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Celebrating Irish American Heritage Month

From Our Kitchen

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Irish American Heritage Month, celebrated annually in March, commemorates the significant contributions of Irish immigrants and their descendants to the United States. The origins can be traced back to a resolution passed by Congress in 1991, which proclaimed March as Irish American Heritage Month to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day. This designation was made in recognition of the immense impact Irish immigrants have had on American history, culture, and traditions throughout history.

According to the U.S. census, there are more than 30 million people in the country who claim Irish ancestry. Irish American Heritage Month provides an opportunity to celebrate and honor this rich culture through various community events, festivals, and educational programs held across the country. Parades are a huge part of this, with cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, and Savannah hosting some of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world. These parades often feature traditional Irish music, dancing, and attire and can attract hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Beyond the exciting parades and festivals that honor this deep heritage, the culinary traditions of Ireland have played a key role in shaping the American food culture. There are several notable Irish American chefs who have made significant contributions to the food scene in the U.S.:

● Cathal Armstrong, an eight-time James Beard Award-nominated chef from Dublin who’s opened nine restaurants and bars in the D.C. area, is known for his focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients and his support for the farm-to-table movement.

● Kevin Dundon is an Irish celebrity chef who’s written award-winning cookbooks, starred in TV shows, and opened successful restaurants in America like the Raglan Road Irish gastropub in Disney World.

● Irish American celebrity chef and restaurateur Brian Malarkey has created 15 restaurants across the United States and has competed and judged on many reality TV cooking shows, including “Top Chef,” “Guy’s Grocery Games,” and “Tournament of Champions.”

Traditional Irish food often features solid country cooking and shows an appreciation for fresh, seasonal ingredients that are sourced locally. Potatoes are a staple of the cuisine, starring in several of the country’s most popular dishes. Irish stew — Ireland’s national dish — typically consists of lamb or beef, potatoes, carrots, and onions, all slow cooked in a flavorful broth. Boxty, a type of potato pancake made with grated potatoes, flour, baking powder, and sometimes eggs or buttermilk, is often served with a variety of toppings or fillings. A Dublin specialty, coddle is a one-pot dish designed to use up leftovers and is made with pork sausage, bacon, herbs, onions, and potatoes.

When Irish immigrants started coming to the U.S. in the 1800s, they helped popularize potatoes here, eventually leading to them becoming a key ingredient in American cuisine. Similarly, corned beef and cabbage — a favorite meal around St. Patrick’s Day — is the Irish American version of the Irish dish of bacon and cabbage, as corned beef was often used as a substitute for bacon by Irish immigrants in the late 19th century.

Sample the flavors of Ireland by trying your hands at these classic dishes at home:

Irish Soda Bread Servings: 10 (1 loaf)

3 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour ½ cup granulated sugar 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt ¾ teaspoon baking soda 1 cup seedless raisins 2 eggs 1 cup buttermilk 1 cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and raisins.

3. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, and sour cream.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix until just moistened.

5. Knead the dough 10 to 12 times; it should be sticky.

6. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and pat it down. Cut a 4-by-¾-inch slit in the top of the dough.

7. Bake until a toothpick, when inserted, comes out clean, approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours.

8. Cool and cut the loaf into evenly sized pieces.

Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes and Cabbage) Servings: 10

1 ⅓ pounds potatoes ½ head cabbage 4 slices raw bacon 3 tablespoons whole milk 1 ½ tablespoons salted butter ¼ teaspoon salt ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper ⅛ teaspoon fresh parsley, minced

1. To prepare ingredients: Peel and chop the potatoes. Trim and slice the cabbage head. Warm the whole milk.

2. Place the potatoes into a stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

3. Brown the bacon in a skillet until cooked. Drain on a paper towel. Crumble the cooked bacon and set aside.

4. Sauté the cabbage in the same skillet as the bacon. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

5. Place the potatoes into a mixer and add milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Beat until creamy.

6. Add the cabbage, bacon, and parsley. Mix and transfer to a serving dish.

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