over easy

St. Paddy’s Day Is Not Just About Day Drinking, It’s Also About Boiled Meat

Over Easy is a weekly food column by a 20-something woman who can barely cook an egg and just wants to learn how to throw together an elegant three-course meal for her friends.

In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday to commemorate the death of Saint Patrick, the missionary who is credited with bringing Christianity to the Emerald Isle, supposedly used shamrocks to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity, and maybe banished snakes from the island (but probably not).

In the U.S., St. Patrick’s Day is a day for wearing green, day-drinking green beer, and either fighting someone or urinating in public (but ideally both). It’s not much of a food holiday — sustenance is usually limited to the large pizza you order at 2 a.m. after a long day of bonding with people named Matt or Shannon who proudly flaunt their claddagh rings and have shamrock tattoos on their butts. A moving multicultural experience for all.

This year, to honor my own rich Irish heritage (a great-great-grandfather from County Clare; a year of Irish step-dancing classes; an Irish ex-boyfriend; a deep-seated, ever-present sense of Catholic guilt), I decided to make a full Irish feast: a stewy mix of boiled meat, potatoes, and cabbage. Admittedly, my guests were less than enthused about the menu, but bravely agreed to come over one afternoon after I promised them lots and lots of beer and whiskey. My friend Mary also offered to bring a box of Lucky Charms in case the food was a disaster, but also because they are magically delicious, something I could not guarantee for my own meal.

Most Irish recipes involve boiling all the ingredients into oblivion, which means my first step was to buy a slow-cooker. And as I learned from my previous cookie failure, proper tools are important if you want to actually cook good things. Unfortunately, slow-cookers are machines of great mystery to me. Whenever I hear terms like “Crock Pot” or “Dutch Oven” (also “Bon Iver,” “craft beer,” and “macronutrients,” — anything that suggests the speaker will eventually say something awful like “Processed sugar is really bad for you,” or “Can we maybe listen to something that doesn’t feature Pitbull?”), my eyes glaze over, my jaw slackens, and my mind fills with a fuzzy white noise.

Overwhelmed by the ten million lengthy, impassioned reviews of slow cookers, I decided to just throw caution to the wind and buy a Crock Pot from Bed, Bath & Beyond because I think I heard that’s what killed Milo Ventimiglia on This Is Us . If it’s powerful enough to murder someone as buff as Milo Ventimiglia and his abs, surely it can be counted on to cook meat all the way through. I also settled on a corned beef and cabbage recipe by Martha Stewart — despite her history of white-collar crime. Plus, the recipe only really involves one step, which amounts to “throw everything in the slow-cooker and wait.”

Photo: Madeleine Aggeler.

Things went to shite remarkably quickly. The morning of my feast, I realized that I had mistakenly purchased three pounds of regular beef brisket (a cow’s boob meat) instead of three pounds of corned beef brisket (a cow’s boob meat, pickled). I also immediately sliced open my finger while cutting carrots and then, an hour and a half after the un-corned beef, carrots, celery, and potatoes had been put in the slow-cooker, my roommate pointed out that I had set the Crock Pot to “warm” and not “high.” I’ve never read Angela’s Ashes, but I bet it’s full of stew-based challenges just like this. Disheartened and hopeless, I figured 3:30 p.m. was as good a time as any to start drinking.

Because the rate at which I could get myself and my guests obliterated on Irish coffees was slowed significantly by the fact that my hand-me-down Mr. Coffee pot only brews two cups at once, I compensated by topping off the coffee, brown sugar, and heavy whipping cream with as much whiskey as would fit in each mug. I also handed out Guinnesses, but soon regretted it when the conversation veered dangerously toward craft beers (“Ah, but have you tried Nitro beers?”). To remedy the situation, I turned on loud Irish music that kind of sounded like a fiddle having sex with another fiddle in the middle of a rainy glen. After a few drinks, it sounded excellent.

Many rounds of Irish coffees and Guinness later, the food was ready. And by some St. Patrick’s Day miracle (meat leprechauns?) it was not only edible, but actually … kind of delicious. Even though it kind of looked like vomit, and the beef wasn’t properly corned, the meat was rich and juicy and tender, and the vegetables were flavorful and not too mushy. For dessert, we wolfed down handfuls of Lucky Charms straight from the box, which paired exceptionally well with the whiskey, which we were now drinking straight.

The cool thing about stew is that it looks the same before and after you throw up. Photo and food: Madeleine Aggeler.

It was a delightful evening, to be sure, and the corned beef and cabbage proved itself to be remarkably idiot-proof. But no one wore head-to-toe green, no one fought each other, and everyone peed inside. So can we really call it a St. Patrick’s Day celebration? Mmm … probably not.

My report card
Preparation: C
Taste: A
Disorderly conduct: F

My Overall Performance: B

St. Paddy’s Day Is About Day Drinking and Also Boiled Meat