Traditional Irish Champ (Mashed Potatoes with Scallions and Cheese)

I've had a bit of trouble getting motivated the past few months, so I decided it was time to take a brief break from writing and spend more time in the kitchen. That's always been my solution when words don't come to me easily. I spent the summer testing out new canning recipes, then took a brief vacation to Ireland where I was able to travel the country by train and try some new-to-me dishes.

There is nothing like a vacation to provide a bit of inspiration, but two days in to our trip I realized something: Despite the fact that I live in what I refer to as the frozen North, the temperature difference between Ireland and Southern Wisconsin is pretty substantial, even in the summertime. The days were cold and rainy, much like our typical fall weather back home, so I spent my vacation gorging myself on soup, fresh baked bread, and other dishes that are wonderful at warming you from the inside out.

Once I returned home the temperatures had gone through the roof, so I tucked all of my ideas away, thinking to pull them out once our weather back home cooled off. The trouble with that is our weather has been incredibly mild this year, it was 60°F only a week ago. This hasn't really put me in the mood for comfort food yet, but things are slowly changing. We finally had our first substantial snow of the year, so I knew the time had finally arrived to dust off the new recipes I'd been working on, starting with this delicious Irish Champ. 

Traditional Irish Champ | Not Starving Yet

Traditional Irish Champ

makes 6 - 8 servings


Ingredients

3lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup whole milk
6 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup Kerrygold Irish butter, salted
1 - 2 ounces sweet cheddar cheese, shredded (see notes)
white pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Place cubed potatoes in a saucepan, add sea salt, and cover with 1 - 2 inches of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Allow the potatoes to simmer in an uncovered pan for 20 - 30 minutes or until they are fork tender. Larger potatoes will need to be boiled longer, so I prefer to check mine around the 20 minute mark and continue cooking as necessary.
  • In a small saucepan add whole milk and sliced scallions, then cook until the milk is warm. Do not boil.
  • Combine cooked potatoes, butter, warmed milk, and scallions in a large bowl, then mash until they've reached your desired consistency (I prefer to leave mine a little chunky.) Add the shredded cheddar and white pepper. Mix well, then serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until later. Enjoy!

Notes

You can use any type of cheddar you'd like in this recipe, although I'm partial to Kerrygold's Skellig. It adds just a hint of sweetness and gives the potatoes a rich, melt-in-your-mouth flavor. 

If you need to feed a large group of people this is a great dish add to your menu. It can be made a day or two in advance and reheated in the oven when you're ready to serve it. After you've made the potatoes place them in an oven safe baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. To reheat: Remove the plastic wrap, place the dish in a cold oven, turn the heat up to 350°F, and bake for 30 - 45 minutes or until the potatoes are no longer cold in the center.

 

Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Kale)

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I spent my first few years of school pursuing a degree in Computer Engineering—a seemingly odd choice for someone as artistically incline as me, but by the time I left for college I had already spent four years working in the computer industry. After that a degree in computer engineering seemed like the natural choice, but I quickly realized how much I hated it. No matter how hard I try I will never be mathematically inclined, so I dropped all of my classes and started researching art programs. This is how I finally landed at the University of Missouri  St. Louis (UMSL) pursuing degrees in both graphic design and photography.

Which, if you ask me, was a much better fit.

I don't regret my decision to jump ship mid-degree, even though it took me a few extra years to graduate since I only went back to school part-time. What I do regret is that I missed out on some really great parties, especially around St. Patrick's Day. You might not realize this, but St. Patrick is the patron Saint of Engineers. As a young college student I spent many a day drinking in St. Pats honor, a tradition that continued once I married a computer engineer. These days I try not to drink my weight in green beer, Guinness, and Bailey's (or whatever other God-awful green concoction someone would dream up as we ran out of "the good stuff") but I do still have a taste for more traditional Irish fare. My favorite dish is Colcannon, a potato-based dish consisting of fluffy mashed potatoes, butter, and kale or cabbage. It's perfect for St. Patrick's Day, but makes a pretty killer side-dish for Easter too. 

If you're looking for some other great ideas for your St. Patrick's Day celebration, don't forget to try our recipes for Reuben Salad with Rye Bread Croutons and Russian Dressing, it's a great way to use up your leftover corned beef!

Colcannon | Not Starving Yet

Colcannon
makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2.5lbs russet potatoes
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups kale, chopped
4 ounces Kerry Gold butter, salted
1/4 cup half and half
additional salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Place potatoes in a saucepan, add sea salt, and cover with 1 - 2 inches of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and allow the potatoes to simmer in an uncovered pan for 30 - 50 minutes or until they are fork tender. Larger potatoes will need to be boiled longer, so I prefer to check mine around the 30 minute mark.
  • Bring a second pot of water to a boil, add 3 cups of chopped kale (ribs removed, and blanch for 3 - 5 minutes until the leaves are tender and bright green. Transfer the blanched kale to a colander and allow to drain completely.
  • Once the potatoes have finished cooking place them in an ice bath to cool, then slip the skins off with your hands. They should peel off fairly easily, if not place the potatoes back in the ice bath to cool longer or use a potato peeler.
  • In a large bowl combine potatoes, Kerry Gold butter, and half & half. Mash the potatoes until they've reached the desired consistency (I prefer to leave mine a little chunky) then add the blanched kale and additional salt, to taste. 

