Irish Cheddar Is The Secret Ingredient To Elevate Potato Dishes

Love cheese? So do we — which is why at Tasting Table, we're always looking for reasons to sing its praises. Today, we're exploring the gastronomic middle ground between "charcuterie board of untouched gourmet cheese slices" and "handful of shredded cheese slammed onto a baking sheet of oven nachos." Enter Irish cheddar — a fromage that will shine in a variety of dishes due to its unique taste.

Irish cheddar is a type of white cheddar produced in Ireland. It's typically made from pasteurized cow milk, but raw milk varieties can also be found. It's rich and smooth, with a slight sweetness at the finish. Irish cheddar's flavor is difficult to define, but in general, it has a "mature" profile. Some varieties are aged for nine months or more, and this cheese is characterized by its sharper bite, reminiscent of aged Parmesan. 

Cheddar from the Emerald Isle was tailor-made for pairing with potatoes. Don't let its pale yellow color deceive you — Irish cheddars typically aren't colored with any artificial additives, so they retain their milky color while still toting all the potency you'd expect from a bright orange "extra sharp" cheddar. This robust cheese is the savory equal to hearty, starchy potatoes, and it adds all the glamor that taters need to keep from entering "bland" territory. We've rounded up some pairing ideas to help get your brainstorm rolling.

Create a complex, worldly profile with a single ingredient

In general, you can use Irish cheddar anywhere you might normally use white cheddar. You could stir it into the luxurious filling of twice-baked potatoes or the crispy mashed potato layer in shepherd's pie, or even whip it into a flavorful breakfast skillet with thyme potatoes, scrambled eggs, maple sausage, roasted cherry tomatoes, and chopped chives. Of course, you could use Irish cheddar in a comforting baked mac and cheese casserole with elbow macaroni and shaved Yukon gold potatoes; it would also add a pungent hit melted onto a hearty sandwich between two slices of sturdy brown bread, potato wedges, a fried egg, and chorizo. For a simple incorporation, you could make a piquant batch of crock pot cheesy potatoes or potatoes au gratin. For extra Irish flair, shave some sharp Irish cheddar over Irish potato cakes or over traditional Irish fish pie.

In Ireland, cheesemaking is a super regional craft. 53 cheesemakers are recognized by Bord Bia, the official Irish Food Board, which places a special focus on local horticulture. Beyond the Emerald Isle, Irish cheddar is available in many grocery stores, but you may have to search a little, given it can come in atypical packaging (often wrapped in opaque wax paper instead of plastic). But if your local spot doesn't carry it, Irish cheddar makes a great excuse to swing by a nearby specialty grocery or cheesemonger — grab a block and see what magic it can add to your savory potato dishes.