(Photo courtesy of the Boxty House)

Magically Delicious Irish Boxty

And now, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a Irish recipe that answers the question: How do they drink like that?

We got it from Pádraic Óg Gallagher, proprietor of the Boxty House restaurant in Dublin’s infamous Temple Bar, who ought to know. Gallagher is also an authority on the Irish potato and has published academic papers on its history and breeding. In this country, that would earn him a stupid nickname. Over in Dublin, he’s head of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, among other distinctions.

What Is It?

From Gallagher we learned that the boxty is a potato cake originating in Ireland and eaten throughout its border counties for centuries now–since before the potato famine, and still by Catholics observing St. Brigid’s Day–February 1–along with countless others, especially on Shrove Tuesday and Halloween. Some hold the the theory that the word “boxty” comes from the Irish bacstaí–to bake–or from arán bocht tí, which means “bread of the poor house.” The combination of mashed and grated raw potatoes is a boxty hallmark, but Gallagher disputes that the food began as a sort of necessary-evil way to get sustenance out of leftover potato pulp and argues that it’s long been a celebratory dish instead. Although a movement to get boxty onto the UK’s list of protected food items has so far been unsuccesful, to this day Gallagher honors the terroir of the boxty with festive dishes like his Leitrim Pan Boxty wrap, featured here surrounding creamy chicken and leeks.

What does this mean to us Americans? This week, as the Irish diaspora disgraces itself in a din of fake brogues borne on beer breath, we’d like to introduce the nation to its newest hangover cure: the boxty.

How Does It Work?

Unlike other drinking remedies:

1. The boxty is viable. It works not only before, but during and after, drinking. We all know that foods like carbs can give your stomach a sort of stability or foundation that helps it handle alcohol. Now, how many of them are delicious, buttery and soft, yet light, snackable and sugar free? Okay, several. But which of them are you likely to ingest alongside those pints of Guinness? And how many “hangover foods” will you want, much less be able to throw together, when you’re in the morning-after condition? Not asparagus! And sorry, soy sauce. Boxty is breakfast, brunch and bar food par excellence. Above all,

2. It’s not too easy, though. It’s not potato chips, which can induce the compulsive eating known as “hedonic hyperphagia.” Look, for example, at the embarrassingly low intake of the winners of these competitions in County Leitrim, a boxty hotbed. Hear the guy saying to the second set of contestants, “Get it into yez. Get it into yez”? Even right out the gate, they have to be encouraged. And be honest: How many times have you “foundered” on that big, greasy meal you craved the morning after? If you ask us, making boxty hits the sweet spot between self-indulgence and, well, mobility.

Prepare, Devour, Repeat

Allow us to demonstrate in this video, set to some music by John Sheridan & His Boys, brought to America in the early waves of Irish immigration, a tune called “The Stack of Potatoes.”

Get ahold of your graters, ricers, mashers, turners, and skillets; eyeball the recipe here; and make yourself a stack of boxty. Eat some before you hit the bars and give thanks now for the leftovers. Pádraic Óg Gallagher says boxty are best the following day, warmed in a pan “with good butter.”


Elaine Evans
Elaine Evans Elaine Evans is thrilled to blog for KaTom, where her work in restaurants, bars, catering, and artisanal food has caught up at last with her career in journalism and public relations writing.