A buddy of mine walks down the hall to his weekly staff meeting announcing, “This will be the “Best staff meeting ever!” He is Irish American. I host a St. Pat’s day party each year and it really does get better each time. Maybe that’s because each year I have a different focus. One year I co-hosted it with a Jewish roommate and we combined Purim and Patrick. Another year, much poetry was read. This year it was pretty much all about the food. In the Irish spirit of hospitality, I feel compelled to share my most delicious recipes for success.
I don’t drink. Neither do many of my friends so that makes this a rather inexpensive meal. I do cook with alcohol and it was the key ingredient in a couple of stupendous dishes although I also had many dishes available without the hooch.
The best recipe for a successful St Patrick’s day get together is hospitality combined with good friends. There are fewer and fewer people I know who want to risk driving out to bars and back on St. Patrick’s day or the weekends surrounding it. Why not have a small dinner party at home to share the real luck of the Irish – our friendliness? There’s really no need to buy decorations, save your money for the food.
I am lucky to have another lovely friend who came over early to help clean the mess of my cooking off the kitchen table, (the best place to host a St. Pat’s party.) She did dishes afterwards and even brought a green fairy cake. It was a rolled angel food cake with a filling of lime infused cool whip and topped with green coconut! It was a great centerpiece and a coveted take home. My roommates were disappointed that the leftovers went to a four year old. This is one version of the recipe I found on line.
Here are the results of my experiments of over 20 odd years of hosting these galas culminating in last night’s event.
Number one recommendation
Chocolate Guinness cake! Not too hard to make, just regular ingredients for chocolate cake plus lightly boiled Guinness Stout and molasses plus added chocolate chips! I can not describe how rich and moist this is. You can make this the night before if you wish but try not to eat it all. It really needs no frosting but goes well with whipped cream. Here is the recipe:
My second recommendation
Use Guinness in your beef or lamb stew! Once again just your regular ingredients then add Guinness Stout and (surprise) – chopped up prunes to cut the bitterness! No one need know and everyone will benefit digestion-wise. Here is a fun non-recipe recipe in that it doesn’t really tell you much for measurements assuming, like most Irish people, you know how to make stew. I made this the night before so that the flavors would deepen. Delicious!
My third recommendation
Colcannon! After several years of throwing away uneaten boiled cabbage I discovered that almost everyone loves colcannon. No recipe is really necessary. Just make mashed potatoes using something rich like sour cream or buttermilk. Saute leeks, garlic, a head of cabbage and/or some kale in butter or olive oil and mix them all together. Yum! Make sure there are enough for leftovers. I usually go through about five pounds of potatoes but some years I have used ten.
My last recommendation
Some people will call this heresy but I bake my corn beef. I treat it like a roast covering it with onions, garlic, maybe some tomato paste, water and tin foil. Then I cook two of them at 375 Fahrenheit for 4 hours.( meat thermometer temp 185 degrees .) The meat is so tender and it cuts like butter. It looks red, not grey like the boiled kind. You can add carrots, potatoes and more water into the tin foil tent for the last hour. Leftovers are great.
This leaves me the top of the stove to cook all those potatoes and leeks. Also the oven is hot so I can put some Irish soda bread and apple crumble in when I take the beef out. Then I turn off the oven and put the colcannon and beef back in to keep warm.
I like to have a few Irish items around to spark conversation. i’m not very big on loud cds as most of my friends love to talk and tell stories, go figure. I have some spoons I can play at a very elementary level so I might show off a bit. I have an Irish home cooking book I leave out with some Gaelic phrase books and this one which is one of my all time favorites: Irish Wake Amusements
I used this as a source for a paper in graduate school. It’s hilarious in a scholarly way. As you might know, wakes are events where people gather to mourn/celebrate a death. They used to be held in the kitchen of an Irish home and there were some games that were played. Here is a short quote,
.”” …cards might be played on the bed where the body lay or else on the corpse itself; and the corpse too would be given a hand of cards. A pipe was sometimes placed in its mouth; and occasionally it was taken on the floor to dance”
Perhaps you know someone for whom this book would make a welcome gift! I hope this post reaches you in time to share this wonderful holiday with your crazy Irish and non-Irish friends. Cead Mille Failte!