St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and everyone will be making Corned Beef and Cabbage, Shepherd’s Pie and Irish Soda Bread. There are so many other traditional Irish dishes that are really spot on, but never seem to bubble to the surface: Dublin Coddle (sausage, bacon and potato), Colcannon (potatoes and cabbage), and Boxty. Boxty, you ask? Boxty, known as “poor house bread,” is simply a traditional potato pancake. Ask any Irishman or lass and they will wax poetic on this dish. Hailing from the North, this super simple fried pancake is comfort food at its best.
When I started thinking about how I could add my twist on this traditional dish I reached out to my friend and local Westchester Irish playwright Brona Crehan, for some tips and tricks. Both of her grandmothers made this for her when she was a kid in Ireland, though each had their own take, as one would imagine.
Traditionally boxty is made with grated potato, onion, buttermilk and flour – give or take a few ingredients. Some recipes call for egg and some not. It seems many an Irish Granny skipped the egg and just used flour and buttermilk to keep their boxty intact. I knew I wanted to try to skip the flour, but how could I keep things “together”? Ground flax or egg seemed to make sense.
Right about now we are in what I like to call the “tired boring lull” of the northeast vegetable year. Everyone, including me, is pretty much done with root vegetables, the last survivors of Fall. So what could I do to jazz them, and this dish, up? The answer was easy: roast them!
A great way to bring out the full flavor of any vegetable is to roast it over high heat. I used a mix of several vegetables: turnip, parsnip, carrot and, of course, potato.
While that magic was happening in the oven I did a quick saute of onion, garlic and kale.
After roasting I gently smashed the veggies with a potato masher. Keeping some nice chunks for texture.
The stickiness of the mash will generally keep things together, though I did use both an egg for one half and the vegan egg substitute of flax and water for the other half. Surprisingly the flax (one part ground flax to two parts water) being slightly more successful in binding.
Once the patties were made I immediately pan-fried a couple. The rest went into the fridge over night. The immediate batch is creamy and soft while those that rested overnight held together a bit better. Either way they turned out really delish. The flavors of the vegetables came together in such a beautiful way.
These patties are very versatile. You can use them as a side dish or as a stand alone with salad and some grains mixed in. I would suggest topping it with either a nice Irish cheese like Dubliner, or a few squirts of hot sauce to give it a little kick.
This is a great make-ahead dish for your St. Patrick’s Day feast. Make them a day or two before, layering between sheets of parchment paper. Then pan fry in a nonstick pan with either butter or flavorless oil, and serve warm.
Root Vegetable Boxty
Makes 12 patties
1 tablespoon of ground flax seed or 1 egg beaten
1 lb parsnip, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
1 lb carrot, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
1 lb red skinned potato, cut into 1” pieces, skin on
1 lb turnip, cut into 1” pieces, skin on
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
1 medium red onion, ¼” dice
2 garlic cloves minced
½ bunch of kale, stems stripped and leaves finely chopped
½ loose cup chopped parsley
Butter or flavorless oil
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. If using ground flax place in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons of water, mix and set aside. If using egg beat it and set aside.
3. Place the parsnip and carrots on one rimmed sheet tray and the potato and turnips on another. Drizzle with olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Toss and place in the preheated oven. After 10 minutes check, and rotate the trays. Continue to cook for 5-10 minutes more, or until the vegetables are soft and golden.
4. While the vegetables are roasting saute the onion and garlic with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until they become golden brown.
5. Add the kale and saute for another 3-5 minutes. If the onions become a little sticky add ¼ cup of water or stock to loosen up the bits. Set aside in a large bowl.
6. When the vegetables are done remove from oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes. With a potato masher crush the vegetables on the baking sheets. Keeping some pieces a little chunky. Scrap into the bowl with the onion-kale mix.
7. With your hands or a flat spoon toss all the ingredients. Pour the flax mix or beaten egg over, parsley and another good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Gently toss to combine all the ingredients and shape into 12 patties and refrigerate overnight.
8. Cook in a non-stick saute pan, using a small amount of butter or oil. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.