Friday, March 16, 2018

Irish Food That's Not Corned Beef and Cabbage

Last year around this time I posted a blog entitled "Irish Recipes That I'd Actually Make". I'm not a fan of corned beef and cabbage nor of Irish soda bread, but I do like making themed recipes around holidays. Last year's recipes were beef stew, shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, boxty, steak pasties, and Irish whiskey cake. This year's recipes are lamb stew, potato rolls, Dublin Coddle, steak and Guinness pie, whiskey roasted salmon, and Bailey's chocolate chip cheesecake. Please note that none of these recipes involve cabbage of any kind. (You're welcome.)

Lamb Stew
Lamb and beef are both common proteins in Irish cooking. so it's no surprise that stew recipes for both abound. The Guinness adds a depth of flavor, but if you're not a beer drinker and don't want to have to bother with buying a single bottle of it, just substitute additional chicken broth. You can also freeze individual portions; simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then warm in a saucepan, adding a bit of water if needed.
2 pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 1" cubes
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
12 oz. Guinness stout (or additional chicken broth)
6 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
4 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1-2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1-1/2 teaspoons pepper
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (or half and half)

Heat the butter and oil in an oven-safe Dutch oven and brown the lamb. Remove meat and cover to keep warm. In the same oil, saute carrots and onions until tender but still crisp. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add broth and beer. Stir in lamb and remaining ingredients except cream. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until meat is tender, stirring every 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. Stir in cream and return to oven for a few minutes until heated through.

Potato Rolls
What better to sop up the remains of the stew than a good, hearty potato roll? The potato gives a light texture and creaminess that nothing could improve, except possibly a good dollop of fresh Irish butter.

1 packet yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water (handwashing warm)
1 cup mashed potatoes (real or instant)
2/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
5-6 cups flour
Melted butter

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer, combine potatoes, butter, eggs, sugar, honey, and salt. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Stir the yeast mixture into the cooled scalded milk and add to potatoes, mixing on low speed until blended. Gradually add flour until a soft dough forms. Using a dough hook, knead for 5 minutes on low (if you don't have a dough hook, knead by hand in the bowl). Spray a large mixing bowl with nonstick spray and place the dough inside, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled. Punch down and shape into rolls. Place rolls 2" apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet or arrange in three 8- or 9-inch round pans (recipe makes about 21 rolls). Cover and let rise again until increased by one-third. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-13 minutes. Remove from oven and brush tops with melted butter.

Dublin Coddle
The "coddle" in Dublin Coddle is because this dish is cooked slowly and gently. You can find slow cooker recipes, but this version cooks in a 300-degree oven for a few hours instead. Some recipes also include carrots, which add color, flavor, and nutritional value, and feel free to use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. Any version is delicious!
10 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-3/4 pounds pork sausage (about 5 links)
4 small yellow onions, diced
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
3-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, roughly peeled (i.e., leave some strips of peel on)
salt and pepper
2 cups chicken or beef broth

In an oven-safe Dutch oven, brown the bacon over medium to medium-low until cooked and crispy (about 18-20 minutes). Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. In the same pan, sear the sausages for 3-4 minutes on both sides, then slice into thirds. Remove the pot from the heat and layer onions with a pinch of salt and 1/3 of the parsley, bacon, sausages, another third of the parsley, potatoes, another pinch of both salt and pepper, and the remaining parsley. Pour chicken broth over, cover, and return to heat. Bring to a boil, then bake (covered) in a 300-degree oven for 1-1/2 hours or until potatoes are fork tender. Serve with crusty bread.

Steak and Guinness Pie
Pies and pasties (a free-form pie, not baked in a dish) are both popular in Irish cuisine. You can make homemade pastry if you like, but frozen puff pastry is a lot easier and (almost) as delicious. The beef is the star of this dish, anyway.
1-1/2 pounds stew beef, diced
salt and pepper to taste
2 heaping tablespoons flour
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
about a handful of fresh rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, or a combination
2 cups Guinness stout, other stout beer, or beef stock
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg, beaten

Season the beef generously with salt and pepper and toss in flour to coat (easiest to do in a big ziploc bag). In a large, deep pan, heat the oil over medium-high and brown the meat. Do in two batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Add the onion and cook for 1 minute, then add the carrots, potatoes, and herbs. Cook for 4 minutes or so, then add the Guinness (or stock) and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to low, then simmer for 2 hours until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened. Season to taste. Pour the meat and sauce into a large baking dish (or individual ramekins). Roll out the puff pastry until about 1/4" thick. Cut out a circle about 1/2" larger than the diameter of the bowl. Brush the rim of the bowl with beaten egg and lay the pastry circle on top, pressing down the edge to seal. Lightly score the top of the pastry in a criss-cross pattern and brush with remaining egg. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Whiskey-Roasted Salmon
I don't generally think of fish when I think of Irish cooking, but I'm not sure why, because a good deal of Ireland is coastline! But it's the delicious honey and whiskey marinade that makes this particular recipe a real Irish dish. Grill the salmon if you can, but if grilling isn't an option, baking it in the oven works just fine.
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup Irish whiskey
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 salmon fillets

Mix together all ingredients except fillets. Place the fillets in a shallow rimmed dish and pour the marinade over them. Marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or 4 hours in the fridge. Remove from marinade and grill on a greased grill or place on a greased rack over a roasting pan and bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes, basting once with remaining marinade halfway through cooking.

