For many in New England, a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal consists of a boiled dinner of corned beef and cabbage. Josh Mamaclay, marketing and engagement manager at Curio Spice and a recipe developer and instructor at Milk Street, joined hosts Jeremy Siegel and Paris Alston on Morning Edition to share some advice for spicing up the traditional dish.
“There are so many different ways you could spin it,” Mamaclay said. “The boiled dinner is a great opportunity to celebrate the culture of New England, while also having an opportunity to incorporate flavors from other cultures and really show the fusion that is the United States in one meal.”
The dish is really an American invention, Mamaclay explained. When the Irish immigrated to the US during the 19th century, they discovered that beef was cheaper here than it was in Ireland.
“And that was great because they already had a lot of experience working with beef, curing it and raising it for the English,” he said. “So they quickly adapted that into the meal and thus the New England dinner boiled dinner was born.”
Siegel pointed out that many people find that the meal lacks flavor, and asked Mamaclay to provide some ways to spice it up. Drawing on his Filipino heritage from him, Mamaclay pointed to a boiled meat and vegetable dish called sinigang.
“The biggest difference that I find there is that the broth is incredibly sour thanks to the help of tomatoes,” he said. “Sometimes [it uses] a Filipino citrus called calamansi. And oftentimes vinegar will certainly bolster that sharp acidity. But it really brings out a lot of the sweetness in the root vegetables, as well as the savory in the meat.”
Mamaclay also recommended giving your meal a punch with juniper berries, for “effervescence,” East Asian flavors like star anise and Sichuan peppercorns, or some long red pepper. “It offers this really great fruitiness, as well as this long, low rumble of heat and spice. And I think that’ll wake up a lot of different taste buds,” he said.
“The boiled dinner is a great opportunity to celebrate the culture of New England, while also having an opportunity to incorporate flavors from other cultures and really show the fusion that is the United States in one meal.”
For vegetarians, Mamaclay recommends the seitan, which is made of wheat gluten and has a similar texture to meat. “It’s very, very amenable to taking on flavor, especially if it’s boiled for as long as corned beef and cabbage is,” he said.
I have encouraged home chefs to have fun and experiment, especially after two years of repetitive home meals.
“It could get really boring to eat the same thing, the same familiar dish that you had exactly the same time last year,” he said. “So it’s really an opportunity to kind of inject some fun and some exploration when you can’t really travel that far.”