Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Irish Table: a book review

my Irish Table

I immediately fell in love with Cathal Armstrong’s story and Scott Suchman’s gorgeous photography in My Irish Table, but I need a good Colorado snowstorm to actually move the book from coffee table status to the kitchen essential shelf.

Armstrong was born in Dublin, and his family life sounded familiar save for one fact: his father did most of the cooking. At age 20, Armstrong came to America and worked his way up in the kitchens of great chefs, eventually opening Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, VA.  Armstrong shares his failures along the way to his success. I loved his humility and honesty about what led his first place, The Baytree in Monkstown, to close. He was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine in 2006, and now owns several establishments.

irish breakfast

Siblings and cousins, look familiar? Other than the fancy toast holder, that looks like my mom’s breakfast table. She even had that exact pattern of blue dishes. The book includes a recipe for black pudding, one of my dad’s favorites.

I love that Armstrong makes the same point I have unsuccessfully tried to make for years. He talks about the special dispensation the Catholic church gave to celebrate St. Patrick’s day during Lent, and concludes with this line: “One thing you probably won’t find on the Irish Table is Corned Beef, which is an American tradition.” YES! Instead he shares a Roast Leg of Lamb recipe with au Jus and Herb Pesto. My nana, Mary McMahon, made roast leg of lamb on Sundays, and I’m excited to try this version.

Armstrong still includes a recipe for Corned Beef but as an appropriate dish for Halloween. His takes 17 days to prepare…so I probably won’t be trying it soon.

I hope I haven’t given the impression that his recipes are all complicated or old school Irish. There is a definite French influence, and he also has simple delights like Cheese on Toast, given an upgrade with tomatoes and chili powder.

cheese on toast

I know my sister Erin would enjoy his emphasis on quality salts, local beef, and homemade stocks. My cousin Maureen would love the photography, which includes the Irish countryside and shop fronts. My copy is sure to soon be stained and spotted, a sign of being well-loved. My anti-Brussels Sprouts family enjoyed his recipe (bacon can save almost anything), and I loved his addition of a Serrano chile to Beef Stew. Next up, we’re going to try his Irish Soda Bread along side my mom’s recipe and compare.

Also, because it is a rare quality in many cookbooks, the book is well-indexed and organized with a conversion chart, glossary and list of resources for humanly-raised meat and poultry.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review.

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