Dublin's Traditional Coddle Makes A Hearty Feast From Leftovers

For better or worse, many popular Irish dishes are forever linked to the world's most versatile tuber, the potato. Plenty of traditional Irish dishes have potatoes playing a predominant role, like colcannon, shepherd's pie, and the fried potato cakes known colloquially as "Boxty." Coddle is one such Irish potato-packed dish, but it's too general to refer to it as "Irish." It's a dish specific to one city in particular: Dublin. 

Once known as "The Big Smoke," Dublin offered jobs to the impoverished agricultural workers of 18th-century Ireland. This new community of industrial Dubliners worked long hours and would often come home to the comforting sound of bubbling pots of Dublin coddle. The dish has become synonymous with the classic city and its people, most famously name-dropped in James Joyce's short story collection, "Dubliners." But what exactly is a coddle? And why is it forever linked with the people of Dublin? 

An economic and comforting dish

The beauty of coddle is that it doesn't require a recipe. Instead of being ruled by an ingredient list, coddle relies on a simple formula: Make a broth of leftover sausage or "rashers" (aka bacon) and then cook grains and leftover vegetables in it. Humbly seasoned with salt, pepper, and maybe a bit of parsley, coddle transforms leftovers into a nourishing stew. Its name, "coddle," was adapted from the French word "caudle," a cooking method that described parboiling your food to make a stew. The "Dublin" part came from its home origin, as the rural workers who relocated to the city for better opportunities brought with them pigs that would later star in their pork-forward stew. This dish became particularly popular during the Irish famine of the mid-1700s when the Irish valued economy and flexibility above all else in their cooking.

Certain Irish cooks like to argue over what ingredients are required to make a "true" Dublin coddle. Some purists claim carrots have no place in a coddle, allowing only onions, pork, and potatoes in the mix. Others embrace the traditional ideal behind coddle, using whatever odds and ends they have on hand. However, all tend to agree that coddle pairs well with a pint of dark Guinness stout and a wedge of Irish brown soda bread (for maximum gravy-sopping). If you're looking to add an Irish classic to your hearty winter stew line-up, try your hand at the soothing Dublin coddle.