For one day a year, the average St. Patrick’s Day celebrants can don their “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” T-shirts or buttons and, fortified with a few green beers, conceivably elevate their social life with little effort.
It was emigrants, particularly to the United States, who transformed St. Patrick’s Day into the popular secular holiday of revelry and celebration of things Irish and all things green.
Cities with large numbers of Irish immigrants, who often wielded political power, staged the most extensive celebrations, which included elaborate parades. Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, followed by New York City in 1762. Even here in Arkansas, Hot Springs is famous for its World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held on Bridge Street, which is only 98 feet long.
Irish food and drink are the centerpieces of the party, as food usually is. Corned beef and cabbage first comes to mind. With easy-to-prepare corned beef from the butcher that has all the appropriate seasonings tucked right inside, a few hours in the crock pot or pressure cooker and the addition of chopped cabbage and new potatoes in the last hour will produce a completely sufficient Irish meal from your own McKitchen.
Irish cuisine developed as really more of a preparation style of ingredients that were readily available and of crops that were plentiful in the temperate climate of Ireland and the farm animals that thrived there. Potatoes were introduced in the second half of the 16th century and heavily influenced Ireland’s cuisine afterward.
Although corned beef is thought of as the most common Irish dish, there are other equally delicious lesser-known offerings, such as Irish stew, bacon and cabbage, and potatoes fashioned in many forms, such as boxty, coddle and colcannon.
You can’t discuss food and drink in Ireland without discussing beer, which can be traced back to the earliest days of Irish agriculture, when the magical combination of soft rain, fertile soil and cool, gentle breezes created an ideal condition for producing superb barley, a necessity to craft the foamy beverage.
According to guiness.com, early brewer Arthur Guinness started producing ales in 1759 at the St. James’ Gate Brewery in Dublin. The well-loved dark beer is sometimes known as “the black stuff” or “a pint of plain,” referring to the wide acceptance that Guinness is the standard suds in Ireland.
Try these lesser-known Irish delicacies for your St. Paddy’s Day celebration.
Colcannon is a traditional combination of mashed potatoes and greens, either cabbage or kale.
For a party, follow the Irish custom of concealing symbols of good fortune (a golden ring predicting an impending marriage, coins for forthcoming wealth, a thimble for spinsterhood and a button for bachelorhood) in the dish for folks to find.
2 pounds cabbage, shredded
2 cups water
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cups milk
1 cup chopped green onions
Salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter, melted
Crumbled cooked bacon and minced fresh parsley
In a large saucepan, bring cabbage and water to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving cooking liquid. Keep cabbage warm.
Place cooking liquid and potatoes in a large saucepan; add enough additional water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 15 to 17 minutes or until it forks tender. Drain completely, and keep warm in a large bowl
In a small saucepan, bring milk and onions to a steady simmer. Lightly mash mixture with a large fork. Slowly add warm milk to warm potatoes, continuously beating with a hand mixer. Stir in the cabbage, salt and pepper. Drizzle with the melted butter, bacon and parsley.
GUINESS CHOCOLATE CAKE
1 cup Guinness (dark beer)
1/2 cup butter, cubed
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup baking cocoa
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sour cream
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper, or line 2 6-count large muffin tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat beer and butter until butter is melted. Remove from the heat; whisk in sugar and cocoa until blended. Combine the eggs, sour cream and vanilla; whisk into beer mixture. Combine flour and baking soda; whisk into beer mixture until smooth.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake approximately 30 to 35 minutes for cake, 20 to 25 minutes for cupcakes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and cream; beat until smooth (do not over-beat). Remove cake from the pan, and place on a platter or cake stand. Tint icing with food coloring, if desired, and frost. Refrigerate leftovers.