Just around the corner is March 17, when leprechauns, shamrocks and potatoes are aplenty. Everything is green — well, except for the grass that is. To tell you the truth, St. Patrick’s Day holds a very special place in my heart. I am not Irish, though I’ve been mistaken for one most of my life. With my fair skin and freckles I suppose it’s a safe enough assumption.
There’s something more though. My brother, Patrick, was born on St. Patrick’s Day 42 years ago. He is not Irish either, but was given the name at birth and throughout his life carried the mixed blessing of receiving birthday cards with happy green men, rainbows and the infamous pot o’ gold. They were personalized at least. Not many of us can boast that.
Patrick passed away two years ago on March 16 and as you can imagine, there isn’t a St. Patrick’s Day that goes by that his presence isn’t felt with every green-legged leprechaun, shamrock or pot o’ gold I happen to see. And while he mostly found his connection with this day amusing, he could never connect with the honorary meal of the day, corned beef and cabbage. Through the many birthday dinners that were shared, corned beef and cabbage was never allowed. It was his day after all. Sometimes there is a place for reinventing tradition. Sometimes there is more meaning in starting a new way of doing, being or celebrating that can bring about that comfort of a time-honored tradition.
On this St. Patrick’s Day, and all those going forward, I choose to celebrate with the food that Patrick loved as a way to honor his memory. That would be mashed potatoes. I guess I don’t have to stray too far away from the Irish traditions after all. Mashed potatoes are a comfort food and while they require some prep time they are worth the effort. I have a little spin on the traditional recipe that makes them visually appealing for St. Patrick’s Day and tasty enough for whatever day you decide you need a little comfort. I include rosemary and thyme in the broth while I cook up the potatoes. Rosemary is known as the remembrance herb, and happens to complement potatoes so well.
I think it’s safe to say that Patrick would approve of this recipe.
Herbed Mashed Potatoes
∎ Add to a pot of water 1 tsp. of thyme, 1 tsp. of rosemary and 1 tsp. onion powder. If you are using dried herbs, be sure to put in cheesecloth to make removal easier.
∎ Peel and cut 3 large or 5 medium sized potatoes and add to your water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until potatoes are soft.
∎ While potatoes are simmering, take 1/2 cup kale and puree in 1/2 cup of milk, (or cream). Set aside until potatoes are done.
∎ Strain potatoes from water, being sure to remove the herbs as well. Add pureed kale to the potatoes along with 2 Tbsp. of butter and mash to the consistency of your liking.
∎ Add salt, pepper and chives to taste.
Written by Melissa Spencer for the Monadnock Ledger Transcript