Danny O’Boyle’s epicurean experimentation is enhanced with a wee bit of Irish luck. By day, Danny works as a Chief Information Officer, specializing in computer technology strategies, but at night, he becomes the head chef in his Lenexa kitchen.
O’Boyle and his Irish wife, Liz, got married in County Waterford 30 years ago. They have four children — Kiera, 28; Connor, 27; Kealan, 23; and Kevin, 19 — with whom they share weekly Sunday dinners.
“It’s really special that my dad cooks and provides for our needs on the most basic level,” says Kiera, a high school Family and Consumer Sciences teacher and founder of the professional Irish dance troupe Céilí at the Crossroads, based in Lenexa. “My dad is always trying something new in the kitchen, and our family Sunday dinners together are always a good time to catch up and start the week off right.”
Q: Will you be laboring this Labor Day weekend?
A: Labor Day weekend marks the 14th Annual Kansas City Irish Fest at Crown Center, and I will be there at the festival. It’s no surprise that Kansas City can sustain two large Irish hooleys a year, starting with the parade on St. Patrick’s Day, because there is a such a large Irish population in the area. But you don’t need to be Irish to appreciate this family fun event. There’s music and dancing — including my daughter Kiera’s troupe, Céilí at the Crossroads — kids’ activities, with shops, and of course, food.
Q: Every time I say your name — Danny O’Boyle — I want to break out into a bad rendition of Danny Boy and tell you the pipes, the pipes are calling. Is there any question of your own Irish heritage?
A: It’s strange, but I can’t think of another culture in which people will tell you what percentage of their heritage is Irish. 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, and the Irish don’t really need an excuse to get together to eat and maybe have a drink or two. I think that openness to having a good time is something most find appealing.
As for my own heritage, names like Murphy and Deane come up in my genealogy — but I am proud to be American — where people of all cultures and backgrounds can come together to celebrate the Irish way of working hard and playing hard together.
Q: Your wife, Liz, certainly connects you to Ireland in a special way.
A: It’s true. When I met Liz, I was attending the University of Missouri in Kansas City, and she had come from a small fishing village in Ireland called Passage East, and was working as a nanny. When I saw Liz, it was over for me. To get married, she had to leave her family — including two brothers, two sisters and loads of cousins — in Ireland. So every other year, Liz travels back to Ireland, and her family comes to visit us here.
But every month, we attend a potluck dinner where about 30 people from Ireland living in the Kansas City area, come together to eat. The heritage of the Irish has been a hard-knocked one, but, there’s a happiness and jovial attitude that always comes out when they’re gathered together for a meal. The Irish are highly social and I am the “Yank” who just loves to listen to their quick-wittedness, storytelling and songs.
Q: Irish foods are typically thought of as “stick-to-your-ribs” fare. Why did you choose this recipe to share?
A: I received this basic scone recipe from a lovely Irish woman who is from Westport, County Mayo, Ireland. My son, Kealan, is a trained chef who studied at the New England Culinary Institute and introduced me to lemon scones — so we added the lemon zest and cranberries to this recipe. The traditional Irish scones are made with sultanas (a small, light brown, seedless raisin) — instead of cranberries — and have no lemon zest.
The Irish serve substantial food, which, of course, includes potatoes. But for my style of cooking, I love trying new things and enjoy experimenting in the kitchen. I love to cook for my family and friends. And more than the ability to say I have an Irish heritage, I love being able to demonstrate hospitality that is associated with Ireland and also with being from the Midwest.
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.
KC Irish Fest
For more information on the Kansas City Irish Fest, Sept. 2-4 at Crown Center, go to KCIrishFest.com.
Irish Lemon Cranberry Scones
Makes about 2 dozen round 2-inch scones
For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 cup whole milk
1 large lemon, zested and freshly squeezed
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
For the eggwash:
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Into a 2-cup glass measure, whisk milk and lemon juice together and pour into dry ingredients. Stir mixture until dough forms. Gently stir in lemon zest and cranberries until evenly distributed throughout dough.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a circle that is approximately 1 1/2 -inches thick. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, press out circles of dough. Place 12 rounds on each ungreased baking sheet.
Gently press together any unused dough and repeat cutting out process until all dough is used.
In a small 1-cup glass measure, whisk egg and water together to make an eggwash. Lightly brush tops of unbaked dough rounds with eggwash. Place in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve scones warm or at room temperature. Store in an air-tight container.
Per scone: 151 calories (49 percent from fat), 8 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 17 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 159 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.