Desmond Stang is author of "The Delectable Apple" and "A Little Northwest Cookbook" (both Chronicle Books)

In my family, Saint Patrick's Day was second only to Christmas. Weeks before the big day, Dad played scratchy old 78 records of all the old Irish ballads, and when March 17 arrived, we'd sit down to corned beef and cabbage and green beer.

But there are other ways to celebrate. This menu is inspired by the Emerald Isle, but it would be equally appropriate to mark the beginning of spring or Sunday's scheduled return of the swallows to Capistrano. As we Irish well know, any excuse for a party will do.

To drink, try a dry white with enough acid to balance the salmon and mussels, such as a Northwest Fume Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc, or a Chardonnay with a minimum of oak. Another option: Harp Lager, tinted green if you like.

Later, offer mugs or glasses of Irish coffee made with Irish whiskey, steaming coffee, and a float of sweetened whipped cream--the same ingredients that go into this menu's dessert.

As they say in Ireland, Slainte ! That's pronounced slawn-cheh and means good health!


Mussels and leeks in cream broth

Irish whole-grain soda bread

Broiled salmon fillets with trio of green sauces

Boiled new potatoes

Steamed asparagus

Frozen Irish coffee mousse in chocolate cups


Molly Malone might have had in mind when she hawked her "Cockles and Mussels, Alive Alive-oh."

4 to 6 pounds mussels, or small clams

2 tablespoons butter

2 large leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced crosswise, white and pale green parts only

2 shallots, minced

1 cup dry white wine or clam juice

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup minced parsley

Freshly ground pepper

* Remove beards from mussels and discard any that do not close when touched. Scrub mussels with brush under cold running water and reserve.

* Melt butter in large pan or stock pot over medium heat. Add leeks and shallots and saute 1 minute over medium heat. Stir in wine and simmer 1 minute. Add cleaned mussels and stir. Cover and cook until shells open, about 8 minutes. Remove mussels with slotted spoon to warm shallow bowls, discarding any that do not open. Add cream and parsley to broth and continue to cook and stir 2 minutes. Season to taste with pepper. Pour broth over mussels.

Makes 8 to 10 appetizer servings.

Each of 10 servings contains about:

149 calories; 208 mg sodium; 39 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0.43 grams fiber.


This version, flavored with old-fashioned rolled oats and dark molasses, is similar to the soda bread served at Ballymaloe House in County Cork, Ireland. Bake the bread early in the day and reheat it just before the guests arrive.

3 cups whole-wheat flour, preferably stone ground

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for working dough

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

2 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons dark molasses or black treacle

* Thoroughly combine whole-wheat and all-purpose flours, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Stir in oats. Make well in center.

* Combine buttermilk and molasses in separate bowl. Pour mixture into flour well and gradually work into flour with fingers or spoon.

* Knead dough lightly 3 or 4 times on floured surface and divide in half. Shape into 2 round loaves, each about 5 inches in diameter. With sharp knife, score loaves with cross slash, cutting about 1 inch deep.

* Place loaves on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees 15 minutes, then reduce heat and continue to bake 25 to 30 minutes longer or until loaves are brown on top and sound hollow when tapped on bottom. Cool at least 5 minutes on cooling rack. Loaves can be baked several hours ahead and reheated in low oven. Cut into thick or thin wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 2 loaves, 8 servings each.

Each serving contains:

140 calories; 257 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 28 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.55 grams fiber.


The idea of salmon with three sauces started with my Mom. Every time Eileen, my sister who lives in Alaska, arrives with a salmon, Mom plans a party. Generous amounts of the sauces are suggested because they not only complement the salmon but also the new potatoes and steamed artichokes or asparagus. Broiling individual salmon fillets is an easy technique when you're feeding a crowd. If the weather is nice, consider grilling the fillets outside.

8 to 10 (4- to 6-ounce) center-cut salmon fillets


Freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated or minced onion

1/4 teaspoon ground paprika

Watercress sprigs

* Coat rack of broiler pan with non-stick cooking spray. Season salmon lightly to taste with salt and pepper. Place salmon, skin-side-down, on broiler rack.

* Combine olive oil, lemon juice, onion and paprika in small bowl. Brush on salmon.

* Place broiler pan with salmon about 4 inches from heat and broil, basting occasionally, until fish is opaque and just flakes when tested at thickest part, about 8 minutes for 1-inch-thick fillet. Do not turn.

* Transfer fillets to warm platter or plates. Serve with Cucumber Dill Sauce, Remoulade Sauce and/or Watercress Sauce.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Each serving contains:

187 calories; 89 mg sodium; 44 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 0 grams carbohydrates; 25 grams protein; 0.02 grams fiber.


1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, grated and squeezed dry

1 (8-ounce) carton plain yogurt

1/4 cup minced fresh dill weed or 2 to 3 teaspoons dried dill

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Freshly ground pepper

Dill sprigs

* Combine cucumber, yogurt, minced dill, salt, sugar and pepper to taste in bowl. Mix well. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Garnish with dill sprigs.

