Third Coast Happenings: Luck of the Irish Cook-off in Mobile

This Saturday (March 13, 2010) will mark the 9th annual Luck of the Irish Cook-off at Mobile's Bienville Square.  The 160 year old park is familiar territory to anyone who parties in downtown Mobile.  The cook-off is a fund raiser to support the fight against domestic violence and is presented by The Mobile Exchange Club as part of a three day festival that includes a Mardi Gras-style parade and most years includes a 5K run.

But the food is what most people go for.  The cook-off is open to teams who wish to compete in one of two categories, Irish Stew or Corned Beef & Cabbage.  Being as this is the Gulf Coast some recipes tend to trip a little to the "extreme Southern" part of Ireland with Conecuh smoked sausage and Cajun seasoning often finding it's way into these Emerald Ilse concoctions.  Once considered a purgatory for foodies, Ireland is now making a bid to supplant France and Italy as Europe's culinary capital thanks to the likes of talented chefs like Darina Allen.

Corned Beef & Cabbage is the perfect dish for an Irish Cook-off in Alabama as Corned Beef is not (hold your hat) an Irish dish.  The Irish recipe that evolved into corned beef and cabbage here in the States was boiled bacon and cabbage. However, when early 20th century Irish immigrants started Jonesing for a taste of the old country they were shocked to find no collar bacon in their new homeland. Collar bacon differs from what we are used to because it contains less salt and has more of the natural flavor of bacon employing the Wiltshire Cure method.

The Irish do not understand the concept of quitting and soon they stumbled on a phenomenon in the neighborhoods of New York called delicatessens.  Within these shops run mostly by Jewish artisans there existed a magical cut of bovine called corned beef, a brine-cured then boiled slab of brisket.  Thus the birth of an American classic.

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