If you're looking for something different to serve for dinner this March 17, try one of these dishes that are popular on the Emerald Isle.

By Ellen Morrissey
February 10, 2021
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If you grew up celebrating St. Patrick's Day in the U.S., you probably encountered your fair share of corned beef and cabbage—on the dinner table at home or on the menu at your local Irish bar and grill. In the United States, the main course is as synonymous with the holiday as green attire, the sound of bagpipes, and green beer. What you may not know is that corned beef and cabbage is not customarily served as a main course on March 17th in the "old country."

According to Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cooking School, which is located on the southwest coast of Ireland, corned beef and cabbage was traditionally served on Easter Sunday. As she writes in Irish Traditional Cooking ($52.66, amazon.com), "The beef, killed before the winter, could have been salted and could now be eaten after the long Lenten fast, with fresh green cabbage and floury potatoes."

irish bacon with cabbage in white bowl

Corned beef and cabbage may be more of an Irish-American St. Pat's tradition, but it doesn't have to be the only option, wherever you find yourself. For authenticity's sake, try bacon and cabbage, which is much more likely to be served in Ireland. Or, go old-school with Irish stew made with lamb (the meat most used for stew in Ireland) or with beef and stout stew.

For a twist on stew, consider transforming the ingredients into a showstopping savory pot pie, or a bunch of portable hand pies that can be wrapped in foil and slipped into pockets for parades or picnics. Colcannon, a beloved Irish side dish of potatoes and cabbage, becomes main-course worthy when it's used to top lamb stew in this take on shepherd's pie.

Imen McDonnell an American who followed her heart (in the form of her future husband, an Irish farmer) to the Irish countryside, puts her own spin on St. Patrick's Day culinary customs. "I have a go-to St. Patrick's day roast pork with apple, sage, onion dressing, velvety cider gravy, and stewed apple ," she says. "Or, if I really want to riff on tradition, I make bacon and cabbage potstickers." McDonnell's book, The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from my Life on an Irish Farm ($54.44, amazon.com), offers loads more American-Irish takes on delightful countryside classics, updated for modern home cooks on both sides of the pond.

For a true twist for your St Patrick's Day meal, you could always go topsy turvy and serve a "full Irish" for dinner rather than breakfast. After all, even the most entrenched traditions are meant to be upended now and again.

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