Thursday, March 18, 2010

Erin go Bratwurst

I believe we've discussed before, my dislike of corned beef and cabbage and Jon's inexplicable insistence on eating it for dinner every St. Patrick's Day. My mom, who was as Irish as Paddy's Pig, as they say, disliked Irish food too and never cooked it. Her one culinary concession to St. Patrick's Day was to make Irish coffee for her and my dad after dinner. It looked delicious, with a big puff of whipped cream on top, but it was actually just coffee with whiskey—that's plain whiskey, not Bailey's Irish Cream—and apparently unsweetened. When I was nine, she let me taste her Irish coffee and it was a bitter disappointment.
My dad is Irish and German, but mostly German and my mom embraced the cooking of his homeland. We ate an awful lot of pork chops with sauerkraut and German potato salad while she reminisced about her grandmother's horrible Irish potato pancakes and told us how lucky we were not to have to eat Irish food. Indeed, I came to think it was a sign of being authentically Irish, to dislike Irish food which is why Jon's love of the old corned beef has always surprised me since he's as authentically Irish as I am.
So every March 17th, I find myself confronted with a hunk of brisket and every year, no matter what recipe I use, we end up with a bland, disappointing dinner that not even gallons of mustard can salvage. This year I decided to try Alice Waters' "Boiled Dinner" from The Art of Simple Food. This is a pretty elaborate recipe for such a humble dish and I had to omit some steps, such as where she has you brining your own tongue. That is, your own tongue that you bought at the butcher's and not literally YOUR tongue. But you knew that. Anyway, I had to adapt the recipe to my simpler resources. I trundled off the Whole Foods Wednesday morning and bought an organic, grass fed hunk of corned beef. I bought cabbage and potatoes, leeks and carrots, bread crumbs and cream, ground pork and chicken livers—for the stuffed cabbage leaves. No more wedges of boiled cabbage for us! Had I known about chicken livers' distinct resemblance to chopped earthworms, I might have omitted them. (I now have a tub of extra chicken livers, and if anyone can tell me what to do with them, I'd appreciate it.)
I spent the whole day cooking, which was magnanimous of me, considering I had to be at work at 7:00pm for a 12 hour shift. I even went to the bakery and bought a nice dessert—little cherry almond linzer tarts. And I wasn't even going to be able to eat this creation. The piece de resistance was the pile of little cabbage leaf packages, stuffed with pork and chicken livers. The whole dinner boiled away and was cooked enough for me to try a taste before going in to work. I was dying to try the stuffed cabbage. For the first time ever, my corned beef and cabbage dinner was a success. St. Patrick's Day will no longer be the dinner I dread. It's nice to have a cooking success because I still haven't managed to bake decent bagels, despite ordering high gluten flour from King Arthur. But that's another story.


  1. I HIGHLY recommend Indian liver fry (if you like Indian food, that is. If you don't, I won't be offended). I won't give you my mom's recipe because I don't have it, and if I asked her it would involve lots of imprecise measurements such as "some onions", and "a little ginger" but here is one I found on the internet that looks good.
    (don't worry, I'm good at picking recipes off the internet)

  2. This is a yummy recipe for your container of chicken livers... Enjoy!

  3. Spending the whole day cooking like that? I could not. I admire you for being much would go terribly wrong in my kitchen if I even attempted that kind of cooking!

  4. I think your success with the corned beef makes up for any bagel failure. I have never been successful with the corned beef. And just the idea of chicken livers frighten me. You are my culinary hero.

  5. That is, your own tongue that you bought at the butcher's and not literally YOUR tongue. But you knew that.

    Actually, I didn't. Not initially, anyway. Given some time to think about it, I'm sure I would have figured it out.

    Chicken livers. ::shudder:: I have a thing about liver. I really can't get over the texture and ignore what my brain knows about what livers do.