Top of the morning! Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day—the day when everyone gets to be Irish. And what better way to celebrate than with a couple of festive recipes? Corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread are two familiar favorites that could bring out anyone’s inner brogue-talking, jig dancing self (or maybe that’s the green beer?).
Like most of our St. Paddy’s Day traditions, corned beef and cabbage is just about as authentically Irish as a green bagel or a Shamrock Shake. With every corner pub, tavern, bar and grill offering the specialty in celebration of March 17, some may be surprised to learn that it’s not all that prevalent or historically revered in Ireland. It does have Irish roots, but so did John Wayne.
Corned beef and cabbage is passed down to us from the first Irish-Americans. With the influence of customary Irish cookery in their back pocket, and some resourceful finagling, Irish immigrants created a meal that was both familiar and inexpensive. Living in communities of New York City with other “lower class” European immigrants such as Italians and Jews, the Irish first tasted corned beef at Jewish food carts and delis. The spiced and salt-cured taste reminded them of similar pork dishes from back home.
Although pork was the meat of choice in Ireland, beef was much cheaper in America. So the Irish immigrants prepared Jewish corned beef as they would pork, stewing it all in one pot as their ancestors taught them along with cabbage, a cheap but substantial vegetable. Great for a crowd, the dish has always been considered a festive one, and families often make it with recipes that have been passed down for generations.
With no Irish in my blood and no family recipes to speak of, in the spirit of the holiday I did my research and created my own. Thanks to the slow cooker, it could not be any easier to make; just throw everything into the pot and let it go. I used Guinness as my cooking liquid, along with a mixture of spices, mustard seeds, and brown sugar for extra flavor. Not to worry if your corned beef doesn’t come with a spice packet, as I have incorporated many of the traditional notes into the recipe. All taste-testers agree: it was delicious, perhaps even magically so.
Irish soda bread, on the other hand, is bonafide Irish, straight from the motherland. As the name suggests, the quick bread uses baking soda to make it rise. In its most traditional form, Irish soda bread is pretty plain. An Americanized version that is sweeter and more cake-like is commonly found in grocery stores around this time of year with extra ingredients like raisins and caraway seeds incorporated for flavor. My bread lands somewhere in the middle; slightly sweet and with all the add-ins, but made with tradition in mind. I translated the classic loaf into buns just for easy sharing. And as a “secret” ingredient I added a little Irish spirit to the raisins, soaking them in Irish whiskey first.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Slow Cooker Corned Beef & Cabbage
Makes: 8 servings
– 3 pound corned beef brisket (preferably with spice packet), trimmed of excess fat
– 1 pound baby carrots, halved
– 1 pound baby red potatoes
– 1 large head green cabbage, cut into wedges
– 1 cup Guinness or other stout beet, plus ½ cup water
– 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
– ½ cup light brown sugar
– 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
– Fresh thyme
– 2 bay leaves
1) Place all of the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook for 7-8 hours on LOW or 4-5 hours on HIGH until all of the vegetables and the corned beef are fork tender.
Irish Soda Buns
Makes: 10 rolls
– ½ cup Irish whiskey (optional)
– 1 cup raisins
– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 cup cake flour
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 teaspoon salt
– ¼ cup sugar
– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons, melted
– 1 ½ cup buttermilk
– 2 eggs, beaten
– 1 ½ tablespoons caraway seeds
1) Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring the whiskey (or ½ cup water) to a simmer. Pour over the raisins to rehydrate, about 5-10 minutes, then drain.
2) In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar; mix well. Cut in the softened butter with a pastry blender or two knives until pea-sized and well distributed. Gently mix in the buttermilk, eggs, and raisins, until dough just comes together.
3) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Gently form the dough into small palm-sized balls, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to cut an “X” into the top of each bun. Dust with flour.
4) Bake for 25-minutes until the buns are golden brown on the bottom and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Brush the buns with the melted butter while they are still warm, and dust with extra flour if desired.
What is your favorite thing to eat on St. Patrick’s Day? Let us know in the comments!