Makes about 1 2/3 cups.

Each tablespoon contains about:

10 calories; 52 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 0 grams fat; 1 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.08 grams fiber.


1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons minced parsley

2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons, sour gherkins or dill pickles

1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon or 3/4 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon

2 to 5 teaspoons lemon juice

Parsley sprigs

* Combine mayonnaise, parsley, capers, cornichons and tarragon in bowl. Add lemon juice to taste. Blend well. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Garnish with parsley sprigs.

Makes about 1 cup.

Each tablespoon contains about:

58 calories; 145 mg sodium; 4 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams protein; 0.02 grams fiber.


1 cup watercress sprigs and leaves, about 1/2 bunch

2 tablespoons minced chives

1 cup low-fat or regular sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons coarse-style Dijon mustard

Watercress sprigs

* Combine watercress, chives, sour cream, mayonnaise and mustard in work bowl of food processor. Process until smooth. Pour into serving bowl. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. Garnish with watercress sprigs.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Each tablespoon contains about:

31 calories; 33 mg sodium; 5 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.02 grams fiber.


1/4 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, broken apart

2 teaspoons butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch


2 eggs

3/4 cup water

2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee

1/4 cup Irish whiskey or brandy

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled

8 or 9 chocolate-covered coffee beans

* Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler over simmering water. (Or in glass bowl 3 to 4 minutes on MEDIUM heat in microwave oven, stirring once.) Brush mixture onto insides of 8 or 9 (2 1/2-inch) foil baking cups to coat evenly. Chill until firm.

* Whisk together sugar, cornstarch and dash salt in saucepan. Whisk in eggs and water. Bring just to boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and, whisking constantly, cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir espresso powder into Irish whiskey and whisk into warm custard.

* Transfer mixture to metal bowl and place over bowl of ice. Whisk or beat with hand-held beater until cool.

* Beat cream until soft peaks form and fold into coffee mixture. Spoon into chocolate cups, place in 9x9-inch pan and freeze until firm. Cover tightly and hold in freezer until ready to serve, up to 1 week. Peel off foil and garnish each cup with 1 chocolate-covered coffee bean.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Each serving contains:

219 calories; 62 mg sodium; 76 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 22 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.26 grams fiber.


Up to 1 week before: Prepare frozen Irish coffee mousse, wrap and freeze.

Up to 2 days before: Prepare remoulade and watercress sauces. Cover tightly and refrigerate.

Up to 1 day before: Prepare cucumber-dill sauce. Cover and refrigerate.

Night before or morning of party: Prepare Irish soda bread, bake and cool. (Can also be done 1 1/2 hours before serving and served warm.) Chill wine or beer.

1 hour before: Remove sauces from refrigerator and garnish.

45 minutes before: Boil potatoes and steam asparagus or artichokes. Scrub mussels. Chop leeks and shallots.

30 minutes before: Prepare salmon and basting sauce. Warm soda bread in low oven.

15 minutes before: Prepare mussels and leeks in cream broth.

Last minute: Slice and serve soda bread. Serve mussels. Put salmon on to broil. Clear appetizer dishes and serve salmon, vegetables and sauces.

After dinner: Start coffee. Garnish desserts with chocolate-covered coffee beans.







Irish whiskey or brandy


1 onion


Cornichons, sour gherkins or dill pickle

Dried tarragon (if not using fresh)

Country-style Dijon mustard

Black pepper

Whole-wheat flour, preferably stone ground

All-purpose flour

Baking soda

Old-fashioned rolled oats

Dark molasses or black treacle

Dry white wine or clam juice

Extra-virgin olive oil

Ground paprika


1/2 pint heavy whipping cream

1 bunch watercress

1 bunch fresh parsley

1 bunch fresh chives

1 bunch tarragon (if not using dried)

1 bunch fresh dill

1/2 pint low-fat or regular sour cream

1 large cucumber

1 (8-ounce) carton plain yogurt

2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee

Chocolate-covered coffee beans

2 cups buttermilk

TK new potatoes (to serve 8 to 10)

2 bunches asparagus (to serve 8 to 10)

4 to 6 pounds live mussels or small clams

2 large leeks

2 shallots

2 lemons (for juice)

8 to 10 (4- to 6-ounce) center-cut salmon fillets

4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate


Kitchen Tip

Now that aquacultured mussels are readily available, cleaning the shellfish is no longer the ordeal it used to be. It is rare to find a mussel full of sand, as happened with distressing regularity in the old days. Still, some mussels still have beards (not beards, of course, but the fibers by which the mussel attaches to its piling), and those should be removed. To clean mussels, place them in a large bowl full of cold water. Rub the mussels against each other to clean off any external silt. Pull each mussel out of the water and, using a small knife, grasp the edge of the beard and pull. It should come away cleanly.

* Glazed French earthenware serving dishes from Cassis and Co. at Cinzia, Santa Monica.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World