No Corned Beef and Cabbage Here! This Is What the Irish Really Eat on St. Patrick's Day
Step away from the corned beef and cabbage. And the green beer. Even if you're only Irish once a year, there are more delicious and traditional ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. "No, not so much," said Clodagh Mckenna, chef, restaurant owner, and cookbook author, when asked if corned beef and cabbage are eaten on St. Patrick's Day in Ireland. "Slow-cooked beef stews or lamb stews are probably the most popular, served with colcannon, which is butter mashed potatoes with cabbage folded through, it's real Irish soul food." McKenna, who grew up in Cork and now calls Dublin home, admitted she's never had green beer but would give it a try.
While St. Patrick's Day celebrations take place around the world, the festivities in Ireland tend to center around family. As a holy day, it's a day of obligation, and many people begin March 17 by going to mass. There are parades following those services, but overall it's a day spent with family and friends, cooking and enjoying big meals.
Besides the stews, other popular dishes take advantage of Ireland's culinary traditions and use seasonal ingredients. Spring lamb comes into season around St. Patrick's Day, and roasts, such as a leg of lamb with rosemary, are popular. Pies are, too, such as fish pies (made with cod or haddock), shepherd's pie (meat with a potato crust), or Guinness and Beef Pie, which is one of McKenna's favorites. Let's not forget dessert: Chocolate butter pastry pies are frequently found on dinner tables on St. Patrick's Day.
As for Guinness, many Irish will have one or maybe two during the day, and maybe a whiskey to round out the celebration. There's also soda bread, but it's likely different than the one your family enjoys on March 17. The classic Irish version doesn't include the raisins or caraway seeds that often make their way into American recipes, and McKenna's favorite version actually uses yogurt and milk, giving the bread a crumbly texture. It's still formed in the traditional round with a cross cut in the center, which is said to keep the fairies out.