Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! While some of you may be planning a party full of green finger foods and kegs of beer, I thought it may be nice to do a simple St. Patrick’s Day dinner for those of us who will be spending a more quiet evening at home with our children. In America when we think about an Irish meal, the first thing that comes to mind is Corned Beef and Cabbage. However, did you know that Corned Beef did not originate from Ireland? Most Irish in Ireland don’t identify with it as native cuisine and it is mainly served to tourists.
Corned beef was used as a substitute for bacon by Irish-American immigrants in the late 19th century. Corned beef and cabbage is the variant to the Irish dish bacon and cabbage. In Ireland pork was cheap and the preferred meat with the favored cut being Irish bacon, a lean, smoked pork loin similar to Canadian bacon. Back then when there was a surge of Irish immigrants in the United States, pork was expensive for most newly arrived Irish families, so they began cooking beef, which was the staple meat in the American diet. At that time Irish immigrants lived alongside other European ethnic groups that often faced discrimination in their new home, including Jews and Italians. The Irish working class in New York City frequented Jewish delis and lunch carts, and it was there that they first tasted corned beef. Cured and cooked much like Irish bacon, it was seen as a tasty and cheaper alternative to pork. While potatoes were readily available in the United States, cabbage offered a more cost-effective alternative to cash-strapped Irish families. Cooked in the same pot, the spiced, salty beef flavored the plain cabbage, creating a simple, hearty dish that couldn’t be easier to prepare. Corned beef and cabbage stemming from Irish Americans spread across the country and became a staple at the dinner table during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations for Irish Americans.
Although not an Irish tradition, it is certainly a tradition created by Irish Americans and continues to this day. So, since we are Americans, I have decided to go ahead and cook in Irish American tradition for this day. Although it requires a bit of time to slow cook, it is actually very simple to cook, much of the reason why it became so popular among Americans.
Firstly, lets talk about the brisket for making Corned Beef. There is no need to cure your own beef. It would take you at least two weeks to prepare the meat and it is very unnecessary when there are perfectly good cuts of meat already prepared by the butcher ready for you to take home and cook your St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I’m using an uncured corned beef with no nitrate, hormones, or anitbiotics. It’s spiced and upon opening the package you will smell the scent of corned beef before even cooking it. Now, here is the recipe for preparing Corned Beef and Vegetables.
Corned Beef with Cabbage, Potatoes, and Carrots
2 lbs Corned Beef Brisket with Spice
10 Black Peppercorns
2 Bay Leaf
1 Large Head Cabbage, cut into small wedges
5 Carrots, peeled and cut into 3 inch pieces
10 Small Red Potatoes, quartered
1 stick butter
salt and pepper for taste
Place corned beef in large pot and cover with water about 2 inches above the brisket. Include all the spices that comes with the corned beef, and add peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer approximately 1 hour per pound or until tender. I let my 2 lbs brisket simmer for 3 hours.
Remove the corned beef from the water once it is completely tender and add the potatoes and carrots to the same water mixture. Add a little salt to the water if desired. Once the vegetables are nearly tender add the cabbage and cook for 15 more minutes.
Place vegetables in a bowl. Slice meat across the grain and drape over the vegetables . Add butter to the broth and stir until it’s melted, ladle over the vegetables and meat.
To add something truly authentic from Ireland to this meal, make Irish Soda Bread. It is a nice rustic complement to this simple meal. Real Irish Soda Bread is actually a simple mixture of flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk. Anything more than that is tea cake and not the original Irish Soda Bread. You may often see recipes that include fruits and eggs, but remember that traditional Irish food was very basic and simply made because they really could not afford a lot.
Irish Soda Bread
3 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Cup Buttermilk or Regular Milk
Preheat the oven to 400 Farenheight. Mix together the dry ingredients then add the milk. Gently knead the mixture and form a ball. Flatten the lump of dough to a slightly domed circle about 6 inches in diameter and put it on a baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross right across the circle. Bake for 45 minutes.