Eating Over The Sink
All our favorite holidays are over. Mere memories. We’re firmly in March, and the camp counselors of life think we need some more holidays to keep us cheered up, and washing dishes. St. Patrick’s Day is coming, of course, but that apparently isn’t enough for the Merry Makers. So they tell us that March is National Foot Health Month, National Frozen Food Month, and Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month. But when these announcements fail to stir the blood, they offer us such choices as National Crown Roast of Pork Day (to be celebrated on the 7th), or Maple Syrup Saturday (the 3rd Saturday of the month). In Hinckley, Ohio they have a Buzzard Day Festival. In Wiggam, Georgia, they can be found celebrating the Rattlesnake Roundup. And if none of these float your boat, you can celebrate Doctor’s Day (March 30).
Roast Pork Day? Absolutely. We’ve been known to celebrate that Day several times a year, not only in March. Maple Syrup Saturday? Well, maybe. For those Non-Low Carbers who may be silently lurking these pages, we’ll allow that it could be fun. I’d even go for Rattlesnake Roundup. But I ask you. Do we need a Doctor’s Day?
When I was a kid, and we were celebrating Mother’s Day, and then, one month later, Father’s Day, I once asked my mother when is Children’s Day. Her answer was “Everyday is Children’s Day!” And so say I, any day can turn out to be Doctor’s Day. Especially Pay Day. But let’s not linger too long on that. Let’s focus instead on corned beef.
Or ‘corn’ beef, as some like to say. Corning (not to be confused with those white dishes and casserole pans that can go in the freezer and the oven at the same time) means to preserve or pickle something in salt or with brine, brine being nothing more than water full of salt. Corned beef is generally a beef brisket that has been treated with salt, and then spiced up with such things as pepper, bay leaf, and other spices.
Here we come to where the men are separated from the boys. I’ll bet that most of you think that ‘brisket’ means a way of cooking a slab of meat, sort of like a pot roast. But, Uncle Zack comes to the rescue. To be precise, the word brisket actually refers to the breast section of an animal, not to a way of cooking the meat. And, it usually means a boneless cut from the underside of the forequarter.
I see you’re writing notes into your hardcover copy of Joy of Cooking. Good. But here is where it gets sticky again. There are whole briskets, point halves, point cuts, flat halves, flat cut, and middle cuts. Not to mention that the point half is sometimes called a thick cut, while the flat half is often referred to as the first cut or the thin cut.
Which leads us to St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. He is said to have driven the snakes out of Ireland. Of course, there were no snakes native to that country, so it does sort of put a shillelagh into the works. But whether or not the snake story is true, and/or whatever the real truth is about shamrocks, the big question still looms: What does any of it have to do with corned beef?
St. Patrick was born in Wales about AD 385. His given name was Maewyn, or maybe it was Patricius. (It depends on who’s telling the story.) But, they all agree that things were going splendidly for him until he was about 16. That year some barbarians from Ireland showed up and raided his village. He was among those carted off, and he became the slave of a warlord named Milchu, and was forced to tend sheep until he managed to escape, six years later.
And all without a single word about corned beef. Now, it is true that up until the 20th century, beef in Ireland was considered to be a decadent indulgence, only available to very wealthy people, because almost all the cows in Ireland were kept for their milk. Ha! I repeat, Ha! Maewyn/Patricius/St. Patrick tended sheep, not cows.
Well, I have immersed myself into the problem, and after extensive study, I present you with Zack’s Theory on Irish Corned Beef. To wit: Corned beef doesn’t really relate to St. Patrick at all, it relates to the March Hare.
Here again, we are blissfully ignorant of what we are talking about. Everyone has heard of the March Hare, but does anyone know anything about him? What he is not, is a green version the Easter Bunny. March hare refers to a crazy bunny, a mad hare. This is because March is smack in the middle of breeding time for hares, and they run around in a tizzy. You know the saying “He’s got a wild hare up his…” Nevermind.
This, of course, partially begs the question, just what is a hare? It is a rabbit, to be sure, or nearly like a rabbit, except it is larger, does not burrow, and (according to sources who should know better), has furry active young.
Come on now! I’ve seen baby rabbits. They are certainly “furry and active”! What the heck does it mean that a hare is different from a rabbit in that his babies are the same as a rabbit’s babies? Can this be the source of the word ‘harebrained,’ as in having or showing little sense? (Tell the truth, boys and girls. Didn’t you always think it was ‘hair’-brained?)
How do I know that corned beef relates to the March hare, you ask in great anticipation? Elementary, my dear Watsons. The word ‘corned’ doesn’t really come from practices of soaking the meat in salt. It comes from the word ‘corny’, as in nuts, as in having or showing little sense. As in The March Hare!
A baby hare was orphaned. A family of squirrels took him in, and raised him along with their baby squirrels. The baby hare learned to love running up tree trunks like a young squirrel, but he hardly ever jumped into the air like a young hare would do.
As Young Hare got older, he began to face an identity crisis. He decided to have a ‘man-to-man’ discussion with Dad Squirrel. He related how he felt unsure of his place in the universe, to which Dad Squirrel replied, “Don’t scurry, be hoppy.”
St. Patrick’s Day customs came to America, to Boston, in 1737. Before that, all the celebrating had been going on in Ireland, since somewhere around AD 461. That’s a lot of years, so it was certainly about time that we got invited to the party, even without corned beef and cabbage on the menu! And in honor of all that, I herewith present you with a dish guaranteed to knock your low carb socks off.
Low-Carb Filet Of Hare In Savoy Cabbage
- 8 filet portions of hare (2 to 3 ounces each)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 12 ounces bacon, chopped and fried with the mushrooms
- 1 pound mushrooms, chopped and fried with the bacon
- 1 Savoy cabbage (You can use regular cabbage, if you must.)
- 1 cup regular yogurt
- some Irish whiskey (or some fresh squeezed lemon juice)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup capers
Crush the capers. Rub them on the filets. Fry the filets lightly in the butter. Remove them from the pan. Add the bacon and mushrooms, and mix with the butter, and set aside.
Steam the cabbage to loosen the leaves. Cool, and separate them. Lay a filet on a cabbage leaf. Place another leaf on top, then put some of the bacon and mushrooms mixture onto the second leaf. Carefully roll up the stack and tie the bundle with household string. Do the same with the other filets.
Mix the yogurt, a splash of Irish whiskey, and the salt and pepper into the juices in the fry
Chop up any cabbage remaining and put it in the bottom of an oven dish. Place the rolled/tied bundles on the chopped cabbage, and pour the sauce over them.
Bake in a 350F oven until heated through and only slightly browned.
Now don’t go asking me where to get hare.
ZACK GRADY cooks his exotic dishes in Southern California. He admits making this one using boneless chicken breasts, since everyone knows that rabbit and hare taste just like chicken.