Friday, March 16, 2012

Ten Irish Facts, a Hot Bowl of Beer and Cheese Soup, and Why the World Will Never Run Out of Guinness

In honor of St. Patrick, whose name I humbly bear as my saint name, I offer these valuable Irish facts and a recipe for a traditional Irish soup. Now let's raise a glass and toast our forefathers and mothers - those saints and sinners who brought so much inspiration and laughter to our lives. And even if you don't have a drop of Irish blood in you, we are all Irish every March 17th.

Slainte'!

TEN IRISH FACTS WE ALL WOULD DO WELL TO REMEMBER

1. Legend has it that St. Brendan discovered America 1,000 years before Columbus. Legend also has it that when he arrived at 10 am and saw that the pubs were not open yet, he turned ship and headed back to Ireland.

2. The Seven Celtic Nations are: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany, and Galicia. For nearly 100 years South Boston has petitioned to be included, but that would've meant re-printing all the Seven Celtic Nations t-shirts, posters, flags and other stuff, so it never really gained traction.

3. The phrase "tying the knot" originated in Ireland and referred to the ancient marriage custom of "handfasting". It has nothing to do with what randy newlyweds may do when presented with a four-poster bed and a handful of neckties.

4. Just a few years ago there were more Polish folks in Ireland than there were native Irish. That this occurred because Ireland had a surplus of vowels and was running low on consonants is purely speculative.

5. One of the largest and most famous festivals in the world starts on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th when over 500,000 people line the streets of Dublin to watch the St. Patty's Day Parade. Then they will flood the local pubs to carry on the celebration, which will continue uninterrupted until March 16th of the following year.

6. There are over 36 million United States residents with Irish ancestry. That's nearly 12% of the population. However, if one were to count just the beer and whisky drinkers, those with an Irish ancestry make up 127% of the population.

7. Ireland's top star in the sport of hurling is Sean Og O'Hailpin who plays for the County Cork Team. America's top star in hurling is Danny "The Whale" O'Shannon from Chicago. You can catch Danny in action every Friday night down at Schaller's Pump. For the best hurling, wait until after 11 pm when he has already downed a couple of pints of Smithwick's and a few burgers.

8. The Irish Academy of Engineers recommends that an under-sea tunnel be built to link Ireland and Wales. They envision trains running at speeds of 150 mph between Rosslare and Fishguard, Wales. Currently, there is no financial backer for such a project mainly because they have yet to figure out why anyone from Ireland would want to visit Wales.

9. The tallest identical twins ever born (7ft 2in) were the Brothers Knipe from Magherafelt, County Derry in 1761. However, due to their size, one Knipe brother was born in March while the other was born sometime in late April.

10. Why the world will never run out of Guinness: the original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a 9,000 year lease on its property and they pay an annual rate of 45 Irish pounds a year, which is about 75 bucks in US dollars.

TRADITIONAL IRISH CHEESE AND BEER SOUP

While corned beef, colcannon and Irish stew take top food billing at most St. Patty's Day celebrations. One can't go wrong with this hearty soup made with sharp Cheddar cheese and a bottle or two of Harps. Or as we Irish like to call it: Breakfast.

This will serve about six. Face it. It's too good not to share with friends.

Prep:  15 minutes        Cook: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

2 leeks (white and pale green parts only) or onions cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
2 carrots cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk (or half and half for a creamier soup)
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
1 (12-oz) bottle of Harps (or Smithwick's for a nuttier taste)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lb extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (4 cups)
4 bacon slices (to garnish
Chopped parsley (to garnish)


DIRECTIONS

1. Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water to remove any grit then drain.

2. Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, celery and bay leaf and sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 - 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2 additional minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until nicely crisp. Let cool a bit then crumble and reserve.

5. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle flour over vegetables, then cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Slowly add milk, broth, and beer in and whisk until it simmers. Continue to simmer (adjust heat accordingly) for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.

6. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly, and cook until cheese is melted, around 3 - 4 minutes (do not boil). Discard bay leaf.

Ladle into warm bowls and sprinkle with chopped bacon and parsley.

24 comments:

  1. Great post, Warren! Have to envy the property rate, huh? :) The soup sounds like a perfect celebration dish!

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    1. @Crunchy Creamy Sweet. Thanks, Anna! Yeah, that property rate rocks. Been thinking about changing my last name to Guinness to see what kinda deal I can score, lol. (ps. Your kiwi jam sounds wonderful!)

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    1. @Janice. Thanks! This made my afternoon! :-)

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  3. Happy St Patty, Patty ... I mean, Patrick :)
    I'm laughing so hard, I can't see the page for the tears! Great history lesson that. Now why can't the history classes back in school be this fun?

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    1. @ping. You rock, Ping! And I'm with you, if I'd have learned this type of history back in school, I might've shown up for class every now and then. :-D

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  4. Haha! You're so flippin' random. I love it! I laughed out loud the entire post. That soup sounds lovely btw.

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    1. Thanks, Eva! I'm glad the post brought you some laughter this St. Patty's Day! Oh...and I'll be sure to save you a bowl of soup. :-)

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  5. My housemate is from County Cork and HATES how "St. Padraig's day" has become a day of drunkeness world over and how and tends to hide away in his room for the week prior and the week after the 17th (because if anyone has absolutely no more rights left to be taking advantage of the Irish its us here in England apparently). Even he laughed at this (though he still refuses to come out with us tonight because he complains about always being asked to say "thirty three")

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    1. Wow, Juls. This is really interesting! Personally, I'd find it hard to hide away for too long around St. Patty's Day because, while I'm not one to really tie one on, I do like to laugh and listen to the traditional live Irish music that usually only shows up here in the pubs around this time of year :-) Hope you have a great nite out!

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  6. This is a brilliant post! Happy St Patty's Day :)

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    1. Thanks, Jaime! And a Happy St. Patty's Day to you as well! (And please, save me some of those brandy poached pears!)

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  7. I'm a little late to read this because I've just sobered up :-/ GREAT post love the facts.... and I'm thinking I'll love that stew! Can u imagine signing a 9,000 year lease? Now THAT's commitment!

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    1. Better late than never, Heidi! lol. And yes, please try the stew - it rocks! BTW, I have to let you know when I'll be back in Ormond Beach for a show. Would love to have you and the hubs drop by! :-)

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  8. I nominated you for a Versatile Blogger award for making me laugh and for helping me by exposing me to other bloggers when I was just starting out. ;.)

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  9. Hey Warren, Funny post. I have an Irish surname, passed down the ages by my hubby's family, but there's no trace of accent or 'Irishness' left - they don't celebrate St. Paddy's day. My auntie's ex-husband is another matter, he's Irish through and through, and their four children celebrate their heritage in the best way - as often as possible. Consequently, I can do an accent if I try - thirty three ? Try 'Dirty tree' that comes pretty close. Funny, funny, funny. Don't make me laugh, it hurts! (I ran a marathon earlier today)

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    1. @Kooky Girl."Dirty tree'? Love it!!! (Sorta like a Facebook post I saw that said if you say "My Cocaine" you are saying actor Michael Caine's name in his own voice). Glad you finally made it to back here to my blog. I was beginning to worry, lol.

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  10. A must-try recipe! I've given you a "Happy Blogger Award" @ http://sandrarecipeblogsite.blogspot.com/ by the way ;) Love, love your posts!

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    1. @sandra. Thanks for the award. That is so cool! Thanks for dropping by - please feel free to do so often. :-)

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  11. Oh this soup sounds sooooo good! Not a drop of Irish blood in me, but I love all things Irish. Your list of facts had me passing tea through my nose!

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    1. @ The soup is good, Cyndi! And it's a good thing you weren't eating it when you read the rest of the blog, eh? LOL. Take care!

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