TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — What many people fail to realize as they rush out to buy their St. Paddy’s Day corned beef fixens, is that without the potato there would be no Ireland. That’s right, the spud deserves a big Hail Mary and then some.
Between the years of 1845 and 1849 the entire potato crop of Ireland (and the rest of Europe too, for that matter) became diseased with what was then called “The Potato Blight.” This led to the Irish Potato Famine in which the nation, largely depended on the potato for food, starved, resulting in a million deaths and roughly the same number emigrating from Ireland to (hopefully) more plentiful shores.
This potato shortage and its fall-out became a catalyst for a nationalist movement, with the Catholic Irish (starving) rallying against the Protestant British Crown (well fed). The results? An independent Ireland in the 20th century.
To really get a grip on the correlation between hunger and rage be sure to pay close attention to those Snickers Bar commercials where mild mannered sorts like Betty White and Robin Williams turn into Joe Pesci and Mike Tyson because they are between meals. I know their truth.
My Weight Watchers counselor took out a restraining order on me. But that is another story. We are here today to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with an ode to the potato. And because it is a holiday, why not dress them up a little bit?
The following recipe for baked potato balls – or puffs – is easy to make and is kind of like an inside-out Irish nacho (translation: stuffed potato skins). I stuff mine with cheese, onions and parsley, but feel free to add little bits of bacon (about 1/2 cup) if your heart desires.
Baked Potato Puffs
8 large potatoes, boiled and peeled
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup grated onion
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup butter, melted
8 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into one-inch cubes
1 cup corn flakes, crushed
In large bowl, mash potatoes with salt, milk, onion, parsley and 1/4 cup of the melted butter. Chill until firm. Shape chilled potato mixture around cheese cubes to form 2 1 /2 inch balls. Roll in corn flakes, brush with remaining 1/4 cup melted butter and bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 350° for 20 minutes.