Getting corny with friends

Saint Patrick's Day dinner a treat

Saint Patrick's Day dinner a treat

March 14, 2007|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Whoever said, "Everybody's Irish on Saint Patrick's Day," might have been at the Hagerstown home of Bob and Dolores Vidoni for a Saint Patrick's Day dinner, when just about the only thing Irish in the house is the corned beef and cabbage.

There's also the Rev. Chris Moore, the only one of Irish heritage among the handful of guests at the yearly dinner party. Moore is a priest at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Hagerstown. He said the Vidonis' Saint Patrick's Day dinner is the only time he eats Irish cooking all year.

But any lack of Irishness seldom is enough to stop people from celebrating Saint Patrick's Day, which is coming up Saturday.

The Vidonis have been hosting a dinner party to mark the holiday for about five years. Keeping with tradition, Bob Vidoni, former owner of the Best Western Venice Inn, said he plans to serve corned beef and cabbage at this year's dinner party.


Six or seven guests join the Vidonis, who are of Italian heritage.

"It's really an excuse for us to get together," said Fred Kramer, a former Hagerstown City Council member who attends with his wife, Renee. "It's the friendship that's most important, not the food."

So if you were to put a percentage on how much food was a factor in why the guests attended, "I'd say 20 percent of it is about the food," said Rayetta Schindel, who attends the dinner with her husband, Hugh.

Renee Kramer said she thinks of the annual gathering as "gastronomic Judaism," referring to the way food is able to bring people together, despite their ethnic or religious heritages.

"(If) you think about it, everything is done with food, whether it's Jewish, German, Italian, everything centers around food," Renee Kramer said.

For the meal, Bob Vidoni veers toward a straightforward corned beef and cabbage recipe each year.

He cooks halved potatoes and carrots with the cabbage in the juices of the meat. For seasoning, sometimes he'll add fennel, other times he'll just use the packet that comes with the corned beef.

He may add a turnip or two but finds that most of his dinner guests don't care for them.

His aim is to produce a quality but low-maintenance dinner, so that, "I'm not back there in the kitchen the whole time," Vidoni said. "I like being able to enjoy my guests."

Old-Fashioned Corned Beef and Cabbage

2 1/2 pound corned beef (store-bought with spice packet)
6 small onions
6 medium-sized carrots, halved or whole
4 medium potatoes, halved
1 head of cabbage, cut in quarters

Place corned beef in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the corned beef and add spice packet. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer over medium heat and cover, allowing to simmer for about 2 1/2 hours or until the corned beef is fork tender.

Remove corned beef from the pot, wrap in aluminum foil and set aside.

To the corned beef cooking water, add the onions, carrots and potatoes and cover, simmering for 15 minutes. Add the cabbage and reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered until vegetables are tender.

While the vegetables and cabbage are cooking, trim the fat from the corned beef, then put the corned beef in with the vegetables, cooking for 4 to 5 minutes or until the vegetables are done.

Serves 6 to 8.

- Recipe courtesy of Bob Vidoni

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