You don't have to wait for a St. Patrick's Day feast of corned beef and cabbage to enjoy a classic from the Emerald Isle. Made from simple ingredients that grow abundantly in the country's climate, Irish bacon and cabbage soup features savory pork and wedges of a pungent vegetable that turns sweet as it cooks. Served in shallow bowls with just a little of the briny cooking juices spooned over the top, the dish is typically eaten with a knife, fork, and one or two extras to make a full, flavorful meal.
An ample helping of parsley sauce drizzled on top of the pork and cabbage brings together all the flavors with the mellow smoothness of cream and a hint of spring-like freshness from the coarsely chopped herb. For those who like a little more zing with their meat and veg, a dollop of grainy brown mustard gives the staid classic an edgy accent. Alternatively, a sprinkle of chopped, fresh herbs, such as chives, savory or even mint, adds a subtle layer of down-home flavor to the bowl.
In some variations of bacon and cabbage soup, peeled Irish potatoes or small, unpeeled red potatoes are added to the cooking pot during the last minutes, allowing them to cook through completely just before serving in the same bowl. For a modern twist on the ages-old dish, oven-baked steak fries or sweet potato wedges served on the side add healthy color and carbs to the meal. Individual servings of creamy potato salad with chopped celery and a hint of mustard provide another option to give the meal a zippy accent with a bit of crunch.
In keeping with the Irish theme, thick slices of soda bread – flecked with caraway seeds and raisins – are a natural accompaniment to the dish's savory essence. Crusty artisan-style breads with a soft, chewy center also work well to balance the food on the fork and sop up any juices lingering in the bottom of the bowl. Fluffy biscuits, fresh out of the oven and served with butter and honey, can make the whole meal feel like a happy helping of comfort food.
Fruit and Dessert
Apples, pears and plums customarily complement pork dishes. These fruits are fleshy, not drippy, making them ideal to slice and serve raw as a simple side dish. Dense, moist Irish apple cake or pears poached in mead with a topping of clotted cream put a sweet finishing touch on the meal. During the holiday season, a festive Christmas plum pudding is the perfect end to an uncomplicated dinner of bacon and cabbage soup.
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