Have you seen this book? It’s gorgeous. Page after page of delicious looking Irish food, the food of the author Cathal Armstrong’s childhood. The book also includes some Irish inspired recipes from Armstrong’s restaurant in the Washington D.C. area, Restaurant Eve. Delicious Irish food? Yes! Don’t get me started on this one. Ireland is a country with amazing natural resources when it comes to food. When I think of Ireland, I think of Irish butter and cheese, grass fed meats, fresh produce and seafood plucked straight from the sea. I believe that Irish food is having its moment and will continue to do so as the popularity of fussy food wanes in favor of rustic, sustainable, ingredient driven dishes that we all love to eat.
I also adore Cathal Armstrong. No, I don’t know him, but I feel like I do. He reminds me of my father-in-law, Paddy, in many ways. One of so many Irish immigrants who has laid down roots on the other side of the Atlantic. Like my father and mother-in-law, Cathal and his wife Meshelle (Filipina, just like my mother-in-law) built their business from scratch and made it successful through hard work and unwavering belief in their vision. Like Paddy, Cathal is a very civic minded individual as demonstrated by his dedication to the sustainable food movement and his creation of Chefs as Parents™ (www.chefsasparents.com) a not-for-profit company that partners with the Alexandria public school system to improve the school lunch system. Among many similarities, the one that strikes me the most is something that Armstrong, Paddy and so many of our customers at the Irish Boutique and Paddy’s on the Square have in common. It is the way that they maintain their Irish identity, instill a love of all things Irish in their families and salute their home country even as they make America their permanent home. They serve as shining examples of how to be both Irish and American.
Choosing a single recipe from this book was SO hard. Honestly, I cannot wait to cook through the entire thing: Irish Stew, Dublin Coddle, President Obama Stew (Chicken Casserole), Shepherd’s Pie, Marrowfat Peas, Piccalilli, Tomato Jam, Apple Pie – I could go on. I chose ‘Cashel Blue and Toasted Pecan Terrine with Frisée and Apple Jam’ because we’re having friends over who we haven’t seen in ages, including two new babies (yay!) and I want to set out some food that we can graze on while we catch up and get the BBQ going. With six adults and five little ones, I think that it’s nice to do something that feels a little bit special with the appetizers, since we’ll be doing burgers and feeding-chasing-cleaning up after little ones during dinner. I’m serving this with a selection of other cheeses and meats and skipping the frisée, only because including it would necessitate forks (less forks, more hands free for holding babies!).
This recipe embodies my favorite aspects of Irish food. It’s simple; made up of only a few quality ingredients, and yet it feels elevated enough to serve to guests.
Cashel Blue and Toasted Pecan Terrine with Frisée and Apple Jam
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 pound Cashel Blue cheese, crumbled
2 small apples, such as Bramley, Ida Red, Granny Smith, or Pink Lady, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces (about 8 cups) frisée
2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Toast the pecans: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overlap. Spread the pecans on a pie pan and lightly toast them in the oven for 10 minutes, then allow them to cool.
Make the terrine: Combine the cheese and pecans in a large bowl and pack the mixture firmly into the loaf pan. Fold the overlapping plastic wrap over to cover completely and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.
Make the jam: Combine the apples, sugar, honey, and lemon juice in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the apples are syrupy, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, stirring often, until the apples are completely soft and caramelized. Remove from the heat and mash the apples into jam with the back of a fork. Let cool.
Present the dish: Unmold the terrine and cut it into 12 half-inch slices. Gently separate the frisée leaves and put them in a small bowl. Add the shallot, olive oil, and salt and toss to mix. For each serving, center a slice of terrine on a dinner plate and place a small mound of salad and a dollop of apple jam next to it.