Why hello there! And welcome to Kitchen Catastrophe Quick Tips. Today’s post was going to cover Idaho’s distinct style of American cuisine, but then people reminded me that tomorrow is St Paddy’s Day, and that I should probably do something about that. I complained that I covered St Paddy’s Day back in the Brisket post, but they said “Come on, man, do it for the prestige!” No. “Do it for the respect!” No. “Do it for…The Tony!”
I think this is the first gif we've put on the site. I'm surprised it didn't explode.
Well, if you’re willing to make a Producers reference, I’m willing to horse around in the world of Irish cuisine for a time. So, here, courtesy of an Irish-American who’s never been to Ireland (though both my brothers have been, and I watch several Irish Youtubers) here is a not-at-all definitive list of what foods are and are not Irish for St Paddy’s Day.
If you asked a typical American what foods were Irish, they’d give you a list like this:
-Beer (specifically Guinness)
That is the standard American understanding of Irish foods. And, as we’ll get into, they’re all pretty close, but several of them miss one thing or another. So, without further ado, let’s meet our contestants!
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Warn me if the jokes get too...corny, alright?
This is the first one, and the one most likely to have already been discussed. Corned Beef and Cabbage isn’t Irish food. It’s Irish-American food. In Ireland, you’d have Ham and Cabbage, or Bacon and Cabbage. Corned Beef arose as a happy connection between the Irish moving to the East Coast and the kosher delis that were springing up in the region, where corned beef brisket served as a good-sized but inexpensive cut for Sunday roasts.
RATING: One Conan O’Brien (Looks Irish, Sounds Irish, but is mostly American)
Bangers and Mash
Also, a great name for an all-percussion punk band.
Bangers and Mash, if you’re unaware, is a specific combination in Irish cooking: sausages and mashed potatoes. Sausages got the nickname “bangers” because, back in WW1, the high water content (from meat rationing) would cause them to pop when cooking. Bangers and Mash is technically an Irish dish, in that it’s just a generally accepted dish of the UK. Sure, Ireland eats it, as does Scotland, Wales and England. (I refuse to acknowledge the Isle of Man, ever since they were rude to me in high school.) So it’s a little off-base to call it an “Irish” meal. That’s like calling a McDonald’s Happy meal “Texan”. Sure, they eat them, but so does literally everyone else.
RATING: One Daniel Day Lewis (From London, but also a resident and citizen of Ireland)
Now with less coal! But more cannon.
One of my actually favorite Irish dishes, and the first genuinely Irish one of my arbitrarily organized list. Colcannon means many things, but the one most commonly accepted is Mashed Potatoes, mixed with green onions, kale or cabbage, and potentially a meat like ham or bacon. I’ve personally made it a couple times, and enjoyed it. I may do a post on it some day, I’ve just avoided it so far because the cooking process is rather simple:, slice kale or cabbage, stir into potatoes, let soften. It’s simple, filling, and fairly nutririous. As a side note: there’s another Irish dish named “Champ” that is essentially the same thing, just a little lighter. (Champ tends to only have green onions in it, while Colcannon can have green onions, cabbage, and leeks all in it and not care.)
RATING: One Gabriel Byrne/Brian O’Byrne. (Totally different people, I swear)
Do you really need a picture of potatoes? Really? They're brown lumps of miracle food. They're like, a dollar a pound.
This seems as good a time as any, having two potatoes dishes showing up beforehand, to talk about the idea of the Irish and potatoes. Potatoes became heavily associated with the Irish for two main reasons: because England didn’t quite trust potatoes when they were discovered, so they sent them off to let the Irish eat them, and second, because holy shit was life terrible for the Irish in the 17-1800’s. Like, even a British Commission made up ONLY of British Landlords looked out and went “Holy shit, these people are living in monstrous conditions, being preyed upon by monsters.” Think about that, England, the great Imperial power of the 1700’s, looked at what they were doing to Ireland, and said “Huh, we might be the bad guys.” Unfortunately, this occurred to them literally a year before the Potato Famine started. But in the decades building to that, potatoes had become the backbone of not simply the Irish diet, but the Irish ECONOMY. People were being Paid in Potatoes.
This is for a number of reasons (Catholics, who were the majority, couldn’t own land. Ireland has a similar atmosphere to the South American highlands where potatoes first grew, and British seizure of land for Beef growing) But in the end, Ireland ended up relying on the potato.
Now, of course, Modern Ireland has branched out. Yes, Potatoes show up a lot, but so do many other root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips. So while you can stick to potatoes, also incorporate other roots.
RATING: One Liam Neeson (He’s everywhere, in everything. And he will kill you.)
Rule 1 of food photography: Try and take pictures where the food is already dead.
Lastly, let’s look at lamb. As noted earlier, beef was pretty much the domain of the British for quite some time, and given the cool, wet weather of the isle of Ireland, they had a heavy demand for Wool. AS such, they have a demand for sheep, and therefore they’ll have lamb on their hands. Lamb is, in many ways, the meat of Ireland. In the same way that steak is the meat of America. Irish stews use lamb, their Sunday roasts are lamb, or leg of lamb. Lamb is a constant companion on the Irish dinner table.
RATING: One Ciaran Hinds (Real Irish, real dignified.)
So, if you’re looking to make a true Irish meal this St Paddy’s day, skip the corned beef, but keep the cabbage. Roast a leg of lamb with a side of colcannon and some roasted carrots and parsnips. And then, of course, drink the shit out of some Guinness, and have a great day.
As ever, like our posts on Facebook to spread the word, share them yourself if you wanna be right craic, and supportin' us on patreon may prompt me to sing yer praises in me highest pitched parody of an Irish brogue.
NEXT TIME: JON’S GONNA TRY AND COOK SOME LAMB HIMSELF, BUT IF LIFE KICKS HIM IN THE DICK LIKE IT’S BEEN DOING ALL WEEK, WE’LL HAVE POTATOES INSTEAD.