Murphy was taking a shortcut home through the graveyard when he spotted a headstone that read “Here Lays a Politician and an Honest Man.”
“Faith now,” exclaimed Murphy, “how’d they get the two of them in one grave?”
Sure, godawful green beer is flowing, drunk tanks all over the place are overflowing, and pious Irish men and women are toddling off to morning or noon mass. St. Patrick’s Day is a North American phenomenon, but it’s not quite so in the patron saint’s homeland.
Food traditionally played a big role in Irish homes on St. Patrick’s Day, as did the Catholic mass in honour of the island’s apostle. Corned beef and cabbage didn’t play a part in the St. Patrick’s Day feast though. Boiled bacon (resembling what we know as a kind of ham), potatoes and soda bread scored with a cross were part of the traditional meal. It was the “micks” who migrated to the U.S., spreading out from Massachusetts to Newfoundland, who started celebrating “home” with the cheapest meat and vegetable they could find; brisket and cabbage.
Times are better for the Irish now and so is Irish fare. Like many nations, Ireland has welcomed newcomers to its shores and with them come new foods and cultural practices.
Cattle are more common in modern Ireland than hogs now, and sheep (lamb) production is the third-most important export of the three, so it’s not uncommon to find a beef dish on Irish tables this Lá Fhéile Pádraig.
Braised Beef Short Ribs and Guinness
(Serves four to six)
A little canola oil for sautéing
4 lbs. boneless short rib meat, cut in 1½-inch cubes. You may have to remove the bone yourself.
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large yellow onion, chopped coarse
3 carrots, chopped coarse
4 ribs of celery, chopped coarse
4 cloves of garlic, bashed and minced
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
2 cups Guinness stout
-Heat up a heavy pot on medium-high heat and add a little oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper and start browning it in the oil. Do this in batches if needed so that you don’t overcrowd the pot.
-When the meat is browned, remove it from the pot. Add the carrots and cook for five minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen up the brown bits. Add the onion and celery and cook another five minutes. Then add the garlic and tomato paste and cook an additional three minutes, stirring and scraping constantly.
-Add half the stock to the pot and be sure to dissolve any of the remaining brown bits. Return the meat to the pot along with any juices, then add the remaining stock and stout.
-Season with salt and pepper and bring up to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes.
-Pop a cover on the pot and toss it into a preheated 375F oven for about two hours.
-Serve over mashed potatoes or Irish champ, which is simply mashed potatoes, hot milk, the chopped whites and greens of green onions, lots of butter, and salt and pepper.
-If you purchase bone-in ribs and intend to remove the bone for this recipe, you’ll need about six pounds of meat and bone. The reason for removing the bone for this dish is the resultant rich braise that resembles a ragout.
-Believe it or not: The first real organized St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland was held in Waterford, Munster province, on March 17, 1903, to promote temperance! New York City held its first in 1762, and it wasn’t until the late 1970s that Dublin officially jumped on board, hoping to bring in much-needed tourism dollars.
-Lent officially began on Feb. 10. The Catholic Church in Ireland wisely made an exception for St. Patrick’s Day.
Harvest Fare is our weekly column by Jim Lincez, a well-travelled former chef who currently lives in Foam Lake.