St. Patrick’s Day Brunch with a Twist

March 15, 2017

When people find out I went to cooking school in Ireland, they are often surprised that I picked the land of Shepherd’s Pie and Corned Beef & Cabbage to learn the culinary ropes, but I have to say it was probably the most magical time in my life thus far.  I was in a strange place in life where I was burned out from planning crazy events in D.C., and I had no idea what I wanted to do after leaving my job.  Long story short, I was having a major “quarter life crisis” and I was not handling it well! With the encouragement of my wonderfully supportive parents, I decided with a week’s notice to hop on a place and attend Ballymaloe Cookery School, a 100 organic farm in the middle of the Irish countryside along the beautiful Southeast coast with a storybook seaside view…honestly, I still can’t believe it happened when I think back.  I followed my heart, stripped myself of all the society pressures that were paralyzing me, and found my center again.  I also found an amazing group of lifelong friends from across the globe, a skill set that will last me a lifetime, and my true passion.  “Grateful” doesn’t fully encompass the feeling I get when I let my mind travel back in time to this heaven-like place.  If you ever have the chance to go, even to visit the famed gardens or take a day class, I highly encourage you to…there is no place on earth like it.

So, back to the Corned Beef & Cabbage….I am always explaining to people that Ballymaloe trained us to be professional chefs.  I consider myself a “cook” personally, as I avoided the whole restaurant gauntlet following school, but I did learn all cuisines, from French to Japanese and Moroccan…and everything in between. However, the assumptions aren’t completely off base – I did learn at TON of good old Irish staples, and I’m very much a meat and potatoes Scottish/Irish lassie, so I’m not complaining.  Every time March rolls around, I get excited knowing that I have the authentic recipes in my back pocket (and by back pocket, I mean three huge binders I had to ship back to the States from IRE).  My favorite thing to do is take these staples and turn them on their head a bit for St. Patrick’s Day…

Instead of doing a full Irish Breakfast (perfect fried egg, roasted tomato, mushrooms, black and white pudding (blood sausages) and often bacon or rashers), I created an “all in one bite” version – the Irish Breakfast Strata.  I took a standard strata recipe and added all the good stuff from an Irish breakfast.  One bite of this savory bread and egg casserole should taste just like an Irish Breakfast!  I love this recipe because you can change it to any flavor combo that suits your tastes throughout the year (just keep the bread/egg/milk base the same and switch up what you add to it). Make one big casserole dish or divide into individual ramekins or bowls like I did below.

Soft boiled eggs with little Irish Brown Bread “Soldiers” for dipping are a great addition for those looking for a lighter egg dish at brunch.  I added a refreshing Citrus and Mint Salad, Potato Cakes with Irish Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche & Chives, and boozy Irish Coffees with Whiskey Whipped Cream to round out the perfect St. Patrick’s Day brunch.  Who says you have to eat Corned Beef & Cabbage for St. Paddy’s?! Ironically, when I was there over the holiday, it was alot less crazy than it tends to get in the States, and most people don’t even eat that dish to celebrate! Then again, the Irish are wonderful at celebrating life everyday with a good pint or two, so I guess everyday is St. Paddy’s in the magical Emerald Isle…

What are your favorite Irish staples to celebrate the holiday?  Post in the comments below and I may feature your recipe on Strawberry Banke! Cheers to a safe, festive St. Patrick’s Day (and to not getting pinched!!)!


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