There’s not much a wine guy can do when talk comes round to St. Patty’s Day. There are the usual green suggestions--Vinho Verde, Patricia Green Pinot Noir, Domaine Chandon’s green sparkling wine--but no real Irish wine. I could always turn to Whiskey, but in an effort to keep peace in the world, particularly the small corner I inhabit, I’ll turner to saner endeavors.
And so it was that I began leafing through Colman Andrews' The Country Cooking of Ireland. This is a lovely cookbook, full of enticing illustrations, and illustrative stories that shed light on the diverse culinary history that Ireland can lay claim to.
Of course there is the obligatory chapter on potatoes, once a poor man’s food but today the star of so many dishes, as well as sections on oats, wild game, and the rich seafood that fills coastal Ireland’s larder. So I thought to myself, why not take a recipe or two and see what you can pair with it. I may need that Patricia Green Pinot after all!
Meet Colman AndrewsColman Andrews was a co-founder of Saveur magazine and served as its second editor in chief. The recipient of six James Beard Foundation Awards, among other honors, he is the author of other culinary titles such as Catalan Cuisine, Everything on the Table, and Flavors of the Riviera, as well as co-author of three Saveur cookbooks.
Buy The Country Cooking of Ireland
While it may be easy to showcase some modern Irish fare, it would be far tougher to track down some Irish wine to pair with it. You would expect a fine beer to be accompany with a meal like this in Ireland, and it would work well, but this combination of flavors is ideally suited to several types of wines. The natural choice is the rest of the bottle used in the preparation of the lamb dish. While this is a recipe from Ireland, it has some obvious Italian influences, so why note look to Italy for a wine to use here.
I would recommend a nice Sauvignon Blanc to stand up to the lamb, but even more so the herbs used in the accompanying mashed potatoes. I am partial to Branko's Sauvignon Blanc from the Collio region of Friuli, which is in a bit of a rich style, yet balanced and delicious. Probably too good to cook with too, so opt for something less expensive for the roasting pan!
If your tastes run to red wines, maybe you can swap out the white wine in the recipe and look for a lighter red. Sticking in Italy for the moment I would suggest a lovely strawberry and herb scented Schiava as a fine match, though perhaps a bit too light for some palates. The Elda, from Mayr-Nusserhof is about as good as it gets.
If Schiava is not going to work, a slightly funky Oregon Pinot Noir is really the ideal match. Whether you use red, or white wine in the recipe, a wine like the Winter's Hill Pinot Noir would be a really great pairing, playing off the gamy edge of the lamb and herbal notes of the mash.
Click here to download a printable PDF file of this recipe. Serves 8
The Byrne Family has owned Ballyknocken Farm, in Ashford, County Wicklow, for three generations. Today, Catherine (Byrne) Fulvio runs the delightful Ballyknocken House (with five guest rooms) and Cookery School on the property, but it is still a working agricultural property. Wicklow lamb is famous all over Ireland, and Fulvio’s, raised on the farm, is particularly flavorful. She serves it to guests frequently, and this is one of her favorite recipes.
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 whole heads garlic, unpeeled halved horizontally, plus 8 cloves unpeeled, sliced lengthwise
1 bunch rosemary
Eight 6 to 8 oz lamb steaks
Salt and pepper
2 ½ cups dry white wine
1 tbsp white flour
Serve with Ballyknocken Green Mashed Potatoes
Preheat the oven to 325F
Melt 2 tbsp of the butter with the oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the sliced garlic cloves and rosemary and stir, crushing the garlic slightly into the butter and oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, then remove the garlic and the rosemary from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and fry the lamb steaks for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until well browned. Transfer the lamb to a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer with plenty of room at the sides. Put the garlic cloves and rosemary into the dish, then add the halved garlic heads, cut side up.
Bring the wine almost to a boil in a small pan over high heat, then pour over the lamb. Cover the lamb lightly with foil and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the meat is very tender.
Remove the lamb from the dish and set aside on a plate, covering it loosely with foil. Remove the halved garlic heads from the dish and cut each one in half again. Set aside. Strain the pan juices into a small bowl, pushing down the sliced garlic cloves and rosemary with the back of a wooden spoon.
Melt the remaining 1 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then sprinkle in the flour while whisking constantly and cooking for about 1 ½ minutes to make a roux. Stir in the pan juices. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
Serve the lamb garnished with pieces of garlic head and serve with Ballyknocken Green Mashed Potatoes.