Go all out this St. Paddy’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is this Thursday, and we are indebted to our Irish ancestors for the richness of the heritage passed along to our entire region.
Our music, stories, food and traditions bear the stamp of the shamrock whether Irish blood flows in our veins or not.
Irish potatoes and Irish stew make regular appearances in our kitchens year-round, so why not go all out on St. Patrick’s Day and make the menu an all-Irish one?
Feel free to fine-tune these recipes anyway you like.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.

Irish Soda Bread
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chocolate Irish Cream Cheesecake
6 graham crackers
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter; melted
24 oz cream cheese at room temperature
7 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream
9 oz semisweet chocolate; chopped
Chocolate curls; (optional)

Crust Directions:
To make the crust, first preheat oven to 350°F. Grind the graham crackers to a fine crumb, using your food processor. Add the butter and continue blending until this is combined. Press this mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch diameter spring form pan. Do not put crumb mixture on the sides of the pan. Bake the crust about eight minutes and remove from oven.
Do not turn off oven.
Filling Directions:
To make the filling, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the flour. Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat until just combined. Do not overheat. Mix in the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the whipping cream and the chocolate. Pour this filling into the crust and bake for ten minutes. Then reduce heat to 250°F and bake for an additional 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool cake on a rack for ten minutes. Then, loosen cake and cool. Chill overnight.
Glaze Directions:
To make the glaze, heat the cream in a saucepan until it simmers. Reduce the heat to low and added the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool the glaze to lukewarm then pour the glaze over the cake after you have released the cake from the pan. Refrigerate for about thirty minutes.
Sprinkle the top with chocolate curls if desired.
Serves 12 people.

Warm Cabbage Salad with Bacon and Roquefort
4 oz. thick-sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C. dry white wine
1 small shallot, finely minced
1/4 C. plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 t. Dijon-style mustard
3 C. finely sliced green cabbage
3 C. finely sliced red cabbage
1 T. white wine vinegar
1/2 C. crumbled Roquefort

In a large heavy skillet over moderate heat add the bacon pieces, generously season with ground pepper and cook until crisp. Transfer the cooked bacon to paper towels to drain and remove the skillet from the heat.
In a small saucepan combine the wine and shallots and simmer until reduced to a thick syrup. Whisk in the cream, mustard, salt and pepper and continue to simmer until thickened slightly.
Heat the skillet with the bacon drippings over moderately high heat and cook the green cabbage, stirring, until it just begins to wilt, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the wilted cabbage to a bowl and cook the red cabbage in the remaining drippings in the same manner. Return the wilted green cabbage to the skillet, add the vinegar and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Stir in the cream mixture and cook, stirring, until cabbage is crisp-tender. Serve the cabbage warm topped with the crumbled Roquefort and bacon.

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb ground beef or 1 lb lamb
1 large onion, finely diced
3-4 large carrots, finely diced
1 cup frozen peas
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 glass red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup stock
1 large quantity mashed potatoes (estimating 1L or 6 cups, fresh or leftover)
1 egg, beaten

Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
Saute carrots in the olive oil until starting to get tender. Add in the onions and saute for a minute or two then add the meat. Season with black pepper and thyme.
Cook until browned ,then drain fat. Add the butter and peas. Sprinkle with flour and stir through. Add tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce.
Let this reduce slightly then add the chicken stock. Allow to reduce down until you have a thick meaty gravy. Season to your taste.
Remove from heat. Grease an oven proof dish (9×13 works for me, as does an oval baker) with butter and add the sauce.
Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes over top. Brush with egg and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if using.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the potato is nice and browned on top.
Serve as is or with some crusty bread to mop up that yummy sauce!