Magazine article Sunset

Patrick Does St. Patrick's

Magazine article Sunset

Patrick Does St. Patrick's

Article excerpt

Follow his plans for a hearty meal to serve 12, 25, or 50 revelers

GROWING UP WITH A name like Patrick Joseph Peter McEvoy in an Irish American neighborhood in New York, my husband got lots of attention on St. Patrick's Day. And being fond of attention, it was natural that he would host an annual St. Patrick's Day bash when he moved to California. After 10 years, the party has become a bit of a legend among our friends, but not just because it's a great time.

For one thing, everyone agrees that Patrick's corned beef and cabbage is the most delicious they've ever had (is it the not-so-secret Guinness that goes in the pot?). Then there's the scale of the party--50 people is a small crowd, 100 average--and our tiny house is always in chaos.

What's amazing is that Patrick pulls off this feast with no apparent plan and seemingly little effort. With our friend Joan and me helping, the preparation and cooking take only 6 hours. (Patrick cooks for 50; when there are larger crowds, he expands the meal with friends' potluck contributions.)

Soda bread and corned beef have always been Patrick's party-day staples. Over time my role has expanded beyond head potato peeler. Now I supply the shortbread and colcannon, a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with butter-steamed cabbage.

Last year, a bold first-time partygoer ventured that the meal seemed heavily tilted toward potatoes. She was quickly set straight. Patrick, the self-proclaimed Spud King, says you can't have too much of a good thing on St. Patrick's Day.

I've adapted Patrick's recipes to serve 12, 25, or 50. For 12 guests, you can cook the colcannon and corned beef on the range at the same time. If you're preparing for 25 or 50, you'll need to cook the colcannon and corned beef in sequence as outlined in the following section. (The large pots won't all fit on the range at once, and overcrowding could seriously damage the range.) Follow recipe instructions for reheating foods.


Beneath Patrick's off-the-cuff demeanor is the mind of a party general. After years of St. Patrick's celebrations, he has many tips for pulling off this feast.


* Buy enormous pots to use year after year. Patrick has two 35-quart pans (from a restaurant supply store) to cook corned beef for 50.

* Let friends help. This is not a menu to cook alone. Ask someone to bring appetizers.

One week ahead

* Send out invitations by electronic mail (or phone).

* Buy "cluttery" (disposable cutlery and paper supplies) at a discount store, and beer (Irish stout and lager).

* Make or buy shortbread; freeze.

* Borrow extra vegetable peelers, and coolers for beer.

On the day

2:00 Get organized. Thaw shortbread, if necessary. Ice beer. In obvious spots, set out large, lined trash cans.

2:30 Put on Irish music. Peel potatoes like mad and cook for colcannon. Prepare vegetables for corned beef.

4:00 Start coined beef. Make soda bread. Pour a round of Black and Tans (equal parts Irish stout and lager--lager first for less foam).

7:15 When corned beef is tender, add vegetables. Pour more Black and Tans.

7:45 Start dishing up vegetables and carving meat; keep warm. Meanwhile (if for 25 or 50), finish colcannon.

8:15 Clear a path to the table and carry in food to rounds of applause.


Coming is a process that cures and flavors beef in a mixture containing salt, sugar, preservatives, and sometimes garlic and pickling spices. Coined beef is available without added spices (sometimes called mild), or with spices (sometimes called old-fashioned), which are either pressed into the meat or included in a separate packet. Patrick prefers corned beef that's spiced, if it's available. You may also see oven-roast style, which has less salt--and would taste a little bland simmered for Patrick's recipe. …

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