What’s Cooking: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with some twists on traditional ingredients

03/12/2014 12:00 AM

03/11/2014 8:19 PM

With St. Patrick’s Day nearly upon us, our minds often turn to corned beef and cabbage. This recipe was inspired by that tradition, but swaps out the corned beef in favor of smoked fish (also incredibly popular in Ireland) in a richly satisfying savory broth.

Alison Ladman, who writes often for the Associated Press, says smoked fish happens to be one of her favorite “cheating” ingredients. Like bacon, it is a single ingredient that adds outsized oomph to any dish. Unlike bacon, smoked fish has no saturated fat. Add even a little bit of it and suddenly the dish becomes the essence of comfort food and your guests think you’re a culinary genius.

In Ireland, they like to smoke mackerel, whitefish, salmon and haddock. Smoked haddock actually originates in Scotland, not Ireland, but the Irish have pulled it into the family circle. Me, too. “As the child of New Englanders,” Ladman says, “I grew up with it, which is probably why it’s my favorite smoked fish.”

The cabbage of choice here is either Napa or savoy. Both are relatively light with a delicate texture. Of course, regular green cabbage also works, as will red cabbage (assuming you don’t mind a pink soup), but you want to be careful not to overcook whichever cabbage is in the pot. Otherwise, things tend to get very funky very quickly.

Now on to the potatoes. Easy and cheap to grow, high in minerals and vitamins, and delicious no matter how they’re cooked, potatoes have been a staple in Ireland for hundreds of years.

Chef Elizabeth Karmel says, “Until I moved to Chicago, St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t a big event for me. But that first year, I was stunned by the site of what locals took for granted – a boat slowly traveling the Chicago River depositing a rich green dye into the water. It was amazing to see the water turn emerald.”

Since then, she’s created various recipes for getting in the mood, including a flank steak marinated in Guinness. “But this year, I decided to focus on that other staple of the Irish diet, the potato. And in honor of Chicago, I made it a ‘green’ potato recipe.”

Add a tossed green salad and a pint of Guinness, and you can call it a meal.

RECIPES

Hearty potato, cabbage and smoked fish soup

Start to finish: 50 minutes (25 minutes active)

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large leek, white and green parts, medium chopped (about 2 cups)

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 cups 1 percent milk

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

4 cups shredded Napa or savoy cabbage

1/2 pound smoked fish fillets (trout, whitefish, haddock or mackerel), skin discarded, fish coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Thinly sliced scallions, to garnish

Smoked paprika, to garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the leek and cook, stirring, until very soft but not colored, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil.

Add the potatoes, milk and thyme, then bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover partially and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are just tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the cabbage and simmer until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the fish and lemon juice and cook just until the fish is heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with scallions and a sprinkle of paprika.

Per serving: 360 calories; 100 calories from fat (28 percent of total calories); 11 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 70 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 26 g protein; 380 mg sodium.

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Roasted “green” potatoes

Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active)

Serves 6

On the grill, you put the potatoes directly onto the cooking grates over indirect heat (try the warming rack). To make the potatoes in the oven, you set the potatoes on a rack set over a baking sheet. That way the hot air circulates around the potatoes, crisping them perfectly.

The potatoes also are just as good served cold the next day, so refrigerate any leftovers and serve with sandwiches for a new take on potato salad.

INGREDIENTS

24 small red potatoes, halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the sauce:

4 cups lightly packed chopped curly parsley (1 to 2 bunches)

2 cups fresh basil (or blend of fresh herbs)

3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons minced shallot or onion

3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat a gas or charcoal grill and set for indirect medium heat grilling. Alternatively, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the potatoes in a large bowl or large zip-close plastic bag. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and toss again to coat evenly.

If cooking on the grill, place the potatoes directly on the cooler side of the grill. If cooking in the oven, set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and place the potatoes on the rack. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the potato skins are lightly puffed and the insides are tender. You do not need to turn the potatoes during cooking.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until chopped well, but not liquefied. For a blender, it’s best to start with the liquid ingredients and end with the parsley.

As soon as the potatoes are done, transfer them to a large serving bowl. Drizzle the sauce, about 1/4 cup at a time, over the potatoes and toss well to coat. You may have some sauce left over. Serve immediately or chill and serve cold.

Per serving of potatoes: 140 calories; 40 calories from fat (29 percent of total calories); 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 3 g protein; 330 mg sodium.

Per 2 tablespoons of sauce: 100 calories; 90 calories from fat (90 percent of total calories); 10 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 1 g protein; 130 mg sodium.

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Guinness marinated flank steak

INGREDIENTS

One 2-pound flank steak or London broil, at least 1-inch thick

One 14.9-ounce Guinness beer

2 large red onions, cut into 1-inch slices

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

Remove steak from wrapper and pat dry to remove excess moisture. Place in a non-reactive container with a light seal. Pour the Guinness over the steak and set aside. Peel the red onions and cut into slices1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Place onion slices on top of steak. Cover container and marinate in refrigerator 1 to 2 hours.

When ready to grill, remove meat and onions from the marinade and pat dry. Brush with a thin coating of oil; season with salt and pepper. Place steak and onions directly on the grate over direct heat and sear. Cook 6-8 minutes. Turn steak and onions with tongs and sear the second side. Continue grilling until done, another 6-8 minutes. Let steak rest 5 minutes before slicing.

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