully cooked eel, cut the head and tail off and peel back the skin. With a sharp paring knife, remove the meat, cut it into half-inch pieces and set aside.

Trim 3 leeks, cutting off the stems and most of the green leaves. Cut the white part into quarters and rinse. Slice the strips of rinsed leek into quarter-inch pieces.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy soup pot at low heat and add the leeks along with 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves. Cover and let the vegetables “sweat” at low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup flour to make a roux and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Increase the heat and stir in 4 cups chicken stock, bringing the mixture to a boil.

Dice 4 small Yukon gold potatoes, leaving the skins on, and add them to the simmering soup. When the potatoes are tender, add 2 cups chopped Savoy cabbage and 2 cups chopped kale leaves. Continue to simmer and add 1 cup heavy cream, the zest and juice from 1 lemon and the reserved eel meat. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper and garnish with minced scallions.

Serves 4-6.

Irish Roast Chicken
with Applewood-Smoked Bacon

Rinse, dry and remove the excess fat from a 4- to 5-pound roasting chicken. Prepare a stuffing by combining 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal with 1 chopped onion, 3 tablespoons melted butter and 1/4 cup chicken stock. Season the stuffing with 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place the stuffing in the cavity of the chicken, push the legs up against the breast area and tie the chicken into a compact bundle with butcher’s twine.

In a large, heavy sauté pan, cook 6 strips of thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon until almost crisp. Remove and place on paper towels. Pour off some of the bacon fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Turn the heat to high and brown the chicken on all sides, being careful not to burn.

Set the browned chicken aside, turn down the heat and add to the pan 2 sliced onions, 3 large carrots cut in 2-inch pieces and 3 parsnips cut in 2-inch pieces. Sauté at medium heat in the bacon fat until starting to brown and remove.

Dice the cooked bacon and place half of it in the bottom of a Dutch oven. (Reserve the rest for garnish.) Put the chicken on top of the bacon and pour 1 cup chicken stock over all. Bring to a boil on the stove, cover and place in a 300-degree oven to cook for 1 hour. Remove the lid and add the sautéed vegetables and cook another 1/2 hour.

Remove the cooked chicken, let it cool for 20 minutes and cut it into serving pieces — either with or without the bones. Serve the oatmeal stuffing on the plate or pass. Serve the vegetables on the side and spoon the juices over the chicken. Sprinkle the reserved bacon on top.

Serves 4-6.

Carrot Parsnip Cupcakes
with Irish Cream Frosting

Cupcakes: Place paper liners in muffin tins to make 18 cupcakes.

Combine in a large bowl and whisk together 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking soda and 2 teaspoons baking powder.

In a separate bowl whisk 4 large eggs, 1 1/2 cups canola oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Grate 2 large carrots and 2 large parsnips on the large holes of a box grater. They should combine to make 3 cups. Toast 1 cup pine nuts.

Add the beaten egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon. Fold in the carrot-parsnip mixture and the toasted nuts. Fill the muffin tins 3/4 full and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the centers. Cool on a wire rack.

Frosting: Beat 2 sticks of butter in a mixer with a paddle until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Sift 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar and add it to the butter at low speed. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat in 1/4 cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur. When the cupcakes are cool, spread the frosting on top and serve.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected]

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