THE KITCHEN DIVA
By Angela Shelf Medearis
The people of Ireland embraced the potato around 1780. The crop rapidly became the primary source of food for most of the population. Potatoes are nourishing and filling, and contain most of the vitamins needed for our daily diet. The crop also is a popular food source around the world because it requires only an acre of land and will grow under almost any conditions.
An Irish potato is waxy, which makes it hold its shape when boiled, a common cooking technique in Ireland. The potatoes also are delicious when fried, roasted or broiled. The waxy texture of the potato makes it gluey and dense when mashed, so select another variety, like a Russet potato, for this purpose. An Irish potato is covered with an off-white or cream-colored skin, and its flesh is a creamy white. Black flecks or marks often mottle the flesh of the potato, but have no impact on the flavor.
In the 1840s, a disease caused by a fungus infested potato crops throughout Europe, causing a devastating famine in Ireland. This time period is called the Great Famine or “Gorta Mor” meaning “the great hunger.” Mass emigration coupled with widespread deaths from starvation caused the Irish population to drop by as much as 25 percent. By 1850, the Irish made up a quarter of the population in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
After years of hardship and suffering in Ireland, Alexandre Millardet, a French botanist, discovered an effective fungicide to combat the potato blight in 1883. Today, potatoes are the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat and maize.
Irish potatoes are perfect for any meal. An old prayer celebrates the tubers as follows:
“Potatoes served at breakfast, at dinner served again; potatoes served at supper, forever and Amen!”
Here’s a great recipe for Irish Potato Casserole that’s perfect for breakfast, dinner or supper, forever and Amen!!
IRISH POTATO CASSEROLE
* 1 1/2 pounds (4 to 5 medium) Irish potatoes, peeled and diced
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 4 tablespoons butter, plus 1 teaspoon for greasing casserole dish
* 1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
* 2 cups milk
* 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
* 1/2 small onion, finely diced
1. Heat oven to 350 F. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover them with cold water. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring potatoes to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender when a fork is inserted in the center. Carefully drain off water and set potatoes aside.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Place breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Add two tablespoons of the melted butter to the breadcrumbs; mix well and set aside. Reserve the rest of the butter in the saucepan.
3. Stir in flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and the nutmeg into the butter in the saucepan. Cook until mixture starts to bubble around the edges, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add milk, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Use the remaining teaspoon of butter to grease a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Combine potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, onion and remaining salt and pepper in the casserole dish. Add sauce and gently mix the ingredients together until well-combined.
5. Sprinkle buttered breadcrumbs over the casserole. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly around the edges and the breadcrumbs are brown. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is http://www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.
(c) 2019 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis