March 11, 2004


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In six days, on March 17, is St. Patrick’s Day, another holiday in which we gather with friends to eat and drink. Along with the festivities at the local pubs is the opportunity to congregate at our respective homes with those who we wish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with. Even for those who are not of Irish descent, including myself (an Italian-American), St. Patrick’s day presents a day of cooking traditional Irish cuisine, green beer, and of course, wine. This holiday is an excellent example of non-traditional food and wine pairing, where wine is usually not consumed, and green beer assumes the beverage of choice. Though it is not common to drink wine on St. Patrick’s Day, there are a number of wines that pair very well with Irish cuisine, so why not indulge?

When choosing a wine for St. Patrick’s Day, it is best to consider two factors. For one, Irish cuisine is simple. A 1999 Domaine de la Romanee Conti for $3,500 would pair great with corned beef and cabbage, but much simpler wines will more than suffice. The other factor is how much green beer you plan on drinking, which may determine how much wine will be in order. I suggest going the route of Riesling for St. Patrick’s Day. Riesling performs well with Irish cuisine, whether from right here in New York, Germany, or Alsace. These wines provide excellent flavor profiles that contrast with the salty, vegetal flavor characteristics of Irish cuisine in a very pleasing way. As the Germans drink Riesling with sausage, it would not be entirely different for Irish sausages to be enjoyed in the same manner. In Alsace, Riesling is served alongside “Charcroute Gourmande” or Gourmet Sauerkraut. Likewise, the Irish use cabbage in many traditional preparations, which Riesling would pair with as well.In this week’s column, I will be providing you with a recipe for one of Ireland’s most traditional dishes, Colcannon. This dish was traditionally associated with predicting marriages. Charms were hidden in the mash, and were supposed to mean a marriage proposal when found. Unmarried women also hung socks filled with Colcannon on the front door, believing they would marry the next man to enter their homes.

St. Patrick’s Day honors the missionary credited with converting the Irish to Christianity. Green is associated with Saint Patrick’s Day because it is the color of spring, Ireland, and the shamrock. So a dish such as Colcannon, which is made with green cabbage, makes for a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal.


(Serves 4)


2 Pounds potatoes, peeled

1 Stick of butter

1 Cup hot milk

1 Small head cabbage, cored and finely shredded

1 Slice of _ inch thick ham, diced

3 scallions, finely chopped

Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

To prepare:

1. In boiling water, cook the potatoes for 30 minutes. Drain and add back to the hot pot they were cooked in with the milk and half the butter. Mash the potatoes with a whisk, and stir well to remove any lumps. Set aside and keep warm.

2. In boiling water, cook the cabbage for 2 minutes with a tablespoon of butter. Drain the cabbage and set aside.

3. Mix the scallions, ham, and cabbage with the masked potatoes.

4. In soup bowls, add the mixture. Make an indentation in the mixture with a spoon, and add a tablespoon of butter into each indentation. Sprinkle each bowl with parsley and serve alongside grilled or roasted Irish sausages.

Suggested wine pairings:

Dr. Loosen Riesling Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany 2002 – $11

Domaine Paul Blanck Riesling Alsace, France 2002 – $13

Hermann J. Wiemer Johannisberg Riesling Dundee, New York 2002 – $12

Archived article by Stephen Asprinio