Tag Archives: St. Patrick’s Day

Cucumber Sandwiches (Wilde Party Essential)

27 Mar

There is nothing that says English high tea quite like cucumber sandwiches. They call to mind white lace tablecloths, starched just so; the fine china; someone’s Aunts Augusta and Elizabeth; itchy wool socks, the smell of wet dogs just come in from a run in the garden, that sort of thing.

But when you are reading Oscar Wilde’s  The Importance of Being Earnest with friends, two things become apparent.

Watch them disappear

Watch them disappear

One is that it is not the prissy or genteel aunts who are nibbling delicately on the the cucumber sandwiches…no, no. they never get a chance. In this play of love and marriage and double entendres, it is the naughty, insouciant young gentlemen who can’t keep their hands off those cucumber sandwiches and who eat them up before anyone else has a chance. If you choose to look into this further, you might make some connections between the rigidity of social norms of the times and the lust for life that busts out around the edges of it all. Or you might not.

The second thing that becomes apparent is that cucumber sandwiches are fantastic. This is the recipe: Good white sandwich bread from a bakery (thanks to David and Citarella), crusts removed (thanks to Ashley), good salted butter (Irish, in this case), and thinly sliced English hothouse cucumbers (unpeeled, by executive decision; if they’d been the thick-peeled American ones, the peels would have had to come off), topped with a sprinkle of sea salt before putting the top slice of bread on, and there you have them.

“Why are these so good?” Lori kept asking me. “What is it?”

And there really isn’t a particular answer to that except that every one of the ingredients was exactly right. But they are really, really good, and I can see plates of these disappearing off the picnic platters this summer at my house.

Why are they so good? Because they are.

Why are they so good? Because they are.

For more on throwing a play-reading party, click here.

Stilton and Toasted Walnut Balls (more Wilde party recipes)

23 Mar

Stilton is to England as Gorgonzola is to Italy, as Roquefort is to France, as Danish Blue is to …oh come on, must I?

As such, this blue cheese was the perfect choice for an Anglo-Irish themed evening during which we were reading Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and drinking Pimm’s and eating beef stew and shepherd’s pie and ushering in St. Patrick’s Day. If it was a bit of a mix of cultural culinary references…well that’s okay by me! I’m American; we screw this stuff up all the time. Just look at the eight page menus at a “Greek diner” and tell me how that makes any sense whatsoever.

A view of the welcome appetizer table. Hot food was later set out in the kitchen for self-service...

A view of the welcome appetizer table. Hot food was later set out in the kitchen for self-service…

So my friend David, who is actually quite famous for his good taste, and who kindly offered to help with the planning and preparations, found the following recipe for Stilton and Toasted Walnut Balls, originally from the BBC. I didn’t so much adapt it as make the instructions more specific to make it more user-friendly. I started it early in the morning and he finished it up a couple of hours before party time.

Rich (very rich, very, very rich) and crunchy and peppery, it has a terrific mix of things going on in every tiny bite. Twenty-six may not seem like much for a party of ten, but trust me, they are very satisfying and most people are not going to have more than two before looking for something more crisp and bracing to balance them.

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Traditional Irish Shepherd’s Pie with Lamb

18 Mar

So about this Anglo-Irish party.

I have long, long, loooong wanted to stage a dramatic reading of a play at someone’s home. You know, just get copies of a play for everyone, assign roles and read it. In my mind’s eye, it would be a wine-sodden affair (to ease stage fright and add to the hilarity), and there would be good food between the acts to keep the energy going (and keep the wine from creating utter chaos). I mean, I like a regular old dinner party as much as anyone, but since I can’t seem to leave well enough alone, I thought this would be a worthy way to imbibe in the name of Art.

A view of the early buffet items

A view of the early buffet items

This would, however, require a lot more space than I have in my little apartment. So I mentioned it to likely friends over the years, and everyone thought it would be a great thing indeed. A few even laid claim to having thought up the idea themselves (which I have most vociferously not allowed to happen…you know who you are and you are never-ever-ever going to get away with it).

Before the mashed potato topping

Before the mashed potato topping

But no one offered to have it at theirs.

Finally, I did what all of us high achievers must do when we have a great idea. I did it myself.

I set a date, commandeered my parents’ kitchen and living room in their absence (which in my teenage years would have been called having a party when your parents are away and sort of hoping it doesn’t go all Risky Business on you), invited a few friends, made an executive decision on the play (The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Play for Serious People by Oscar Wilde). I ordered multiple copies from the local library. Then I started menu planning.

This is where we wonder whether we've poured ourselves enough wine to last through Act One. We ended up bringing the bottles along...just in case

This is where we wonder whether we’ve poured ourselves enough wine to last through Act One. We ended up bringing the bottles along…just in case

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