A Feast Fit for St. Patrick – Part 1
I don’t make corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. I make corned beef and I make cabbage; but never corned beef and cabbage.
St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays for a dinner party for several reasons. It is a casual event, quite different in scope from the more formal holiday meals of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, and Easter, with their expectations of multiple courses of traditional mandatory foods.
On St. Patrick’s Day I can be creative with the dishes I serve and try to surprise and delight my guests. Take that old standard corned beef and cabbage, for instance. Rather than boil everything in one pot, which can turn into a soggy mushy mess of smelly cabbage-flavored stuff, I prefer to cook my corned beef separately and then make a nice cabbage side dish. I've been doing this for years and people always tell me it is the best corned beef and cabbage meal they ever had. Even professed corned beef haters admit they like my corned beef.
My annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner is an ever-evolving menu of several favorite recipes, with some new dishes thrown in each year. In keeping with the fun of the holiday’s theme, I aim for each course in the menu to contain a dish that falls into one of several categories; an Irish recipe, or green in color, or made with beer or other Irish ingredient.
Below is my basic St. Patrick Day dinner menu. For the dishes that I consider my must-serves, I share the recipes. For the other courses I offer some ideas.Cocktails
– Bright green cocktails are a must to get everyone into the Irish spirit. Each year I try something new. Past favorites have been Melonballs, Green Apple Martinis, Frozen Mojitos made with fresh mint, and Lime Margaritas. If you prefer beer, try Black Velvets: half fill a champagne flute with Guinness Stout and top with Champagne.Cocktail Snacks
– I always serve some green snacks for nibbling with the cocktails. Some ideas: a relish tray of assorted green olives, pepperoncini, and pickles; green vegetable crudités with dip; guacamole with tortilla chips, spinach dip in a bread bowl; wasabi peas; shelled pistachio nuts. Anything green goes!Soup or Salad course
– I serve either soup or salad. In keeping with the green theme, a velvety pureed soup of green vegetables is nice and light. If the weather is very cold and my guests are the types with hearty appetites, an ale-cheese soup may fit the bill. For salad, any mixed greens work. Spinach salads are nice, especially when garnished with some glazed nuts and fresh or dried fruit (fresh strawberries or mangos; dried cherries or cranberries).Glazed Corned Beef
– This is my never-varying corned beef preparation, although I do change the glaze from year to year. This is more of a detailed cooking methodology than a recipe, but it never fails to please even the most ardent corned beef haters. And it is perfect for entertaining because most of the work is done ahead. I’ll be posting this recipe next week, in Part II.Sauce or Relish
– Corned beef is always complemented by some type of sharp flavorful sauce, relish or chutney. Past favorites have been a tangy mustard sauce, a beet and horseradish relish, and a mustard horseradish sauce.Butter Braised Cabbage
– Every few years I’ll try a different cabbage side dish, but I always come back to this one. Surprisingly, the small amount of curry powder makes this dish a perfect complement to corned beef. The recipe is below.Potato side dish
- This varies from year to year. I’ve made scalloped potatoes, colcannon, twice baked potatoes, hot potato salad and glorified mashed potatoes but I’m still seeking the perfect potato side dish to complement this menu.Vegetable side dish
– I usually make a carrot side dish to add some bright color to the table. Past choices were dilled carrots, beer glazed carrots, and apricot carrots. Green beans sometimes make an appearance in various guises.Whole Wheat Beer Bread
– I used to make Irish Soda Bread until I discovered this bread. Like Irish Soda bread, it is a quick batter bread, but what makes it special is its wonderful yeasty fragrance from the beer and marvelous rustic texture. A big plus, it is very easy to make. The recipe is below.Beverages
– Obviously beer is the beverage of choice on St. Patrick’s Day, especially a nice selection of Irish beers. I personally prefer wine and have found Alsatian Riesling or Beaujolais to go well with this menu.Dessert
– This also varies from year to year. I’ve made various Irish cream cheesecakes, grasshopper pie, and Irish Cream Chocolate Mousse. Two unusual ones on my “to-try” list are beer ice cream and a gratin of fresh fruits with Irish Mist sabayon.Irish Coffee
– This is my favorite way to prepare this popular spiked hot beverage. The recipe will appear next week in Part II.Recipes:Butter Braised Cabbage
This recipe will turn cabbage haters into cabbage lovers. From the classic, Victory Garden Cookbook, one of my favorite and most used cookbooks.
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons curry powder
8 cups sliced cabbage (1/4 inch slices) (1 medium head)
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
In a very large skillet melt the butter with curry powder over medium heat. Add the cabbage and stir and toss to coat with butter. Season with salt and pepper . Cover, lower heat and cook gently for 5 - 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender.
Yield: 12 servingsWhole Wheat Beer Bread
This is an exceptional batter bread that also partners perfectly with chili and hearty soups. It is rustic looking, fragrant with the malty, almost floral aroma of beer, and takes mere minutes to make.
Normally, batter breads or quick breads like this are only good fresh out of the oven and then quickly dry out. But this one remains moist and delicious for days. Leftovers are wonderful toasted, which provides a crunchy texture and a nutty flavor
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cups whole wheat flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 can or bottle of beer (12 ounce) (I like a lager)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray or grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. If the brown sugar has any lumps, be sure to break them up with a wooden spoon or your fingers.
Mix egg with the beer and add it to the flour mixture. Stir well with a wooden spoon until a stiff batter is formed. Scrape the dough into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
Next week, in Part II
, I’ll share the recipes for glazed corned beef and Irish coffee.
Tags: St Patrick
, corned beef
, beer bread