My cookbook assortment rivals my husband's vinyl collection. Supersturdy shelving houses both obsessions. Fortunately, when something from his collection blasts on the turntable, I retreat to the kitchen with mine.
At last count, I have more than 10 cookbooks on Moroccan cooking, several on Indian, dozens on Italian fare and French pastry, nearly a hundred on American cooking and even one on Lebanese cuisine. So it comes as a surprise that I have nary a volume on traditional Irish cooking. A recent recipe search for Irish boxty, the tender potato pancake we so enjoyed in Dublin, proved fruitless.
A delicious serving of corned beef and sauerkraut-stuffed boxty at an Irish pub in Milwaukee reignited the search. I knew I wanted to make these tender, potato-laced pancakes at home for our St. Patrick's Day celebration.
Luckily, "The Cooking of the British Isles," a 1969 volume of Time Life's The Foods of the World Series, references the "poor house bread." Along with a description of Ireland's beloved potato recipes, the editors mention these traditional Irish pancakes, known as boxty. Their recipe uses grated raw potatoes and fries them in butter for crispy cakes. The Internet likewise offers several renditions made from raw and often mashed potatoes.
The Time Life recipe suggests serving the savory pancakes with crisp strips of bacon. I wanted to make a version suitable for our St. Patrick's Day dinner, so I added a little grated red onion to the batter. I also folded in some plain mashed russet potato to lighten the texture.
Batter in hand, you can vary the size of the pancakes to suit.
Larger pancakes, spread thinly in the pan, prove dinner worthy. Top one half of each cake with a filling, such as the creamy curried chicken and cabbage here. Then fold the other half of the pancake over the filling. A sprinkling of fresh herbs turn these humble breads into company fare.
For brunch, I like to serve stacks of 3-inch-diameter cakes topped with thinly sliced smoked salmon and sour cream dollops. Smaller, silver-dollar-size cakes (skip the onion in the batter) beautifully soak up pure maple syrup or a fruity compote.
Irish boxty are so versatile they're sure to be a standard in your repertoire all year long. Hopefully, someone will put an Irish tune on the stereo while you cook.
Irish boxty (potato pancakes)
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: Sixteen 3-inch pancakes, or 8 larger pancakes, serving 4 to 6
Omit the onion if you plan to serve the boxty with maple syrup or fresh fruit. Use a 1/4-cup measure to make pancakes about 3 or 4 inches in diameter. For large pancakes that you can fill and fold, use 1/2 cup of batter and spread it thinly in the pan. If working in advance, re-crisp the pancakes in a hot skillet.
2 large (12 ounces each) Russet potatoes (total 1 1/2 pounds), scrubbed clean
¾ cup flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup skim milk or half-and-half (or a combination)
¼ of a medium red onion
Bacon drippings or olive oil
1. Pierce one potato in several places with a fork. Microwave on high (100 percent power) until fork-tender, 5-6 minutes. Cool.
2. Mix flour, salt and baking powder in large bowl. Whisk in milk until smooth.
3. Put a four-sided grater in a colander, set inside a large bowl. Use the side with the large holes to grate the onion into the colander. Transfer the onion to the flour mixture. Shred the unpeeled raw potato on the large holes into the colander. Use your hands to squeeze the shredded potato to remove as much liquid as possible. Stir the squeezed potato into the flour mixture until incorporated.
4. Peel the cooked potato; mash the flesh coarsely. Fold into the batter until incorporated.
5. Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Grease the skillet with a light coating of bacon drippings or oil. Measure batter into skillet, using 1/4-cup or 1/2-cup measure depending on the size you want. Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the batter a scant 1/4-inch thick. Cook until bottom is nicely golden, 2 minutes. Flip; cook the second side until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a warm serving platter. Serve as desired.
Nutrition information per serving: 203 calories, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 39 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 378 mg sodium, 3 g fiber
Boxty filled with curried chicken and cabbage
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
1 recipe boxty, made into 6-inch cakes
2 tablespoons bacon drippings or olive oil
½ red onion, chopped
1 pound boneless skinless chicken tenders or thigh meat, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups finely shredded green cabbage (8 ounces)
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon each: salt, curry powder
¼ teaspoon chopped fresh dill
Dill sprigs for garnish
1. Make boxty; you'll need eight 6-inch-wide cakes. Keep warm in a low oven.
2. Heat bacon drippings in a large (12 inch) skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in chicken pieces. Cook, stirring once or twice, until chicken is golden on all sides, about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in cabbage; cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in cream, salt and curry powder. Cook until cream thickens slightly, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in chopped dill.
4. To serve, put 1 hot cooked boxty on a warm plate. Top half of the boxty with some of the chicken mixture. Fold in half. Repeat to add fill another boxty on the same plate. Garnish with dill sprigs. Repeat to make 3 more plates.
Nutrition information per serving: 556 calories, 18 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 63 g carbohydrates, 33 g protein, 792 mg sodium, 6 g fiber
Stacked boxty with smoked salmon and lemon
Prep: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
1 recipe boxty, cooked into 3-inch cakes
8 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
¼ cup sour cream
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Thinly sliced lemons
For each serving, stack 4 boxty on a warm plate. Top with curled slices of smoked salmon and a 1 tablespoon dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle with green onions. Garnish with lemon slices. Serve hot.
Nutrition information per serving: 404 calories, 9 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 27 mg cholesterol, 59 g carbohydrates, 20 g protein, 1,017 mg sodium, 5 g fiberCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun