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Published: Tuesday, 3/9/2010

An Irish Feast: Neighbors' menu puts guests in the St. Patrick's Day spirit

When food is your passion and your Irish blood starts percolating early in March, why wait until St. Patrick's Day to celebrate?

Marcia Lynch and Chuck Riley answered that question last Thursday when they presented an Irish menu that brought raves from their guests, who learned there is more to Irish food than corned beef and cabbage.

Ms. Lynch and Mr. Riley, who are neighbors at Stoney Creek Farms on Dorr Street and share an interest in cooking and trying new recipes, went far beyond the traditional Jiggs dinner.

The medley of corned beef and vegetables was included, but even it had a twist. The pleasant, unexpected flavor was delivered by apple juice, a standard ingredient when Mr. Riley cooks the brisket in a slow cooker.

The evening at Ms. Lynch's home began with a delectable Blarney Cheese and Onion Tart, the fi rst of several unexpected Emerald Isle menu turns.

A soft, savory cheese custard and mellow onions baked in the rich tart crust.

It is a recipe to save; it is served by Ms. Lynch as an appetizer or as a luncheon entree.

Dessert includes servings of Irish Coffee Caramel Mousse, foreground, a cup of Irish coffee, and cookies. Dessert includes servings of Irish Coffee Caramel Mousse, foreground, a cup of Irish coffee, and cookies.

Ms. Lynch, who enjoys cooking because of the friendship and camaraderie it provides, is a technology facilitator for the Toledo Public Schools.

The luck of the Irish may have played a part in several recipe tests, but it also proved that experienced cooks know their way around the kitchen. It was the first time Ms. Lynch had made the tart.

In his research for Irish recipes, Mr. Riley was intrigued by Newfoundland Figgy Duff and tried the recipe.

Joyce Lawniczak, Ms. Lynch's sister, brought a different version of Irish soda bread and an Irish Coffee Caramel Mousse that could put creme brulee on the back burner.

Figgy Duff, dark brown with molasses and spices, is a steamed pudding that takes well to cream when served. There was some discussion about Mr. Riley's mulligatawny soup — should it be pureed?

He did, blending the chicken, apple, and rice with curry and other spices into a smooth consistency.

Mr. Riley would never let St. Patrick's Day pass without preparing corned beef and cabbage with apple juice. That's the way he made it when he owned Riley on Reynolds at the corner of Heatherdowns and Reynolds roads.

“The enjoyment for me in cooking is to see the enjoyment of other people,” he said. When asked about the restaurant business, his Irish humor twinkled.

“I bought the restaurant so that my wife could say every day for the rest of her life, ‘I told you not to buy that restaurant.' But I loved every minute of it.”

Ms. Lawniczak's bread dough is made with whole wheat fl our, studded with walnuts, and baked as large rolls, but like the usual Irish soda bread, it calls for buttermilk and plenty of soda. Irish coffee mousse has to be made with Irish whiskey — no cheating.

Over shamrock sugar cookies and Irish coffee, the after-dinner conversation was a natural.

Who would have the St. Patrick's Day dinner on March 17?

Chris Riley, Mr. Riley's son, volunteered, but said his corned beef would probably be cooked with orange juice instead of apple.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.

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