Saturday, March 20, 2010

St. Paddy's Day Feasting

I tend to be a traditionalist, but one who likes to play with the tradition as well.  So yes, I cooked Corned Beef 'n' Cabbage for St. Paddy's Day; but I didn't boil my cabbage along with the meat, and I didn't add carrots, and I didn't serve spuds.  For the sake of convenience -- since Tom was coming over for dinner, and Jeremy and his friend Mitch were headed to an evening party soon after I got home from work -- I plopped the corned beast into my Mama Bear crockpot (vs. the Baby Bear one for dips or the Papa Bear one for feeding crowds) and let it simmer all day long.  Ideally, it would have cooked in a good beer; but that was not an option with this group (Anonymous rules prevent my sharing specifics), so I immersed the main course in water.  I was told by the resident expert-in-all-things-corned-beast, Jeremy, that it was the best one I've made; so clearly, my new technique and boring choice of liquid balanced each other out.

Jeremy and Mitch didn't even bother eating a sample of each item offered; they went straight to making Reubens.  Jeremy had diligently bought the ingredients himself, and prepared the sandwiches to his own specifications.  I'd show you photos of what I'm told were phenomenal specimens ... of course, that would have required someone other than 19-year-old males being involved in this venture, because no signs of these Yeti-like Reubens can be found.  But I'm told they were amazing!

I ate only one bite of the meat because sodium nitrite gives me migraines, and I wasn't going to pay extortionist prices for chemical-free slabs; ours came from Kroger, personally chosen by Jeremy, which was just fine.  Instead, what captures my heart every St. Paddy's Day -- and which, truly, is incredibly seductive -- is my handmade/home-baked Brown Soda Bread with ... sigh ... Dubliner cheese.  If I had to pick a favorite cheese -- which, of course, would be such a taxing job that my brain would explode -- it might just have to be Dubliner.  It's dry like an aged Cheddar, not too strong, with hints of Parmigiano as well ... familiar in some ways, and yet absolutely its own distinctive and delicious entity.  It is sublime eaten simply on its own or with a lovely selection of fruit (fruit and cheese being among my many food-related weaknesses, and virtually a perfect meal -- breakfast, light lunch, tea-time treat, bedtime snack, whatever); but one might almost think it had been specifically created to be served with my soda bread, because the pairing is so astoundingly "right."  My soda bread is made with King Arthur whole wheat flour, oats, rich buttermilk from Calder Dairy, and raisins (Jeremy's preference) or dried cranberries (my own choice) -- it is hearty, almost scone-like in its crumbliness, not sweet, and absolutely addictive.  Slather some good butter on a slice of bread, add Dubliner cheese ... and find bliss.  If this might ever be my last meal, I could die grinning.

I also served the traditional cabbage with my corned beast, although Tom and I were the only ones who ate it; Jeremy will eat cabbage, but only if it's been transformed into either sauerkraut or cole slaw.  I can eat boiled cabbage, but prefer to do more interesting things with my vegetables than merely soak them in water.  So I melted a bit of bacon fat -- because bacon makes everything better, and is proof that there is a God! -- in a frying pan and cooked sliced cabbage and red onion until they were softened and caramelized ... probably over-cooked to most people's tastes, but perfect for mine.

I didn't drink any green beer or Guinness, not being a) a beer drinker, b) a stout drinker, or c) much of a drinker at all.  St. Paddy's Day isn't about being a lush (and am I the only one who thought's front-page touting of a contributor's day-long attempts at drunkenness was utterly inappropriate and revolting???) -- it's about celebrating one's Irish heritage (I'm 1/4 Irish) ... and, as always, feasting!


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It works, it works!

Here's what I did: I DID get a nitrite-free piece at Trader Joe's - it wasn't too expensive and it was fab. Just reheated it.

Made mashed potatoes, but mashed in spinach and shallots.

Cut up apples and red cabbage, softened them in chicken broth and tossed in some sauerkraut - delish!

Anonymous said...

You can corn your own w/o nitrites. I found the recipe at married with dinner. I made one in my pressure cooker but didn't write a post about it. It was yummy and we also used most of it for reubens. Next I'm going to find a decent recipe for Thousand Island dressing. :)

Yenta Mary said...

I have a Julia Child recipe for corning beef, but every year I forget until it's too late to do it in time for the event. I should really try it, though -- thank you for reminding me about it!

I don't have a recipe for 1000 Island dressing, but I do have one of those mock-ups for Big Mac sauce; let me know if you'd like it, and I'll dig it out ....


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