On St. Patrick's Day, the air will be rich with the aromas of cabbage, corned beef, crusty Irish soda bread and perhaps a stew studded with potatoes and carrots. These traditional Irish dishes, nostalgically enjoyed by Irish-Americans and other Americans feeling Irish for the day, are a far cry from what is on many Irish tables today.
Ireland has not given up its love of colcannon, boxty, and fish 'n' chips, all dishes made with potatoes. But starting in the 1980s, a gastronomic revolution spread through much of the country. Fine local ingredients from salmon, leeks and cabbage to dairy products and fresh berries began attracting young, creative chefs to cosmopolitan Dublin and far-flung counties from Cork to Donegal.
These chefs are inspired by local farmhouse cheeses, like Cashel blue, or hand-tended vegetables, freshly-harvested oysters, or spring lamb. They also take pride in a long Celtic heritage which, unlike the rest of Europe, was influenced by few foreign cultures.
Today, food fairs and unique, award-winning restaurants attract tourists who now visit Ireland just to dine. Kenmare, in County Kerry, for example, has more award-winning restaurants per capita than Paris, including several with highly-prized Michelin stars. Even the government, via its Irish Food Board, acknowledges what has happened by promoting this culinary renaissance.
To sample the new Irish cooking at home, roast some lamb shanks with root vegetables like turnips, carrot, parsnips and onions, which turn golden with caramelized flavor. Or skip boiled cabbage and corned beef on St. Patrick's Day.
Instead, have lean pan-grilled pork chops accompanied by a unique cabbage and potato slaw, made with Savoy cabbage, with crinkly, tender leaves and sweet flavor. Then end the meal with a sliced pear accompanied by a bit of cheese perhaps Cashel blue, or Crogan, a goat's milk cheese from County Wexford.
Irish Cabbage and Potato Slaw
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Makes 16 servings.
- 2 medium white potatoes (8 oz.), peeled and cut in 1/2-inch slices
- 1 small Savoy cabbage (about 1 1/4 lb.) or
- 1/2 medium head green cabbage
- 1 carrot, shredded
- 4 scallions, green part only, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar
- 1-1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil
- 1/4 cup fat-free or low-fat buttermilk
- Place potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water to a depth of 2 inches. Cook over medium-high heat. When the potatoes still have some resistance to a thin knife, drain them. Cut them into 1/2-inch strips and set aside.
- While potatoes cook, quarter the cabbage, cut away the core and shred into 1/2-inch strips. (There should be about 6 cups.) Place cabbage in a large mixing bowl. Add carrots and scallions.
- In a small bowl, combine vinegar, mustard powder, sugar, salt and pepper, mixing until sugar dissolves. Mix in the oil. Pour dressing over vegetables. Using hands, mix to coat vegetables with dressing. Add potatoes and mix again. Cover slaw and set aside for 15 minutes to wilt cabbage.
- Pour in buttermilk and mix again. Cover and refrigerate slaw until ready to serve, or up to 6 hours. The slaw is best when the cabbage and carrots still have some crunch.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:35 calories
1 g. total fat
0 g. saturated fat
6 g. carbohydrate
1 g. protein
2 g. dietary fiber
196 mg. sodium