A Price Above Emeralds: The Joy of St. Patrick’s Day
On Monday, March 17, the world celebrates St. Patrick’s Day — the day where everyone, no matter from what part of the globe you hail, can claim Irish heritage.
The Emerald Isle has the distinction of producing some of the most memorable and prolific writers (James Joyce), poets (Dylan Thomas), musicians (John McCormack, Bono), actors (Liam Neeson), politicians (the Kennedy dynasty), mobsters (James J. “Whitey” Bulger) and drinkers (just about everyone). This unbridled Irish tenacity might be due to its historic legacy as the squirming, unpredictable stepchild to the rest of the stoic United Kingdom.
Though rarely revered as a religious holiday anywhere but Ireland, we owe this festive day of green to the likes of the fourth-century-born St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
As saints go, St. Patrick had it pretty good. While he was captured and held as a slave as a youth, he quickly escaped and lead a long, productive life of evangelism using the three-leaf Shamrock as a prop to demystify the Holy Trinity to polytheistic groups. Patrick evidently endured none of the persecution or Draconian torment suffered by other saints and by most accounts, enjoyed a relatively peaceful life.
That a religious holiday has mutated into a worldwide party is another example of Irish ingenuity, pluck and spirit of fun; something we can all use a little more of.
The culinary hallmarks of the celebration are legendary in their comfort factor: fork-tender corned beef and cabbage, colcannon (vegetable casserole), steak and Guinness pie, lamb stew, Shepherd’s Pie; and potato leek soup, creamy and aromatic.
And then there are the drinks: Guinness beer (poured in a critical two-part process designed to ensure the famous head of creamy foam); Irish coffee and plain old Irish whiskey.
So, enjoy this lusty day of food, drink, bag piping, music and laughter unwittingly commandeered by the mild-mannered St. Patrick, drink responsibly and thank the fighting Irish for their talent to forever influence the rest of the world.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 tbsp. for dried cranberries
- 4 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp. grated orange zest
- 1 cup dried orange-flavored cranberries or regular dried cranberries
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Cinnamon-sugar (1 tbsp. cinnamon & 1 Tbsp. sugar, combined)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer using a paddle attachment.
- Add the butter pieces and stir on low speed until mixed into the flour.
- With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the cranberries with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough, which will be sticky and wet.
- Place the dough onto a well-floured board and knead several times, then shape into a round loaf.
- Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top with a serrated knife.
- Dust top of loaf with cinnamon-sugar and nutmeg. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. The loaf will have a hollow sound when tapped.
- Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with unsalted Irish butter or cream cheese.