When it comes to culinary heritage, I claim the closest affinity with the Slavs thanks to the maternal side of my family tree. With a name like Molly Marie Sheridan, I don’t feel too obnoxious trying to get in on a little of that luck of the Irish as well, however, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. Exercising an American flexibility when it comes to culture is useful like that.
My celebration of the day here in Baltimore is a far cry from the festivities put on at my last address. Instead, this year I went the monastic route and turned to my copy of Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, pulling out a recipe for Saint Patrick Irish Cheddar Soup from the “March” chapter. Despite the name, at first I hesitated, not generally being a fan of dishes that hide their vegetables under cheese. But if it was good enough for the monks, surely it should be good enough for me, no? Plus, I had buttermilk in the fridge that was crying out to be turned into a fresh soda bread as accompaniment, so ahead full steam I charged.
Vegetable sizes being so variable, I added more carrot and potato than the recipe called for but which seemed to suite the 6 cups of broth. Having taken no religious vows, I also got crazy and doubled all the seasonings aside from the salt, which I omitted entirely (the strategic penance of a once-Catholic?). The cheese and broth seemed to provide plenty of taste-popping sodium on their own.
As I swallowed my first taste of the finished pot, the memories of every terrible bowl of broccoli cheddar soup I had ever eaten melted away–a Saint Patrick’s Day culinary conversion.
Saint Patrick Irish Cheddar Soup
based on a recipe from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups
2 leeks, sliced
6 small potatoes, cubed
6 thin carrots, sliced
4 T butter
6 cups vegetable broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. ground thyme
1/2 tsp. ground sage
1 cup milk
5 oz. grated Kerrygold Irish Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste (like I said, mine needed no additional salt, so be sure to taste before adding)
Melt butter in a stock pot. Add vegetables and saute for several minutes. Then add broth, garlic, and seasoning, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender and flavors merged, about 30 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and puree.
Add milk and cheese and continue stirring until cheese has melted. The soup should still be plenty hot enough to do so, but return to heat if necessary, taking care not to allow it to boil.
Serve hot with a hearty bread. This one is excellent and speedy, if a suggestion is needed.