St. Patrick's Day
Many cities in the South celebrate the feast of St. Patrick on March 17th – the day on which this patron saint of Ireland supposedly died – with the most popular being in Savannah, Georgia. Known as the Hostess City of the South, Savannah certainly earns this moniker as she welcomes upwards of 750,000 guests for the annual ‘wearing of the green.’ In the USA, the parade in Savannah is second in size only to that of New York City, which in terms of population alone is pretty impressive.
Savannah, one of the busiest ports in our country, has been a melting pot of immigrants since the city was founded in 1733. Surnames from spots across the globe are represented here today, the descendants of the thousands of folks who climbed the high bluffs from the river below and up into the New World. The Irish were a large sect of those settlers with some even arriving with Georgia founder General James Edward Oglethorpe; in fact, the second royal Governor of the colony, Henry Ellis, was an Irishman.
The celebration of St. Patrick’s day in Georgia’s first capitol dates back to 1812, when a handful of prominent Irish residents formed the Hibernian Society in Savannah to aid poor immigrants from their home country. (Hibernia is the classical Latin name for Ireland, with the word ‘hibernus’ meaning wintry). In 1824, the Society President gave a call out to local residents to join he and his fellow Hibernians to attend Mass, and then walk through the streets of the city, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day - and with that invitation, Savannah’s annual parade was formed.
In modern times, the parade gets international attention for its length and the uber party-like atmosphere that surrounds the showing off of the green. However, St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah still, at its heart, is a family and religious affair with many decades-old traditions.
One family’s culinary rituals I’d like to share with you are those of my dear friend, DeAnne Mitchell, and her lovely Mom, Mary Ann Smith. These two stylish and business savvy ladies own Convention Consultants, a high-end, boutique tour and conference planning company. The Irish roots of these two ladies goes back to Mary Ann’s grandmother and grandfather, who were from County Mayo and County Roscommon, respectively.
The meal around the dining table on St. Patrick’s Day is laden with traditional classics you hear about when the topic of an Irish dinner comes up in conversation: corned beef and cabbage, beef stewed in Guinness beer, and Irish soda bread. The following are a selection of their recipes from Cook & Celebrate.
There’s nothing like an Irish coffee to start the day of a big St. Patrick’s Day celebration. This famous cocktail was created by chef Joe Sheridan of Limerick, Ireland in 1943. It has become a huge hit here in the US since those days of WWII. Erin Go Bragh!
A note here: While there are only 4 ingredients, use the best coffee you can find, and follow the instructions. Just pouring everything into a mug at once won’t work.
6 ounces very hot water
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, packed
6 ounces strong coffee
1 ½ ounces Irish whiskey
1 ounce heavy cream, whipped until just firm
Instructions: Pour the hot water into an Irish coffee glass or other mug and allow to sit for 1 minute to warm. Pour the water out and discard. Add in the brown sugar to the glass and then pour in the coffee. Stir until completely dissolved. Pour in the whiskey, stir a time or two, and then gently place the whipped cream on top of the liquid. Serve immediately.
Beef and Guinness Stew
An alternative to the corned beef, or a pairing if you’re doing a buffet dinner for a crowd, would be this rich and delicious beef stew braised in Guinness beer and vegetables. And don’t save it just for St. Patrick’s Day; make a pot for a cold, wintry night and serve it with the cheesy potatoes and a loaf of the hot, crusty Irish soda bread (recipes included here).
2 pounds beef stew (in 2” cubes)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons flour
Scant 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 2” rounds
2 large onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato paste, dissolved in ¼ cup of water
1 ¼ cups of Guinness
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely minced (or ½ teaspoon dried)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Toss the beef with ½ teaspoon of the salt, ½ teaspoon of the pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the oil.
In a small bowl add flour with the remaining salt, pepper, and the cayenne – toss beef into flour mixture.
Heat the rest of the oil in a large skillet over medium- high heat. Brown meat on all sides in batches, making sure the pieces do not touch or crowd the pan. Too many pieces in the pan will not produce a good crust/browning. Set the meat aside in a lightly greased casserole dish and scatter the carrots on top.
Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and garlic to the skillet in which you browned the beef. Stir well for a minute or two, then add in the tomato paste mixture, stir, cover and cook 3-4 minutes.
