It's easy to love St. Patrick's Day. It's a jovial, stress-free occasion that, for me, always feels like the start of spring.
When we think of St. Paddy's Day fare, most Americans automatically turn to corned beef and cabbage. That's not necessarily the case in Ireland, although they do love their meat, cabbage and potatoes, and comfort food usually rules the day.
This year, I thought I'd mix it up and try to fit all my favorite Irish ingredients between a cheese-packed pastry with this Ham, Cabbage and Potato Pie With Irish Cheddar Crust.
While this luxurious pot pie will remind you of some of your favorite, more traditional versions, it takes it to the next level with a crust that tastes like a big, flaky, buttery Irish cheddar cheese straw.
I like to use an aged, sharp cheddar, as that has the most flavor, and I like to use a lot of it. But because cheeses can vary widely in their moisture levels, you might have to adjust the liquid in the crust recipe, depending on which cheese you're using. If your cheese has a very dry texture, a bit more water may be needed to pull the dough together.
All this cheesy goodness is wrapped around a worthy filling that starts with leeks and cabbage, which are sautéed until tender. Chicken broth, along with fresh thyme and a generous dollop of whole-grain mustard, are added along with (you guessed it) potatoes. The whole thing is cooked until the sauce is thick and the potatoes are tender.
Cream and chunks of ham are stirred into the mix before the filling is cooled in the refrigerator. This is a necessary step, as putting hot filling into uncooked pie dough is a recipe for disaster. The heat melts the butter in the dough before it even hits the oven. The result is a dense, doughy texture, and a puddle of grease at the bottom of the pie plate. Not exactly the texture we're looking for.
Speaking of pie plates, it's worth noting that not all 9-inch plates are created equal. Some are deeper than others. With that in mind, the filling amount in this recipe is on the generous side to ensure that you'll have enough. But don't be tempted to overfill, as your pie may crack and filling may come spilling out during the baking process. If you have a little extra, consider it the cook's treat.
What to drink with this taste of Ireland? Yes, a creamy chardonnay or dry cider will work, but hey, if there's ever a day to drink a Harp's or Guinness, this is it. Maybe follow it with a little Jameson or Red Breast whiskey. After all, we're all Irish on St. Patrick's Day.
Ham, Cabbage and Potato Pie With Irish Cheddar Crust
Serves 6 to 8.
Note: With sautéed leeks, cabbage, ham and potatoes, all swimming in a thyme-scented creamy sauce, there's a whole lot of Irish packed into this cheddar-crust pot pie. Cheeses differ in their moisture levels. If your cheese is very dry, you may have to add a little more water to your crust to get it to come together. From Meredith Deeds.
• 2 1/2 c. flour
• 1 tsp. salt
• 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
• 1/2 c. ice water, plus more as needed
• 1 3/4 c. shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (preferably Irish)
• 1 large egg, beaten (for egg wash)
• 1/4 c. unsalted butter
• 1 c. thinly sliced leeks (about 1 medium leek)
• 2 c. chopped green cabbage
• 4 tbsp. flour
• 2 c. chicken broth
• 1 c. peeled and cubed (1/4-in.) Yukon Gold potatoes (6 oz.)
• 1 tbsp. whole grain mustard
• 1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 c. heavy cream
• 2 c. cubed (1/2-in.) ham
To prepare the crust: Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter and cheese until pieces are pea-size. (Alternatively, combine ingredients in a food processor and pulse 8 or 9 times. Transfer to a bowl.) Sprinkle the ice water over the top and mix until incorporated. Pinch dough with your fingers; if dough feels dry and does not hold together, sprinkle an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of ice water over mixture and gently mix until the dough forms large clumps and no dry flour remains. Do not overwork the dough.
Divide dough in half and form each half into 4‑inch disks. Wrap disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Let chilled dough sit on counter to soften slightly, about 15 minutes, just before rolling.
To prepare the filling: Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring, until the leeks begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add cabbage and continue to cook, stirring, for another 4 to 5 minutes, until softened. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Slowly stir in broth and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Stir in potatoes, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is thickened and potato is tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream and ham.
Spread out filling on a large, rimmed baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll 1 disk of dough into 12‑inch circle. Fold pastry into fourths and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Unfold and ease pastry into pie plate without stretching it. Roll remaining half of dough into a 12-inch circle.
Transfer cooled filling to dough-lined pie plate (filling should only come up to within 1/2 inch of the pie plate rim). Gently transfer remaining dough circle onto filling. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of plate. Pinch edges of top and bottom crusts firmly together. Tuck overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of plate. Crimp dough evenly around edge of plate using your fingers. Cut four 2-inch slits in top of dough.
In a small bowl, mix beaten egg together with 1 tablespoon water and brush over the top crust. Place pie on rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating pan after 20 minutes, until crust is deep golden brown. Cover edges with foil if they begin to brown too much. Let pie cool on wire rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.