For our in-house self-described “Irish gal from Boston,” St. Patrick’s Day is kind of a big deal. Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen Chef Belle English remembers “an explosion of green all over the city” every year for the March holiday, and her family always celebrated with traditional foods. “Growing up in my family, I have a million staples and twists on traditional things,” says Belle. Her mom would always make corned beef, hash and cabbage for supper, plus a real Irish soda bread.
Nowadays, Belle keeps the tradition alive by serving a hearty Irish brunch. “I think a lot of the classics can be a little upgraded and modernized for a fun brunch menu,” she says. “It’s obviously a huge drinking day,” she adds, so include boozy options along with this stomach-bracing fare for those who want to get started early. Here are a few of her ideas to get in the St. Patty’s spirit.
1. Irish Soda Bread
No matter which soda bread you choose, there must be soda bread. Whether or not you like caraway seeds, which tend to be polarizing, this is the ideal snack to have set out with soft butter when guests come tromping through the door. Belle likes to source a “crazy-good” salted goat butter to serve alongside and amp up the specialness factor.
2. Irish Coffee
Particularly if it’s bitter or wet out, people will be enthused to see warming Irish coffees spiked with whiskey. Definitely make the whipped cream to dollop on top, as non-boozers and drinkers alike will appreciate the treat. You can also serve this after the meal itself, of course, and send folks out ready for the cold.
3. Warm Beer and Cheddar Dip
Drinking beer at brunch? Have beer cheese, too! Belle likes to serve a warm beer-and-cheddar dip alongside soft pretzels. As is true of soda bread, it’s just the thing to set out for a “rolling arrival” brunch. Just serve a small portion at a time, and have a selection of frosty brews ready to sip alongside.
4. Corned Beef
Even if you eventually want to turn it into corned beef hash, as Belle likes to, for brunch, making your own corned beef from scratch can be a fun weekend project. This one includes classic pickling spices, bay leaves, thyme, and parsley. Serve simply, with onions and potatoes. Transform it into hash the next day for a completely different spin.
5. Corned Beef Hash
There’s a corned beef hash for everyone who loves it. This one employs poblano chiles to delicious effect, whereas this number goes for more traditional onions, bell peppers, parsley and chives. They’re both quite tasty. What with inexpensive ingredients such as eggs and potatoes making cameos, the dish is able to feed a crowd.
6. Guinness Ice Cream Floats
The most crucial thing to know about these floats is that you don’t need to wait until St. Patrick’s Day to enjoy them. Coffee ice cream, chocolate syrup and dense, sweet Guinness mingle in these beauties. (You could also try vanilla ice cream and stout, which is equally good.) They’re just the thing with which send all those happy green-clad guests off into their Sunday afternoons.