St. Patrick's Day Dinner Solved in Cathal Armstrong's My Irish Table
All photos copyright 2014 by Scott Suchman, courtesy Ten Speed Press Irish stew, ala Armstrong
Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York's best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we'll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back every Tuesday for a new book.
My Irish Table: Recipes from the homeland and Restaurant Eve
By Cathal Armstrong and David Hagedorn, 272 pages, Ten Speed Press, $35
"I never, ever set out to be a chef," native Dubliner Cathal Armstrong admits early in a recent conversation about his new book My Irish Table, which drops today. "That wasn't my life plan." But that's exactly what happened for the DC chef and owner of Restaurant Eve, which has garnered a hungry following and even feeds the Obamas from time to time.
Armstrong came from a food-focused family that traveled a lot (his father was a travel agent and passionate cook) and planned trips not around sites and destinations, but around eating, from packing to rest-stops. Food figured prominently in the itinerary, and at home, meals were sacrosanct: "You were not permitted to miss dinner. That was not part of the general makeup of our house; everybody sat together, and all eight of us ate together."
With the success of Restaurant Eve, which serves Irish classics and modern cuisine, Armstrong says he embraced the opportunity to collect his repertoire into one place. In the book are simple recipes anyone can cook -- an Irish BLT; roasted potatoes -- and tougher instructions, for dishes like pan-roasted rockfish with mushroom reduction and mock risotto, plus a tutorial on how to make blood pudding and Irish blood sausage from scratch.
But as the project progressed, it became much more personal than that. Each dish starts with a history, and throughout the book, Armstrong shares stories of growing up in Dublin in a big Catholic family, on gardening through tough times, failing through his first restaurant, and later, cooking for the Obamas and Julia Child.
On the next page, Armstrong chats about St. Patrick's day dinner, tweaking old recipes, and understanding the Irish climate.