Irish transplant Colm Roughan of Leawod finds luck in a soup pot

08/26/2014 7:00 AM

08/26/2014 7:19 PM

Colm Roughan channels his energies — and, perhaps, a wee bit of Irish luck — into his epicurean endeavors both inside his kitchen and outside by the grill.

With extended family still in Letterkenny in County Donegal, Ireland, Colm moved to the Kansas City area four years ago with his wife, Niamh, and son, Harry, now 6. Niamh is content to let Colm cook, while she cleans up afterward.

“I love when it’s my birthday, because I get to pick out the menu, from starters to main course to dessert,” Niamh says. “And that Colm cooks the foods I like — better than any restaurant — makes it a special occasion, indeed.”

Residence: Leawood

Occupation: Telecommunications executive

Special cooking interest: Traditional Irish recipes

This Labor Day weekend marks the 12th annual Kansas City Irish Fest at Crown Center. Does it surprise you that the city can sustain two major Irish hooleys a year, starting with St. Patrick’s Day? There is a large Irish population in the Kansas City area. And while Niamh and I are from Ireland, we consider Kansas City our home. Every month, there’s an informal group that gathers at the Irish Center in Union Station. We’ve made a load of friends and I’ve felt a great deal of support from this community. We recently had a group of Irish friends over to the house to eat. I was going to barbecue outside, but it rained so the party ended up in the kitchen, as it usually does.

Can you articulate what being Irish means to you? It’s strange, but I’ve come to appreciate my Irish heritage by living in the United States. People in America want to talk about their own Irish heritage, and that has helped me appreciate my Irish culture even more. I don’t understand it completely, but I do think it has to do with the American perception of the Irish being warm and hospitable, and people in the Midwest identify with that. People in Kansas City are genuinely friendly, which is why we feel so at home here. The Irish don’t really need an excuse to get together to eat and maybe have a drink or two, and I suppose that openness to having a good time is something that most find appealing.

Why did you choose this recipe to share? This warming yet easy-to-prepare soup is a favorite of mine. When I make it, it reminds me of times when we have family visiting and also when we visit our family in Ireland. This recipe came from Niamh’s mother, Maureen Cunningham, and it’s a must for cold winter days and works really well as an appetizer or even as a light meal. Like a lot of soups, it tastes even better the day after. It’s best served with some homemade Irish brown bread, but as that’s my Grandmother Nin’s recipe, I can’t share that!

Some people stereotypically think that Irish food is boiled to the point it’s screaming to be let out of the pot. The Irish serve substantial food, which, of course, includes potatoes. But as for my style of cooking, I love trying new things and enjoy grilling, especially smoking.

I love to either cook for just my family, or a large group of people. My father, Barry, is responsible for teaching me a lot of what I know. To this day, when I visit, it’s always great to hang out in my parents’ kitchen when he cooks, have a few drinks and catch up. Whenever our family from Ireland visits us here, the same happens, and it’s always a great time.

To me, cooking is relaxing and isn’t a chore. When I concentrate on preparing the food, the concerns of the day just go away. Harry loves my Pasta Bolognese and I’m not afraid to try new recipes. Of course, we bring our memories of Ireland and its food with us wherever we go, but we are also making new memories, and that includes new friends with whom we share meals.

Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at pepi@kc.rr.com to nominate a cook.

Go Green

The 12th annual Kansas City Irish Fest is this Friday through Sunday at Crown Center. It features entertainers, bands, heritage workshops and a children’s area. Weekend tickets for adults are $25 in advance and single-day tickets are available, too. Go to KCIrishFest.com for more information.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, finely minced

1 (16-ounce) container button mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups whole milk

In a soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onion for at least 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add mushrooms to pan and turn up heat to high. Stir and saute mushrooms for 5 minutes or they become soft. Turn heat down to low and sprinkle flour over sauteed mushroom mixture. Season with salt and pepper and continue to stir mixture until flour cooks and thickens mushrooms.

While mushrooms are cooking, slowly warm chicken stock and milk together in a separate sauce pan on the stovetop over low heat. Be careful to stir occasionally to prevent scorching and heat liquid right up to the boiling point. While whisking, slowly pour near-boiling chicken stock and milk into soup pot with mushrooms. Continue whisking until soup thickens.

If a smooth soup is preferred, process mixture using an immersion blender. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

Per serving, based on 4: 201 calories (46 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (6 grams saturated), 32 milligrams cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 204 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

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