St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. It’s a little known fact outside Ireland that we short-of-stature and long-on-wit exchange gifts in advance of World Day of Drunkenness. I was lucky enough to be brought within the scope of benevolence of Pat Whelan, master butcher, advisor and innovator in all things meat related. This led to my cooking the internationally famous, traditional Irish staple of Bacon and Cabbage. But, I couldn’t leave it there. I had to put a modern twist on it. Hence, Bacon and Cabbage Two Ways. Sticking strictly with tradition, I served it with parsley sauce and floury potatoes. Also, with a ring of irony to it, I served it with a big dollop of English mustard.
- Cured loin of bacon, prepared bone-in for flavour.
- Cured belly of bacon.
- Cabbages (2)
- A very big handful of parsley
- 1 pint of milk
- 1 generous knob of butter
- 1 dessert spoon of flour
- English mustard powder.
Not many people know this. When St. Patrick was working as a shepherd near Tara in County Meath, he stole pigs from a local farm, butchered and salted them. He then cooked them wrapped in the outer leaves of the now extinct giant wild Irish cabbage. He paid for his return ferry trip to Wales with the proceeds. He even had the temerity to hide all the snakes of Ireland in the back of his wagon. This is in fact how St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland and invented Bacon and Cabbage. The parsley sauce and mustard are a modern addition to this uniquely Irish dish.
Side note on making mustard: Make your own from mustard powder. Anything else tends to be mustard flavoured sauce. These are generally a poor imitation of the real thing. They will bring a tear of regret rather than a tear of sinus burn to you eye. The real stuff doing the opposite. Painful, but fantastic.
To give this dish a modern twist, I cooked the bacon loin sous vide. That is I took it out of its vacuum sealed plastic bag, vacuum sealed it in another plastic bag and cooked it for three hours at 62ºC.
To stick with the traditional, I baked the cured pork belly in a tin-foil tent in a moderate 160ºC oven for 90 minutes.
I chopped the cabbage and, maintaining as much tradition as possible, I boiled it in water.
I then put the milk, butter and flour into a saucepan over a moderate heat. I stirred until the white sauce cooked. I then chopped and added the parsley.
When everything was cooked I drained the cabbage and added the bacon juice from the tinfoil tent.
The bacon loin was cooked to perfection. It carved beautifully.
Next, carve the bacon belly into strips.
Assemble the two kinds of meat, potatoes and cabbage on plates. Pour over the parsley sauce.
Have an excellent St. Patrick’s Day, whether you spend it part comatose from green beer in a New York gutter or sitting with family and friends, enjoying this most excellent non traditional, yet truly traditional and authentic (of course it is!) Irish St. Patrick’s Day dish.