St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow — are you ready for all the Irish hijinks it entails?
My favorite part of the festivities are the tales of the leprechauns, cherished characters of Irish folklore. According to the website yourirish.com, leprechauns, also known as wee folk or little people, were members of the Tuatha De Danann, an ancient race said to have inhabited Ireland before the historical Irish. They were believed to have been real people who possessed magical powers and great wisdom.
After their invasion of Ireland, they were banished to live underground, burrowing deep in underground caves with entrances hidden like rabbit holes or found in a hollow trunk of a Faerie tree. They stand only about 2 to 3 feet tall, and are considered devious characters who are quick-witted, highly intelligent and will do anything to avoid being caught by a human. If a human would be lucky enough to capture a leprechaun, they would be granted three wishes.
Leprechauns are well-known for their love of Irish music and traditional dance and their celis (dances) often last for days. Yourirish.com says they are expert musicians when playing the tin whistle, fiddle, bodhran and the Irish harp.
They are purported to be the only faeries to have a trade: They are shoemakers, which makes sense. Their love of dancing puts them in constant need of new shoes.
As part of your St. Patrick's Day festivities you might want to watch the movie "Darby O'Gill and the Little People," a much-loved movie describing how leprechauns live in Ireland. Or tell ghost stories, such as "The Derrygonnelly Farmhouse Ghost" or "The Ghost of Carlingford Rectory." You can find these online at yourirish.com.
You could also make a fun St. Patrick's Day cake. The Betty Crocker website promoted baking your favorite flavor cake mix and frosting it as usual. Then decorating it with Lucky Charms cereal and marshmallow pieces. Too cute and oh-so simple!
If corned beef and cabbage are what's for dinner tomorrow, take a tip from the Certified Angus Beef brand producers. Rather than boil the corned beef they suggest you braise it, which makes it even tenderer.
They say in both techniques liquid plays an integral role. While boiling happens at a higher temperature, braising uses the magic of low-and-slow cooking — that involves using relatively low heat over a longer period of time.
"Braising makes beef melt-in-your-mouth tender, and it's one of my favorite techniques to bring out the best in certain cuts," said Senior Corporate Chef Michael Ollier of the Certified Angus Beef brand. "Corned beef is traditionally made from brisket or brisket flats, which are also famously cooked 'low and slow' when barbecued or smoked. The same logic applies to corned beef brisket, which cooks beautifully when braised or placed in a slow cooker."
Ollier says marbling is also important. The small flecks of fat within the brisket that melt as they cook and impart flavor, juiciness and tenderness. Beef that earns the Certified Angus Beef brand name requires generous amounts of marbling, and is required to meet 10 exacting quality standards.
Seasoning is the final important consideration. Fresh corned beef briskets are pre-brined and packaged with a seasoning packet which is convenient and tried-and-true. Those wishing to take their corned beef up a notch might consider following Ollier's suggestion of preparing their own blend of spices. He says to be sure to include coriander, caraway, black pepper and bay leaves. Ollier also reminds us that corned beef is the perfect "cook once, eat twice" dish. Use any leftovers to make Reuben sandwiches (slice thin, pile high on marbled rye bread with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing, then toast in a skillet) or a hearty corned beef hash.
Shake your St. Patrick's Day celebration up a bit this year. Create your own spice mix, make a festive leprechaun cake and wear more than a hint of the green.
Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!
Irish Braised Corned Beef Brisket
1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) Certified Angus Beef ® corned beef brisket flat
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
2 onions, cut in 1-inch chunks
6 peeled garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 head cabbage, cut in 8 wedges
4 bay leaves
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Remove corned beef from package, rinse and pat dry; cut into two equal pieces.
Preheat oven to 325 F.
In a small mixing bowl, combine coriander, caraway, black pepper, thyme and clove; set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear brisket until browned, fat side down first, 3-4 minutes per side.
Transfer brisket to a large roasting pan or Dutch oven. Evenly coat all sides of brisket with spice blend. Spread carrots, onions, garlic, cabbage and bay leaves evenly around and on top, add stock and cover tightly with foil or lid. Place in oven and braise 2 hours until tender.
Slice thinly against the grain, and serve with vegetables and broth; garnish with parsley.
(Recipe provided by the Certified Angus Beef brand)