For this St. Patrick’s Day, we decided against corned beef and cabbage. And soda bread. They’re delicious, but how about Double-Baked Westmeath Potatoes instead? We adapted the recipe here from “Elegant Irish Cooking,” a longtime favorite by Noel C. Cullen.?  

For this St. Patrick’s Day, we decided against corned beef and cabbage. And soda bread. They’re delicious, but how about Double-Baked Westmeath Potatoes instead? We adapted the recipe here from “Elegant Irish Cooking,” a longtime favorite by Noel C. Cullen.?  

The recipe seems too good to be true. So quick, so doable, so … wait a minute. It sounds so American. We checked the Internet and – yes – similar recipes from American chefs popped up.

So we’re using Westmeath potatoes to celebrate St. Patrick in Irish-American style. The recipe calls for shrimp, mushrooms, scallions (we used green onions) and cheddar, all ingredients that Americans consume by the plateful at sports parties and family gatherings.  

In “Elegant Irish,” a little vermouth and crème fraiche nudge the dish upscale. But the recipe is quite open to your family’s favorite spices and cheese. And if you don’t eat shrimp, substitute chunks of chicken instead.

Is crème fraiche Irish?

Rich, thick and a little less tangy than sour cream, crème fraiche originated in France and now lends sophistication to entrees and desserts in many countries. It’s sold in the U.S., but not in all supermarkets. With a little help from the Internet and a 12-hour head start, you can make your own.

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of heavy whipping cream to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit (close to body temperature). To this, add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk. Pour this mixture into a glass bowl, cover it and let it sit at room temperature (75 degrees) for about 12 hours. It’ll thicken to a smooth, luxuriant consistency.

With a serving of peas, Westmeath potatoes make a lovely dinner for St. Patrick’s Day. But your family and guests will welcome it any time.  

Double-Baked Westmeath Potatoes

• 4 large baking potatoes
• Shortening to grease potatoes
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1/2 cup finely diced onion
• 3 cloves garlic, crushed
• 1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 cup dry white vermouth
• 2 cups of cooked shrimp
• 3 green onions, chopped fine
• 1/2 cup crème fraiche
• 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
• 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Garnish: more diced green onions; 12 small tail-on shrimp, coated with mesquite mix, red curry powder and ground oregano, or your favorite seasoning, and sautéed in oil or butter. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash unpeeled potatoes and pat dry. Grease each one with shortening and pierce the skin with a fork. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced. Remove from oven.
Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a sheet pan with foil; set aside.

Let the potatoes cool slightly. Slice the top off each potato lengthwise, 1/2 inch from the top. Carefully, without tearing the skin, scoop the potato pulp into a bowl. Hand-mash the potato pulp, crumbling all the lumps. Reserve the shells.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add vermouth and bring to a boil. Stir frequently over high heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the chopped shrimp and green onions. Stir in crème fraiche and remove from heat.  

Combine the shrimp mixture with the reserved mashed potato. Correct the seasoning by adding salt and pepper to taste. Add heavy cream as needed to make the mixture easily spoonable. 

Spoon or pipe the potato mixture into the reserved skins. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Place on the prepared sheet pan.

Return the refilled potatoes to the oven and bake again until the cheese begins to bubble. Season more tail-on shrimp with mesquite mix and oregano; sauté in oil. Drain on paper towels. 

Remove the potatoes from the oven. Top the potatoes with sautéed shrimp and more green onion bits. Makes four large potatoes.