Food & Drink

Down Home: Try traditional fare for St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate all things Irish. My mouth is already watering for the traditional one-pot-meal of tender corned beef with potatoes, cabbage, carrots and onions and of course, a side of Irish Soda Bread.

This classic St. Patrick’s Day meal is one of our family favorites and requested not only on this holiday but throughout the year. We call this corned beef, vegetable combination “boiled dinner.” Actually, corned beef and cabbage is primarily an American food tradition started by Irish-Americans in the mid-1800s and is not recognized in Ireland as a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal.

Corned beef has nothing to do with corn. The term “corn” actually refers to a dry-cure method of preserving meat, which was primarily used in the days before refrigeration. Cuts of beef were stored and kept from spoiling by rubbing coarse grains of salt (some the size of corn kernels) into the meat. Today, brining — the use of salt water — has replaced the dry-cure method. However, the name “corned” beef has stayed the same, rather than brined or pickled beef.

If not cooked properly, a corned beef brisket can be tough. Corned beef and other forms of brisket need to cook slowly on low heat with plenty of moisture which allows the meat to become tender and juicy. This method is called braising and can be done on the stove top or in a Crock Pot. I like using the slow cooker. I place the corned beef in the bottom of the cooker, add the vegetables, except for the cabbage, on top and around the sides, and then add the liquids and seasonings. Turn the temperature to low and let it simmer for about six to eight hours, then add the cabbage in the last hour of cook time.

Don’t forget to use your leftover slices of tender, juicy corned beef to make wonderful Reuben sandwiches, hash (which is good with potatoes and eggs) or corned beef and cheese sliders.

Cabbage, carrots and potatoes are the mainstay ingredients along with the corned beef needed to prepare this traditional dinner. This is a very easy meal to cook up. No salt or seasonings are required due to the flavor of the meat, although I do add black pepper to the overall combination of vegetables. I like to rinse my corned beef before placing it into a large pot; then submerge the beef in a low-sodium chicken broth along with additional water to cover it completely. I prefer not to use the pickling spice bag that is included with the corned beef. Occasionally, I use a smoked pork (picnic ham) shoulder in place of a corned beef; both meats are delicious.

Cabbage is often added to soups and stews or stuffed with meat and/or rice mixtures (cabbage rolls). It is also the basis for the German sauerkraut and Korean kimchi. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C and contains an amino acid that has anti-inflammatory properties.

Irish Soda Bread is the traditional bread to accompany this meal. I have found that soda bread recipes differ and everyone has his or her favorite ingredients. I have tasted soda breads that contain one or all of the following: caraway seeds, raisins, and red and green candied fruit (the stuff you see in fruitcakes). My favorite soda bread has raisins only. The essential ingredients needed for preparation are flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. The acid in buttermilk reacts with the base of the baking soda to provide the leavening for this quick bread. As with any homemade bread, you can’t beat the taste of a fresh-baked loaf right out of the oven. Of course, I slather mine with butter while it is hot.

This St. Patrick’s Day give yourself a little “Luck O’ the Irish” with a hearty, comforting pot of corned beef and cabbage along with a tasty hot loaf of Irish Soda Bread. Don’t forget to grab an ice cold Guinness to go with it!

Corned Beef And Cabbage

q 3 to 4 pound corned beef brisket

q Optional – spice packet included with the brisket (I don’t use it)

q 6 potatoes, peeled and halved

q 1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into thirds and the thickest pieces halved lengthwise

q 1 large cabbage head, cut into quarters then quartered again (keep the core intact)

q 1 medium onion, quartered

q 1 (48-ounce) can low sodium chicken broth

q Additional water

q Pepper to taste

n Rinse the brisket with cold water. Place it and the spice packet (optional) in a large Dutch oven with the chicken broth and additional water to cover by one inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer then cover with a lid. Keep the brisket at a low simmer for approximately three to four hours or until the meat is tender, (a fork goes through easily).

n Remove the meat and set aside, keeping it warm. I wrap it in foil and place in a warm oven. Add the potatoes, carrots, onion and cabbage to the broth in the pot; press them down into the liquid. Raise the temperature and bring the mixture to a high simmer. Cook the vegetables until done, about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the cut size of your vegetables.

n Slice the meat against the grain. Serve meat with the vegetables and broth. Common condiments include horseradish, vinegar, and grainy mustard. I normally serve homemade Irish soda bread or skillet buttermilk cornbread with this meal.

Reuben Sandwich

q Butter, softened

q 8 slices rye or pumpernickel bread

q 8 slices Swiss cheese

q Corned Beef Brisket, thinly sliced (about 3/4 pound)

q 1/2 pound sauerkraut (bag or can)

q 1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing

n Butter one side of four slices of bread and place the slices buttered-side down on a large cookie sheet.

n Top each with a slice of Swiss cheese, and then divide half of the corned beef among them.

n Drain the sauerkraut, pressing to squeeze out the excess moisture. Divide the sauerkraut among the sandwiches, and top each with one tablespoon of dressing. Add another layer of corned beef and a second slice of Swiss cheese to each sandwich.

n Top with the remaining bread slices; butter the side facing out. Place on a griddle or in a frying pan and grill the one side until golden brown, then carefully flip, and grill the other side. Cut sandwiches in half before serving.

n Makes 4 sandwiches.

Irish Soda Bread

q 2 cups white flour

q 2 cups whole wheat flour

q 1/2 cup sugar

q 2 teaspoons baking soda

q 1 teaspoon salt

q 4 tablespoons butter, chilled

q 1 cup raisins (black or golden)

q 1-1/2 cups buttermilk

n Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

n Cut in the butter until it is pea-sized. Stir in the raisins and buttermilk.

n Turn the dough onto a floured surface, knead 1 minute then shape into a round disk.

n Cut an “X” in the top and bake on a greased baking sheet for 45 to 50 minutes. Makes one 8-inch round loaf.

n Source: Family Fun Magazine

Diann Greene, whose column appears weekly in Accent, can be e-mailed at downhomecook@gmail.com.

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