When people say Irish cooking, here's what comes to mind: corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, and maybe comforting colcannon - a mash-up of potatoes and cabbage. They remind us of the farmhouse kitchens and pub grub we love to associate with Ireland, and sometimes of her tough days of hardscrabble poverty.
Ireland today is also known for some of the finest dining in the world. Irish chefs have, in fact, garnered a total of eight Michelin stars for their cooking at restaurants and posh country hotel dining rooms.
The Irish cooking we know best relied on the trinity of cabbage, turnips, and potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Additional traditional ingredients were just as humble, like leeks, carrots or tons of dairy, since these were also local and abundantly available. Even today they may be found just outside the kitchen door with surprising frequency in the Irish countryside. In less severe times, dishes also included meat, like corned beef, bacon or lamb in Irish stew.
The best Irish dining came into its own when chefs steeped in French cuisine, which pretty much defined fine dining, began treating everything local - including salmon, trout, butter, and lamb - more simply to let their superb qualities shine. They also have shown home cooks how to add touches that make even cabbage taste extraordinary.
As a perfect example, for St. Patrick's Day, I am making this one-pot chicken, which is pan-seared and then roasted on a bed of cabbage, Brussels sprouts and leeks. Roasting under the chicken, the vegetables soften and caramelize as they baste in the juices. The chef's touch is smoked paprika. Its flavor, married with the sweetness of the roasted vegetables, makes this dish a hit and shows off Irish cooking at its best.
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Chicken Baked with Cabbage and Leek
Makes 4 servings.
- 1 (2 lb.) Savoy or Napa cabbage
- 8 large Brussels sprouts
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 (3 lb.) chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or 4 (6 oz.) chicken breast halves with rib and skin
- 1 large leek, white part and 1-inch light green part, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 medium onion, halved and sliced crosswise
- 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. Spanish paprika
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1/2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Halve cabbage vertically and set one half aside for another use. Cut remaining cabbage into 2 wedges and cut away core. Cut wedges crosswise into 3/4-inch strips. There will be about 4 cups. Cut each Brussels sprout vertically into 4 slices.
- In medium skillet that can go into oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Reserving wings for another use, arrange chicken skin side down in hot pan and cook until skin is browned, turning pieces as needed, about 8 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of drippings from pan.
- Add cabbage, Brussels sprouts, leek and onion to pan, stirring to coat with remaining drippings. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage and onion are limp and onion translucent, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, paprika, salt and pepper to taste, and mix to combine. Return chicken to pan, placing pieces skin side up on top of vegetables. Pour in broth. Place pan in oven, uncovered.
- Bake for 35 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees, about 15 minutes for breast, 20 minutes for thigh.
- To serve, remove skin from chicken and divide pieces among four dinner plates. Spoon one-fourth of vegetables on top of or next to chicken. Spoon pan juices over chicken and vegetables.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
12 g total fat
3 g saturated fat
23 g carbohydrate
39 g protein
8 g dietary fiber
360 mg sodium