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.|

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

their heritage.

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

the priesthood.

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

boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium low and use a large shallow

spoon to skim off the foam and other impurities that rise to the surface.

Cover the pot, setting the lid slightly off center so that it is not a

tight fit. Simmer 2 hours. Remove the lid and using a slotted spoon, remove

and discard the onions and herb sprigs. Add the remaining onions and carrots

and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer

until they are almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add the cabbage, pressing it

down into the liquid (it will rise back up but don't worry about it). Cover

the pot and simmer 20 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender but not mushy.

Meanwhile, put the cream into a small bowl and stir in the horseradish and

1 tablespoon of the minced parsley. Taste, season with salt and pepper and set


Use a large fork or tongs to transfer the brisket to a serving platter;

cover it loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 15 minutes. Slice the corned

beef and return it to the platter. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the

vegetables from the pot to the platter; sprinkle the parsley over the

vegetables. Serve immediately, with the horseradish cream on the side.

There are so many versions of Irish stew. These days, most include carrots,

beef stock and a lot of spices, none of which is traditional. Even the

potatoes are a contemporary conceit that are not found in the most traditional

versions. If you prefer, leave the potatoes out of the stew and serve it with

Potato Souffle.

Irish Stew

Makes 8 servings

4 large onions, peeled and cut into 1/4 -inch slices

-- Kosher salt

-- Black pepper in a mill

4 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces

36 very small new potatoes, washed and halved

4 thyme sprigs

Arrange half the onions on the bottom of a clay pot or other deep ovenproof

pot. Season with salt and pepper, add the lamb, season it with salt and pepper

and top with half the potatoes. Set the thyme sprigs on top of the potatoes

and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Add 2 cups of water, season a final

time with salt and pepper and cover the pot with its lid. Set in a cold oven,

turn the heat to 300 degrees and bake for 3 hours. Remove from the oven and

let rest at least 15 minutes before serving.

Variations: Use 1 cup water instead of 2 and add 1 cup Guinness, 1 cup

white wine, or 1 cup red wine.

Replace half the potatoes with very small turnips.

Serve this yummy souffle with any meat dish, especially stews and roasts.

It is not quite as fragile as many souffles, so if you've been nervous about

making one, this is a good place to start.

Potato Souffle

Makes 6 to 8 servings

6 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed and baked until tender

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk or half-and-half, hot

-- Kosher salt

-- Black pepper in a mill

3 egg yolks, beaten until pale

4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks

While the potatoes are still fairly hot, break them in half and press them,

broken side down, through a potato ricer into a medium mixing bowl. (If you do

not have a potato ricer, peel the potatoes and pass them through a food mill.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Use a small amount of the butter to grease

the inside of a souffle dish. Season generously with salt and pepper and beat

in all of the remaining butter and the hot milk.

Add the egg yolks and mix thoroughly. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold

in the egg whites; do not overmix. Scrape the mixture into the souffle dish,

set the dish in the middle of the bottom rack and bake until the top is

lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.


* Add 3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley minced as finely as possible to

the cream.

* Replace 2 tablespoons of the butter with 2 tablespoons bacon fat and fold

in 1/4 cup crumbled bacon with the egg yolks.

I came across this recipe in a sweet little book,'' Irish Countryhouse

Cooking,'' written by Rosie Tinne in 1974. The book is a collection of recipes

from home cooks throughout Ireland and gives an interesting glimpse into how

people fed each other at the time. Unfortunately, not a single recipe has an

introduction so we learn nothing about the person who provided it or the

context in which it was served. But obviously, this boldly flavored jelly is a

dessert, and a fine one, I might add.

Irish Coffee Jelly

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 1/2 cups very strong coffee

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 envelopes ( 1/2 ounce) powdered gelatin

1 1/2 cups Irish whiskey

1/2 cup heavy cream

Put the coffee into a small saucepan, add the sugar and set over medium

heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the coffee just begins to simmer.

Remove from the heat, add the gelatin and stir until it is completely

dissolved. Let cool a bit longer and stir in the whiskey.

Divide the liquid jelly into small serving glasses or cups and chill until

completely set, about 2 hours (more or less depending on the size of the


To serve, use a whisk to whip the cream. Add a dollop to each portion and

serve immediately.

''Mouthful with Michele Anna Jordan'' can be heard each Sunday at 7 p.m. on

KRCB 91.1 FM. Jordan can be reached via e-mail at michele@


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