You might not think I’d be one for a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal, but you’d be wrong!
Did you know that I’m Irish? Well, technically, I have like an 8% heritage from Ireland/Scotland/Wales (apparently they don’t delineate between those countries when you’re looking at DNA) but my sister has traced our genealogy a bit. It turns out that my great-great-grandparents were born in Ireland. So I’m definitely Irish in some fashion.
But my husband is a different story. His mother was born and raised in Ireland and he’s technically first generation here in this country. Throughout our many years of marriage, I’ve learned really significant things like how to make a good cup of tea, how to overcook most foods, and the importance of potatoes. So, no matter how Irish I am, my husband and his family are always more Irish and there’s no better time to celebrate than St. Patrick’s Day.
Because of his Irish heritage, my husband treats St. Patrick’s Day like an Irish thanksgiving. He has a set menu that he plans to make no matter who likes it. It IS what you eat. So from my reluctant table to yours, here’s your menu for an authentically Irish traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
I’m really sorry to tell you that you cannot have one without the other. And even if you don’t like corned beef or cabbage, you probably haven’t eaten it since you were a kid and you were forced to eat this weird salty meat.
As an adult, I can tell you that a nice, slow cooked corned beef is actually quite nice once a year. You won’t catch me ordering a reuben or picking up spare corned beefs for later in the year. But I will indulge it on St. Patrick’s Day and for the few days after (like Thanksgiving, we always have leftovers).
You’re probably reluctant to eat the cabbage as well. By itself, cooked cabbage doesn’t excite me either. But cook it along with the salty goodness of the corned beef and it’s definitely acceptable.
Irish Authenticity: Okay, so this is more of an Irish-American thing. True Irish would boil a slab of bacon along with their cabbage but with bacon being hard to come by, the Irish-Americans turned to the brined meats they found in the Jewish community.
Recommended Recipe: Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage
If you were thinking that the natural accompaniment to corned beef and cabbage is potatoes, you’re only partially right. There’s no wrong way to serve potatoes to an Irishman (just ask my husband) – as long as it includes plenty of butter. But his preference is a uniquely Irish dish called Colcannon. Think of it as lumpier mashed potatoes mixed with all the good things, like milk and butter, and then add cabbage.
Variations include adding scallions, bacon, and substituting kale for the cabbage. I think my husband just throws in whatever he has laying around. And no, it’s not too much cabbage. Burired in buttery potato goodness, you won’t even know it’s there!
Irish Authenticity: Cabbage and potatoes – of course it’s Irish!
Recommended Recipe: Colcannon
Irish Soda Bread
The only other staple required at a St. Patrick’s Day feast is Irish Soda Bread. And if it’s not chock full of raisins and it’s not so dry that your mouth feels like a desert, then it’s all wrong. My husband’s aunt used to make this and on my first bite, I was confused. Was it bread? Was it a dry cake? Whatever it is, you just need to slather it in butter and eat it.
Irish Authenticity: In Ireland, where famine was often an issue, this simple bread was made with few ingredients to help fill tummies! They may not have originally had the extravagance of raisins but it’s the way Aunt Bridie made it!
Recommended Recipe: Traditional Irish Soda Bread (the only thing I’d do differently is add raisins and golden raisins before baking)
If you’re looking for a good Irish dessert, I haven’t found many. We usually ate Irish Soda Bread as part of the meal and then dipped it in our coffee and tea after the meal. One year, I wanted to make a complete meal and stumbled across an amazing recipe for a Guinness-inspired chocolate cake. And I made it! Isn’t it pretty? And it tasted as good as it looks.
Irish Authenticity: None. Nada. Unless you count the fact that this cake uses Guinness and Bailey’s, there’s nothing traditionally Irish about it. But we all need a little sugar now and then.
Recommended Recipe: Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Cream Cheese Icing
It goes without saying that drinks go with your St. Patrick’s Day meal. But please don’t do it a disservice by drinking weak beer that’s been plagued with green food coloring. If you don’t want to get fancy (and there’s really no need to), here’s my list of recommended drinks for St. Patrick’s Day.
Guinness Draught – This is the classic Guinness Stout flavor but when you buy it in cans, it comes with fully pressurized with a nitrogen ball in the bottom. Makes it taste fresh from the tap.
Harp Lager – If you’re a wimpy beer drinker like me and you don’t want a dark beer, go for a Harp.
Black & Tan – This is the perfect combo if you’re somewhere in the middle. Half Guinness, Half Harp but the trick is in pouring it with just the right technique and a really cool gadget like this Black & Tan Turtle head (we have several of these). Affiliate link
Jameson Irish Whiskey – I’m not a whiskey drinker but my husband is and this is one of his favorites. (And make sure you choose whiskey which is Irish over whisky which is Scottish).
Bailey’s Irish Cream – Maybe I lied when I said I don’t like whiskey because Bailey’s Irish Cream, made with real cream and Irish whiskey, is one of my favorite after-dinner drinks.
One final note and I hope it doesn’t ruin anything for you. Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was not actually Irish. But they do commemorate the date of his death on March 17th around the world. Admittedly, the leprechauns and green beer are just some of the ways we’ve Americanized it. We kind of have a habit of doing that.
Hopefully, you’ll get a chance to enjoy a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal this year and remember to raise a toast to good old Saint Patrick himself.