How to Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day & Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin

Guinness_01For those of us in northern New England, Saint Patrick’s Day is a bright spot in a long winter. It is an excellent excuse for merriment or brooding reflection. How will you spend the day? Are you a merrymaker, a brooder or something in between? Just in case you have not figured out how to spend the day, here are a few suggestions.

Put on a green sweater and go on a pub-crawl. It’s probably been years, even decades, since you have enjoyed this collegiate tradition. At my college in northern New York, there were nineteen, yes nineteen, pub stops in the small town so the crawl took several hours. I’m again living in a college town but it has less than a handful of pubs. Still, if you don’t walk it like you did at twenty-one, draw straws for a designated driver.

Sip Irish whiskey and read Yeats. If a pub-crawl is not your style maybe you’d like to hunker down in front of the fire. Settle into your coziest armchair with a book and a tot. If you have no real need for solitude, organize a poetry reading with likeminded tot-ters.

Go on a road trip and love a parade. You’ve already missed the parade in South Boston; it was Sunday. If you hurry, you might make it to New York in time to march. Don’t forget your fisherman knit sweater and comfortable shoes.

Dance a gig. Put on your dancing shoes and have at it. Don’t know the steps? Intimidated by the Irish step dancers’ fancy footwork? Stop worrying and just wing it! After a few green beers, no one will know the difference.

Listen to music. If you insist that dancing is not your thing, you can still enjoy Irish music. Rummage around and find that collection of traditional Irish music. Hopefully, it’s not old enough to be on cassette tape. Otherwise, try a marathon of U2 hits.

???????????????????????????????Build a Leprechaun Trap. If there is a child in your house or you can borrow one from next door, build a Leprechaun Trap. Legend has it that if you catch one, he’s obligated to take you to his pot of gold.

Bake up some green goodies. Yes, we can all go a bit coo-coo with green on Saint Patrick’s Day. What the heck, throw a little food coloring into the cupcake frosting and have some fun. Although far from an even swap for his gold, share your treats with the leprechaun you captured. Alternatively, they will create a sweet ending to the about to be mentioned party.

Boil up some beef and cabbage. This one is for diehard Irish-Americans. Although it’s been a while, I’ve tried a boiled dinner and am not in a hurry to have another. Besides, it’s not really Irish. Yes, the quintessential Saint Patrick’s Day dinner is a New York invention. Irish immigrants favored potatoes and pork but switched to the cheaper cabbage and corned beef in their new home. Alternatively, you can whip up an Irish stew or braise some short ribs or lamb shanks in Guinness. Saint Paddy’s Day is a wonderful excuse for a party.

May the luck of the Irish be with you and bon appétit!

Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin
Okay, I’ve taken some liberties here. I like to think of this recipe as the baby born from an Irish Colcannon and a French Gratin. (Hopefully,) you’ll find it a delicious alternative to both. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3 or more tablespoons butter
4-6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1-2 leeks, chopped
1/2-1 onion, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2-3 pounds red skinned potatoes, peeled (optional) and cut in large chunks
1-1 1/2 cups sour cream or crème fraîche
About 6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a large baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter.

Cook the bacon in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain.

Drain most of the bacon fat from the skillet, leaving just enough to lightly coat the pan. Add the leek and onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Stir in the thyme and nutmeg and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes and 1 tablespoon butter in a large pot and add enough cold, salted water to cover by 2 inches. Bring the potatoes to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add the bacon and vegetables (and more butter if you like) and toss to combine. Add the sour cream, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss again. If you like, give the potatoes a rough smash with a potato masher.

Transfer half of the potatoes to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with the remaining potatoes and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Can be made ahead to this point, cool to room temperature, cover and store in the refrigerator. Remove the potatoes from the refrigerator about an hour before you want to bake them.

Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until the potatoes are piping hot and the top is golden.

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One Year Ago – Zucchini Pancakes
Two Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Three Years Ago – Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Four Years Ago – Grilled Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Five Years Ago – Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant
Six Years Ago – Fettuccine with Classic Bolognese Sauce
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Saint Paddy’s Day? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

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