A St. Patrick’s Day Tradition: Corned Beef and Cabbage

Recipe by Nancy Johnson, wine commentary by Gary Twining. Originally published Feb. 28, 2012.                                                                                                                                        
Why does St. Patrick’s Day magically make us all Irish? St. Paddy, one of the patron saints of Ireland, wasn’t even a native (he was Welsh), but according to legend left his mark when he illustrated the concept of the Christian Holy Trinity with the three-leafed shamrock. Since then, the “wearing of the green” has grown into a celebration of Emerald Isle culture. Now on March 17, the anniversary of St. Patrick’s death, city streets give way to parades, pubs serve green beer, and the sartorial vibe is leprechaun meets- shamrock. Not a bad memorial for a priest who lived more than 1,500 years ago!

Gary: For those of us who enjoy but partake in less than a six-pack of brew a year, wine is still a possibility for the St. Paddy’s Day event. Just remember that acidity is one of the major wine components to pair with food, especially with items that have astringencies (leafy vegetables in particular) and strong, spicy flavors.

Corned Beef and Cabbage 

Many Irish people protest that corned beef and cabbage isn’t a traditional Irish dish. More likely, it became popular with 19th Century Irish immigrants who found plentiful beef in the United States. Although not a traditional Irish dish, corned beef and cabbage has become an American staple on St. Patrick’s Day. In this recipe, the corned beef is simmered for several hours with a medley of vegetables. Because their flavor is cooked out during the long simmer, the vegetables are eventually discarded. The actual vegetables you will bring to the table are simmered in a separate pot for a much shorter period of time. When purchasing corned beef, choose the flat cut over the point cut for best flavor.

1 corned beef brisket (about 4 lbs.)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
5 black peppercorns


1 small head cabbage, quartered
6-7 red potatoes, scrubbed
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
Salt to taste
Butter for garnish
Horseradish sauce
1/4 cup horseradish
1 cup sour cream

Place brisket, carrot, onion, garlic, thyme and parsley in a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 2-3 hours or until tender. Remove corned beef from pot and let stand 15 minutes. Discard vegetables and water.

Meanwhile, in a smaller pot, cover cabbage, potatoes and carrots with water. Bring to a boil, add salt to taste, cover and simmer 20-30 minutes or until tender. Drain, dot with butter and serve with corned beef.

To make horseradish sauce, mix together horseradish and sour cream. Serve with corned beef and vegetables.

Serves 6

Suggested wines

Gary: Look for crisp whites with little or no oak, sparkling wines, softly dry Rieslings, Spanish whites (Albariño, Txakoli, Verdejo) or Sauvignon Blanc to work with the saltiness of the beef and the challenges of the cabbage.

For reds, try soft, fruity wines like plummy Spanish reds (Garnacha, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo), Pinot Noir or Barbera, which all have enough acidity without offering too much sweet fruit character. If the horseradish heat is enhanced by your wine choice, all the better – if you like that. Otherwise just temper the amount you put on your food.

For Nancy’s recipes for Leek and Potato Soup, Guinness Beef Stew, Irish Soda Bread and Gary’s wine pairings, visit the “Recipes” page at www.thewinebuzz.

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