Happy St. Paddy's Day

As I write this, everyone is at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Newport, RI. I can picture this sunny day, the streets awash in green crepe paper and hats, Irish knit sweaters, babies and young girls with shamrock-painted faces, and guarded flasks of Jamieson in herringbone vest pockets. I hear police car sirens resonating over and over, even from here, the other side of the hill, leading the parade to its end at the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), where the celebration will be capped off with a traditional American – Irish boiled dinner, corned beef and cabbage.

AOH was created to protect Irish Catholic priests under the rule of English King Henry VIII, and it became a club, more or less, organized in early 19th century America as a way for the immigrant Irish to band together against the established Boston Brahmin “No Irish Need Apply” (NINA) directives, to promote forward thinking, interact and find work in their oh, so new world in America. There were two Hibernian organizations on Aquidneck Island, Rhode Island, originally, the first organized downtown in 1876.

James Bradley, who sailed across the Atlantic from Ireland at the turn of the 19th century, was a founder (according to the gold watch he received) of the uptown Hibernians, formed to educate and enrich the lives of new Irish immigrants, which met at the old Music Hall on Thames Street. James Bradley was Brad’s (my husband) grandfather, for whom he is named.

For over forty years, there has been nary a St. Patrick’s Day morning that Brad, as one of six children from a large Irish family, didn’t ask me, “Do you have the recipe?” referring to his cherished corned beef and cabbage, which is the traditional staple St. Paddy’s Day dinner, at least in the U.S.

I have always answered, “yes,” thinking: “What is there to do but boil the darn thing, chop the root veg and serve it?”

It always tastes the same, like a boiled dinner. The brisket has either cooked down to nothing or ended up too stringy for consumption for the past 43 years.

Last year on March 17th, low and behold, like clock-work: “Do you have the recipe?”

“Yes,” I answered, dreading the same inedible result.There were three cuts of briskets in the meat case at the local Stop & Shop. This time, I purchased the “flat cut”, about 5 pounds in weight, and was thrilled that a packet of pickling spices was included in the package, so there was a clear savings of $3.00 or more …no need to buy the tiny jar of cloves and other spices.

I chose a nice tender smallish head of cabbage, some organic carrots, (aside from their inherent healthy advantage, they are also easier to cut), parsnips (not so easy to chop, but yield a special flavor to all soups, pot roasts, and yes, corned beef), red bliss potatoes, and yellow onions.

Recipe: Using a large Dutch oven, place the brisket fat side down and fill with water to just cover the brisket. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for 2 1/2 hours.


Remove the outer first skin from the onions, but leave the inner brown skin. Use 2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat the onions and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.

Cut the cabbage head in quarters, remove the core. Cut 6 carrots in half, width-wise and do the same for the parsnips (might need to cut them again, as they tend to be fatter.) Wash 4 potatoes and leave the skin on. The oven should still be at 350 degrees.

After the brisket finishes cooking, remove from the water to an ovenproof dish. Do NOT discard the water, save it for cooking the vegetables.

Now here’s the secret recipe finish for corned beef: Coat the top of the brisket with a little prepared mustard. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave, add 1/4 cup of wheat breadcrumbs, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and a teaspoon of dry mustard. Spread the crumb mixture over the mustard on top of the brisket. Bake in the oven 20-30 minutes until crust is brown.

At the same time bring the vegetables to a boil and cook until tender. Let the brisket sit about ten minutes before slicing diagonally. Serve with the cooked vegetables, baked onions, buttered corn bread, and mustard condiment and maybe some stout, if you’re lucky.

Finally after 43 years, the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner was a delight. No, I didn’t have the recipe that morning when he asked, but invented it as I went along.

And a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day to ‘ye all!

Happy St. Paddy's Day

Copyright 2012, all rights reserved Sharon Watterson

Now go sit, knit, and relax. Here are some St. Paddy’s Day shamrock patterns, free! to knit and crochet.