Sunday, March 21, 2010

Feeding Detroit: Corned Beef & Cabbage Dinner @ St. Josaphat

Well, we may have missed St. Patrick's Day by a little, but that fact certainly didn't dampen the spirit of this afternoon's festivities at St. Josaphat's. A tradition for many years, the Sunday preceding or following St. Patrick's has always been celebrated with a corned beef and cabbage dinner. While the parish's roots may be Polish, it's true that everyone likes to be Irish for this holiday. Knowing some people who are actually from Ireland, they don't eat corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day. Leave it to us Americans to invent new traditions for others! (Pictured: many hands make light work - 50 lbs. of carrots peeled in 25 minutes!)

There are a few dinners a year at St. Josaphat that can usually be counted on to sell out - this is one of them. Going into this weekend, I knew that we were going to have about 140 dinners to serve, and, the Polish cook in me always makes a little extra "just in case." The corned beef is the star of the show, and before going into work on Friday morning, I found myself at the plant where the corned beef is processed picking up 100 pounds. I get our corned beef from Wigley's in Detroit's Eastern Market. I generally order the "supreme trim," which is exceptionally lean. As a matter of fact, Wigley's always gives me extra fat to add to the pot when I'm cooking the meat for extra flavor. In total, I cook the corned beef for well over five hours. On Saturday, it cooked for three hours, then I take it out, let it cool and then dad and I start slicing. My sister counts the slices (not an easy job!) and then we kind of figure out how many slices we can give to each person. I put the slices in buffet pans with some of the cooking liquid and cover with foil. (Pictured: carrots are peeled - dad starts slicing them up for the pot)

This morning, the corned beef went back in a low oven for almost another three hours. Talk about tender! No knives needed - this corned beef you cut with your fork. We also cooked up 50 pounds of potatoes, 50 pounds of carrots and about 20 head of cabbage. We also served a tossed salad, rolls and butter, dill pickles and pickled beets (hey, we're Polish after all!) and cake and coffee. If anyone ever leaves St. Josaphat hungry it's their own fault! (Pictured: Shirley and Busia cutting 140 slices of cake)

I don't know what I would do without my most excellent cooking crew: dad, sis, Ken, Shirley, "Busia," and Delphine. Thanks to all their help, we pulled another dinner off! More than just the prep and the cooking, there's the serving and all the clean up after it's all over. A lot of parishioners and friends help out with every dinner, from picking up dirty plates and silverware to keeping the coffee pots full. It's really a collective effort - I'm just the ring master! (Pictured: a batch of cabbage cut and ready to get cooked - there's something about the smell of cabbage that makes me feel good!)
My friends Helen, Marianne and Adrienne (all good cooks themselves) came to the dinner today with their friend Rosemary. This was their first St. Josaphat dinner and I think they had a good time - I know they were all winners at the raffle! I love having new folks come and join us for these celebrations of food, faith, family and friends. (Pictured: friends and family at one table - Helen, Marianne, Adrienne and Rosemary sit with my cousin Robbie, his lovely wife Michelle and a couple of their kids)

We're not cooking a dinner in April what with all the preparations for Easter and other doings at this time of the year. But, we'll be back in May with our Polish Pork Chop dinner - another favorite. These are the pork chops my mom made: thin, with the bone in, lightly breaded, browned and then baked in the oven with slices of onions. Until then, there will be more life to live and food to eat!
(Pictured: what it's all about - the corned beef at the buffet. Below - boiled potatoes with lots of butter and parsley.)

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