Monday, March 17, 2014

Lá Fhéile Pádraig and Sláinte.

Oh, St. Patrick's Day. What a split personality you have! I'm old enough now that I do not remember it being such a drunk fest, keg & eggs, kind of culture when I was younger. It was a day to wear all the green you had, go to Mass, eat funny foods, and be thankful that there are no snakes in Ireland. 
Green stone and Trinity knot earrings - present from Bratty Sister;
Crochet flower pin, by Edel MacBride, purchased in Oct, 2013 at Mourne Antiques in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal;
Celtic Cross necklace, a confirmation present (I only wear it on St. Patrick's Day for my Grandma Nash).
My family has a strange relationship with the day as well, which is that my dad's parents passed away on days very close to (or in the case of my grandma, ON) St. Patrick's Day. So for me, it's a bit melancholy. More so this year, than in recent years past.

My grandfather, John Clifford Nash, Sr., died on March 2, 1974, when I was 3-years-old, and Bratty Sister was 3-months-old. PawPaw was 76 and one half years of age, so lived longer than the average white man, at that time. I don't remember much about the day, except that the funeral home seemed very grand, and that I was certain PawPaw was just sleeping. While we were praying at the rail in front of his open casket, I remember reaching up to touch him, to wake him up. 

My grandmother, Thelma M. Dougherty Nash, died on March 17, 1995, at the age of 95 and one-half years. She had been unwell for quite a while, but it still hit me hard. I was so little when PawPaw died, but Grandma had always been there, with her housecoats, her liberal use of lard while cooking, and the fact that she knew the Mass schedule for every.single.Catholic church in Louisville, where she lived her entire life. 

My aunt, Thelma Rose Nash Knockwafel, who just passed away in January, mentioned my Grandma's love of all things Irish, and the florist, who made note of that and her day of death, very kindly added real Irish shamrocks to the casket arrangement. My aunt brought the small bundle home and planted them after the funeral, and shortly thereafter, gifted to me a small pot of them. 

I still have them, and they have proliferated such that are now occupying a 12" round ceramic, emerald green pot rather nicely. I have them on a shelf above my kitchen sink so I can see them from the kitchen, and the family room. While a modest, not super exciting plant, it makes me feel connected to my family, especially on this day, when they are no longer with me physically. 

I have to say, the melancholy this year is also due to the realization that my dearest Daddee is the only Nash relation left. My grandfather was an only child, my grandma had five siblings, all of whom died before she. My aunt was Dad's only sibling. As far as I know all of his cousins and aunts and uncles have also passed away. My sister and I don't have children, so after we die, the Nash line, or rather *this* Nash line, comes to a halt. Weird. 

Since I'm part-Irish, there's the part that recognizes death and its' inevitability - then there's the part that recognizes good food and drink, and using both to toast my ancestors who have died, and friends that are still with me. 

We host a little gathering of friends every year around St. Patrick's Day, and I'd be lying if I didn't say drinking played a part. But so does good food, and best of all, wonderful friends. The cast always changes, as people can or cannot come, as we expand our little tribe, but it's always such a joy for everyone to meet, mingle, enjoy commonalities, and celebrate the holiday with us in some way. This year, my friend and trainer, brought us a little Shamrock plant with quite a few white flowers. I opened the gift after she & her delightful husband left, so she doesn't yet know how much it meant to me. (Today is her and her husband's 24th anniversary - so yet another reason to celebrate this day!!) So on that note, below are dessert recipes I made for our céilidh this year. 
Whiskey Cake
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 cup milk (room temperature)
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup Irish Whiskey, such as Jameson's

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, powdered ginger, salt, and baking soda. 

Using a mixer (standing, if you have one but hand type is just fine too), beat the butter at medium-high speed until creamy. Gradually add the brown and granulated sugars and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture, one-third at a time, alternating with the half of the milk, such that you end with the dry ingredients. After you've mixed well and scraped down the sides, add the molasses and vanilla on medium-low speed. Then add the whiskey, until smooth, about 30 seconds. 

Pour the batter into a greased, parchment-lined pan. I used a Bundt pan and cooked for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick came out clean. 

I drizzled about 4 tablespoons on additional whiskey on top and sprinkled confectioners sugar over it, when cooled. 

I will say, I was a little put off by how much molasses is in 1/2 cup - it is a LOT. BUT the flavor, combined with the whiskey, and spices, and vanilla is really heavenly. And also very moist. 

I ate a few pieces straight and really enjoyed them, but I beat serving this cake with an Irish Cream sauce or frosting, a chocolate drizzle or vanilla ice cream would be amazing too.

Maple Oatmeal Scones
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups quick rolled oatmeal (steel cut oatmeal will NOT turn out well.....)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup maple syrup, room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Cut in butter until walnut sized chunks remain.

Add the buttermilk, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla until the dough comes together. 

I added extra buttermilk, syrup and vanilla, I'll be honest, as I like my scones a little more cakey, so feel free to experiment to taste. I also made them for a friend who REALLY LOVES anything maple, so I was trying to enhance the flavor. 

I greased a cookie sheet and sprinkled it with cinnamon, then turned the dough out onto it and smoothed it as best I could in one medium thin layer. I baked it for 30 minutes or until the edges were a light brown and the middle was baked (clean toothpick test again). 

If you wanted to you could add currants, raisins and/or nuts to the dough before baking. 
You could also add dots of butter or cinnamon sugar or a glaze of confectioner's sugar (and maybe orange juice). I wanted more savory-esque tea cake for these so left them plain on top. 

Note: the first batch I made was made with steel-cut oats b/c that's what I keep in the house. Oops. Way, way, way, too "chewy". Realized they meant the more American version of rolled oats, so this was my purchase at market at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, so I could make a second, more edible batch:
Live and learn. And then, stop at the market. Magner's Cider - YUM!
Celebrate responsibly, no matter what you do. Spouse & I will toast all of you this evening, with something appropriately Irish. And in the toast, I will remember with much love, my PawPaw, Grandma and very-much-missed Aunt. 

Do you have any traditions on this day? 
Cooking up some corned beef and cabbage, or colcannon?
Maybe irish soda bread? 

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