How, in the name of all things authentic and Irish, did the green in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations become green food coloring?
The green of the Emerald Isle is not from a bottle, but from the verdant grass covering this ancient, sea-surrounded hilly land. Sample a bite of Irish cheese, and you can almost taste the particular character of the soil and grass. A distinct underlying sweetness makes Irish dairy products like no other. It’s present in several wondrous cheeses from Ireland, all or most of which are available in the cheese sections of most large supermarkets. Try Kerrygold’s Dubliner or aged Cheddar, Cashel blue, smoked Gubbeen and even Irish brie.
As for green beer . . . please. If you’re talking authentic and Irish, think ale and think red. Medium-bodied, malty, a bit fruity and a distinct golden-red, it’s a perfect St. Patrick’s Day choice for drinking and for cooking with.
Of course everyone rightly associates potatoes, native to the Americas, with Ireland. Indeed, praties (Celtic for potatoes) became a staple as soon as they were introduced in Ireland and remain so to this day.
Here’s a thought. This year, pass on the green beer and the tried-and-true but ho-hum corned-beef-and-cabbage. Instead, served up a glorious soup, thick and creamy, combining Irish cheeses, ale and potatoes. What better tribute could there be to the Irish, one of America’s first great immigrant waves, than this true “melting pot”?
Irish Potato Soup with Cheese and Red Ale
You may use all leeks or all onions instead of a combination of the two; the potatoes may be peeled or unpeeled; and you may use a more readily available beer or ale. You can also use chicken stock instead of vegetable and add a garnish of crisp bacon crumbles. Serve with a spinach salad and whole grain toast or crisp baguette slices.
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cups chopped yellow onion
2 leeks, sliced
3/4 cup sliced celery
8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, coarsely chopped
1 (12-ounce) bottle Irish red ale
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole or 2percent reduced-fat milk
7 ounces grated Kerrygold Dubliner’s cheese
3/4 cup finely minced parsley (optional)
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese, pereferably Cashel (optional)
Crisp cooked bacon crumbled (optional)
1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 6- to 8-quart stockpot. Add onion, leek and celery; cook over medium heat about 10 minutes.
2. Add potatoes, ale, stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender about 45 minutes.
3. Melt remaining butter in a medium saucepan; gradually add flour, whisking until smooth. Cook 3 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Slowly stir in milk, whisking until hot and thickened. Add cheese; stir until melted.
4. Stir cheese mixture into potato mixture until combined. Cook over very low heat 10 minutes.
5. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with parsley, blue cheese and bacon, if using. Serves 8.
NOTE: If you can’t find Kerrygold Dubliner, substitute 3 ounces Gruyère combined with 4 ounces of medium sharp white Cheddar.
Per (1 3/4 cup) serving: 420 calories, 18g fat, 55mg chol., 16g prot., 49g carbs., 4g fiber, 640mg sodium
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Photo credit: Mark Boughton Photography; styling by Teresa Blackburn