Some diners only think about Irish cuisine around St. Patrick’s Day, but chefs with roots on the Emerald Isle fixate on it constantly. Further compounding their longing is their inability to source a number of signature products that are the hallmarks of Ireland’s culinary culture. Three Irish chefs share their favorite foods—and how they get their fix.
Cathal Armstrong, Chef-Owner, Restaurant Eve
“My secret guilty pleasure is Cadbury chocolate. It’s so different from the Cadbury here. One: In Ireland, they’re using sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. Two: The quality of the milk of is better over there, so you’re going to get a creamier, better product. When I get a hankering, I’ll go online and buy a bunch.
What is really difficult to get here is Irish sausages. There are companies in America that make a facsimile, but they’re not the real thing. My mom was just visiting and she always smuggles a few packages over from a butcher shop called Hicks in Glasthule. I love eating them as a part of a full Sunday breakfast. It’s a banquet of black pudding, white pudding, boiled tomatoes, potatoes of some kind, bacon rashers, mushrooms, fried bread, eggs, and, of course, sausages.”
Dawn Farley, Executive Chef, Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub
“For St. Patrick’s Day, my mother would put on the corned beef in the morning – before we went out to mass and then to the parade – because it takes five or six hours to cook. When we got home, she’d put in the cabbage with the corned beef, which has this lovely salted smell. She’d make Irish soda bread and mashed potatoes to go along with it. Since it’s the only day during Lent you could eat whatever you wanted, I’d have a stockpile of candy and treats to enjoy after dinner.
For Easter, we eat spring lamb. Our lamb is younger, so it has a different flavor. It’s more delicate, kind of sweet, and very, very tender. Mom would do a slow roasted leg with rosemary and garlic and roasted potatoes and summer cabbage on the side. Thankfully, I don’t have to go very far when I get a hankering for this kind of food because we do a lot of the traditional dishes at the restaurant.”
Marc Hennessy, Chef de Cuisine, Del Campo
My family has roots in Northern Ireland, so I went over there a couple of times around eight years ago. I loved how after taking a long flight and getting in early in the morning, I’d have a breakfast fry, which puts you down. There would be white and black pudding, really yellow eggs that were kept in a cupboard instead of the refrigerator, bacon rashers, beans, and breakfast potatoes. It’s a jet lag cure.
Now that I’m home, I can get part of my fix at the restaurant. We have morcilla, a South American blood sausage, which isn’t as creamy, but still similar to black pudding. Bacon rashers are harder. They’re really over-salted – but they’re amazingly good – and no one over here seems to do them just right.”
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Scott Suchman (Cathal Armstrong); Marc Hennessy (Del Campo).