I've always thought that I must be at least a bit Irish, because I identify with it all so completely. So I did the Ancestry.com thing and discovered a tiny bit of Irish blood, we're talking six generations back. But it is there. The Logans, from County Westmeath.
Those are me people! I'm an Irish lassie!
And so, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I present my personal favorite Irish things.
Ah stout! The perfect food. It neatly combines booze and dessert. It's sort of an entire food group unto itself. While Guinness is certainly the iconic Irish stout, I asked my friend Brian, who is a proud Irishman and a beer geek, I mean, mmm...expert (and his wife reads this blog, hi Laura), and he says that the very best Irish stout is actually Murphy's Stout, from Cork, Ireland.
And he says if you want to go domestic, buy Black Bear Stout from Bear Republic Brewery, which I've had and is to die for.
Although the Irish didn't invent the English language, they certainly perfected it. Irish folks just know how to turn a phrase. The number of great writers who have come out of that tiny green island is staggering - James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney - feel free to add your favorite to the list.
I know that most people consider U2 to be the best Irish rockers ever, but for me nobody compares to Van the Man. Van just always touches my soul and puts me in my happy place. Part rock, part jazz, completely soulful and totally sexy. Both Moondance and Poetic Champions Compose are near-perfect albums. Most people know him for his big hits like Brown-Eyed Girl and Moondance, but most of my favorites are the "deep-cuts. The perfect slow-dance music. Oh yeah...
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Though "Irish cook" is often thought of as an oxymoron, there are quite a few iconic Irish dishes that are amazing. The following is my friend Amanda's recipe for Corned Beef and Cabbage. Amanda is a damned good cook, and an Irish lass. She took several versions of this and tweaked and perfected it, and she has generously allowed me to share it with y'all. It takes the standard Corned Beef recipe and kicks it to another level. And you have to love any recipe that involves this much liquor!
Amanda's Corned Beef and Cabbage
Based on a House & Garden 1965 Recipe
Serves 4 with leftovers
5 pounds corned brisket of beef (I use the flat cut)
2 bottles Guinness (large bottles)
6 peppercorns, or packaged pickling spices
3 carrots, peeled and quartered
3 onions, peeled and quartered
1 medium-sized green cabbage, quartered or cut in wedges
Melted butter (about 4 tbsp.)
Whole grain ground mustard (or Dijon)
Place the corned beef in the slow cooker and add with 1.5 bottles Guinness, and water to cover. Set slow cooker for all day (minimum 6 hours, I would say, or up to 10 hours on low). After about an hour, I skim off the scum and add the seasoning packet, a little ground Mustard powder, and a little more Guinness to cover. I then let it cook all day.
If you want to serve the corned beef with cabbage and carrots: About an hour and a half before it is scheduled to be done, add the carrots and onion. During the last 45 -30 min. (depending on how “crunchy” you like your cabbage), add the cabbage. You can skip the vegetable step if you just want the corned beef for sandwiches or hash.
Remove the cooked corned beef, and slather it with a glaze of equal parts whole grain mustard (or Dijon if you prefer, or a mix of the two) and brown sugar. Put the glazed corned beef in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or so, until the glaze browns a bit.
The vegetables should be done at the same time as that finishes. Brush the vegetables with melted butter to serve.
Alternate glaze recipe:
¾ cup bourbon
¾ cup apple juice
3 Tbsp. Mustard
1.5 cup brown sugar
Anybody who knows me well knows that I'm a bit of a saint geek. I love me the saints. And while we all celebrate St. Patrick, there are actually quite a few really good Irish saint stories.
St. Patrick - So...he wasn't really Irish, and he probably wasn't really named Patrick, and he certainly wasn't the first missionary to Ireland and didn't really convert all of Ireland single-handedly and most likely there weren't really any snakes there for him to get rid of. But we love him anyway. He had been kidnapped and enslaved by Irish pirates, then after he finally got home, decided to go back to do some converting. Which seems pretty brave to me, so I'll give him the snake thing.
St. Brendan the Navigator - May or may not have been the first European reach North America, crossing the Atlantic in his tiny currah. He and his crew sailed for seven years and he said he baptized several mermaids, and once saw Judas Iscariot taking a vacation from hell on a passing iceberg.
St. Brigid - I love pretty much every story about this Patroness of Ireland. As a young girl, she was known to magically multiply the the household supply of butter.She desperately wanted to become a nun, but because of her beauty was constantly pursued by suitors, so she prayed to be ugly, and God answered her prayers, helping her to become grotesquely disfigured. After becoming a nun, her bathwater was often transformed into beer for the thirsty clerics and she was known to hang her cloak on a sunbeam to dry. By some crazy coincidence, her feast day is the same as that of a pagan goddess also know as Brigid. Who'd have thought?
St. Columba - The patron of both Ireland and of poets, which is fitting, right? Columba was one of those famous Irish scribes who copied manuscripts, but also wrote verse himself. His copying a manuscript without the author's permission led to the first copyright infringement lawsuit, and eventually an actual war. As penance for having caused a war, Columba banished himself from his beloved Ireland, living in Scotland from which he swore he could see the hills of Ireland. While in Scotland, he did some cool stuff, like banishing a monster from the river Ness to live in the loch. He did eventually go back to Ireland when the High King attempted to outlaw the Poets Guild. Columba gave an impassioned defense of poetry and verse, and saved Irish poetry forever.
I must confess a life-long weakness for Irish badboys. Something about the weird combination of smartass/drunk/funny/Catholic has always gotten to me. Denis is the epitome of all these things. He drinks and curses and is hysterical, yet has been married to his wife since 1989. He met his wife at Emerson College, which I was thiiiiiiiiiiis close to attending (Daddy nixed the expense), but if I had gone, I just know he would have married ME instead. I'm sure of it. Hmm...Mrs. Denis Leary. Sigh... Anyway, here is a video of Denis singing the funniest Irish song ever written. The lyrics actually make me cry with laughter. Enjoy...
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
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