Thursday, March 18, 2010

Irish Soda Bread, Colcannon, and Corned Beef

*Team post by Angela and Mark.
I started out kidding, a little.  

Me: "Hey, babe, whaddya say to corned beef and cabbage on St. Paddy's Day?"  

Mark: "I'm pretty sure that's not actually traditional Irish food.  I think it's more Irish-American.  I think we can do better than that.  Also, since I'm actually the Irish one... maybe I should try to make something?"

Me: "...I'm okay with that."

A day later, and the menu for St. Patrick's Day dinner had gone from, "let's maybe cook something Irish-y" to Irish soda bread (by Mark), corned beef (by me, because I love me some corned beef regardless of its origins), and colcannon, a traditional Irish dish made with potatoes, cabbage (or kale), and ham (or Irish bacon).  I've never made any sort of Irish dish before, so I turned to two of my trustiest culinary guides: for the corned beef, Elise at, and for the colcannon, Tyler Florence (while I'm not sure Mr. Florence is Irish, I've never had a "Tyler's Ultimates" recipe let me down).  While the corned beef turned out pretty dry, I was really pleased with my first attempt at colcannon.  And Mark's bread was the star of the meal - I'm really starting to think he should take over the cooking...

Click below to get the recipes!

Let's start with the simplest thing first. 

List of ingredients for the corned beef:
3 lbs. corned beef
1/4 cup sweet hot mustard
2 tbsp. brown sugar

All I did was remove the corned beef from its packaging, place it on a large piece of foil, fat-side up, slather it with about the mustard, sprinkle it with the brown sugar and bake it for 2 hours at 350 degrees (Mark actually put the beef in the oven for me while I was at work). 

After the 2 hours was up, I unwrapped the meat and put it under the broiler for about 3 minutes, let it rest for an additional 10 minutes, then sliced it on a diagonal.

I really love this salty meat because it keeps good for a really long time and you can do so many different things with it (turn it into hash, make it into sandwiches...okay, so you can do two things with it), but cooking it this way yielded some kind of dry, overcooked meat. gives two options, baked and boiled, and next time, I'll try the boiled version (or another version altogether), or cook the meat at a lower temperature for a shorter amount of time.

List of ingredients for the Colcannon:
1 lb. ham
3 lbs. golden potatotes, scrubbed
2 sticks butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 cups hot milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head cabbage
4 green onions, finely chopped
Salt, to taste

I actually started this dish the day before, boiling the ham in unsalted water for 45 minutes, then draining and chopping it up into little pieces.  I'm not exactly sure why you need to cook the ham first, but far be it from me to question Tyler Florence.  Especially when it comes to Irish cuisine, which I know nothing about.

The next day, I started prepping by scrubbing the potatoes and putting them in my handy steamer for about 50 minutes, or until soft.  

In the meantime, I cored and chopped the cabbage.   

The original recipe calls for boiling the cabbage in unsalted water with a couple of tbsp. butter, and I know I just said I wasn't going to question Tyler Florence...but that sounded suspect to me. Instead, on Mark's recommendation, I sauteed the cabbage with 4 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot over medium low heat until tender (but with a little bite still left), about 15 minutes.

I also finely chopped up some green onions.  

Once the potatoes were fork tender, I removed them from the steamer.  Using a kitchen towel so as not to burn myself, I peeled the potatoes (just using a fork and my fingers), placed them in a bowl and mashed them until the lumps were mostly gone.  I then added 1 stick (!) of butter in pieces.  Once the butter was incorporated, I microwaved the milk (until hot, not boiling) and gradually poured it into the potatoes while mashing.  It'll look a little soupy at first, but don't worry - just keep mashing and all of a sudden you'll have a nice creamy consistency.

I seasoned the potatoes with a lot of freshly ground pepper and salt, then gently stirred in the ham, cabbage and finely chopped green onions.

I topped each serving of colcannon with a pat of butter (it says so in the directions, I swear!).  I was a little skeptical of this dish, but it was delicious and heartier than your typical mashed potatoes.  The cabbage gave it a very subtle sweetness and some crunch, the ham brought the salty, and the green onion freshened and brightened up the whole butter-laden dish.  Even though we ate a lot, we have tons leftover, and I'm looking forward to attempting some fried colcannon patties today...

I'm going to kick it to Mark for the rest of the post, so he can talk about his all-star bread-making turn:

What I really wanted to do for St. Paddy's was make a memorable dish that recreated some of the delicious foods I remembered eating while in Ireland a few years ago. The biggest one to stand out in my mind was the blood sausage. Maybe just because it has a name that makes most people shudder. In reality, Irish blood sausage is pretty incredible and honestly... you've eaten far grosser things. Since making sausage may be a little out of my league, I decided to make another memorable classic: the traditional Irish Soda Bread.

List of ingredients for the Irish Soda Bread:
3 1/3 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. wheat germ (available at Whole Foods)
2 tsp. rolled oats, plus 2 tsp. for sprinkling
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 quart (2 cups) buttermilk

First, pre-heat your oven to 375 and combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Then add all of the liquid ingredients and stir them together. You don't want to spend too much time doing this. 

Get in and get out. After a minute or so, you should start to form a cohesive glob, which you can transfer to a flat surface.  Powder your hands up with flour and roll the glob into a big ball.

Then you'll take that last bit of oats and sprinkle them over the top of your bread to give it a nice little professional touch. 

Oh, and when you're done, the most important part is to cut an 'X' into the bread. Not only does this ward off the devil, it also has been known to ward off these little guys.

Now you're good and ready to fire the bread into the oven. I put it on a middle rack and baked it on 375 for about 50 minutes.

When you're finished, the bread is going to feel somewhat hard on the outside. If you give it a little knock, you might even hear a hollow sound. Now, all that's left to do is slice that bad boy open and enjoy it with a little butter and you're about 7 Smithwicks and a shot of Jameson away from being a true Irishman.


  1. thats a heck of a feast! i only had my brisket and cabbage and potatoes

  2. Honestly, ours wasn't much more than that, just with soda bread. I wish the corned beef had turned out a little better, though.

  3. That looks delicious! But that leprechaun scared the crap out of me.

  4. I know. I'm really sorry about that. It scared me, too.

    Mark likes to do that kind of thing...

  5. My corned beef didn't come out that great, just tender. Not as much flavor from the beer and beef stock as I wanted. Yours doesn't look greasy either. I should make hash with the rest

  6. Mine was plenty flavorful, just really dry. There's got to be a happy medium right? I may need to make corned beef again this weekend to ease my mind about all this.

    At least you can flavor up the hash. I love corned beef hash!

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