Saint Patrick’s Day is here! Enjoy an Easy Way Irish Meal
Every year, we all try to be a little bit Irish.
It’s fun to wear green, drink a bit much and enjoy a few games or pranks. But for some of us, St. Patrick’s Day has a bit more meaning.
It reminds me of my mother’s family and the myths my grandmother used to tell us about Ireland. A fantastic country where fairies and leprechauns danced and played. A hard country where thousands starved and from which many emigrated. A place where potatoes meant and sheep grazing on stony pasture land provided protein.
But best of all was St. Patrick’s when most Irish families celebrated the saint who saved a country from snakes—and provided redemption and reunion through the church.
My grandmother used to tell us corned beef and cabbage was the Irish meal in South Boston when poor families needed to stretch their grocery budget to serve 10 or 12 kids on a few dollars a week.
If you took a cheap piece of meat like brisket and cured it with salt and spices, it would last longer during the harsh end of winter. Add a cold weather vegetable like cabbage and a few potatoes and you had a meal that could stretch for many people.
So, a traditional St. Patrick’s Day feast was basically invented by wily housewives who used a New England boiled dinner as a celebration.
But some Irish traditions might be a bit different—including the cabbage and the but using fresh spring lamb like those from the green hills of the old country.
Here in the South, I know many of us just delight in wearing green, drinking green beer and having some green cupcakes or cookies. For many of my friends the corned beef and cabbage tradition beats out a lamb supper or even bangers and mash that other Irish families might lean toward.
For my family, the traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner includes a few surprises. We enjoy an amazing dish called colcannon, lamb in some form and a bit of bacon. We might add a fresh bunch of asparagus and enjoy it all with a stout Irish beer.
Here are my recipes—or rather, my grandmother’s recipes. I know there a thousand ways to make Colcannon, but I think hers is the best!
4 cups mashed potatoes
6 slices meaty bacon
2-3 cups fresh cabbage, sliced into ribbons
1-2 Tablespoons of soft Irish butter (optional)
salt and pepper
In a large non-stick or cast iron skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan to drain on a paper towel or plate. Add the cabbage to the pan and cook it in the bacon drippings for five minutes, stirring to make sure it all gets cooked. Crumble the bacon and add it back into the pan. Stir in the potatoes and keep stirring until the cabbage and bacon are evenly distributed through the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add butter if you feel the need—or let it melt over the top when you serve it. This dish can be kept hot over low heat while you make the rest of dinner.
Grilled Lamb Chops
4-6 Thick Lamb Chops (1-2 inches thick)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Mix the garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper and spread it over all sides of the chops. Heat a grill pan over heat. When the pan is hot, lay the chops on it. Cook 3-5 minutes per side until the chops are cooked to your liking.
24 stalks of fresh green asparagus
olive oil spray
Trim the tough ends off the asparagus. Spray them with the olive oil spray and squeeze the lemon over them. Lay on a hot grill pan for 6-10 minutes, turning at least once until they cook through.