(another idea for St.Patty’s Day: Irish Stew with Lamb and Stout)
Last week, I put away my Mardi Gras beads, and debated which bacchanalian habit I could cast aside for the Lenten season.
A friend of mine is eschewing butter. Heck, butter’s not bad, butter’s good. Perhaps that second glass of wine with dinner. The last report I read indicated wine was healthy for my immune system—sadly, just one glass.
Contemplating this dilemma, I remembered today’s reprieve. Bless Saint Patrick’s sweet soul. I’ll retrieve my Mardi Gras beads, sort the green ones from the rest and have another party. It’s quite the paradox that Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day are tied to religion, but there you have it. And you won’t hear any complaints on my end.
According to Religious Facts.com, the feast day of St. Patrick has been observed in Ireland for hundreds of years on March 17. The fasting season of Lent bans were lifted this one day to celebrate with Irish pork (bacon) and cabbage; beef was too expensive.
It wasn’t until the Irish immigrated to America, according to the website Irish Cultures and Customs, that corned beef was born.
“When the Irish emigrated to America and Canada, where both salt and meat were cheaper, they treated beef the same way they would have treated a ‘bacon joint’ at home in Ireland: they soaked it to draw off the excess salt, then braised or boiled it with cabbage, and served it in its own juices with only minimal spicing — may be a bay leaf or so, and some pepper.”
Today’s corned beef remains a cut of beef steeped in a similar, but more amplified, savory brine. Usually, and preferably, it is from the brisket. It would be far better to overcook the beef than undercook it; undercooked brisket is tough. If there’s enough space in the pot, I add potatoes and carrots, in addition to the cabbage timed within the last hour of cooking. If not, I cook everything in stages. First I cook the corned beef with the spices to tender perfection, then I cook the potatoes and vegetables in the brewing liquid.
A few minutes before serving, I slice the corned beef and reheat it in the hot cooking liquid, if the beef has cooled down. In past years I’ve purchased Sy Ginsburg corned beef, which is from a local company and is quite good. This year I tried the Trader Joe’s brand; it’s lean and flavorful as well. Both brands have the pickling spices included. Feel free to double the size of the recipe — leftovers are a bonus!
On St. Patty’s day – everyone’s Irish!
Back to that Lenten resolution. I’ll give up that second glass of wine, after all. Easy peasy. I’ll switch my choice of stem ware to an over-sized bubble, and no one will be the wiser (-: