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The Pot Luck of the Irish 

Irish cuisine is more than corned beef and cabbage

This week is St. Patrick's Day, which conjures up images of dancing leprechauns, pots of gold, shamrocks, beer, and corned beef and cabbage. According to the US Department of Agriculture, which evidently considers itself an authority on Irish customs, in rural Ireland this dish was traditionally served for Easter Sunday dinner - the first taste of meat after the long meatless Lenten season. But what exactly is corned beef? Corning has nothing to do with corn. It's a form of curing. In the times before refrigeration, meat was preserved by dry-curing it in coarse "corns" of salt. Today brining has replaced dry-curing, but we still call the result corned beef rather than "brined" or "pickled beef."

Although it will be the daily special at many restaurants on Paddy's Day, corned beef and cabbage is not Irish cuisine's only dish. Here are a few other choices that coordinate well with the wearin' of the green. You'll notice that most of these dishes seem quite heavy, but that's in keeping with the rugged climate in Ireland. And while cooking with wine is standard with the Mediterranean diet, the Irish tend to lace their food with stout or hard liquor.

Steak and Guinness Pie: Diced steak cooked with bacon, onions, brown sugar and raisins, and simmered in Guinness for a couple of hours. After it's nice and tender, the mixture is baked in pie pastry.

Dublin Coddle: Bacon, pork sausage, onions, potatoes, carrots and herbs cooked in hard cider or regular apple cider.

Cruibini (grilled pig's trotters): A tasty dish of brined pig's feet rolled in melted butter and breadcrumbs and grilled or baked.

Dublin Lawyer: Its ingredients are lobster, butter, whipping cream, salt and pepper and Irish whiskey — no clue as to why it's called "lawyer."

Cod Cobbler: Cod filets baked in cheese sauce and topped with scones (biscuits).

Baked Pasta with Cheese and Stout: Somehow pasta is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Irish recipes, but this dish has pasta (preferably shamrock-shaped), shallots, butter, three kinds of Irish cheeses, heavy cream, Guinness, and breadcrumbs.

Oysters on Creamed Leeks with Guinness Hollandaise: The stout is back, this time in a Hollandaise sauce over oysters cooked with leeks, butter, and cream.

Colcannon: A side dish of potatoes, cabbage, and onions, boiled together and mashed with salt, pepper, butter and milk.

Irish Parsnip and Apple Soup: Parsnips, apples, onions, garlic, spices, beef or chicken stock, and cream make this a hearty belly-warmer.

For a wee bit o' dessert we have:

Cream Delight with Whiskey: Toasted oatmeal and almonds, whipped cream, honey, whiskey and lemon juice all mixed together, chilled and served cold.

Irish Pound Cake: Just your typical pound cake with raisins, currants, red cherries, chopped almonds — and Irish whiskey added for good measure.

The Irish do drink something besides just beer, stout and whiskey. A favorite drink is the Black Velvet. It's champagne. And Guinness.

This St. Patrick's Day, skip the corned beef and cabbage and go for one of these other traditional Irish dishes. But remember this old Irish recipe for longevity:

Leave the table hungry.

Leave the bed sleepy.

Leave the table thirsty.


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