How to Cook Irish Food and Prepare a St. Patrick's Day Dinner
Due to the prompting of my friend the lovely lady Jane Grey, I decided to write a hub about cooking Irish food for a St. Patrick's Day dinner. St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays and everyone in my family knows it belongs to me. My mom gets to cook the ham on New Years, my dad is master of the turkey on Thanksgiving, and the local Chinese take-out guy ends up with Halloween. But St. Patty's Day is mine, corned beef and all. I did get the green eyes, after all. The kitchen is mine too, because everyone seems to think I cook better alone.
But today, I'm going to take you in the kitchen with me and share with you the recipes I use to cook a St. Patrick's Day dinner at home. I'll tell you how to prepare a corned beef and cabbage dinner, give you a recipe for a beautiful loaf of Irish soda bread, and tell you why should never drink anything but Guinness. So put on the soundtrack to Riverdance, and jig your way to the kitchen where you will prepare a delicious and surpisingly simple meal that everyone will enjoy.
The corned beef is the center of a traditional American St. Patrick's Day meal (I've heard corned beef isn't actually very popular in Ireland anymore). Corned beef is a very fatty cut of meat, so it's best to eat it just once a year. The "corned" part refers to the salt that cures the beef.
Grocery stores stock up on corned beef brisket around St. Patrick's Day, and you won't have a hard time finding them. However, many stores don't carry corned beef brisket the rest of the year. So if you are a corned beef addict, you'll be reduced to eating it out of a can, which I don't recommend. Choose a corned beef that is about 4 lbs. This feeds four adults with leftovers.
Put your corned beef brisket in a large stockpot, and pour over water to cover. You can add the spices packet that usually comes in the beef package, or just add a little pickling spice. Also add to the pot:
2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat, cover to simmer about 3 hours. Easy peasy.
To take your corned beef to the next dimension, you can make a delicious horseradish topping. Spread some Dijon mustard on the flat side of the brisket. Mix together 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and 5 oz. of prepared horseradish (squeezed dry). Press this mixture on top of the mustard. Put the whole thing under your overn broiler for a few minutes. Keep a close eye on it though, because it will burn quickly. Slice and serve. Use any leftovers to make Reuben sandwiches or colcannon.
You can cook your cabbage in the drained liquid from the corned beef, but I like my cabbage freshly steamed. When picking cabbage at the grocery store, choose a head with tight leaves that aren't bug-bitten. Go for the green cabbage. One head should be enough for four people.
Wash the cabbage head, removing the outer leaves. Using a chef's knife, cut the cabbage head into wedged quarters. With your knife at an angle, slice off the hard white rind from the wedges. Slice each wedge in half. Pour several inches of water into a large pot, and add the cabbage wedges. The cabbage doesn't need to be submerged, as we are only steaming it. If you'd like, add a couple teaspoons of white sugar to tenderize and sweeten. Cover and bring to slow boil. Cook 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender.
No Irish meal is complete without potatoes. There are thousands of potato recipes out there, but I'll just tell you how to make good ole "Arsh Potatoes" (as my grandpa says) or what is called "Stewed Potatoes".
Choose however many potatoes you need (four medium-sized should feed four). Peel and chop potatoes into slightly larger than bite-sized pieces. Add potatoes to a pot, cover with water, and add salt and pepper and a small amount of chopped onion. In the South, they add a little grease (or olive oil), but I prefer my potatoes fat-free. Bring to boil, and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender.
Irish soda bread is a classic recipe. It's really easy to make, because there is no tedious rising to worry about. Just mix, shape, and bake. But don't forget to make the mark of a cross on the top of the loaf - it's tradition! (I've heard the mark of the cross is supposed to ward off the devil, but I think it helps in the baking process, plus it looks nice.)
In a large bowl, mix together:
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Add 3 ounces of butter, slightly softened. Mix with a pastry blender or your hands until the mixture looks like coarse meal and comes together when you squeeze it. Make a well in the flour mixture, and add 1 1/4 cups buttermilk. Stir together well, and use your hands to knead the dough together completely. Be careful not to overmix. Shape into a flattened circle, about nine to twelve inches in diameter. Mark a cross on top, making deep cuts with a sharp knife. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 400 degrees F. for about 35 minutes. Test doneness with a toothpick. Let cool on a wire rack. Slice in wedges and spread with honey butter.
Honey Butter is always a great addition to Irish Soda Bread.
To make honey butter: combine one stick softened butter and 1/2 cup honey in a mixer on high speed until completely incorporated. Spread in small serving ramekins and chill.
Me and My Guinness
An Irish meal isn't complete without the Guinness! Guinness is a stout beer, and some people (whom I pity) complain that it drinks like molasses. Well, if you don't fancy the taste of Guinness (which you should!), here are some things about Guinness for you to consider.
Reasons to drink Guinness
1. Guinness is from Ireland.
2. Guinness has been in existence for approximately two hundred and fifty years.
3. Some people say Guinness is good for your heart.
4. There are only about 200 calories in a pint of Guinness
5. Brad Pitt drinks Guinness.
My Favorite Irish Pub
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Read about the real St. Patrick, by Jane Grey
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