Come all ye to the St. Patrick’s Day table


Corned Beef is certainly the key culinary ingredient for St. Patrick’s Day in this part of the world.

But in our house growing up, Dad set the menu for holiday meals. Pork was always his favorite. From fresh ham on Easter to a big, baked ham when the whole family got together as happened back then on St. Patrick’s Day to rashers of Irish bacon on weekend mornings. Food wise, there was nothing he liked better. We generally agreed with him.

In later years, when family members dispersed to other locations, there were fewer of us around the table for St. Patrick’s Day – especially if it fell during the week. Mom would prepare a scaled down version of the baked ham dinner she used to turn out for a bigger crowd on St. Patrick’s Day.

She adapted a recipe for a smaller ham from an old cook book that compiled everything from soup to nuts off of box tops, containers and all manner of packaging. Most of the dishes she produced from it fall into the category of absolute comfort food.

I cooked up her ham recipe the other morning before work along with Colcannon – a traditional potato, cabbage and leek dish – and a recipe for baby carrots with an Irish twist that has become a family favorite. I brought it all in to the Pastoral Center where graphic artist and co-culinary conspirator Jeanne Scarpato photographed it for Keeping the Feast.

It can be shamelessly said that the ham lasted mere minutes after its close up shots were taken for the blog. Colleagues reaffirmed Mom’s fine eye for a good recipe by wolfing down the results.

The Colcannon recipe has developed over the years via experimentation in my kitchen. In Ireland, it’s traditional Halloween fare but it seems to be evolving in the U.S. into standard a St. Patrick’s Day staple.

It’s good anytime and leftovers make wonderful potato pancakes fried up in a skillet with a crunchy brown crust for breakfast or lunch. I’ve been enjoying the leftovers!

The baby carrot side also developed in my kitchen out of a woman’s magazine recipe more than a decade ago.

Mom’s Patrick’s Day Ham

Ingredients: 1 pre-cooked, 8 lb ham or 5 lb canned pound ham; ½ cup orange marmalade; 2 tbs. Dijon mustard; ¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar; cloves

Directions: pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees; score the top of the ham and stud with cloves. Place the ham fat side up on a rack in a shallow baking pan and bake 15 minutes per pound or follow package directions. Baste every 10 minutes during the last 30 to 45 minutes of baking.

Auntie Lo’s Colcannon

Ingredients – 1 small cooked cabbage, drained and chopped up thin; three large cooked leaves kale, chopped thin; 2 leeks; 1 cup cream (light, heavy or half and half depending on your tastes) salt and pepper to taste; 1/2 cup butter (or substitute)

Directions: Peel and slice potatoes into quarters and boil until tender (about ten minutes). Remove from heat and drain. Chop the leeks (green parts too) and simmer them in cream until they are soft. Season and mash potatoes well. Stir in the cooked leeks and milk. Blend in the kale, cabbage and butter, mix well and serve.

Tipsy Carrots

Ingredients: 1 package fresh baby carrots; 1/3 cup brown sugar; 2 tbs Irish Mist (optional); 2 tbs butter or butter substitute; 1 tbs chopped parsley.

Directions: boil the carrots until just tender, drain and set aside. In a skillet, melt the butter; add the brown sugar and Irish Mist if preferred and stir until blended. Add the carrots and stir until well blended. At the very last, add the chopped parsley and stir in for great color and taste.

As the family gathers for supper, it’s nice to commence this meal in honor of Patrick with prayers in his name. We usually begin with some of the verses from St. Patrick’s Breastplate but there are other fine prayers to be found. A fine source of information on Patrick and everything related to him, especially prayer is www.joyfulheart.com/stpatrick/

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