Global Eats – Ireland

With St. Patrick’s Day being this past week, I felt it was the perfect time for the next installment of my Global Eats project.  I know it’s super cliche, but if I was going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Irish food, I felt I might as well do it well.

The partner of the firm I work for loves St. Patrick’s Day.  I believe he is actually Irish.  We typically have a big office outing for St. Patrick’s Day at the Irish pub up the block from our office.  We skipped it this year because St. Patrick’s Day is on a Sunday.  I am a little sad we didn’t go out this year, as it will be my last St. Patrick’s Day at the firm, but I do have some fond memories of these celebrations.  It can be fun to be there in the afternoon, but once evening hits, it gets a little too chaotic for me.  At 5:00 when work lets out, it becomes crowded, loud, and full of raging drunk people.  I probably sound much older than I am saying that, but I have never been a fan of the raging party scene.

Flanagan’s Harp and Fiddle has some more traditional Irish fare, but they still serve a lot of general bar food.  A couple of the Irish dishes I have liked there are the mini meat pies and fries with curry sauce.

Ireland is an island country in the British Isles.  While Ireland managed to win their independence from Britain in the early 1920s, the northern part of the island is still part of the UK.  If I am being totally honest, I have always found both Irish and English food to be rather bland and boring.  That is probably why I have never been too into St. Patrick’s Day.

What Ireland is probably most known for in America at least is the potato famine in the mid 19th century.  This is a particularly important piece of Irish history for the US because the Great Famine resulted in a surge of Irish immigration to the US.  I have long been fascinated by studying immigration trends.  I find it so interesting that even with the ever growing population of the world that Ireland’s population has never recovered from the famine and mass exodus that followed.  The height of Ireland’s population was  recorded as 8.2 million in the 1841 census, just a few years before the famine began.  They have never risen to that level of population.  Today, the population sits at 6.5 million.

Irish cuisine is still highly known for potatoes, as well as meats like corned beef brisket and vegetables like cabbage.  Potatoes and cabbage have historically been common in Irish cuisine as it is what the poor could afford to eat.  Corned beef and cabbage is probably the most well-known Irish dish, and it is eaten in high concentration on St. Patrick’s Day in the US.

That is what I decided to make for St. Patrick’s Day.  I invited the other 2/3 of the Hungry Trio to join me.  We typically have dinner together on Sundays, so it was a great excuse for me to sneak in another global eats project.

I originally had a recipe to make my corned beef in a slow cooker.  I should have better planned ahead, however, as I woke up that day at 10:00 am and realized the cook time was 10 hours!  I hadn’t even bought my groceries for the meal yet.   I decided to go with this recipe instead, using my dutch oven.  The meat would still get a nice slow cook for a more tender piece of meat, but we wouldn’t have to wait until 10:00 pm to eat dinner.

Since I was already going full on Irish for this meal, I decided to add some Irish soda bread to soak up the great broth from the corned beef and cabbage.  I used this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, one of my favorite baking food bloggers.

I was still on a high from seeing my musical hero, Kelly Clarkson, in Baltimore the night before.  I had my best of KC playlist blasting as I cooked.  Funny enough, Chris and Andrew came in as a Moment Like This came on.  Kelly’s music makes for a great cooking soundtrack.

This was no quick meal, but I will admit it was fairly easy.  I dropped the raw meat in my dutch oven with a container of beef stock and the spice packet that came with the beef.  The meat simmered for a good two and half hours before I had to do anything else with it.  That gave me time to do laundry, bake cupcakes, bake bread, make icing, and decorate my cupcakes.  I got a lot done in that time frame.  I love when you have a meal that you can just walk away from while cooking and do other things.  Sometimes cooking a meal is so involved that you can barely walk away from the oven for a minute.

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My dutch oven was a little small to fit the whole head of cabbage once it was time to move on to that step.  Fortunately, cabbage cooks down, so I only had a brief episode of overflowing bubbling liquid.

I have never been a huge fan of cabbage, but I was surprised at how much I liked it in this recipe.  The cabbage was tender and flavorful from the meat and broth without being overcooked.  The key was definitely cooking it in wedges.

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The veggies (cabbage, potatoes, and carrots) were just about done when Chris and Andrew arrived.  I pulled them out with the broth and covered the bowl with foil to keep it hot while the meat rested.

I pulled the meat out and left it on my cutting board to rest.  I was so nervous transferring the meat to the board with my tongs, because I could tell how tender this meat was.  I was afraid it was going to fall apart.  Fortunately, it did not, and it stayed together.  I let the meat rest for about 15 minutes before slicing it.

As you can probably see, this was a gorgeous cut of meat.  The muscle fibers were so beautiful and evident.  This meat was so fantastically tender.  I was surprised I was even able to cut so many slices.  There were a few parts in the middle that just fell apart as I cut through, but for the most part, I got these scrumptious looking slices.  The parts that fell apart didn’t last very long, as we just couldn’t resist picking them up and eating them.  At this point, I had this amazing smell in my apartment for several hours.  I couldn’t wait to dig into this meat.

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The Irish soda bread was a great addition to the meal.  It was fairly easy to whip together, but I had to bake it longer than anticipated.  It was hard for me to tell if the middle was baked.  The result was this slightly sweet bread (thanks to the raisins) with a hard, crunchy crust but a soft and chewy interior.  I was so pleased with how the bread turned out and would absolutely make it again.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this meal.  I was not expecting to like corned beef and cabbage as much as I did.  Maybe Irish food is better than I thought.  I don’t know that this will become a staple in my diet, but I see some Irish stews in my future next winter.

 

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