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Food, Lifestyle

Making an Irish dinner last and last

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is next day hash. See the recipe below.

By ROSALIE HARRINGTON

An older couple openly displays their contempt for one another’s opinions. A young couple celebrates “date night,” a relatively new phenomenon that gives young parents a few hours of freedom from their toddlers.  A single guy talks about the March Madness highlights with the bartender, as he sets down a large plate of nicely iced dollar oysters from Cotuit.

It’s Friday night at the bar in our neighborhood restaurant. The mood is a festive. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, dontcha know? We have a ringside seat to the activities and the fashions, lots of green ties, accents of green with jewelry, a few green hats.

I had spent the morning with my grandsons, enjoying the chatting and arguing coming from the back seat. In the mood for some Irish music, I sang a few songs that I remembered and the boys giggled over my attempt to carry a tune, which was never one of my talents. It never deterred me, however, as I love to sing, whether in the shower, as I chop away in the kitchen and especially in the car along with the radio. Growing up in East Boston, St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t celebrated in the same way it was in Southie. I remember feeling some Irish heritage envy as a kid, watching the Irish celebrate on TV with a giant parade, led by then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, accompanied by bagpipes.

My single mother had a boyfriend who was from Charlestown. An Irishman, he was active in local politics and volunteered at the Charlestown Boys Club.  When he said he could arrange for us to attend the summer camps for boys and girls, sponsored by the club, my mother signed us up. A few months later, I was the only 12-year-old at Camp Lapham who was not Irish.  Around the campfire at night, we sang songs about Ireland – “Danny Boy” and “Have You Ever Been Across the Sea to Ireland.” Many songs would bring tears to the group. A little different from my East Boston campfire remembrances of Dean Martin singing “If the moon hits your eyes like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”

I dropped my boys off from a morning of “thrifting” on a search for fanny packs.  We were looking for two but found only one, which prompted a good showdown. We went to an art show at Montserrat College of Art, where their cousin Emma (age 16) had a piece on display. I dropped them off at home and wondered if, after a nap, I should go grocery shopping and prepare a boiled Irish dinner. I hadn’t even made my usual Irish soda bread this year. Given that my husband is vegetarian and it would just be the two of us for dinner, I decided we should have an early dinner at Jim’s, our name for Cygnet restaurant in Beverly Farms, as it’s the name of the owner. I was really in the mood for corned beef and cabbage, Todd would be happy with a salad.

Cygnet reminds me a bit of Rosalie’s. It’s a cozy spot, filled with familiar faces – including that of my son, a frequent patron – off the train from Boston. There are fresh, decorative touches by Jim, who could easily be an interior decorator. Pictures of dogs and cats are beautifully displayed around the dining room. Maybe he wanted to be a veterinarian?  

I ordered a “low acid” white wine and a plate to share of the dollar oysters from Cotuit. It has become popular in restaurants in recent years to offer discount oysters in the first hour or so on certain nights, and Cygnet does it on weekends. Musicians, dressed in Irish garb, played bagpipes in front of the restaurant as I was enjoying a bountiful plate of corned beef, carrots, cabbage and potatoes. My joke about a seven-course Irish dinner being “boiled potatoes and a six pack” has long been stale, but I still like it.

Jim arrived in his restaurant covered in green woolen garments of many shades, and stopped by our table for a chat. I complimented his pants, woven from the most itchy looking classic Irish wool, and Jim explained his solution – to wear long underwear under them, the only way to survive an evening in them, he noted. People are sometimes forced to suffer for their heritage. As we headed home to our cozy cottage, I felt good that I’d had my “fix” of St. Patty’s Day.  A quite good fix, I dare say.


Next Day Hash   

Restaurants love to serve huge portions of food to make sure nobody leaves hungry, so when we’re out for weekend dinners we often leave with a container of leftover meat and veggies. Before Todd became vegetarian a year ago he would love my hash, made of whatever was left over. With our St. Patrick’s dinner came the usual potatoes, carrots, cabbage and a nice piece of beautifully prepared and seasoned corned beef, the perfect ingredients for a great hash – plus, some additions from the fridge!

Saute 1 small onion chopped in a little olive oil.  

Place the meat, about ½-inch-thick and sliced about 4-by-4 inches, in the processor and pulse quickly.  

Place the meat in a bowl and season with a little dijon mustard.  

In the processor, grind leftover carrots and place them in the bowl. The potatoes are probably cooked enough, pay attention to not making them too mushy. Bringing out the gluten is not good, which happens when you mix too much.  

Chop the leftover cabbage by hand and add to the bowl. Then add the potatoes and onion.  

Beat 1 egg and add to the bowl. If you happen to have, which I did, some freshly cooked chickpeas, grind about ½ cup of them; canned will do. (You must try soaking your own beans overnight sometime and simmering them with herbs. They are so good for salads, pasta dishes, veggie burgers.)  

Make patties of the mix and slide them into a non-stick fry pan with a sprinkle of olive oil; cook on each side, flattening them and then sliding them carefully out to an ovenproof little dish and then back into the pan – this trick protects the patties from breaking.

Place under the broiler for 1 minute for nice color.  

At serving time, place in a hot oven for just a few minutes to heat up.

Serve with a side of pesto, if you happen to have it, which you should if you follow my suggestions every week!

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