St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us, and memories of Matt Kane will again mark the day for this Godson of Washington, D.C.’s most revered Irish pub proprietor.
Matthew J. Kane, a first-generation Irish American and amateur boxer who ran Matt Kane’s Bit O’Ireland from 1960 until his passing in 1988, was my Godfather. That I share both his name and his affection for Irish cuisine is an honor, my enduring connection to a man whose legacy has been celebrated by subsequent generations of Irish restaurateurs and barkeeps in the nation’s capital.
Curious to know if today’s Irish fare would have met the Matt Kane standard, I sat down with Tucson Iron Chef Wendy Gauthier for a peek at what she’s planning for St. Patrick’s Day.
With ancestral roots in Germany, France, and Sweden, Gauthier hasn’t a drop of Irish blood in her. But her love of the day’s signature dish suggests that a second opinion from Ancestry.com is in order.
“Corned beef has always been one of my favorite dishes, and I hate those people who make me wait for St. Patrick’s Day to have it,” said Gauthier, chef/owner of Chef Chic, 1104 S. Wilmot Road.
Chef Chic’s corned beef and cabbage dish will be anchored by slabs of beef that have been corned in-house and simmered as tradition dictates, served with cabbage that’s sauteed with roasted red potatoes.
“Even though we often do playful twists on the classics here, this dish is all about tradition,” she said.
Gauthier will also serve up Irish sausages called bangers, but her modified mash is an example of the different turns that dishes often take in her kitchen.
“Instead of doing the more traditional plating of bangers and mash, or mashed potatoes, we’ll be serving the bangers with colcannon, a traditional Irish mix of mashed potatoes and cabbage,” she said. “This little tweak makes it a different dish.”
There’s always room for more potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, and Gauthier’s potato leek soup screams for my low-carb compatriots to take the day off.
“We’ll be caramelizing down some leeks, cooking them together with chunks of potatoes, and slightly pureeing them while adding cream and a few other fun things.”
For her patrons who don’t eat meat, Gauthier will be bringing some salmon tartlets to the celebration with two distinct preparations of the oily fish.
She’ll be blending cured lox with chunks of salmon filets with capers, onions, and other ingredients that she says will ultimately present “like a less-eggy kind of quiche.”
Every great story has a memorable ending, and Gauthier’s Guinness Stout chocolate cupcakes with an Irish whiskey buttercream is a fitting epilogue.
“We wanted to do something with Guinness beer, and this was a natural considering how well it pairs with chocolate,” she said. “And, of course, we went with Irish whiskey for the buttercream because it’s St. Patrick’s Day and you have to go boozy.”
Gauthier admitted that the development process for the cupcake recipe was particularly painstaking.
I can see it now. A little whiskey for the buttercream, a little for Wendy. A little Guinness for the cupcakes, a little for Wendy.
Chef Chic’s special St. Patrick’s Day dishes can be pre-ordered for pick up, for parties of two to “as many as you have.”
Orders can be placed by phone at 214-0562, or at chefchicaz.com.
Gauthier closed out our conversation with confidence that her dishes would have earned my Godfather’s favor.
I think that’s true. Especially those cupcakes.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.