LEWISTON – St. Patrick’s Day is the one day that everyone can be a little bit Irish. Although Pauline “Polly” O’Connell was born and raised in Lewiston, she’s a perfect example of a cook who definitely has the luck of the Irish when it comes to pleasing her family and friends with her wonderful recipes.

“I ‘became Irish’ when I married my husband, Frank, and have tried many Irish recipes over the years,” she said. O’Connell has acquired a number of traditional Irish recipes that have become family favorites and can be shared on St. Patrick’s Day or any other time of the year.

“I’m really of French/Yankee descent,” she said. “My dad was French, and Mom was Yankee,” from Newfoundland.

Her parents’ influence helped her when she began preparing meals for her own family. “I really didn’t start cooking until I got married. But I did have a mother and father who both put out simple but delicious meals for their family of six. Mom was a terrific pie maker, and my Dad could make good meals with limited ingredients. He made use of all leftovers, if there were any. Everything was so good and tasty.”

O’Connell’s self-proclaimed simple recipes are in tune with today’s trend of keeping meals healthy, easy to follow and time-efficient. Over the years, she’s noticed the shift in meal preparation styles. “It’s really different cooking right now. People are more concerned than ever about making the right choices when it comes to eating: cholesterol, fat, fiber, sodium and let’s not forget about calorie intake,” she said.

“I am now getting low and fat-free recipes, and ‘Healthy Homestyle’ cookbooks. Using those as a guide, I try to cook satisfying and healthful meals with only moderate changes in our eating habits,” she said.

O’Connell and her husband of more than 50 years have four children, George, Gregory, Maureen and Gary. Her son Gary, who returned home from Iraq on March 5, was the person who nominated her for Cook of the Week. Frank and Polly O’Connell also are the grandparents of six and great-grandparents of two. O’Connell and her husband volunteer a lot together, and she’s chairwoman of the annual Palm Sunday brunch sponsored by the St. Mary’s Auxiliary. During her spare time, she enjoys quilting with her daughter. “Together we made a quilt for Gary, and we were going to mail it to Iraq, but decided to wait for his return home,” she said.

Irish pork roast with turnips
3 pounds rolled boneless pork roast

1 clove of garlic

¼ cup butter, softened

Salt and pepper

2 pounds small, white turnips

2 teaspoons sugar

2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel garlic clove. Cut garlic clove in half and rub it all over the pork. (Optional: cut slits in pork and insert additional garlic slices).

Place pork in a roasting pan and spread butter all over it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and cook for 50 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, peel and halve the turnips (or quarter them, depending on the size). Put in a saucepan. Cover with cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Drain, then dry on paper towels.

Arrange turnips around pork in roasting pan. Sprinkle turnips lightly with the sugar and add broth. Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove foil, turn turnips over and cook for additional 15 minutes. Test pork for doneness with a meat thermometer and cook a little longer, if necessary.

Place pork on warmed serving platter and carve into thick slices. Arrange turnips on the dish and keep hot.

Pour off liquid from pan and reserve. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Gradually add the reserved liquid and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning to your liking. Sprinkle parsley over turnips and serve.
Irish soda bread
4 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 to 1½ cups of buttermilk (or whole milk)
Raisins (optional)
Mix dry ingredients together. Add buttermilk or milk to form loose dough. Add raisins, if desired. Place dough on floured board and knead until smooth. Form into a round, about 2 inches high. Make a large X with a sharp knife in the top of dough. Bake on a greased baking sheet at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Makes one loaf.
Irish coffee
Into a stemmed cup (or glass) rimmed with sugar, pour 1½ ounces Irish whiskey. Fill to within a half-inch of top with strong, hot black coffee. Cover surface to brim with chilled whipped cream.
Pistachio Bundt cake
1 package (18¼ ounces) yellow cake mix

3 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant pistachio pudding mix

1 cup water

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

Ingredients for glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened

2 to 3 tablespoons milk
A few drops of green coloring (optional)
In a mixing bowl, combine dry cake mix and pudding mixes, water, oil and eggs. Beat on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape sides and beat for another minute. Pour into a greased 9-inch, fluted Bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine glaze ingredients, drizzle over cake.

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