Cabbage is the star on St. Patrick’s Day, playing lead and supportive roles in classic Irish dishes.
In fact, St. Patrick’s Day without cabbage is like Easter without eggs or shortcake without strawberries.
Cabbage is served with corned beef or broiled with mashed potatoes and onions in colcannon or simmered with lamb for an Irish stew or layered and coddled (cooked) with pork sausage, bacon, onions, potatoes and stock or broth in Dublin Coddle, or simply cooked in bacon-flavored water, chopped, buttered and plated with boiled and seasoned bacon.
Potato is often cabbage’s partner in crime, and they work well together in gratins, soups and a party-friendly pan-fried patty, which is a cousin to colcannon.
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Thinly slice the cabbage leaves crosswise and microwave it covered for a few minutes. Combine the slightly cooked cabbage with mashed potato, onions, an egg, seasonings and breadcrumbs. Form the mixture into patties and pan fry them in a little oil for pillowy soft bites that have an ever so slight crunch. Since I like anything and everything with ketchup, I think the patties are best when dabbed in a little bit of Heinz sauce.
When selecting cabbage, pick a tight, compact head that feels heavy for its size. It should look crisp and fresh, with few loose leaves. Leafy varieties should be green, with stems that are firm, not limp.
Romans believed that cabbage was derived from the sweat of Jupiter, which perhaps explains the odoriferous smell when it is cooked in water. For the sweetest cabbage, do not overcook as the sulfur that it contains multiplies. But if you get past the fifth-grader type jokes, you have a cooked vegetable that is assertive but does not need to shout to draw attention to itself.
Satirist and cultural critic H.L. Mencken has said: “An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.”
And it cannot be more true. While a cabbage is no rose when it comes to smell, rose petals are no cabbage leaves when it comes to these patties.
1 small head firm cabbage, finely sliced
3 cups hot, freshly mashed potatoes
1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup breadcrumbs
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons parsley (optional)
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
Vegetable oil for frying
Rinse shredded cabbage, drain well and place in a bowl, cover with a lid and microwave for 4 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine cabbage, mashed potatoes, onion, butter, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.
Taste, and then add parsley, which is optional, and beaten egg.
Drizzle oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
Form small balls and then flatten into patties with your palms.
Flour patties on both sides. Then gently place them in the skillet. Add oil as needed and cook patties on both sides until golden brown.
Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels until ready to serve. Serve hot with ketchup.
Makes 12 to 15 small patties.