An impromptu trip to Ireland this time last year opened my eyes to really great Irish food. From old standbys like bangers and mash to more inventive dishes like garlic mushrooms with whiskey butter and potted crab with sourdough soldiers, the food I tried showed equal measures of comfort and innovation.
Here’s an Irish menu with, I hope, a little of both — a salad with a unique sweet-sour-sharp-rich dressing adapted from famed Irish chef Darina Allen, followed by Dublin Coddle, a basic sausage and potato stew nearly every Dubliner grew up with, and a crisp and creamy meringue with Irish coffee flavors for dessert.
DARINA ALLEN’S SHANAGARRY SALAD
Adapted from Darina Allen’s Irish Traditional Cooking.
3 large eggs, hard-cooked
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2½ tablespoons malt vinegar
⅓ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
4 large scallions, whites minced and greens cut into 1½-inch lengths
12 cups, loosely packed, torn Boston or butter lettuce (1 large head)
4 cups, loosely packed, stemmed watercress leaves (1 large bunch)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
½ medium English cucumber, thinly sliced
5 large radishes, very thinly sliced
¾ cup sliced pickled beets, cut into matchsticks (half a 15-ounce jar)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Peel, halve, and separate the eggs; chop the whites and set aside, and finely grate the yolks. In a very large bowl, whisk together the grated yolks, brown sugar, dry mustard, vinegar, cream, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and minced scallion whites, and set aside for about 30 minutes to blend flavors. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside about a third of the dressing in a small bowl.
Add the lettuce to the large bowl and toss to coat with dressing. Toss in ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, watercress, and scallion greens. Arrange the dressed greens on a serving platter and scatter the tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, and beets on top. Drizzle with the reserved dressing, sprinkle with chopped egg whites and parsley, and serve.
2 tablespoons neutral oil
½ pound Irish-style bacon
12 Irish-style sausages (also called bangers; about 2 pounds)
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 sprig fresh thyme
8 sprigs fresh parsley, plus 6 tablespoons chopped
4 medium onions, thickly sliced
Salt and pepper
3 pounds redskin or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved, and cut into 1½-inch half-moons
With the rack in the lower-middle position, heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add the bacon and cook until spotty brown on both sides, about 5 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking. Remove the bacon to a plate and set aside. Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the sausages, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 7 minutes (adjust heat if drippings begin to scorch). Remove the sausages to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the broth, and scrape the bottom of pot to loosen fond. Pour the broth into a bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, tie together the thyme and parsley sprigs with string and set aside. Adjust heat under the pot to medium, add the remaining oil, allow it to heat, then stir in the onions, herb bundle, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, occasionally stirring and scraping the bottom of pot to loosen fond, until the onions are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, potatoes, bacon, and 1 teaspoon pepper (just barely covering the potatoes — add water if needed) and bring to a strong simmer. Arrange the sausages over the vegetables (with accumulated juices), cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook until potatoes are very tender but not mushy, 2¼ to 2½ hours, removing cover after 1 hour.
Remove herbs and stir in ¼ teaspoon salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve, including broth with each portion.
IRISH COFFEE CREAM MERINGUE
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
⅔ cups confectioners’ sugar
1½ tablespoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup heavy cream, cold
1½ tablespoons light brown sugar
1½ tablespoons Irish whiskey
Line a baking sheet with parchment, trace a 10-inch circle on the paper, and set aside. With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 250 degrees.
With a hand-held or standing mixer at medium speed, beat the egg whites until frothy, gradually adding the cream of tartar, about 1 minute. Adjust the speed to high and continue beating, gradually adding confectioners’ sugar, then 2 teaspoons espresso powder, and finally ½ teaspoon vanilla, until whites are thick, glossy, and hold firm peaks, about 2 minutes. Spoon the mixture into the center of the traced circle and, using a spatula, fill in the circle and smooth the surface.
Bake until very dry but not browned, about 1½ hours, rotating the sheet halfway through cooking. Turn off the oven and cool the meringue in the oven for at least 1 hour (or up to 3 hours on a humid day). Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature, at least 15 minutes.
No more than 30 minutes before serving, with a hand-held or standing mixer at medium speed, beat the cream until it begins to thicken and beaters leave a trail. Adjust the speed to high and continue beating, gradually adding the brown sugar, then 1½ teaspoons espresso powder, then the whiskey, and finally the remaining vanilla, until cream is thick, nearly doubled in volume, and forms firm peaks, about 1½ minutes longer.
Place the meringue disk on a serving platter, spread the whipped cream evenly on top, sprinkle with the remaining espresso powder, and serve.
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