Around this time every year, I try to come up with a creative spin on Irish food for St. Patrick’s Day beyond the standard corned beef and cabbage or things tinted green or soaked with Bailey’s. I think the food of the Emerald Isle, like much of the UK, gets a bad rap. It’s the same situation everywhere: you get the good and you get the bad and I’ve had some phenomenal meals in Ireland. I’ve also had a few wretched ones. Whatever. In researching traditional Irish food, a few things come up repeatedly: boxty, colcannon, soda bread. I had heard of someplace – in Southern California maybe? – that was doing boxty as a sort of potato pancake-crepe hybrid with various hearty fillings, and the thought stuck with me. Since I’ve had boxty exactly zero times, it’s been on my list to try for some time. But things are funny. Sometimes what starts out as one thing, turns into something else as wonderful discoveries are made along the way. And while this started out as an experiment in boxty, it was the filling that took me by surprise. Go figure.
Boxty is a sort of potato cake, made with a mix of mashed and grated potatoes and served as a side dish with grilled sausages or what have you. Like many potato based dishes they’re essentially a blank canvas, perfect filled with whatever you fancy – corned beef hash with a poached egg, asparagus with Stilton sauce, leftover lamb stew. They’re exactly the kind of peasant food that I love – hearty, cheap, filling and endlessly variable based on what you have in the house.
Since I’d never had boxty before, I had no ideas or expectations of what it should be, rather I started thinking about what it could be and I liked that pancake-crepe idea. So I made my boxty thin and flexible enough to enclose a filling, adding buttermilk to the potato mixture until I had a batter-like consistency. Cooked in a small-ish non-stick skillet until golden brown and crispy, they were exactly what I thought they’d be: a blank canvas. Make sure you season the batter well. It’s not that I was disappointed, I was more underwhelmed. Crispy hash browns or latkes these were not. Huh.
With the boxty cooked off and warming in the oven, I turned to the filling. Truth be told, I didn’t give the filling much thought focused as I was on perfecting the boxty. On the fly, I sautéed some chicken breast cubes and button mushrooms and made a riff on a classic Mornay with Irish cheddar, grainy mustard and some Guinness I had left over from another recipe. I sautéed, whisked and stirred, making a holy mess before I distractedly bent down for a taste. Wow. It was delicious. So good in fact, that I forgot my obsession with the boxty and started eating the filling out of the pan by the shovelful. I forced myself to stop lest I ran out completely. Oh the pot pies this filling would make!
Together, the tasty earthy filling cozied up inside the warm crispy potato cake, made a wonderful dinner. As I sat at my kitchen table and watched the snow fall for the 500th time this winter, for a few moments I didn’t really care if spring seemed to be eons away or that my car was trapped by an ice ridge. I spooned bite after savory bite into my mouth and I was just happy. Later, I took a nice long nap because that’s what you do with a full, warm belly and crapola weather. It was heavenly.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: WINNER WINNER GUINNESS CHICKEN DINNER. You can’t go wrong here with this new spin on meat and potatoes. This is like a chicken pie turned on its head. Creamy, crispy, rich and delicious and a completely new way to work in a St. Patrick’s Day Guinness into your dinner. One can only do so many Irish Car Bombs. We must come to terms with that.
On this blog four years ago: Blood Orange Marmalade, Stovetop Smoked Salmon, Baked Rice Pudding
On this blog three years ago: Chocolate Cabernet Sauce, Fresh Paczki
On this blog two years ago: Baked Cheddar Olives, Whatchamacallit Brownies, Sweet Orange Rolls, Barley Marmalade Scones
On this blog one year ago: Chocolate Cherry Buns, Chocolate Pudding Cake, Peanut Butter Brownies
Other Irish inspired recipes: Classic Irish Soda Bread, Guinness Stout Ice Cream Floats, Irish Oatmeal Pudding, Soda Bread Apple Tarte Tatin, Corned Beef & Potato Pancakes, Chocolate Banoffee Tart, Irish Whiskey Cakes, Reuben Knishes
GUINNESS CHICKEN & MUSHROOM FILLED BOXTY PANCAKES
Looking back at my photos, this plate could use some color. It’s 50 shades of beige. Work in a green salad or at least a spinkle of chopped parsley for a little contrast.
for the Boxty Pancakes:
1 pound russet or baking potatoes
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups buttermilk
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
ground black pepper
for the Guinness Chicken & Mushroom filling:
1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
8 ounces boneless chicken breast, cubed
8 ounces fresh button, mushrooms quartered
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
½ cup Guinness stout
½ cup grated Irish cheddar, packed 2 ½ ounces
2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
kosher salt and ground black pepper
chopped parsley for garnish
- For the boxty pancakes: make the mashed potatoes first by peeling half the potatoes (8 ounces), cut into 1” cubes and place in a saucepan with cold water to cover and ½ teaspoon kosher salt.
- Bring to a boil and cook until tender – about 10 minutes.
- Drain and run the potatoes through a ricer or mash thoroughly. You should have around 1 ½ cups. Set aside until needed.
- Peel the remaining 8 ounces of potatoes and grate on the smaller holes of a box grater.
- Rinse and drain the potatoes twice to rinse off all starch and drain well.
- Place both the mashed and grated potatoes in a large bowl, add the flour and baking powder and stir to combine.
- Add the buttermilk and salt and pepper and mix until you have a smooth, pancake batter consistency.
- To cook: Turn oven to 250°F to keep the cooked boxty warm and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Heat a 8” non-stick skillet over medium-high until hot and add 1 teaspoon butter, swirling to coat.
- Pour ½ cup batter into the pan, spreading evenly with a spoon.
- Let cook, adjusting heat if necessary, until golden and crispy on the bottom.
- With a wide spatula or pancake turner, carefully turn the boxty over and repeat cooking on the other side until golden brown and the potatoes are tender, about 6-8 minutes total.
- Carefully turn the boxty out of the pan onto the prepared sheet pan and place in the oven to keep warm while you continue cooking the remaining batter, greasing the pan lightly with butter before each one. Place parchment between the cooked boxty to prevent sticking. You should end up with about 8 pancakes total.
- For the filling: heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add 1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil.
- Add the cubed chicken and sauté until just barely cooked through. Remove from the pan.
- Add the quartered mushrooms to the pan and sauté until golden brown. Remove from the pan and add to the cooked chicken.
- Add the butter to the pan and when melted, whisk in the flour until smooth. Cook for a minute or two to remove some of the floury taste.
- Slowly add half the milk, whisking until smooth, then add the remaining milk, whisking until smooth.
- Whisk in the Guinness and mustard and bring to a gentle boil; stir in the cheddar, thyme leaves and salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in the chicken and mushrooms and simmer over low until heated through.
- To serve: remove the boxty pancakes from the oven. Place one boxty on a plate, top half with the Guinness chicken mixture and carefully fold the top of the boxty over the filling. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve immediately.