Saturday, March 10, 2012

Irish Potato Farls Breakfast

A míle fáilte!

With only six shopping days left till St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be good to celebrate with something a little more authentic than the usual mid-March atrocities that reduce Ireland’s rich culture to green bagels and paper leprechaun hats.

The solution? An easy, delicious Irish Potato Farls Breakfast.

Nobody does breakfast like the Irish. Northern Ireland, for example, has the Ulster Fry, the ultimate in heart-attack-on-a-plate decadence, consisting of two eggs, two sausages, two slices of bacon, two slices of black pudding (a mixture of onions, pork fat, oatmeal, spices, and pig blood), and two of the aforementioned potato farls. (To keep all of this from becoming unhealthy, some cooks add a tomato.)

Having dedicated my culinary life to making reduced fat food taste good, we’re going to put aside most elements of the Ulster Fry and concentrate on the potato farls, a delightful potato pancake that’s crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. (New Yorkers might be reminded of a knish.) The name comes from “fardel,” a Gaelic word meaning four parts. (As you’ll see, the rolled out potato dough is cut into four parts for cooking.) There are other varieties besides the potato kind: soda farls (an Irish soda bread dough flattened and cooked in a pan or griddle instead of being baked in an oven); wheaten farls (similar to soda farls but made with whole wheat flour); and treacle farls (made with treacle, which is similar to molasses).

In this recipe, we’ll make a hearty breakfast by serving the potato farls with eggs topped with onions, herbs, chopped turkey sausage, and Irish cheese; turkey sausage with mustard; and a bit of fresh fruit. (If you want black pudding, you’re going to have to add that on your own.)

Some Cook’s Notes before we begin:
  • Thanks to dear friend Sheila, she of “Norn Iron,” for starting me thinking about farls in the first place.
  • Traditional potato farls are made without the onion, rosemary and thyme used in this recipe. To season them for the American palate while still respecting Irish culture, I’ve added these items which, while not ordinarily found in farls, are often found elsewhere in the cuisine. Similarly, farls are generally made with boiled potatoes; I prefer to bake them for a little deeper flavor.
  • Farls are best eaten soon after cooking. Saved overnight, the outsides lose a lot of their crispness, and they’re just not the same.

This recipe makes eight farls. (One is a good portion for most people; big eaters might want two.)

On a griddle, cook enough turkey sausages to have two whole links per serving, plus one diced link to top each serving of eggs.

Grate some Irish cheese to top the eggs you’ll be cooking.

Bake 2 to 2-1/4 pounds of potatoes until tender. (Baking them in the microwave is recommended; otherwise, bake as you ordinarily would to serve baked potatoes.) After the potatoes are baked, cut them into pieces. As much as possible, do the remaining steps with the potatoes warm to hot.

Put the pieces through a ricer or food mill. (You can use a masher, but the ricer or food mill will give a better texture since it doesn’t repeatedly beat up the starches in the potato the way a masher does.)

Stir in 1-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons of melted butter substitute, 3 tablespoons of minced onion, 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, ½ tablespoon of salt (more or less to taste), and ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper (more or less to taste).

Mix until well combined into a dough-like consistency, adding up to ½ cup of additional flour if necessary to get the right texture. When the dough is mixed, knead lightly for a minute or two.

Cut the dough ball in half. Roll out one of the halves to a circle about ¼” thick. (Tip: when rolling the dough, putting wax paper on top of the dough makes clean-up easier.)

Cut the rolled-out dough into four wedges.

Place the wedges on a lightly oiled hot griddle and cook till golden and slightly crisp on the outside, about three minutes per side. If you want to top your eggs with some additional chopped onion, you can place it on the griddle and cook it at the same time as the farls.

Place the cooked wedges on a plate and cover with a clean towel while you repeat the rolling, cutting and cooking with the other half of the dough, and complete the remaining steps.

Cook your eggs in whatever style you prefer, and top with the cooked onions, diced sausage, a bit of the rosemary and thyme, and some of the cheese.

On each plate, put one or two farls, the eggs, two sausage links with mustard, and some fresh fruit as pictured above.

Now that’s what I call a hearty breakfast, and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. (On any other day of the year, too!)

You can download the recipe by clicking here.

Hope you enjoy this special treat. Hope, too, that you’ll be back next week for another fun, delicious recipe. (Why not also tell a friend who you think might enjoy what we do here!) Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to póg an cócaire. ;-)

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