As March nears its midpoint, there are two dates occurring this week that are of interest to historians. The first is March 15th, the Ides of March! In 44BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated on that day, and it became a pivotal turning point in Roman history. The second date is, of course, March 17th or the Feast of St. Patrick!
There are many myths concerning St. Patrick and why he holds such an honored place in history. March 17th is actually the date of his death in 461AD. He was born to a wealthy family in Britain but was kidnapped and hauled off to Ireland at the hands of Gaelic Irish. Eventually, after finding God in his life, he was rescued and returned home.
Eventually Patrick returned to Ireland with a mission to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. He is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland which is probably an allegory for the devil as Ireland was pretty much snake-free at the time. On St. Patrick’s day it is customary to wear shamrocks, green clothing or green accessories. It is believed that the three-leafed shamrock was probably used by St. Paddy to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans. In the mid-19th century and into the 20th century, it is estimated that as many as 4.5 million Irish arrived in America, bringing with them their culture, their foods and their patron saint!
On March 17th, many people will enjoy corned beef and cabbage in honor of the holiday, but the truth is that in Ireland beef was not used for meat but rather for their milk and the other dairy products produced. Cows were a symbol of wealth and considered sacred and as such were only killed for their meat if they were too old to work or produce milk!
A more traditional Irish feast is a dish called Dublin Coddle. It was potato based as was a lot of their cuisine. It was used to transform yesterday’s leftovers into a hearty, rustic dinner. Coddle is a one-pot combination of potatoes, bacon, sausage and pretty much, whatever you have in the fridge. Since its simmered for a long time and seasoned with whatever spices you prefer, it is simply packed with flavor.
|6 slices thick cut sliced, smoked bacon||Costa’s famous pork sausage link (5 of 6)|
|4 mediumYellow onions||Freshly chopped parsley|
|3½lbs of Russet potatoes||Kosher salt|
|Freshly ground black pepper||2 cups chicken broth|
Using a nice, heavy Dutch oven cut several strips of bacon into pieces and place in the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium to medium-low heat. Peel 3½ lbs of russet potatoes (you can leave a little skin on for that rustic look). Slice each potato into 4 or 5 thick slices which helps keep them from turning into mush. Place the potatoes on top of the bacon. Finely mince two tablespoons of parsley and slice up 4 medium size onions into rings. When the bacon is cooked remove it with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Cook the sausages, five or six in the bacon grease to give them some nice browning. Remove the cooked sausage and cut into thirds. Take the pot off the heat so the browned bits don’t stick on the bottom.
Layer in the onions, a pinch of black pepper and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Add the cooked bacon on top of that, then the sausages and another sprinkle of parsley. Finally, layer in the potatoes along with some salt and pepper (and any remaining parsley). Cover with two cups of chicken broth. Bring the whole mess to a boil, then back in a preheated 300°F oven for 90 minutes. Upon removing from the oven, give everything a toss and garnish with more pepper & parsley! This recipe got spectacularly with some freshly baked crusty bread from Costa’s bakery!