Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Time for an Irish Feast!

It's that time of year again. Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day and people all around the globe are thinking about an Irish feast, if only for this one day of the year.

But what is an Irish feast, exactly?

Here in America, we equate St. Patrick's Day with a boiled corned beef and cabbage dinner with potatoes, carrots and onions, perhaps a green-tinted beer--and don't forget a hunk of Irish soda bread. While the soda bread is a traditional Irish food, corned beef is not. No, bacon and cabbage were much more common due to the inexpensive availability of pork. Early Irish immigrants to America preferred corned beef because it was cheaper to obtain compared to pork.

Irish cuisine has been characterized by simple ingredients, locally-procured and prepared in a humble, homey fashion. Today's Irish chefs have embraced more international cooking techniques, applying them to traditional ingredients and locally-available items (such as their growing cheese industry) to create a new Irish cuisine.

Ireland has fantastic local seafood, including wild salmon, cod, prawns and oysters. Try the Dublin Lawyer: lobster cooked in whiskey and cream. Sounds delicious!

Here are some other ideas:

- Lamb chops braised in stout served on a bed of smashed potatoes.
- Pan-seared wild salmon on a bed of braised kale with an Irish-cream sauce.
- Cod baked en papillote with lemon, julienned carrot and white wine served with mashed parsnips and chopped scallions, studded with crispy shallots.

As for me, well, I think there would be a coup d'etat if I didn't prepare corned beef for our St. Patrick's Day dinner. I'll be using my favorite method of preparing corned beef, loosely following Alton Brown's recipe: I make it in the crock pot and omit the onions, potatoes, carrots and celery. After it's cooked, I blot the meat dry, slather it with mustard and top it with a brick for a short stint in the oven, which compresses the meat and makes it easier to slice. To accompany, I'll also make braised cabbage--really, it is THE tastiest way I've ever eaten cabbage. Ever.

Top photo is courtesy of Kim Siciliano Salem's flickr page under Creative Commons license.


Sara said...

I made corned beef last night too. With....braised cabbage! We also love braised cabbage. Great minds think alike :)

Amanda said...

Indeed they do, Sara! :)

Sam said...

I love that photo at the top!

I've never had corned beef except from a can but it looks really tasty.

Amanda said...

Hi, Sam. Corned beef from a can is a completely different flavor. I had never had it in a can, myself, until my mother-in-law fried some cabbage and mixed in canned corned beef. Really, there is no comparison. My husband, raised on the canned stuff, LOVES it when I make corned beef brisket.

Is corned beef (not canned) available in the UK?

Sam said...

I wish it was but I've never seen it. We can get brisket here so maybe homemade is the answer.

Amanda said...

Aah--that would certainly be a lesson in charcuterie, eh? I believe Alton Brown did a show on DIY corned beef--the process looked very interesting, if I recall correctly.

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