Potatoes O'Brien

A very common American breakfast food may take us back to
mid 1800s Ireland!  While some believe that a cook in a New York City restaurant nicknamed “Beef Stew O’Brien” may have created the dish, food historians believe that there is a true link to William Smith O’Brien who was born in County Clare, Ireland in 1803.  Was William an ancestor of our New York City cooks, or was he just a patriot celebrated by generations of Irish Americans?

William Smith O’Brien was an Irish nationalist and a Member of Parliament.  He was a leader in the Young Ireland movement, and he encouraged Irish citizens to use the Irish language.   He participated in the Young Irelander Rebellion in 1848 and was convicted of sedition.  The Irish didn’t have ‘freedom of speech’.  He was initially given a death sentence, but that was changed, and he was deported to Van Diemen's Land, which is now Tasmania in Australia.  A few years later, he was released but still exiled from Ireland.   Finally in 1856, O’Brien was released, and he returned to Ireland.  He stayed away from politics, however!

William Smith O'Brien

High King Brien

I could list generations of O’Brien’s ancestors, but what might be most important is that he was a descendent of the Ard Ri Brien Buro, the High King of Ireland.  The term ‘Ard Ri’ is a very old term dating to the times that the Vikings were ransacking Ireland.  In the year 999, High King Brien rescued Dublin from the Vikings and started rebuilding Ireland.  Had I been William Smith O’Brien, I would have been passionate about maintaining heritage.  Had I been that breakfast cook ‘Beef Stew O’Brien”, I would have been proud to claim the High King’s family as my own!

With a little research, I’d probably find lots of things named after O’Brien!  O’Brien County, Iowa is named after him.  There is a statue in Dublin commemorating his works.  Let’s accept that Potatoes O’Brien are named after him and that the colors of the green pepper and orange/red pepper symbolize the Irish flag!



 Potatoes O'Brien

My recipe for these potatoes probably changes each time I make them!  Really!  I like mine with bacon in them, but you can skip the bacon and use butter or canola oil … or olive oil.

4 strips of bacon, chopped in small pieces and browned.
Bacon grease or replace with 3 Tablespoons of canola oil.
2 Tablespoons of butter, used half at a time.
1 large red bell pepper diced
1 large green bell pepper diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 pounds of potatoes, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon roasted garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

In a heavy skillet, gently fry the bacon until brown.  Remove the bacon but use the grease.  Add a Tablespoon of butter to the grease and saut√© the peppers and onion until they start to look glossy.  Add the potatoes, garlic, salt and pepper.  Put a lid on the skillet and cook until the potatoes are done.

It is important to stir the potatoes a few times to keep them

cooking evenly, but the lid lets them steam and they will get done more quickly.  When the potatoes are done, remove the lid and add that extra Tablespoon of butter.  Turn the burner to high and keep stirring the potatoes for a couple minutes until they get crispy, and the moisture disappears.  Stir in the bacon bits at the end of cooking.


This post is part of my 2021 foodie project!  Click the menu tab to see other recipes for foods named after famous people. 

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