Making old favorites new again
She was everything you would want a grandmother to be—sweet, soft-spoken, kind and a great listener. My beloved grandma was always ready for any eventuality, usually with a warm cookie or a slice of pie. On nights when she babysat for us, we knew there would be good food, card games and a bedtime that would be blissfully ignored.
My grandmother was a child of the Great Depression, a fact that informed much of how she lived her life. Her clothes were plain and utilitarian, down to her ever-present apron. She had porcelain-pale skin, which she moisturized with petroleum jelly, and a nimbus of white hair cut every month into a short, no-nonsense ‘do. She looked exactly like an Irish grandmother should look.
Her kitchen was as no-nonsense as everything else about her. The meals she made were unfussy, leaning heavily toward comfort food that was filling and economical. Her macaroni and cheese was a wonder. And her molasses cookies were second to none.
My father, her only child, went to military school from the time he was 12, going on to graduate from West Point. His academic and career accomplishments were a source of enormous pride for a woman who worked several jobs to give him advantages she never had.
A holdover from his military days was my father’s love of creamed chipped beef on toast—or as it’s known to soldiers everywhere, S.O.S. (Until I was 9 or 10, my grandmother told me S.O.S. stood for “Stuff on a Shingle.” It was a thrilling day when she finally let me in on the secret of its true name.)
This homespun dish is, for many, the very definition of comfort food. The classic preparation is creamy béchamel sauce mixed with shredded dried beef, spooned over toast. It isn’t beautiful, but it warms the stomach and, for some, touches the heart.
I think of my late grandmother often, but especially on holidays, which she loved and celebrated with special meals for each one. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and in the spirit of Grandma Leta, I wanted to create a St. Paddy’s version of Stuff on a Shingle.
What could be more Irish than Guinness stout and corned beef and cabbage, the ingredients that transform my culinary homage? Cheddar cheese completes this transformation, yielding a sauce that, unlike its inspiration, is nuanced, bold and full of flavor. While this would be delicious over toast, I added to the Irish vibe by creating my shingle from hashed brown potatoes.
To really get into the spirit of the day, I’ll start my St. Patrick’s celebration with a Shamrock Smoothie. Lunch will be a grilled cheese with corned beef and braised cabbage.
Grandma Leta would be proud of my clever use of St. Paddy’s leftovers to make the ordinary special.
? ST. PADDY’S ON A SHINGLE
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup Guinness stout
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
4 ounces corned beef, sliced into 1-inch strips
6 ounces cabbage, shredded into very thin strips
4 slices of hearty white or wheat bread, toasted or 4 frozen hash brown patties (I found mine at Trader Joe’s)
Salt and pepper to taste
Toast bread or prepare hash browns according to package directions. Set aside.
Over medium heat, melt better in a pan.
Mix in flour and cook until light golden brown, about 2–3 minutes.
Add Guinness, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and sugar. While stirring, cook until it thickens, about 2–3 minutes.
Add cheese. Stirring constantly, cook until it melts about 3–4 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and add cabbage. Cook until softened 2–3 minutes.
Add corned beef and cook until warmed through.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over toast or hash browns.
? SHAMROCK SMOOTHIE
It’s hard to believe this gorgeously green smoothie tastes as good as it looks. Get a serving of fruit and one of vegetables as well as a punch of protein from the Greek yogurt. It’s the perfect, healthy way to start St. Patrick’s Day!
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (you can use vanilla if you like a sweeter smoothie)
1 cup ice
1 cup baby spinach
1 small banana, cut in pieces
3/4 cup low fat milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
2–3 mint leaves (optional)
Using a blender or a food processor, blend all ingredients together into a luscious, yummy breakfast or snack.
? ST. PADDY’S GRILLED CHEESE
2 slices of your favorite bread
1 tablespoon of butter, room temperature
2–4 ounces of cheese (I like mine grated but slices are fine)
2 slices of corned beef (leftover or deli slices)
2–4 tablespoons of leftover cabbage (sauerkraut is also yummy)
Butter bread. Place one slice, butter side down, in a skillet over medium low heat.
Put half of the cheese on the bread.
Add corned beef and a dollop of cabbage.
Add the rest of the cheese.
Top with the second slice of bread, butter side up. Press with a spatula.
Flip when bread is golden brown.
Grill until both sides are golden and toasty and cheese is bubbling and melted.
Candace Karu makes her living writing about food, fitness and travel. She lives near the ocean in an old farmhouse with two ill-behaved dogs and two hard-working barn cats. Follow her on Instagram: @candacekaru or at www.candacekaru.com.