Notes

If you've used the ice bath method mentioned above to easily peel your potatoes you may need to reheat this dish before serving. 

This recipe is incredibly flexible. If you aren't a fan of kale feel free to substitute another leafy green or go the more traditional route and use cabbage.

Lucky Mix aka White Trash

White trash mix... what a terrible name for such a delicious party snack. I've had it made various ways over the years, but my favorite incarnation is made with Lucky Charms cereal. Whoever decided on this change is an absolute genius! I still remember the Saint Patrick's Day party in elementary school when some enterprising room mother brought it in. In fact, it's the only thing I remember about that party, but my love for Lucky Mix was cemented that day. Now any time I need a quick sugary snack to bring along somewhere this is it.  

The first time I busted this out for poker night I was surprised how many people had never had it. Now when it's our turn to host it's the first thing I make, my husband insists on it. I will admit that I messed up a bit last time we hosted poker night. I forgot to make it, but in my defense I was in the middle of a crazy mission to make 7 different hot dips in an attempt to use all my crock-pots at once. What can I say, we're an odd bunch and I do have a somewhat excessive amount of crock-pots. I'm also pretty sure my husband had a bet going with someone that I wouldn't be able to pull it off.

Just let me warn anyone who tries to issue a food related challenge. You are going down, end of story. I'm just stubborn like that. Besides, food is kind of in my wheel house.

And now for a quick word of warning in case you decide to try this recipe out for your next party or poker night, it's highly addictive. If you've got a large group coming over make sure to double the recipe, this is always the first thing to disappear.

LuckyMix.jpg

Lucky Mix
makes approximately 12 servings

Ingredients

1 box Lucky Charms Cereal (11.5 oz)
1 bag white chocolate chips (12 oz)*
2 cups M&Ms
2 cups pretzels
2 cup honey roasted peanuts 

Special Equipment

Double boiler, for melting the white chocolate

If you don't have access to a double boiler you can construct one using a mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water. Just make sure the pot doesn't come in to contact with the water.

Directions

  • Fill the bottom of a sauce pan or double boiler with several inches of water. Do not allow the water to touch the bottom of mixing bowl or double boiler.
  • Bring water to a simmer and add white chocolate to the double boiler. Stir occasionally until there are no lumps and chocolate is smooth.
  • While chocolate is melting separate the marshmallows from the lucky charms cereal and set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl combine peanuts, pretzels, and lucky charms cereal (but not the marshmallows, the warm chocolate will melt them.)
  • Once chocolate has melted pour over the contents of the mixing bowl and stir until well coated.
  • Spread the coated cereal on a baking sheet to cool for several minutes before adding marshmallows and m&m's.
  • Let stand for 20 - 30 minutes while chocolate hardens, break pieces up, then enjoy!

Notes

If you happen to have an Easter bunny or two lying around uneaten melt those babies down! They make a great coating for lucky mix.

BunnyMelt.jpg

You thought I was kidding, didn't you? Didn't I just warn you that we're a weird bunch?

If you're having trouble getting the chocolate to set up, stick your Lucky Mix in a gallon sized ziploc bag and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. I've noticed that on hot or humid days my chocolate doesn't always want to behave.

Inspiration

This tasty treat has been around since I was a kid, although I'm not sure where the recipe originated. It could have been the back of a cereal box or a recipe belonging to a very ingenuous room mother. Those ladies have quite a bit of talent when it comes to making fun treats for holiday parties.

Reuben Salad with Rye Bread Croutons

I'm sure at least a few of you have corned beef leftover from St. Pats, I know I do. We tend to go all out celebrating, my husband is a computer engineer and in case you were unaware Saint Patrick is the patron saint of engineers, so our household has a long standing tradition (dating all the way back to our college days) of celebrating St. Pats to the fullest. These days I may go a little overboard in my St. Pats cooking, this year I cooked nearly 10lbs of corned beef, 4lbs of baby carrots, and 2lbs of potatoes and lets not forget the Irish soda bread recipe I tried out from My Irish Table which according to my husband was the best soda bread he'd ever had.

It may seem like an insane amount of food, but my husband and I enjoy spending the week following St. Pats gorging ourselves on the massive amount of leftovers. Our favorite leftover meal is a Reuben, how could you not love all of its artery clogging goodness? However, even though I love a good Reuben sometimes I'm looking for something a little bit healthier. Today's recipe has all of the delicious flavors of a Reuben with the benefit of not causing a heart attack on sight. It's also much more portable should you want to pack it up and take it to work for lunch. If you're looking for a new way to use up your leftovers give this salad a try, I promise you'll be singing my praises after the first bite and you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. I'm not just full of myself, it really is that good.

Reuben Salad
approximately 2-3 servings 

Ingredients

3 cups lettuce, any variety
1 cup corned beef, diced
1 cup Swiss cheese, cubed
¼ cup homemade Russian Dressing
butter or olive oil
1 cup rye bread, cubed

optional

¼ cup sauerkraut

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F
  • Remove crusts from several slices of rye bread and cut into cubes. Lightly coat a baking sheet with butter or oil, spread cubes out evenly, and bake for 10 minutes or until crisp.
  • Rinse and tear lettuce, top with corned beef, swiss cheese, Russian dressing, rye bread croutons and optional sauerkraut. Toss lightly to distribute the dressing and serve.