Good Question: What Should We Cook for St. Patrick's?

NJS is doing a St. Patrick's Day meal, but wants some fun yet elegant ideas for starters and desserts. Can you help?

St. Patrick's day is coming up and I wondering if you had any ideas for a St. Patrick's day dinner for a group? St. Patrick's day seems to get wilder and more absurd in the U.S. each year and has basically just turned into one big drinking game. We were really hoping to have a nice dinner party (i.e. no green beer) and many sites seem to go from Valentine's Day meals right into Easter or they just have hokey St. Patrick's day ideas.

We plan on doing corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots. Any ideas for starters or desserts? Ways to liven up the bland traditional meal? NJS, here are a few ideas for St. Patrick's Day starters, desserts, and sides (and no green beer - I promise).

Starters
Beef Hand Pies - At Martha Stewart. (Pictured above) We love the look of these little hand pies, which can be adapted to vegetarians too (stuff with cheese and cabbage instead of beef). Make them ultra-mini and they would be awesome little appetizers.
Irish Appetizers - Some of these are a little meh, but the Wild Rice & Barley Stuffed Mushrooms look promising, as do the Cheese Bites with Chutney. These both can be good for vegetarian guests, too.
• If the whole dinner is a sit-down affair, try a soup to start. What's more Irish than potatoes and leeks? Try Dana's super-easy potato leek soup. Or try this very green Kale and Apple Soup. These could be served in little cups as soup shots too.

Side Dishes
• You may be going the traditional route and boiling the potatoes, cabbage, and meat all together. But if you want to split them up, this cabbage recipe is deeply delicious; it's a recipe to convert cabbage-haters: Wine-Braised Cabbage. Also see this Roasted Baby Cabbage.
• Or you could leave the cabbage crunchy for a more interesting salad, like this one: Fresh Fennel and Lemon Slaw, and serve the potatoes cold in a spring potato salad: Mixed New Potato Salad with Sweet Basil and Shallots.
• Also try our Fried Cabbage and Potato Cakes.
• A side dish of applesauce is always good with all the salty vegetables and meat.

Dessert
• Dessert is easy! How about a Stout Float or our own Guinness Milkshake?
• You can put Guinness in ice cream too: David Lebovitz's Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream.
• Or just go for a dark, rich cake: Chocolate Guinness Cake.
• And of course there's always Irish Coffee to end, or perhaps a nip of Irish whiskey.

Related: Dinner Tonight: Last Minute St. Patrick's Day Ideas

(Images: Martha Stewart; Mikkel Vang for Gourmet)

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