“An Irishman before asking a question always asks another.” — Irish proverb
We roll into March, ready to celebrate St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland and a day that commemorates all things Irish.
Groundhog Day this year fell on 2/2/22, and it feels like we are all shyly still stepping out of our burrows. We’ve had a couple of weeks of rather unseasonal chilly temperatures for Florida, so we’re certainly ready for some corned beef and cabbage!
While avid fans paint on face shamrocks, drink green beer or a pint of Guinness and, of course, wear something of green color to commemorate the Emerald Isle, some could wonder why corned beef and cabbage is the quintessential dish consumed on St. Patrick’s Day.
Don’t be flummoxed, but did you know that St. Patrick wasn’t Irish? He was from Scotland and his name was Maewyn Succat. He was kidnapped at an early age, suffered many hardships but, after becoming a priest, he went to Ireland and converted many pagans to Catholicism, much to the displeasure of the Druids. He was never canonized, but he rightly earned his place in heaven and in the hearts of the Irish.
Also, don’t be fooled because Irish folk don’t eat corned beef and cabbage to celebrate St. Patrick. And, it’s not a tradition in Ireland. New York City was a melting pot of cultures and the first Irish settlers wanted something that reminded them of their beloved country. Since they couldn’t afford pork products, they had to settle for beef brisket and substituted potatoes for cabbage.
Here, the humble yet stalwart cabbage isn’t playing backup to the beef and without its appearance this dish would never be the same. Cabbage is truly one of the unsung heroes in the veggie arsenal. It shouldn’t be forgotten or given the pass over since it warrants a much-deserved ode due to its affordability and adaptability in so many dishes.
However, most cooks shy away from its putative anonymity, as the sheer size of the vegetable is a beast. Try making corned beef and cabbage and be forewarned — the mouthwatering results will make it a staple in your kitchen around this time of year.
CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE
1 corned beef brisket (about 4 or 5 pounds) with spice seasoning packet
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 medium cabbage — cut into quarters
8 medium carrots, halved crosswise
3 parsnips, halved crosswise
(1 or 2 potatoes can be added if desired)
Place brisket, seasoning packet, brown sugar and bay leaves in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours.
Add potatoes (if adding) and carrots to the pot, return to a boil and simmer for another 45 minutes until beef and vegetables are tender.
Add cabbage wedges to the pot and simmer until tender for about 30 minutes.
(Tip — If the pot is too full, remove the carrots, parsnips and potatoes, before adding cabbage wedges).
Let the beef sit for 15 minutes before slicing across the grain and place in a serving platter with the vegetables around the brisket. Serve with juices, creamy horseradish, Irish soda bread or a baguette.