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On March 16th, celebrate St Patrick’s Day, on the eve of St Patrick’s Day, the traditional way. Not with green beer in a raucous pub, but with friends, neighbors, authentic Irish food, and traditional music and dance. Irish Fest and Söntés are teaming up to offer dinner, music, and a Céilí (pronounced “kay-lee”) Dance. The event will feature music by the Twin Cities Céilí Band; the dance will be called by the talented Máirtín de Cógáin.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Máirtín about traditional Irish fare, the facts of which he was more than happy to share. Here are a few pointers if you’re considering cooking up your own Irish fare this month!

In general, says Máirtín, Irish food is fairly plain. “Plain,” however, is all relative when you think about it. Traditional Irish fare focuses on fresh ingredients and the flavors of those ingredients. Beef, for instance, is from wholly grass-fed cattle, giving it a deeper, meatier flavor. Milk is richer, butter is thicker, vegetables are local. So the upshot is that if you pay attention to the quality of your ingredients, a simple dish can turn into something utterly satisfying.

An easy dish to make at home is Bacon & Cabbage. Just follow these steps of Máirtín’s:

  • Find some good green bacon, also known as “hairy bacon.” This is young bacon that has been cured but not smoked, and is usually thick-cut.
  • Boil the bacon in water.
  • Once you have a good broth, toss in your coarsely chopped green cabbage.
  • Boil the cabbage in the water until it starts to wilt a bit, then pull it out.
  • Serve the bacon and cabbage with steamed potatoes (still in their jackets) smothered in creamy butter.

The morning after Saint Patrick’s Day, you just might be in need of a traditional Irish breakfast to get you going. If you’re looking to pull one together, here are some pieces to consider:

  • Farm fresh eggs—a must!
  • Rashers—traditional Irish back bacon, kind of like a cross between American bacon and Canadian bacon
  • Baked beans—not the American style, but truly simple beans flavored with nothing more than some tomato sauce
  • Black & White Pudding—yes, blood sausage! Made with oats or barley in addition to the other ingredients
  • Brown soda bread
  • Farm-fresh butter—Máirtín recommends Kerrygold Butter if you can’t get your own farm-fresh spread

Well, those are just a few tips for you from Máirtín! We’d love for you to celebrate with us on Saint Patrick’s Day Eve, though, for warm food and company with lively music. If you’re not much of a dancer, don’t worry! Máirtín will be leading, and he’ll teach everyone the steps. He says, “If you can walk, you can dance!”

Here’s what we’ll be serving for dinner:

  • Chef Bryce’s Irish Beef Stew,
  • Traditional Irish Soda Bread,
  • and the Queen of Puddings!

Tickets to the event are only $20, and include dinner, music, and the Céilí Dance. Proceeds benefit Irish Fest 2012. You can get tickets of your very own by calling Tessa or Kim at 507-292-1628, contacting an Irish Fest board member, or stopping by the Rochester Civic Theater.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone!


All images courtesy of Sinéad Chick, Irish Fest MN.