Sláinte! That's 'Cheers' in Irish Gaelic and literally translates to "Health". So here's to your health, good eats, and great friends!
Last April I had the fantastic opportunity to visit Ireland. I have been drawn to Europe for a long, LONG time and finally had the time to go and enjoy it! To say that I fell in love with Ireland would be a ghastly understatement.
I have seriously thought about how to move there for nearly a year, almost every day. The entire countryside is absolutely breathtaking, the towns are completely picturesque and I love the people, everyone I met was very warm and kind. I can really see myself living there, possibly for the rest of my life. Although I would miss my frequent visits to my other favorite place in Waco, TX, I think the trade-off would be worth it.
I visited as part of a tour group and we saw 5 cities and endless miles of mind-blowing countryside. Seriously, it's amazing! In Dublin, we visited St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Guinness storehouse which is the biggest employer in the entire country.
In Belfast, Northern Ireland we got to see and experience where/how the Titanic was built and it was honestly the most fun museum I have ever seen. There is a Disneyesque ride in the museum...so cool! We also happened to be there on the Anniversary day of the sinking of the Titanic and there was a memorial happening at the city hall.
In Kilkenny, we saw a Castle, Church, and Smithwicks Brewery where I found my favorite ale of the trip! On the way to Killarney, I got to kiss the Blarney Stone and walk the extremely tight corridors of Blarney Castle. In Killarney, we enjoyed a Jaunting ride with the Gypsies through the National Park, a ghost tour and it was also our starting point for a tour of the Ring of Kerry.
From there we traveled to Galway via the Cliffs of Moher, 900 foot cliff that will take your breath away, it's the most amazing natural wonder I have laid my eyes on to date. We explored the city and then took a boat ride to Inis Mór, part of the Aran Islands chain and visit a fortress and 8th century monastery.
This island has over 3,000 miles of stone wall, the stone had to be removed from the earth during the potato famine to burry the bodies of some of the more than one million people who died during that time.
It all finished with a beautiful dinner with all the new friends that had been made during the last 9 days we had spent together. I met over 30 new people and couple that will become life long friends and travel buddies and who I have already had to chance to see again.
Throughout the trip as you might imagine I enjoyed sampling all of the fantastic food and I was always on the lookout for the most traditional menu items that I could find. Bangers and Mash, Stews, Shepherds Pie, Potato Soup, Soda Bread, and my new favorite Boiled Bacon and Cabbage were found in great supply.
Every town had its own version and you could tell that everyone put their own twist on it. Also lots of Guinness, Irish Coffee and if you're ever there you MUST have Murphy's Ice Cream. They have crazy different flavors that won't be found in the states but they are all delicious, I know cause I tasted them all!
But back to the Boiled Cabbage and Bacon. I became a bit obsessed with it and had to try it every time that I saw it on a menu. I had a bit of a fancy dinner one night and sat next to a really nice couple that I talked to all night. This is when I learned that Corned Beef and Cabbage is purely an American dish and that in Ireland they eat Boiled Bacon and Cabbage to celebrate St. Patricks Day.
So this year I decided that I was going to try my hand at it. And while I searched high and low for a cut of Irish Bacon I couldn't find anything that I didn't have to import and pay well over $100 for. Yikes, I couldn't bring myself to do it! But I did find a pork loin roast, which from my research is the cut that I want for this dish, it has just a bit of fat on top and on the sides of what is otherwise just a pork loin.
The real key is that even though the "Irish Boiling Bacon" is nothing like what we know as bacon in America, it is still cured to some extent.
So as they would say in Ireland I gave it a crack, used what I had, and learned from it. While it wasn't quite as tender as what I experience in Ireland it was still good. I am going to work on it for a bit and see if I can cure the piece of meat and get a little more flavor out of it. I will work to get it as close as I can to the delicious dishes I ate in the homeland!
While it was still good I do have some work to do on it still but I will keep trying. This recipe that I found called for it to be served with parsley cream and mashed potatoes. It was really delicious it just needed a little bit more flavor. BUT, at the same time it is traditionally a very lightly flavored dish, back in the day they didn't have a lot of salt and the boiled the heck out of everything, so I think I got a pretty basic dish and got it right, but I want to work to update it and really give it some more flavor.
I also made some Bangers and Mash that came out just as good as some I had in Ireland. They are like Irish comfort food and you really can't go wrong with it. I boiled them with some sliced onions and in a bottle of Smithwicks Red Ale that I was happy to find here this year, that was my fave!
They came out fantastic and the caramelized beer-braised onions that just happen naturally as they cook were just delicious.
I wish y'all the happiest St. Patrick day, have a green beer for me.
Until next time, happy cooking!