As a warm-up to St. Patrick's Day, I am going back to my Irish roots and preparing three mini-meals consisting of three Irish items of food and drink. A trinity of trinities, you might say. Some dishes will be more or less authentic than others; all will promote mirth and therefore be in the spirit of the holiday. Enjoy.
#2: Cheese, Oatcakes, and an Irish Blonde.
That last item is a cocktail. But if you happen to have lassie with golden locks around, invite her to dine with you as well.
My first St. Paddy's food trinity consisted of nibbles most appropriate for breakfast or a late-afternoon snack -- whimsical little snack for passing flights of hunger.
Now, it's time for heartier stuff. While "dairy" is perhaps not the first word that comes to mind when you think "Irish food," the Emerald Isle is the proud producer of a number of respectable cheeses. (Gotta hand it to those cows, also responsible for the country's terrific butter.) For a robust cocktail hour repast, I like to pair thick slices of a strongly flavored Irish cheese with some crispy, buttery oatcakes.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, you gotta mix your drink. There's nothing more Irish than drinking large quantities of straight whiskey ("neat" doesn't even begin to describe this practice), but for an interesting twist on Ireland's firewater, try the Irish Blonde. Don't worry, it will still make you blotto.
Irish Blonde Cocktail
- 2 ounces Irish whiskey (preferably Michael Collins brand)
- 3/4 ounce orange curacao
- 1/4 ounce sherry
- 1 dash orange bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir. Serve straight up or on the rocks, depending on your fancy.
Now, some food to ease your inebriation.
Most cheesemongers will have a decent collection of Irish cheddars, goudas, etc. If you're short on change, mainstream supermarkets usually carry the Kerrygold brand, which features solid if not particularly exciting varieties. I picked up a $4 slab of Dubliner Cheddar at Trader Joe's, a crumbly, nutty cheese that I thought would stand up to the oatcakes.
You can certainly buy your oatcakes, but making them at home means you can pair them still warm with cheese slices to create miniature Irish melted cheese sandwiches. I recommend this recipe, adapted from Whole Foods:
- 2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 egg whites
- Coarse salt, for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put oats into a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer oats to a large bowl and add flour, butter, honey, fine salt, baking powder and egg whites. Stir just until combined.
Roll out dough onto a floured surface. Using a round cookie cutter (or rim of a glass), generate (two-and-a-half-inch) circles from dough and transfer to prepared baking sheet.
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Sprinkle tops with coarse salt and bake until deep golden brown and firm, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to let cool completely before serving.
Try to consume at least two Blondes by the time the oatcakes are finished to ensure you'll devour them and the cheese with glee. In between mouthfuls, turn on some old-school U2 or, if you're feeling angsty, My Bloody Valentine, and dance your arse off.