If you're reading this before, say, 2 or 3 in the afternoon, you have
plenty of time to honor today's holiday with a good Irish-inspired meal.
And unless you have plans to eat at one of the many pubs and restaurants
celebrating St. Patrick's Day, why wouldn't you? The classic dish of corned
beef and cabbage is not only easy, with little hands-on work; there are almost
always leftovers, which are even better than the main meal.
So what, exactly, are we celebrating anyway? Although it is not an official
holiday -- no one gets the day off -- St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the
United States began in the 1700s, when Irish immigrants used the day to honor
But why St. Patrick? And why March 17? Here's what I know.
Ask most people who St. Patrick was and they will say that he drove the
snakes out of Ireland. But as with so many myths with our early history, this
tale seems to be just that, a myth, a legend developed to give a natural
situation a religious explanation.
Ireland's lack of snakes is due to geography and climate, not cosmology.
The only reptile in Ireland is the lizard, and a few attempts to introduce
snakes have failed. What St. Patrick did drive out of Ireland was its pagan
heritage. The snake is a common symbol in paganism and so you can make a case
for St. Patrick driving out symbolic snakes.
St. Patrick was born in 370 AD and as a teenager was kidnapped and forced
to work as a shepherd, a period when he is said to have had many religious
dreams and visions. He escaped to England and eventually traveled to France,
where he entered a monastery, took the name of Patrick and began to study for
When he returned to Ireland in 432, he was a bishop and is credited with
bringing Christianity to the island. He died on March 17, 461.
Here's the version of today's signature dish that I've been cooking for a
couple of decades. It's almost impossible to mess up; just be sure to cook the
corned beef long enough, so that it is very tender.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Makes 8 servings
1 raw brisket of corned beef, about 4 pounds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
3 whole small dried chiles or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
3 Italian parsley sprigs
6 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into sixths
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into diagonal 2 1/2 -inch pieces
6 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
5 pounds cabbage, cored and cut into 3-inch wedges
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
Rinse the corned beef under cool tap water. Set it in a large pot, add the
peppercorns, chiles, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs, half the onions
and enough water to come about 4 inches above the brisket. Bring to a full