Yesterday it occurred, rather belatedly, to me that today was Saint Patrick's Day and then it occurred to me that I have not ever actually cooked corned beef and then I suddenly started craving corned beef with cabbage and potatos, and so I started searching online for recipes, since I figured this is the sort of thing one can do in a crockpot. And then I suggested to Richard that we should see if anyone was interested in coming over for dinner, even though it was last minute.
Last night was choir practice, and we knew that if we were going to get it set up for this morning we would have to go get all the ingredients after choir, since there wasn't much time before choir to do anything but eat dinner and find our music. So we headed over to the store and I am not sure why it did not occur to either of us that waiting until the last minute to get corned beef for a holiday where everyone and their grandmother eats corned beef (even though yes, I am quite aware of the fact that corned beef is not, in fact, a traditional Irish meal at all). But when we wandered through the meat section of the store, we couldn't find it anywhere (we didn't really know quite what we were looking for, to be honest), but we did find a big empty chiller with a sign that said 'corned beef', and a shrinkwrap package of potatoes, carrots, onions, and cabbage, cleverly labeled 'Irish Vegetables', already pre-cut into the appropriately sized chunks.
Luckily I tracked down a random employee, who noted that there was more corned beef over in the vegetable section, by the cabbage, because naturally the produce department is right where any sane person would go looking for big hunks of dead cow, but he was right, it was there. However, what was not there was cabbage - they'd been completely wiped out (see above reference to 'leaving the shopping to the last minute'). So even though we had mocked the package of 'Irish Vegetables' moments before, we had no choice but to grab it, since it appeared to be our only source of cabbage for the evening.
This morning we stuffed all the ingredients into the crockpot except the cabbage, and set it on high and let it do its thing while we were at work, so that by the time we got home the house smelled divine. I found a recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake online, which sounded really good, so I made that (with a few modifications, due to the lack of any pureed dates to be found in our area, as well as the problem of not having a pan larger than my springform pan for the steaming process). My parents brought over some green Irish Soda Bread (as an aside, my dad makes great pizza, and when we were kids he used to occasionally put food coloring in the crust, and while a green crust is not too scary to look at just try to imagine eating a crust that someone tried, not quite successfully, to dye purple, because it looks wrong on too many levels to count), so we were all set.
The corned beef and root vegetables were delicious. The cake, although a bit on the fussy side, was wonderful - not too sweet, even with the homemade caramel sauce cooked into it. I suspect Richard and I will be eating it for breakfast for the next day or two. We'd ended up buying two packages of the corned beef because we weren't sure how much we'd need (although it wouldn't have all fit into the crockpot anyway), so we thinking that we'll cook up the second batch on Sunday, since there isn't much left over from this evening.
I forget, sometimes, how fun it is to slam together a dinner at the last minute and have people over. I think that sometimes we get so busy doing other things, and it doesn't help that our friends have been slowly scattering further and further away, and they've got their own lives and making dinner plans at the drop of a hat isn't really very easy for most anyone any more.