Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Corned Beef & Cabbage

St. Patrick's Day is quickly approaching. The shamrock shakes have been in service for a few weeks now, and people still go in search of green beer (it's only food coloring).  For an area strongly rooted in Irish descendants, we've opted to celebrate in a more traditional manner. 

Here at the Uptown we'll be serving up corned beef and cabbage on Saturday, March 14 (and again on the 17th). Our generous 8 oz portion of housemade sliced corned beef comes with fresh, never frozen, steamed cabbage, carrots and boiled red potatoes.

So how exactly does our plate of food relate to an Irish holiday?

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Dublin, but in New York City in 1762. Over the next 100 years, Irish immigration to the United States exploded. The new wave of immigrants brought their own food traditions, including soda bread and Irish stew.

Pork was the preferred meat, since it was cheap in Ireland and ubiquitous on the dinner table. The favored cut was Irish bacon, a lean, smoked pork loin similar to Canadian bacon. But in the United States, pork was prohibitively expensive for most newly arrived Irish families, so they began cooking beef—the staple meat in the American diet—instead.

So how did pork and potatoes become corned beef and cabbage? Irish immigrants to America lived alongside other “undesirable” European ethnic groups that often faced discrimination in their new home, including Jews and Italians. Members of the Irish working class in New York City frequented Jewish delis and lunch carts, and it was there that they first tasted corned beef.

Cured and cooked much like Irish bacon, it was seen as a tasty and cheaper alternative to pork. And while potatoes were certainly available in the United States, cabbage offered a more cost-effective alternative to cash-strapped Irish families. Cooked in the same pot, the spiced, salty beef flavored the plain cabbage, creating a simple, hearty dish that couldn’t be easier to prepare.

After taking off among New York City’s Irish community, corned beef and cabbage found fans across the country. It was the perfect dish for everyone from harried housewives to busy cooks on trains and in cafeterias—cheap, easy to cook and hard to overcook. It was even served alongside mock turtle coup at President Lincoln’s inauguration dinner in 1862.

So don your greens and come try a traditional St. Patty's meal fit for a president.  Just don't push your luck by waiting until it's gone!

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