St. Patrick's Day, 2010

I hope you all had a wonderful St. Patrick's Day.

I took today off from work, and I'm so glad I did. Working six super-long days days a week starts to get to you after a while. A break here and there is healthy and necessary.

I don't know about where you live, but here in Boston, we've been getting rain for about a week straight, and today it was finally gorgeous out! Even though I'm a bit sick right now, I made sure to get a little time in the sun. My boyfriend and I took the puppy for a walk this afternoon, stopped at Starbucks for a beverage -- I tried the new and delicious dark cherry mocha -- and basked in the sun for a bit.

Then we went to When Pigs Fly in Davis Square and picked up some rye bread and some potato bread to have with our dinner (and to make sandwiches with later on with our leftover corned beef). Today was actually the first time I visited the Davis Square location. I've been to the stores in Kittery and Freeport, Maine, much more often on annual shopping trips to the outlets with my mom. It was always a special treat to sample the different breads and select a few to bring home. I think I kept myself from going to the Davis one for so long because I wanted the bread to still feel like a treat, rather than an everyday thing.

I toyed with making shepherd's pie or Irish beef hand pies but ultimately went with corned beef and cabbage because my cravings for corned beef hash (made from the leftovers) got the better of me and because St. Patrick's Day wouldn't feel quite the same without it. We've all heard by now that corned beef and cabbage is not a traditional Irish dish, but because I was raised eating corned beef and cabbage every March 17th, it is a tradition to me. In years past, I've made corned beef with subpar results, and this year I was determined to get it right (but still overcooked the corned beef slightly).

I bought a nice-looking piece of corned beef brisket at Whole Foods, along with a head of cabbage, a bag of potatoes, some baby carrots, and a large Vidalia onion. All of these things are necessary for a complete St. Patrick's Day meal.

About 4 hours (just to be safe) before I wanted dinner to be on the table, I put the corned beef in a large pot and covered it with two inches of water, as the package instructed. I brought it up to a boil and then left it to simmer for an hour and a half. I used the downtime to finish making dessert, prep my veggies, and relax a little.

After the hour and a half was up, I added my potatoes (cut in chunks) and baby carrots to the pot and let everything simmer together for about another half hour, until the potatoes were tender. A little while after I dropped the potatoes and carrots in with the corned beef, I sauteed my onions and cabbage in another pan. Somehow, everything was ready at the same time.

And we sat down to this amazing meal...

For dessert, I made a chocolate stout cake with the batter I had leftover after making mini chocolate stout cupcakes.

I put a pound of batter into each of three greased and floured cake pans and baked them in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes. Once the layers were cool, I spread ganache between them and frosted the entire cake with a thin layer of ganache to try to give myself a smooth surface to work with. I actually froze the cake to keep it tasting fresh and then took it out and put it in the fridge to thaw last night.

Today, I poured a thick layer of ganache over the whole cake, sprinkled some shamrocks on top, and piped more ganache around the bottom. I'm a tough critic, so I wish the cake had been a little more even, but I'm happy with it. And I've come a long way since I started working at the bakery. I definitely understand concepts like piping and glazing much more. Once I learn how to assemble cakes there, I'm sure I'll get much better at doing that at home too.

Oh, and we also had these pistachio cupcakes, which I made for the one who doesn't love chocolate the way I do.

Again, Happy St. Patrick's Day to you and yours! Hope you enjoyed a fabulous feast too!