Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Irish Champ With Smoked Salmon (And a Rant)

What's champ? It's simply mashed potatoes with scallions. A lovely side dish for any meat, really but especially nice with smoked salmon. With tasty, real butter, this is just yummy.
2 lbs (1 kilo) russet potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk
5 fat scallions (or less given your taste)
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks and place them in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of your potato chunks). While your potatoes are simmering, slice the scallions into 1/4 inch thick rounds, place them into another saucepan along with the milk and half the butter. Bring to a boil and allow the scallions to soften. Once soft, turn off the heat and reserve.

Once the potatoes are tender, drain completely and return to the pan. Begin to mash with a potato masher, add the scallion mixture and incorporate. Add half of the remaining butter and keep mashing until you have a smooth texture. Some recipes say that there should be lumps in the potatoes so if you end up with them you can claim it was on purpose. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and serve piping hot alongside any meat dish you like. Music to eat Irish Champ by: Champs of Irish (ceili) dancing. It's always amazed me how these girls can be completely immoble from the waist up and look like they're battery operated from the waist down.

So on to my rant: Timothy Egan, New York Times blogger, has a recent post deriding the "leprechaun-lite version of Ireland's legacy in the New World", (picture the typical St. Patrick's Day parade activities of people drinking cheap, green beer, shamrock antennae on their heads). So Egan sets up the straw-man of loutish "Irishness" almost nobody would defend in favor of another tired and overused myth: the Irish as eternal sufferers and underdogs. As I read the blog, I couldn't help thinking how, unfortunately, suffering and underdog status are NOT exclusive to being Irish. I find it disingenuous to claim that the Irish have some special relationship with suffering, especially given the average income of Irish-Americans today, not to mention the fact that the Republic of Ireland is now the richer than the UK. But things get worse when you read the blog comments: either glowing thank yous by those who couldn't agree more or condemnations from Ireland claiming (rightfully) that the story of the Irish is more complex than all that but then characterizing Irish-Americanness in the same crude, stereotypical way as Egan characterizes Irishness. I dunno. I found it all so disappointing. One would hope the New York Times would come up with better food for thought.


Blogger Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

Susan, I'm organizing a GTG in Florence on April 19th - more info on my site (under my header image, there's a link to the page with details) - I hope you can come!

5:01 PM  
Blogger Proud Italian Cook said...

Susan, Your potatoes look so creamy and yummy! Sounds like the NY Times needs to do more research!

1:15 AM  
Blogger rowena said...

Well at least somebody celebrated! Split a Guinness between my husband and I and we had...we ate...puntarelle alla romana, couscous and miso-marinated monkfish.

Truly an eclectic combo no?

Susan, we went to check out that Ortosana bio-farm just to have a look-see but of course you probably already know that they don't have anything yet. I guess if you decide to order from them it'll be delivered to your home but I just gotta tell you what's NEXT to the farm. One of those "appena munto" latterie! My god they've got EVERYTHING and are open from 6am to 10pm every day of the week. Fresh vegs? Fresh milk? Cheese? Butter? Yogurt? Sweet!

4:23 PM  
Blogger Terry B said...

Wow. A delicious post on two counts. First, the fabulous potatoes--the nice tang of scallions tempered by the milk and butter. And then, the straight telling of who today's Irish and Irish Americans are. Thanks!

4:28 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Sara, I checked out the get-together and it looks like a lot of fun! Sadly, I work on Saturdays in Como. Have a great time!

Hi Marie, Thank you kindly!

Hi Rowena, Sounds like a pretty nice St. Pat's. You're lucky to live out near these farms! In Milan, we don't get a lot of this cool stuff. I'd never heard of Appena Munta before. Anyway, the Ortosano place, aside from NEVER GETTING BACK TO ME (not that I'm bitter...) require you to order what you want every week. I've been spoiled by the CSA we have now that just ships us what's in season w/o us having to think about it. I'm still looking. It's frustrating that in the land of Slow Food, finding a CSA is so hard.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Terry, Thanks! Now how do I find your blog?

11:14 AM  

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