Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saint Patrick's Day Feast

St.  Patrick's Day has always been one of my favorite holidays.  I guess it is because it comes in the middle of the Lenten season and provides a small morsel of fun and frivolity in the otherwise introspective time of the year.  My husband and I both have a bit of Irish heritage, so we celebrate with gusto and enjoy all that is green.  Every year I reminisce about the Catholic college where I got my undergraduate degree.  On St. Paddy's day a green stripe was painted down the main road, corned beef and cabbage were served, and green beer was eagerly sought.  Although a good beer makes a nice addition to the meal, green is not as important as it once was (beer isn't as important as it was in college either). 

Now we normally dine on corned beef, fried cabbage (the boiled stuff is just a little boring), red potatoes, Irish soda bread, and desserts ranging from green pistachio pudding, lime jello, green cake, or whatever your imagination can produce.  The red potatoes are always prepared quite simply.  I do this because I like pausing to remember all those dear souls who perished during the Irish potato famine in the mid 1800s.  It was a desolate time for the Irish people and keeping the potatoes simple reminds me of their struggle to survive.  We have pictured below a loaf of Irish soda bread that Olivia made, however, the recipe I am sharing is one that came with my bread machine (I warned you I am the lazy cook and she is ambitious).  I am sharing my recipe because it includes golden raisins and caraway seeds.  Few other recipes I've found include caraway seeds and usually use regular raisins, but I really like the delicate flavor of the golden raisins and that flavor paired with the tangy taste of the caraway seeds is a great combination.  I hope you enjoy this tip of the hat to the Irish.  Perhaps you will do as we do when we celebrate each year--we crank up the Celtic music as we dine and toast our Irish ancestry! 
Corned Beef Brisket

Nothing fancy to this recipe.  Find a brisket packaged similarly to this one at the meat counter.  It usually comes with a spice packet.  I always apply the spice packet and cook in my slow cooker on low while I am at work.  By dinner time, it is fork tender and smells divine.  Follow your package directions if you wish to cook it in the oven.  Just be sure you cook it long enough so it is tender.

Irish Soda Bread

2 1/4 cups bread flour
2 T. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 T. butter
1/2 cup golden raisins
2T caraway seeds
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. dry yeast
Put everything in your bread machine according to directions. In mine you put everything in the mixing bowl and the yeast in the lid to drop down in the mix at the proper time.  Then you bake on the light mode .  It makes a dense, moist, delicious loaf.

Red Potatoes

Wash your small red potatoes and quarter them.  Boil them until tender and drain. Return to the empty pan off the stove and cover.  This helps dry the potatoes slightly.  Toss with a little parsley (for flavor and the all important green factor) and some butter.  Salt and pepper to taste.  They are simple but wonderful. 

Fried Green Cabbage
Cut up 4-5 strips of bacon and fry them.  Remove from pan.  Cut up one small onion.  Fry it until tender in the bacon grease.  Remove from grease.  Save bacon and onion.  Drain most of the bacon grease, but leave enough to coat the pan.  You may add a pat of butter if you like the buttery flavor.  In the grease and butter, place one small to medium head of cabbage that has been cored and roughly chopped.  Fry this as you would potatoes.  Leave it alone for a few minutes initially so the cabbage will brown, then stir and continue to stir occasionally until the cabbage has reached your desired texture.  Drain off remaining grease, stir back in the bacon and onion.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

Dessert--you are on your own, but make it a nod to the Irish either in color or ingredients and best of all celebrate the dear Irish people and remarkable St. Patrick himself--the patron saint of Ireland and a beloved missionary who ministered to the Irish people in the 5th century!

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