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Celebrate with Potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day

Pot of Gold Potato BallsSt. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of food, fun and Irish tradition. It began as a religious feast for the patron saint of Ireland and has become an international festival celebrating Irish culture. Corned beef, cabbage and Irish soda bread are popular dishes, but the party wouldn’t be complete without Ireland’s favorite food, the potato.

In Ireland, the potato is the number one food crop and can be found at every meal. It plays a significant role in the Irish diet and has been a household staple since the tuberous vegetable was introduced to the country in the late 1500s. On average, the Irish eat about 250 pounds of potatoes a year, compared to Americans who eat just 140 pounds per person.

In 1845, the Irish famine began when a fungus carried on ships from North America to England its way to Dublin. The fungus caused potato leaves to turn black on the vines and rotted the potatoes. When the potatoes were pulled from the ground, they appeared normal, but they rotted after only a few days. Until 1852, there was mass starvation, disease and emigration from Ireland partly due to the potato famine. It took many years for the country and its economy to recover and for potato crops to be re-established.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations became more prevalent as increasing numbers of Irish immigrants came to America. After Ireland recovered from the famine and potato crops began to flourish, the spring planting time of the country’s favorite vegetable became another reason to celebrate.

Colcannon, potato cakes and meat/potato casseroles are some of the most popular Irish potato dishes. I love to make these potato balls for St. Patrick’s Day parties. Fried or baked, they are always a hit with my guests.

Pot of Gold Potato Balls

1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs fresh Italian parsley, minced
1 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1 egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flour
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 1/4 cups Harp Irish Beer
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
4 cups cornflakes, crushed in food processor
2 Tbs olive oil
nonstick cooking spray

Cook the potatoes and garlic cloves in boiling salted water for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain; add the butter and mash.

Let cool. Stir in the parsley, bleu cheese and egg; add salt and pepper to taste. Using floured hands, shape the potatoes into 1 to 2-inch balls or patties. Place on a baking sheet.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, beer, garlic powder and chili powder. In another bowl, add the crushed corn flakes and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Dip the potato balls into the liquid mixture and then the corn flakes. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spray the tops with cooking spray.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden, longer if your potato balls have been in the refrigerator. Serve with ranch or bleu cheese dressing. (The balls can also be cooked in the deep-fryer.)

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Posted in: Holidays, Produce, Recipes