Last week I had a hankering for beer-battered fish. And beer-battered fish made me think of fish and chips… which made me think of Ireland… which made me decide to have an Irish-inspired dinner party, even if it was a week before St. Patrick’s Day.
I invited a couple of friends over who I know share my love for beer, fish and all things Irish. Even Jack got into the spirit and offered to make this handmade menu. He was very proud of it. I love everything about this menu, especially the leprechaun in the top right corner.
For an appetizer, I picked up a trio of Irish cheeses from Cheesetique: Guinness Cheddar, Coolea, and Cashel Blue. The Cashel Blue came highly recommended from the woman in line next to me who happened to be from Ireland. Can’t go wrong there!
Every Irish dinner party should have Irish Soda Bread, right? So I bought a fresh loaf from The Happy Tart (still on the baking sheet in the oven). Dense, yet moist, and with a hint of caraway, it was divine. And gluten-free, by the way.
And don’t forget the Guinness…
I let the cheese warm up to room temp before the guests arrived. Hands down, Cashel Blue was the favorite of the night. I especially enjoyed the Cashel Blue paired with the Irish Soda Bread (available every Saturday in March).
For the main course, I made the beer-battered fish (recipe from Epicurious using cod from Whole Foods), roasted red potatoes (the “chips”) and a spinach and orzo salad (the requisite green, healthy dish).
After cutting the cod into about 3-inch long pieces and coating in the thick batter, off they went to the hot oil.
The first batch looked good, but they weren’t too crispy. The second batch fell apart in the hot oil (I should have stopped poking them with my tongs). But by the third batch, the oil was the right temp and things were getting nice and crispy. I don’t deep fry a lot so it took a little trial and error.
While the fish sizzled in the pot, the potatoes roasted in the oven. Drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, they cooked in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes and they started to turn light golden brown.
I made the spinach and orzo before the guests arrived — roughly chopped baby spinach mixed with orzo, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. It added some nice color to the plate and balanced out the fact that we just consumed all that rich cheese.
Overall, it was an enjoyable meal and a wonderful end to a cool but sunny Irish day. We probably won’t be frying fish for a while (my house still smells days later) but with all this warm weather perhaps it’s time to start grilling outside.