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Let's get one thing straight: Corned beef and cabbage is not a traditional Irish meal.

The dish evolved among Irish American immigrants, not in the old country. How corned beef became associated with St. Patrick's Day has more to do with the fact that it was an inexpensive cut of beef that was brined for preservation (and to counter any off-flavors), a technique Irish butchers learned from their Jewish neighbors.

While the citizens of Ireland have been observing March 17, the Catholic feast day of St. Patrick, since around the 10th century, the first St. Patrick's Day parade was organized by an Irish vicar in 1601 in what is now Florida.

More than a century later, homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military marked the day in New York City with a festive parade that drew thousands, and enthusiasm soon spread to Boston, St. Louis, Chicago and on. Within the next decade, these parades drew immigrant families from different countries — Italy, Germany, Spain — in solidarity with the Irish, all as American citizens.

In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is a national holiday that celebrates the country's patron saint with parades, festivals and live music. The pubs are open and will be serving their standard fare — shepherd's pie (filled with lamb) and cottage pie (with beef), stews and seafood chowders.

A family's home-cooked holiday meal would likely include colcannon, a traditional mash of potatoes and Ireland's staple vegetables that in true Irish fashion varies, depending on the cook and what's in the larder. The best versions call for generous doses of fresh cream and lots (I mean lots) of good Irish butter.

Then there's Irish soda bread, which relies on soda, not yeast, to rise. Its rich, dense, tender texture and sweet flavor are the result of Irish wheat. It's a "soft" low-protein wheat with a different gluten content than bread flour. Soda bread — sometimes white, but more often brown — forms the backbone of the Irish meal and is always on the table. It's as delicious in the morning with good butter and honey as it is served for dinner to mop up the juices of a hearty soup, stew, roast or buttery salmon.

In Ireland, wild salmon is a sport fish, reserved for Irish citizens. Farmed salmon is what you'll find on menus and in the markets. For those of us in the States, Atlantic farmed salmon has two distinct advantages over our West Coast salmon: Farmed salmon is less expensive and fattier. That fat content makes for great eating and it's extremely forgiving during cooking. You can overcook the farmed salmon a little and it won't dry out. Plus, this salmon has so much flavor that all it really needs is butter, salt and few herbs.

Irish cooks roast their salmon low and slow to gently bring it to its optimal temperature. High heat or grilling damage this delicate fish, an Irish friend warned me recently. For Irish home cooks, the St. Pat's dinner might feature salmon roasted slowly in butter that becomes a nutty, browned-butter sauce for the accompanying mash and vegetable.

Both in Ireland and the United States, St. Patrick's Day is a celebration of community and camaraderie. Let's cook together and raise a glass to the coming of spring. Sláinte!

At the center of a traditional Irish St. Patrick's Day meal: Brown Butter Oven-Roasted Salmon. Recipes by Beth Dooley, photo by Ashley Moyna Schwickert, Special to the Star Tribune.
At the center of a traditional Irish St. Patrick's Day meal: Brown Butter Oven-Roasted Salmon. Recipes by Beth Dooley, photo by Ashley Moyna Schwickert, Special to the Star Tribune.

Ashley Moyna Schwickert, Special to the Star Tribune

Browned Butter Oven-Roasted Salmon

Serves 4 to 6.

Atlantic salmon is one of the easiest fish to cook; its higher fat content ensures it will stay moist and tender. To prepare it, do not rinse the fish. Instead, simply pat it dry with clean paper towels. Be sure to pluck out any pin bones. From Beth Dooley.

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lb. salmon fillet, skin on
  • 1/4 c. (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 small Meyer lemon, cut into slices
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Several sprigs fresh parsley, plus chopped parsley for garnish


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lay the salmon fillet, skin-side down, on the parchment. Scatter the butter chunks over the salmon; lay the lemon slices over the butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place the parsley on top of the salmon.

Roast the salmon until it flakes when poked with a fork, and its internal temperature reaches 135 to 145 degrees on a digital thermometer, about 18 to 22 minutes. Remove and let it rest for a few minutes, spooning the butter that's pooled in the pan over the fish.

Serve garnished with the chopped parsley.


Serves 4 to 6.

This is the classic Irish potato and vegetable dish that varies depending on the region and cook. Some mash cooked cabbage into the potatoes; this one calls for turnips and leeks. Just be sure to add heavy cream and plenty of butter. From Beth Dooley.

  • 2 tbsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 to 2 1/4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-in. chunks
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 2-in. chunks
  • 1 leek, white part only, diced
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 c. heavy cream or whole milk, or a mixture
  • Freshly ground pepper, for seasoning
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley


In a large pot, bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, turnip and leeks to the pot and boil until a knife slides easily into the potatoes and turnips.

In a saucepan or microwave, heat the butter and cream or milk together until it starts to steam. Drain the potatoes and vegetable mixture and return it to the pot. Mash the potatoes until they fall apart and then lightly mash in the cream until the mixture is smooth but retains lumps. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley.

Simply Sautéed Mixed Cabbage

Serves 4 to 6.

This simple tossup relies on shredded green and red cabbage and carrots, but feel free to use any mix — shredded Brussels sprouts, rutabaga and turnips would work nicely, too. From Beth Dooley.

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 c. shredded red and green cabbage and carrots
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, to taste


In a large heavy skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the shallot until tender, about 1 minute. Add the shredded vegetables, toss, cover and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Remove the lid and season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Soda Bread

Makes 1 (7-inch) round loaf.

This is the classic loaf that includes oatmeal for texture. Feel free to toss in a handful of currants to add sweetness. It toasts beautifully for breakfast. From Beth Dooley.

  • 1 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus a little more for sprinkling
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. (4 tbsp.) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/3 c. buttermilk or plain yogurt (not Greek-style)
  • 1 tbsp. honey


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly sprinkle flour over a baking sheet or cast-iron skillet.

Whisk together the flours, oats, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and toss to coat with the flour and then use your fingertips to work it into a coarse meal. In a small dish, stir together the buttermilk and honey, then add this to the dough and stir until it is evenly moistened but still lumpy.

Using floured hands, form the dough into a ball and pat out into a 7-inch round on the floured baking sheet or cast-iron skillet. Cut a shallow X in the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.

Bake the bread until golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack before slicing.

Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at