You don’t even have to be a wee bit Irish to tap your inner leprechaun. Come March, we’re all yearning to celebrate loud and proud. A day set aside in Ireland for spiritual renewal and prayer is an excuse for blarin’ o’ the green, eating corned beef and cabbage, and raising a pint or two.
March 17 marks the death of the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick, who lived at the end of the fourth century, brought Christianity to Ireland and is said to have driven the snakes out of the Emerald Isle and into the ocean. We can also thank him for shamrocks and luck: He used the three-leaf clover to teach the Christian doctrine.
Irish celebrity chef Clodagh McKenna has fond memories of breakfast and then Mass, followed by a parade and a pot of beef and Guinness stew on St. Patrick’s Day.
McKenna, whom Forbes calls Ireland’s answer to Rachael Ray or Martha Stewart, reminisces about her favorite holiday in her new cookbook, “Clodagh’s Kitchen Diaries” (Kyles Books, $27.95).
Here’s a pot of golden ideas, many from McKenna, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day:
• Send St. Patrick’s Day cards.
• Go on a leprechaun hunt.
• Have leprechauns make mischief by leaving green footprints on washable surfaces: Make a fist with the right hand and dip the bottom of the fist in washable green paint. Stamp the paint on paper, the fridge or the floor and add toes. Repeat with the left hand. Repeat as necessary. Add to the magic by leaving a trail of gold glitter, and make little messes around the room. Also, leave chocolate gold coins or a crock o’ green beads.
• Hand out pots of gold: Place Rolo candies at the bottom of a tall, narrow plastic bag. Add layers of M&M’s in rainbow colors. or place Rolos at the bottom of a zip-close bag, top with multicolored licorice made into an upside-down U. The card can read: You’re the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.
• Greet guests in Gaelic with a hundred thousand welcomes: ‘Céad míle fáilte’ (kayd meeluh foll-tjuh).
• Serve Irish coffee: Add 2 tablespoons of Irish whiskey to a warmed glass and stir in 1 teaspoon of brown sugar. Add 1/3 cup of strong coffee and, using the back of a spoon, pour cream onto the surface of the coffee.
• “Health” is the toast heard in pubs, homes and restaurants throughout Ireland. So here’s to “slainte,” pronounced SLAHN-ch.
• Make an Irish-themed floral arrangement of different shades of green foliage and flowers, and tie green ribbons around the vase.
• Share shamrock-shaped cookies frosted with green icing.
• Have a cheese party, with an Irish cheese board.
• Make McKenna’s smoked salmon mousse in a bowl set in the middle of a large platter. Surround the platter with crudités of celery, carrot and cucumber to replicate the Irish flag.
To make the mousse, blend together 8 ounces smoked salmon, 3 ounces softened cream cheese, 2 ounces crème fraîche, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill and the juice of 1 lemon, and then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
• Sing some traditional Irish songs, such as “Whiskey in the Jar” and “The Wild Rover” by the Dubliners.
• Watch Irish-themed movies: “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and “Going My Way” come to mind.
• Turn food green: McCormick Kitchens suggests varying the drops of food color in three layers of white cake mix to produce a multicolored green cake: 9 drops Green plus 3 drops Yellow produce mint green; 25 drops Neon Green plus 2 drops Neon Blue make green apple; 40 drops Blue plus 16 drops Green equal teal green; 50 drops Green plus 12 drops Yellow equal garden green; 50 drops Green plus 4 drops Blue equal shamrock green; 2 teaspoons Green creates emerald green. For green beer, add 5 to 6 drops of green food color to 12 ounces of beer. For an emerald milkshake, add pure peppermint extract in addition to green food coloring to turn a classic vanilla milkshake into a refreshingly cool treat.
Make it Erin go Bragh: Ireland forever! — at least on St. Patrick’s Day.