Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As we discussed last year, part of my family hails from the Emerald Isle, and as every March 17th approaches, I eagerly anticipate another chance to cook food from the country of my ancestors.
You’re probably already familiar with Guinness beef stew, Colcannon, and soda bread/biscuits, traditional and popular Irish fare, not to mention the many green dishes that take over the table at this time of year.
I love most of these dishes, I truly do, but I’ve been increasingly interested in wanting to know a little more about the meals that aren’t the most familiar or famous, but are the hearty plates that a home cook prepares for their family on a daily basis, like today’s toasties.
These aren’t the foods that are well known thanks to travelers, cookbooks, or food trends; they are dishes that the Nonnas and Nannies of the world are plating for their people when it comes to feeding them on busy weeknights when simple food needs to be stretched to feed many mouths around the table each night.
My Irish father-in-law fondly remembers eating “toasties” when he was younger; an open-faced cheesy sandwich made with grated cheddar and eggs, two things that were readily available in his parent’s home.
In fact, it’s been said that in the years between St. Patrick (the 400s) and the arrival of the potato (the 1600s) Irish cuisine could best be described as “milky” thanks to the lush green pastures that fed the country’s beloved cows, bearers of some of the best dairy produced around the world.
My family wasn’t around during that time, of course, but they certainly have an affinity for all things dairy, with butter and cheese sitting at the top of the list. This simple sandwich makes use of both ingredients.
While today’s toasties are more like a traditional sandwich, assembled with two slices of bread and a variety of funky fillings, I prefer the version I’m most familiar with and like to think about how this humble dish kept members of our Irish family well-fed over the years. Often served with potato soup, this is the true definition of Celtic cuisine, as far as I’m concerned.
|Baked Cheese Toasties|| || |
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 4 one-inch thick slices crusty bread
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 2 1/2 cups shredded Irish cheddar
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter one side of each slice of bread and place the pieces buttered-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Stir in the cheese, making sure the egg mixture evenly coats the shredded pieces.
- Remove the toasts from the oven and divide the cheese mixture over the top of the four pieces of bread, taking care to spread it to the edges of each slice.
- Bake until puffed and golden brown, 12 - 15 minutes. Serve warm.
Editor’s Note: Pair these toasties with this green Broccoli Spinach Soup for a simple St. Paddy’ Day lunch or dinner!
Tell me, where do your ancestors come from? Which humble dish from that culture are you most fond of?