They say March 17 "is a great day for the Irish," but what good is that to the Irish cook who's stuck in the kitchen while the guests are having all the fun?
Today, consider skipping the big meals usually associated with the holiday -- corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, Irish stew and the like -- and try one of these easy-to-assemble, make-ahead dishes that focus on two of the most Irish of all ingredients, bacon and the humble spud.
Mashed potatoes and buttery cabbage are the heart of colcannon, one of Ireland's most traditional dishes. This torte uses sliced potatoes, shredded cabbage, Cheddar cheese and Irish bacon for a four-in-one combination of classic ingredients.
1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded
6 tablespoons butter
8 ounces center-cut Irish bacon, diced
2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/4-inch-thick
Freshly ground pepper to taste
7 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan with butter-flavored cooking spray.
2. In a pot of boiling water, blanch cabbage for about 2 minutes. Drain and refresh in cold water. Transfer to paper towels, pat dry, then place in a large bowl.
3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add bacon and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned (Irish bacon has little or no fat, so it browns quickly). With a slotted spoon, remove bacon and toss with cabbage.
4. In the same skillet, melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter; add potato slices and toss to coat. Sprinkle generously with pepper.
5. Place one-third of potatoes in the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Top with half the bacon and cabbage mixture, then repeat with one-third more of the potatoes and remaining cheese, bacon and cabbage. Top with remaining potatoes.
6. Cover with a sheet of buttered aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with chives and cook for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until potatoes are browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before cutting into wedges.
(To make ahead, let cool completely, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bring back to room temperature, and then reheat at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes.)
Nutritional analysis per serving: 365 calories, 31 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 73 milligrams cholesterol, 647 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 76 percent of calories from fat.
Potato, bacon and blue cheese tart
Creamy blue cheese is a delicious addition to this bacon-potato quiche. Use Kerrygold Blue, a crumbly cheese with a Cheddar base that gives it a golden color, or imported Cashel Blue from County Tipperary.
1 refrigerated piecrust dough
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, sliced
2 ounces center-cut Irish bacon, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 ounces Irish blue cheese, crumbled
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place dough into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
2. Cook potatoes in a pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 15 minutes, or until slightly tender. Drain and let cool. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Set aside.
3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add the shallot and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft but not browned. Add bacon and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.
4. Remove crust from the refrigerator and brush with olive oil. Arrange potatoes in a circle around the pastry. Sprinkle with bacon and shallots.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cream and pepper. Pour mixture over potatoes and sprinkle with blue cheese. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the center is set and the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
(To make ahead, let cool completely, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bring back to room temperature, and then reheat at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes.) Remove the sides of the tart pan and cut into wedges.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 476 calories, 34 grams fat, 29 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 137 milligrams cholesterol, 621 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 65 percent of calories from fat.