Julie O’Neill channels a wee bit of Irish luck both inside and outside her Kansas City kitchen. Thursday, Julie celebrates her family’s Irish heritage in a special way with Pat O’Neill, the grand marshal of this year’s Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade and her husband of 45 years.
Julie says a large part of her good fortune comes from being surrounded by close friends and family. Pat and Julie have three children and seven grandchildren and a large extended family. Julie grew up the fourth of nine children and Pat is the oldest of seven boys.
The O’Neills trace their Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day parade roots back the original parade, held 44 years ago. “In 1993, my father, Pat O’Neill Sr., was the Grand Marshal of the parade when he was 63 years old, the age I am now. It is really something to be able to claim that we are the first family to have two generations acting as Grand Marshal,” Pat says. “Of course, Julie is with me every step of the way and she, by virtue of putting up with me, is the Grand Marshalette.”
Q: Can you articulate what your Irish heritage means to you?
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A: There is a large Irish-American population in the Kansas City area. The Irish are a warm and hospitable people and I think we in the Midwest also identify with that.
The Irish don’t really need an excuse to get together to eat and maybe have a drink or two, and that openness to having a good time is something that most find appealing. Also, the Irish have a strong sense of family and over time, friends become part of that familial fabric, too.
Q: O’Neill Marketing and Event Management is your family’s business but has its philosophy of hosting events also found its way into your own kitchen?
A: At the beginning of the year, I have officially retired from doing the bookkeeping at the business, which leaves me more time to do the things I like to do, such as cook. I enjoy preparing non-fussy foods and having people come over. When you grow up in big families like Pat and I have, there’s a certain amount of flexibility and spontaneity that just happens when so many people come together, so you just have to go with it.
Pat also talks about the Irish “craic” (crack), which is a love for great storytelling and getting caught up on the news. This is especially evident when we all get together to decorate our St. Patrick’s Day parade float — for weeks before — when everyone is having a good time. We have good intentions of getting the float done early, but, in reality, it isn’t until the night before when we kick it into high gear, just in time to get it to the parade. This year’s parade theme is “Blarney on Broadway,” and we tease Pat that it’s an appropriate year for him to be Grand Marshal.
Q: Do you travel often to the Emerald Isle?
A: Last fall, we were able to spend a fabulous three weeks in Ireland. We had been planning the trip for a year and traveled with Pat’s six brothers and their wives. The wonderful thing about Ireland is that the people are so very friendly and their love of life is contagious. People in Ireland go out of their way with hospitality and want to talk to you. It feels like returning home in many ways.
The first week, we spent a fair amount of time in Doolin, in County Clare, with his brothers. The last two weeks in Ireland, Pat and I visited different friends and explored the countryside on our own. While Irish food has never enjoyed the reputation of being haute cuisine, chefs are now doing more with seafood and a meal is more than just boiled meat, vegetables and potatoes.
Q: There’s a joke that Irish food is done when it’s boiled to the point it’s screaming to be taken out of the pot.
A: There is some truth to that, but now, I think people are seeing just how wonderful a slowly braised meal can be.
I love this recipe from Chef Kevin Dundon of the Dunbrody Country House Hotel in Ireland. It comes from his cookbook “Great Family Food” (Collins; 2009), and is so delicious. This is also a great meal to serve lots of people because the longer it cooks, the more tender the meat becomes. The wine and garlic in this dish give off such a wonderful aroma. Also, mashed potatoes are a must, and the horseradish gives them just a little tang.
I am not normally an outgoing person, but the wonderful thing about being married to Pat is that I step outside my shy nature because he is so highly social. I still don’t like the spotlight on me, but I am happy to be near it.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
For more information on St. Patrick’s Day festivities, go to KCIrishParade.com.
Braised Beef Short Ribs with Horseradish Mash
For the ribs:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (8-pound) package short beef ribs, cut into single-rib pieces
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 large onion, peeled and minced
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 sprigs fresh thyme
For the potatoes:
1 (5-pound) bag red potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided usage
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon creamed horseradish
1/2 teaspoon pepper
To prepare ribs: Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat on stovetop. Add beef ribs to pot and brown on all sides.
Add carrot, onion and garlic to pot and sauté until vegetables begin to caramelize. Deglaze bottom of pan with tomatoes, red wine and beef stock, scraping browned bits off bottom of pot. Season with salt, pepper and thyme sprigs and bring mixture to a boil.
Put lid tightly on pot. Transfer pot to oven and braise meat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the sauce has thickened and meat is fork-tender and falling from the bones.
During the last 30 minutes of braising, prepare the horseradish mash:
Place potatoes in a large pot and fill with water 2 inches above potatoes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring water to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium-high, cover pot tightly with lid and continue to boil least 20 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Do not boil potatoes until they are mushy and falling apart.
Drain potatoes over sink in a large colander. Return potatoes to pot and immediately add butter, milk, creamed horseradish, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Using a potato masher, mix together, breaking up potatoes until mixture reaches desired consistency.
To serve, divide beef ribs equally among 8 serving plates, spooning cooked vegetables and sauce over meat. Place a dollop of mash alongside each serving.
Note: O’Neill buys short ribs at the Broadway Butcher Shop at 3828 Broadway Street in Kansas City, which sells the beef for $9/pound. Call 816-931-2333 to check availability.
Per serving: 1,318 calories (69 percent from fat), 98 grams total fat (44 grams saturated), 206 milligrams cholesterol, 60 grams carbohydrates, 41 grams protein, 1,335 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.