Let’s Talk Food: Today is St. Patrick’s Day

Today, March 17, is a religious celebration of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. He was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. March 17 is actually the anniversary of his death. St. Patrick is celebrated for establishing monasteries, churches and schools.

Legend says that St. Patrick used shamrocks to explain the Trinity.

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The immigrants in America have made this day a special day of celebration with parades and parties. Foods may include anything green and even green beer! Unfortunately, with the coronavirus, there may not be too many celebrations happening tonight.

In the United States we have made it a tradition to eat corned beef and cabbage. If you planned ahead, you may have the corned beef, onions, carrots and cabbage in a slow cooker and then gone off to work and if you were a great planner, you have brined a brisket in corned beef seasonings ten days ago.

It is interesting to note that corned beef is not an authentic Irish recipe, but instead an Irish-American dish. In Ireland lamb loins or Irish lamb stew may be eaten today, along with Irish brown soda bread.

Irish brown soda bread is traditionally made with just four ingredients: wholemeal flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. But Irish wholemeal flour is hard to come by. Irish wholemeal flour is made of entire wheat kernels that have been dried and ground to a powder. Using just four ingredients could produce a very dense, hard bread that would make a great door stop. Irish wholemeal flour is lighter in color, with pieces of bran and germ that feels rough when rubbed between your fingers. These pieces are necessary to produce the coarse crumb in good Irish brown soda bread.

So in this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, the wheat germ and wheat bran are added to the whole-wheat flour to try to duplicate Irish wholemeal flour.

Baking powder is added as it is a better leavener than baking soda. But the baking soda is essential for flavor. It gives a tang, salinity and identity. It also improves browning.

Irish Brown Soda Bread

Makes one 8-inch loaf

2 cups whole-wheat flour (King Arthur Premium is preferred)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup wheat bran (found at health food stores)

1/4 cup wheat germ (also at health food stores)

2 teaspoons sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 8-inch round cake pan. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, wheat bran, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add buttermilk and stir with rubber spatula until all flour is moistened and dough forms soft, ragged mass. Transfer dough to counter and gently shape into 6-inch round (surface will be craggy). Using a serrated knife, cut 1/2 – inch deep cross about 5 inches long on top of loaf.

Transfer to prepared pan. Bake until loaf is lightly browned and center registers 185 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Serves 8

2-2-1/2 pounds corned beef brisket

2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground allspice

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 pound carrots, about 4 medium to large, each cut into four pieces

1/2 pound onions, about 2 small, diced

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into four pieces each, about 3 medium

1/4 pound diced celery, 2 stalks

1 medium head cabbage, cut at the core into 8 wedges, about 2 pounds

Place corned beef in a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with water.

If there is a spice packet that comes with the corned beef, add it into the pot. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 50 minutes per pound or until tender.

Add potatoes and carrots, and cook until the vegetables are almost tender. Add cabbage and cook for 15 more minutes or longer. (I like my cabbage cooked longer, till it absorbs all the flavors). Remove meat and let rest for 15 minutes.

Place vegetables in a bowl and cover.

Add as much broth (cooking liquid reserved in Dutch oven or large pot) as you want. Slice meat across the grain.

Foodie Bites

• There are three types of cuts of corned beef: flat, point and whole brisket. The flat is leaner and consistent in thickness; the point is the thicker end of the brisket and is usually fatter and the whole brisket includes both the flat and point.

• This week is Spring Break at the Hawaii Community College so the Cafeteria and Bamboo Hale is closed.

• Thank you Dale Nagata, Sanitarian at the Department of Health for pointing out that if the person using sous vide to cook is not trained and “if the time and temperature is not met, harmful bacteria can survive.” Further, Michael Une, East Hawaii Supervising Sanitarian, states that restaurants “may be required to have a HACCP for the sour vide process.”

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So home cooks, make sure you follow the time and temperature requirements for doneness when using a sous vide to cook.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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