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March 16, 1995|KATHLEEN DESMOND STANG | 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.

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