By Shawn Cavlan
I did not grow up in a household that really identified with the cultural background of my parents. My Mom came from a small Polish farming town in Michigan. My Dad from an Irish Catholic neighborhood in Boston. When they met and moved to California, neither one of them brought much in the way of cultural traditions with them. The only one was for St. Patrick’s Day.
My Dad had such a fondness for this holiday. I don’t think it was so much for Irish pride, but out of love to his Mom and the memory of his youth. Our celebration did not look like many of the antics that my friends had. There was no green toilet bowl water, golden coins or looking for leprechauns. There was a quiet remembrance of my Dad’s youth, his Father, his faith and just being together.
Our house, by design, was around the corner from our families Catholic church. Growing up, the front doors were always open. My Dad and I would walk to the church, light a candle for his Father and sit for quiet reflection. I never questioned this process. It just was what we did. I found myself really looking forward to this time with my Dad every year. For a man who did not speak a lot about his past, I felt that it was some type of connection to a time I was curious about.
We would talk about his Dad, my “Bumpy.” I did not know him very well as he died when I was young. He would tell me stories of growing up in Massachusetts, the trouble he would get into with the Nuns at parochial school and the corned beef and cabbage his mom would make. From there we would walk home to our own corned beef feast with whatever siblings of mine were around and my Mom. I think I carried the torch for this holiday with my dad more than anyone else in the family.
Food was eaten, whisky was had (by him) and an old album would always be played. It was this scratchy album of Oh Danny Boy. I still get chills when I hear this played. All of the hisses and pops along with the deep voice of the singer surrounded us as we finished our meal. My Dad would sing along and I would feel that familial connection to past generation.
Here is the Corned Beef recipe that I make along with a link to a great track. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Shawn Gallagher Cavlan’s Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe
1 large pre-corned Beef Brisket
4 Russet potatoes – peeled and cut into 8ths
2 heads of Green Cabbage – quartered
4 large Carrots – peeled and cut in half
any mix of other root vegetables you like (i.e. turnips, parsnips etc)
In a large stock pot, cover the beef with water with about 3 inches to spare. Be sure to add in the spice packet. Bring to a boil and then a low simmer with the lid on. Let it simmer for about 2 ½ hours depending on the size. The package will give you the ideal amount of time to simmer.
Heat oven to 200 degrees
When beef is done (you will know if a skewer can go through it easily), place it in a pyrex with a few ladles of the broth and cover with foil. Place it in the oven to keep warm.
In the stock, place the potatoes and any other root vegetable you are using. Bring it back to simmer and let it simmer for about 15 min. Next, add in the rest of the vegetables. Allow entire pot to simmer another 10 and check vegetables for tenderness.
Take beef out of the oven and slice. Place sliced meet in a bowl along with some vegetables. Ladle broth on top.
Serve with different types of mustard. Enjoy!