The other day, Johnny said he thought it would be nice to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a few activities so that Jack and Derek can experience the other side of their heritage (he was half-joking; although we have an Irish last name, it’s been several generations since anyone on Johnny’s side of the family has lived in Ireland). At first, we were just going to read Jack and Derek a couple of St. Patrick’s Day books and make some shamrock-shaped cookies, but, thanks to our mutual love of festive occasions and cheesy activities, and my need to feed a crowd whenever the opportunity arises, this has turned into a full-on event. It’s going to be mostly family (cousins plus Jack’s best friend from school), but we’ve gone semi-crazy ordering fun St. Patrick’s Day party stuff from Oriental Trading Company, selecting the activities and the order in which we should roll them out, and planning the menu. I can’t wait until Jack’s in kindergarten and I can volunteer to plan all of his class parties. (I know I may regret saying that later.)
Anyway, this being a food blog, I know you are probably interested in what I’m planning to make for the party. On the menu are corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, green lemonade for the kids (just lemonade with a couple of drops of green food coloring), Guinness for the adults (I’ll also have a pitcher of margaritas — green! — for the adults who don’t like beer), shamrock sugar cookies, and this caramel cheesecake apple dip with granny smith apple slices (gotta stay on the green theme!) for dessert. Each kid will get a little “pot of gold” as a favor — a black kettle filled with plastic gold coins and four St. Patrick’s Day-themed Oreo cake pops. I won’t take up your time with the craft and activities we’re planning, but suffice to say that I am beyond excited. Not only will the kids have so much fun, but I also appreciate this warm-up for our Easter shindig. Anyway, the only item on the menu that I hadn’t made before were the corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread, so I decided to try it out last night, when we had some friends over, so that I could work out any kinks for the party (and so that I could write it up in time to be useful for my readers :)).
After reading a dozen recipes for both items, I decided on two from Allrecipes: slow cooker corned beef and cabbage and Amazingly Easy Irish Soda Bread. Both were easy and delicious! The corned beef was flavorful but not too salty, and the vegetables in it (besides the cabbage, there were potatoes, carrots and onions) were tender but not soggy. The soda bread (the “soda” refers to baking soda, not soda pop, for those of you who were wondering!) was crusty on the outside but fluffy yet hearty on the inside, with just a tinge of sweetness. It went perfectly with the corned beef and cabbage.
I followed both recipes to the T and think I will do so for the actual party, too.
Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage (from Allrecipes)
Makes 6 servings
- 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered (I used some baby yukons, unpeeled, because I had half a bag left and wanted to use them up)
- 1 pound baby carrots
- 3 cups water
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 (3 pound) corned beef brisket with spice packet (use half of the spice packet)*
- 1 small head cabbage, cut into wedges
* Corned beef brisket is usually found in a vacuum-sealed pouch next to the beef; if it’s not out, ask the butcher at your grocery store. Mine didn’t come with a spice packet, but I didn’t think it adversely affected the recipe.
Place the onion, potatoes and carrots in a 7-quart slow cooker. (If your slow cooker is smaller than seven quarts, you might have to boil some of the vegetables separately on the stove. The recipe called for a 5-quart slow cooker, but mine is seven quarts and was filled to the brim by the contents!)
Combine the water, garlic, bay leaf, sugar, vinegar, pepper and contents of spice packet; pour over the vegetables in the slow cooker. Top with the brisket and cabbage wedges.
Cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours, or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving. Cut the meat into slices and arrange it on the platter, surrounded by the vegetables.
Irish Soda Bread (from Allrecipes)
Makes one 1.5-pound loaf (20 slices)
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup margarine, softened
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine with a handheld mixer. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and the egg.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on the prepared baking sheet.
In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Then, use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf.
Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake bread for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Mine took about 55 minutes, but I think my oven runs cool. Continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes — I brushed mine three times, and the crust was wonderful.
Remove bread from the oven once it’s done and let cool for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.