About a month ago I received a “Party in a Box” from Kerrygold. Of course I had to put it to use! Kerrygold is a company which started in Ireland and they make some of the best cheese and butter I have ever tasted. I have been a fan of Kerrygold for several years. Long before they started sending me free stuff. Although the free stuff helps. They raise dairy cows the right way. These cows are grass-fed and free to roam in beautiful pastures living life as they see fit. You can see the difference in the butter. It is bright yellow instead of dull whiteish-yellow like many of the butters sold in supermarkets. But really, whats more important than the taste? Kerrygold butter and cheeses have a fresh and slightly earthy taste to them. Dubliner cheese is one of the few foods my good friend, Jenn, actually eats, so Kerrygold Dubliner makes an appearance on every cheese plate I curate for our parties.
One item in the Party Box was a new cookbook by Clodagh McKenna, dubbed “The Irish Rachael Ray”. The book is titled Clodagh’s Kitchen Diaries and is, in fact, formatted like a diary, or a sketch book, or an inspiration board. The pages don’t all match, some look like lined paper, others have coffee cup stains on them. I love the sort of rustic look of this cookbook. It looks much like my own handmade recipe and idea books. Another neat thing about this book is the way the chapters are set up. A typical cookbook is separated by courses: appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts. This cookbook is organized by month. It’s great for seasonal and holiday cooking. For my St. Patrick’s Day party, of course I chose recipes from the March chapter.
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit Ireland, but it is definitely one of my top destinations. I feel some sort of connection with Ireland because whenever I travel out of the country, without planning it, I always end up in a hotel on my first night in a new place across the street from an Irish pub, and this is where I enjoy my first dinner of my trip. It’s like the motherland is calling to comfort me when I step foot on new soil and realize I’m in a land where I don’t speak the language and what am I even doing here?! Okay, okay. Maybe this is just coincidence, maybe Irish pubs are just super popular throughout the world, maybe Ireland is not the “motherland” since I’m pretty sure I haven’t a trace of Irish in me. Still. I would love to visit Ireland someday. 2014?. This year is Japan. Do you think Kerrygold would send me on an all-expenses-paid trip to visit their truly happy cows?
I imagine the Irish people enjoy their meals like much of Europe. Simple, whole foods grown in their own backyards. Not pretentious, and not actually doused in tons of green food dye. With this in mind, I decided to keep this Irish-themed dinner party simple and down to the basics.
St. Patrick’s Day Menu (recipes made from the pages of Klodagh’s Kitchen Diaries)
Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese Platter
Cheddar Cheese Soup Scones
Guinness Beef Stew
Chilled Guinness for drinking, of course
Mini Guinness Chocolate Mousse Cups
Think of your typical beef stew. Beefy, earthy, delicious. Now instead of using beef broth to flavor and add moisture to your dish, swap out some good ole Guinness beer. It wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without beer, right? And what better beer to use than something so Irish like Guinness? Besides, Guinness is heavily marked down right now at every grocery store just waiting for all the celebratory drunkards. Don’t go overboard, now! Enjoy your beer and your parties, but keep it safe! The bitter aftertaste of the beer is an interesting addition to beef stew. Some people loved the unique flavor of this stew while others weren’t too keen on the change. In the future, and there will be a future for this stew in my kitchen, I think I’ll do half beef stock and half beer. Clodagh suggests serving this soup with roasted potatoes, which would definitely be heavenly. I added the potatoes directly to my soup instead to add ease to my party preparations.
Scones! Who doesn’t love a flaky, buttery scone? Add some sharp cheddar cheese to it and you’ve got a platter full of deliciousness that you’ll have to pry from hands before I eat the entire thing if you want even one taste! I may have poked fun at the green-food-coloring-laden foods of this holiday, but even I can’t resist adding green to everything for St. Patrick’s Day. I chopped up some kale until it was in super teeny tiny flakes and added it to my scone dough for some festive green (like that table scape above isn’t covered in enough green?) Here’s a tip! When making scones or biscuits you want them to be super flaky. You should be able to see the layers before you even bake the dough. So. Instead of mixing it all together with a spoon or rolling the dough into a big ball, press the layers together. Cut the dough in half, stack the halves on top of each other, and press down with your hands. Don’t form a ball! Just keep pressing layers onto each other until the dough comes together and then press it into a disk or square about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. You can certainly just cut your disk or square into smaller pieces with a knife and not have any leftover dough scraps (those will come out more rustic, which is what a scones or biscuit really should be). But! If you’re using a cookie cutter or pint glass (hey, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, the pint glass seemed fitting), once you’ve cut out all your dough and have those little scraps. Do not roll them into a ball. Just like your mixing process, place all the little scraps on top of each other in a stack and press them down with your hands. Depending on the amount of your scraps you’ll probably end up with one or two more scones, and these ones you can leave in funky shapes to make sure all your dough was used up and nothing went to waste.
Whew. Maybe I should just do an entire post about scones.
How To Have A St. Patrick’s Day Party
1. Gather everything green and shamrocky in sight. Green napkins, green ballons, green confetti, shamrock temporary tattoos, green buttons, green ribbon.
2. Definitely invite some old Irish men to your party, or just go pluck them from the nearest Irish pub.
3. Make some Irish recipes like Beef or Lamb Stew and Scones. Serve with Irish beer and Irish cheese.
4. Finely mince kale or spinach to add green to your food in a natural and healthy way.
5. Eat, Drink, and Be Irish! (and please don’t pinch people for not wearing green. That isn’t very nice.)
Irish Cheese Platter
Cheddar Cheese Kale Scones
Beef Stew with Beer Broth
Mini Guinness Chocolate Mousse Cups