Uncover the pan and add the Guinness and thyme to the skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil.
Pour the mixture over the beef and carrots in the casserole dish. Cover casserole, place in the oven, and cook 2-3 hours until meat is tender.
Irish Soda Bread
This warm, rustic, and crackly bread holds a lot of tradition with Irish families, and it is a superb choice to sit alongside your Corned Beef and Cabbage or Beef and Guiness Stew. While there are several variations on the bread from region to region on the Emerald Isle, DeAnne’s version is the one most folks would be familiar with - a round, browned dome that has a cross cut into the middle. Some hold that the crucifix sign in the bread was to force the devil to be driven out while baking, or to let the wee fairies escape; it was also thought to bring blessings upon the house. For culinary reasons, the incision allows the dough to rise without splitting. Make sure to have plenty of Irish butter, such as Kerry Gold, on hand to slather your chunks of bread with.
4 cups of Irish-style flour, such as Odlum’s or King Arthur Irish-Style
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ cups whole milk buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees; lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl, making a well in the middle. Pour the buttermilk and melted butter into the well and stir with a fork until just blended; don’t overmix.
With a spatula fold the dough onto a floured surface.
With floured hands (to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers) knead the dough 8 -10 times or until the mixture holds together well.
Roll the dough into a large ball and place on baking sheet. With a sharp, serrated knife cut a cross about an inch deep into the middle of the loaf, making the incision 4” long and about 2 ½” wide.
Place the loaf in the oven and cook 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack before slicing (or pulling apart).
Makes 1 loaf, serves 8
Crock Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage
The following Corned Beef and Cabbage dish is probably the most iconic and well-known of all the Irish recipes, at least here in the states. DeAnne cooks hers in a crock pot, making it a ‘one-dish wonder.’
5-6 lb. corned beef
3 onions, sliced
4 small Yukon gold or other waxy yellow potato*
1 medium size head of cabbage, cut into small wedges
2 - 3 cups of water
Spice package that comes with the beef
Note: Usually allspice, peppercorns, mustard seeds & coriander. If it is not included you can substitute by using pickling spices.
2 bay leaves
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Spicy brown mustard as accompaniment
Parsley for garnish
Rinse the meat several times under cool water to remove any excess salt.
Place the onions in the bottom of the crock pot, followed by potatoes, the corned beef, spice package, bay leaves, and garlic.
Pour in the water, enough to cover all ingredients. Cook on low for 3 hours.
Add the cabbage on top, pushing it down into the water. Continue cooking on low for another 5-7 hours until the beef is tender.
Remove the meat from the pot and set on a tray; cover with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice by cutting across grain and place on a platter. Remove and discard the bay leaves; arrange the potatoes and cabbage around the sliced meat to serve.
Note: If you are worried that the potatoes will be cooking too long, you can leave them out of the recipe; just cook and serve separately.
Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
This dish teams well with the Guinness stew. It’s also good with just about any other meat dish, from sliced ham to grilled chicken. DeAnne gets rave reviews on this specialty.
3 pounds small white potatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature, separated
1 ½ cups half & half, at room temperature, separated
½ cup sour cream
½ cup white cheddar cheese, hand grated
½ teaspoon black pepper
Put potatoes in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain and set aside in the same bowl you cooked them in.
In a separate pan over low heat melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and ¾ cup half & half.
Mash the potatoes to break them up into small pieces; slowly add the melted butter and half & half, mixing them together on the lowest speed of mixer.
Then by hand fold in the remaining butter and half & half, followed by the sour cream, cheddar cheese and pepper. Fold together until just mixed. Serve immediately.
Crème de Menthe Brownies
1 box Ghirardelli dark chocolate or double chocolate variety brownie mix
1 stick of butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup green crème de menthe
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Prepare brownie mix and pan according to package directions. Cook and then cool brownies on a rack. When completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until cold.
Mix together the butter and powdered sugar in food processor, or large mixer, until blended well.
While blending slowly add crème de menthe one tablespoon at a time. The mixture should be a smooth consistency.
Spread the icing over the cold brownies and return to the refrigerator to chill the icing hardens. Remove brownies from refrigerator for 20 minutes before cutting. Store in an airtight container.