*Editor's Note: This is the latest installment of Mike Farragher's "TAYSHT" series, his new column and podcast exploring Irish America's relationship with food, inspired in part by Stanley Tucci's "Taste: My Life Through Food." You can read the previous installment here.
Larry Kirwan has been a premier tastemaker (or is it TAYSHT-maker?) of Irish culture for decades.
It started more than a quarter of a century ago when he founded Black 47 with Chris Byrne, an NYC cop who brought block-rockin’ urban textures to the Wexford native’s sweet Celtic melodies and poetry. They embedded different flavors into their Irish American stew over the years to include Klezmer, reggae, hip-hop, jazz, and into the pot, they occasionally dumped battery acid-dipped lyrics about injustices on both sides of the Atlantic for good measure. This provided a blueprint for a generation of musicians and artists as they captured the unique experience of being Irish American.
You can hear Kirwan blend styles and textures each week on Celtic Crush, his SiriusXM Radio show that threads the storytelling of Van Morrison and Bob Marley into one cohesive unit held together by Kirwan’s own observations of meeting some of his heroes on the road.
Now, the penultimate Larry Kirwan experience is coming to Broadway at the Barrymore Theater in late March. The musical Paradise Square, according to Broadway.com, is a “galvanizing story of racial harmony undone by a country at war with itself."
The story, set in the 1800s, takes place in a saloon called Paradise Square in this show. Inspired by the music of Stephen Foster, Kirwan and his collaborators tell a tale that borrows from the rich history and contributions made to Manhattan by the Irish immigrants and African Americans in the Five Points section of the city.
Paradise Square features a book co-written by Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas, and Larry Kirwan. The music is by Jason Howland and Kirwan, with lyrics by Nathan Tysen and additional material by Masi Asare. Alex Sanchez provides the musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.
Larry was our guest on our new TAYSHT podcast this week. In the spirit of full journalistic transparency, my mad fandom of Larry and Black 47 means I have no objectivity here. I wrote about him in my Irish Voice column for almost 20 years, which means I had a front-row seat at countless Black 47 gigs. Larry was kind enough to write the forward of my first novel, Collared, and we’ve developed a mutually supportive friendship over the years. I was honored to be part of a small audience to watch him workshop his new rock musical, All the Rage, at The Cell Theater in Chelsea. I have no doubt it will be all the rage when it meets a broader audience in the future!
It was such a pleasure to speak with him about Paradise Square (check out tickets here), his creative process, and the culinary adventures his father would bring into the house from his time at sea.
Larry fondly reminisces about Jim Kirwan, who was a merchant marine and an oil rig worker for much of his life.
"Dad went to sea at 14 and spent his 15th birthday in Murmansk, USSR, and picked up his love for curry and mango chutney while sailing with the Blue Star Line in the Far East,” Larry recalls. “Everyone else was making roasts but we’d have the smell of curry wafting out of our house and neighbors would think, ‘what the hell is that’ whenever he cooked!”
You can listen to the newest episode of TAYSHT, "Larry Kirwan, TAYSHT~maker," here:
In honor of Larry’s dad, I asked renowned Irish chef Shaun Brady for his recipe for chicken curry. He is busy putting the finishing touches on Brady & Fox, his new Irish American eatery in Kansas City. Shaun happily obliged.
“Irish people have a very specific idea of what chicken curry should be," Brady explains. “This very popular dish epitomizes the late-night takeaway after a long night of drinking and is not complete without the half and half sides – comprising of fries (AKA chips) and rice! This recipe below provides a lower fat alternative to the chip shop dish. Enjoy!”
Shaun Brady's Irish Chicken Curry Recipe
- 2 to 4 chicken fillets
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 2 cups button mushrooms
- (Optional extras: baby corn, peas, sliced zucchini, mangetout)
- 5 large potatoes
- 1 packet of Knorr Medium Curry or Knorr Hot Curry Sauce. For a more traditional “Chip Shop” taste, try Bisto Chip Shop Curry Sauce
- 2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 tbsp Flour
- 1/4 cup golden raisins to garnish at the end
Preheat the oven to 350F, or air fryer to 400F.
Wash and slice potatoes lengthways to create thick-cut chips. Place in an oven dish, cover liberally with vegetable oil and salt and pepper, and bake until the outside is crispy, and the inside is piping hot and soft – about 1 hour.
Slice chicken into strips and fry in a little oil until golden. Add onions, peppers, and other vegetables. Fry until chicken is cooked.
Add Cumin, paprika, and flour. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes.
Blend contents of Knorr Mild Curry sauce or whichever of our curry sauces you have chosen; with 300 mls of cold water. And 1 can of coconut milk. Pour over chicken and vegetables and simmer until sauce has a nice, thick consistency and the whole dish is piping hot.
Prepare rice as per its instructions.
When homemade chips are done, place them on dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place rice on dish alongside chips and cover both with the chicken curry top with golden raisins.