Apr 15, 2012

Ireland's St. Patrick's Day meal

I had always considered corned beef and cabbage the signature Irish dish and I usually make it for St. Patrick’s Day. I boiled the corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrot together. When John and I were in Roscommon, Ireland during June 2011 I contacted Sarah Browne to set up a cooking experience featuring Irish food. She offers a variety of classes but there were none scheduled on the days we were in the area; however, she kindly offered to prepare a traditional Irish meal for the cost of the ingredients.

I was surprised to learn that in Ireland the traditional dish is bacon and cabbage served with a side of Savoy cabbage boiled in the bacon water, accompanied by champ which is mashed potatoes seasoned with scallions, milk, and butter along with salt and pepper. The potatoes are not cooked in the bacon water. Browne made a parsley sauce of flour, butter, whole milk, and fresh parsley, seasoned with salt and pepper which she added on top of the slices of bacon when served.

The bacon and cabbage meal is considered nourishing and satisfying. Most farm families raised pigs and had their own vegetable garden. Browne has her own herb and vegetable garden adjacent to her cooking school. Like Browne, most people in Ireland know the source of their food where grass-fed meats and local dairy products are the norm. Even though we had intended to pay for the ingredients, which would have been about $50, she waived the fee and invited her parents and twin siblings to join us for dinner. We not only enjoyed a traditional Irish meal but were also the recipients of traditional Irish hospitality. The Irish love good, wholesome food and enjoy the pastimes of eating, drinking, and socializing, especially with family and friends.

Glazed Loin of Bacon
3.5 lb bacon loin, with a good layer of fat
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp pressed apple juice
15 whole cloves for studding

Cover the bacon in water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and discard the water. Cover with cold water again and bring to a boil. If any white foam or scum comes to the surface repeat the process of refreshing the water and boiling. Then, boil the bacon, with the lid on the saucepan for 15 minutes per pound weight plus an extra 15 minutes. Allow the bacon to rest in the bacon water for 30 minutes or so before removing it. Reserve the bacon water for cooking the cabbage. Use a sharp knife to score the fat into diamonds. Stud each ‘diamond’ with a clove. Mix the brown sugar with the apple juice and rub it gently into the scored fat. Bake in the oven (350F) for 20 minutes until the top is golden and caramelized. Baste with the falling juices a few times while in the oven. Carve and top with parsley sauce. Serve with sides of cabbage and champ.

Dinner ended with an Irish pudding - Carrageen Moss Blanc Mange. Sarah Browne strives to use all natural foods locally produced or found in Ireland. Her carrageen pudding makes use of a species of red algae that is found along the rocky coast of the Atlantic in Europe and North America but it is also sold commercially. Carrageen is rich in many vitamins and minerals so the pudding is not only delicious it is healthy.