Top o’ the morning, friends! I know a very cliché way to start out a St. Paddy’s Day food blog, but that’s what I have today. And truth be told, I do have some Irish blood flowing through my veins and, everyone else is Irish for at least one day a year, right?
An oddity is occurring this year: I’m not fixing corned beef and cabbage today, as my family is heading to a local joint, White Water Taphouse, where my brother is going to be playing Irish jigs and they’ll be serving up corned beef sliders. Now, not to worry, I’ll fix up a grand meal tomorrow resplendent with beef and cabbage, potatoes and carrots, coarse mustard and horseradish. Maybe even some soda bread if the whim strikes.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain
May the hand of a friend always be near you
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you
One thing I always wonder about is why we only fix corned beef and cabbage on or around St. Patrick’s Day. I mean, the ingredients are available year round, and I guess that the folks living on the Emerald Isle don’t save this simple fodder for one day a year. Come on, really? However, I’ve found that there are other dishes with an Irish heritage to be explored.
Take the humble Shepherd’s Pie (see pic above). You’ve got meat which was traditionally lamb, vegetables – a great way to use leftover bits – gravy or au jus and then you plop creamy mashed potatoes on top and call it a wonderful one-dish casserole. Did you know that this same goodness is called Cottage Pie if ground beef is used instead of lamb? Just a little food fact.
Ubiquitous beef stew wears so many guises, it’s crazy. Red wine, mushrooms and thyme makes it beef bourguignon or add a zesty curry mix and beef vindaloo happens. Using these same adages, extra potatoes, a chunk of sliced cabbage and a bottle of Guinness Stout turns said stew into an Irish ditty.
I love shopping at Trader Joe’s; who doesn’t? I stopped in a couple of days ago to pick up some corned beef that they’d sampled the week before. It was perfect, not overly salty and pulled apart in just the right way. Of course, I never leave without more than what I had on my list. Several things were added to the basket, including a package of “bangers,” aka pork sausages.
Many pubs have “bangers and mash” on their menus, and I understand that it is slang for sausages served with mashed potatoes. But, I couldn’t resist this package since it had the word “bangers” written on it. So home they came and were duly fixed for dinner.
I wondered why these sausages were called bangers, or why any sausages were called bangers. I’m often fascinated by the origin of words and phrases. Come to find out, this British staple (I know it’s Ireland’s day) changed during World War I when meat was in short supply. Sausages became filled with only scraps of meat, fillers like bread crumbs and water. Hence, when cooked, they would snap, crack and pop, even making a bang; therefore, the colloquial name. Cool, huh?
My nod to the Irish version of bangers and mash included turning my “mash” into colcannon. Colcannon is basically mashed potatoes with cabbage stirred in. I added raw cabbage because I wanted the crispness, but you certainly could wilt it in the potato’s cooking water or sauté it in a little butter before stirring it in to the potatoes.
The sausages were browned and then I added a bit of water to the pan, topped it with a lid and let the steam do the rest. One benefit of doing this step is the little pan sauce that’s created. It was the bomb drizzled over the potatoes.
Happy eating, friends, and celebrate like your Irish –