Bailey's Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
Okay, this is probably not a "traditional Irish recipe" by any stretch of the imagination, but it involves Bailey's Irish Cream, which makes it Irish, and it looks AMAZING, which makes it included here.
For the crust:
1/2 cup toasted pecans, cooled and crushed
2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:
2-1/4 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1-2/3 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 cup Bailey's Irish Cream Liqueur
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the topping:
1 cup chilled whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
chocolate curls, for decoration

Combine all crust ingredients and press into a 10" springform pan, covering the bottom and 1" up the sides. Bake at 325 degrees for 7-10 minutes.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in sugar, then eggs, one at a time. Beat in Bailey's and vanilla. Sprinkle half of the chocolate chips into baked crust, then spoon in the filling and top with the remaining chocolate chips. Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, until puffed, springy in center, and golden brown. Place a pan of water on bottom rack of oven while baking to keep moist.

Beat together topping ingredients except chocolate curls, and spread over cooled cake. Decorate with chocolate curls. Refrigerate for one day before serving.

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Honey Buttermilk Bread

It's a snowy day, and my kids and I are all home from school. So what else to do on a snow day but bake? It keeps us warm, busy, and well fed - win, win, win! Since we had a bottle of buttermilk on hand, I decided to try a recipe for honey buttermilk bread that I've had for a while. The complete recipe is at the bottom of the blog.

The ingredients you'll need are: yeast, powdered ginger, sugar, buttermilk (or make your own with milk and vinegar), honey, salt, baking soda, flour (bread or all-purpose), and butter.

Start by getting your yeast going: in a large mixing bowl (use the bowl of your stand mixer if you're using one), combine 1 tablespoon (or 1 packet) yeast, a pinch of ginger, and a teaspoon of sugar with 1/4 cup warm (hand washing temperature) water, and let sit for 5 minutes.

While the yeast is foaming away, warm up 2 cups of buttermilk. I zapped mine in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, for a total of 2 minutes.

Stir in 1/3 cup honey and 1 teaspoon salt, then get your baking soda ready, but don't add it yet!

Once you add it to the buttermilk, it will foam up and make a mess unless you're using a really big measuring cup. So hold the measuring cup over your mixing bowl of yeast, then add 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, stir quickly, and dump it in. (Note: I used a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon and added 3 spoonfuls; next time I'd eyeball 3/4 of a 1-teaspoon spoon and add the soda all at once.)

Stir the bubbling mess. (Cackling, "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble" at this point is optional, but highly encouraged.)

Next, melt 1/4 cup butter on the stove or in the microwave. You want to do this step now so it has a chance to cool a bit before you add it to the dough.

Now, add 3 cups of flour to your buttermilk mixture. If you're using a stand mixer, just set it on low and dump the flour in all at once (cover the mixer with a tea towel to avoid covering your kitchen - and yourself - in flour), and leave it for 3-5 minutes. If you're using a hand mixer, as I did, use dough hooks (if you have them) and add the flour gradually, with the mixer on low or medium-low. I beat it for about 3 minutes, stopping a few times to scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Once the butter has had the chance to cool a bit, go ahead and pour it in with the mixer on low. Use the rubber spatula to help work the butter into the dough.

Now you can add 3 more cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. If you're using a stand mixer, you can probably just dump it in and let it chug away on low. With my hand mixer, I found it difficult to mix after about the first cup, so I didn't the mixer and worked the rest of the flour in by hand, kneading it right in the bowl. I only worked in about 2-1/2 cups, but the dough seemed to be a good consistency, so I just left out that last half cup.

Once the dough is smooth and elastic, you're ready to let it rise. I rinsed out the bowl I had kneaded it in, sprayed the bowl with cooking spray and put the dough in, smooth side down, then flipped it over so it was coated all over.

I covered it with a tea towel and popped it into the oven on the "PROOF" setting. If your oven doesn't have a proof setting, you can preheat it to its lowest temperature and turn it off (or leave the door ajar, depending on what the lowest setting is), or if you have a gas oven, the pilot line alone will keep the oven at a good proofing temperature. But anywhere warm will do.

Let the dough rise for an hour and a half or so, until roughly doubled in size. Then comes the fun part! Take it out and give it a good punch, right in the center.

Divide the dough into two equal parts with a knife and shape each into a loaf. Spray a couple of loaf pans with cooking spray and arrange the loaves in them, then brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter or spray with cooking spray.

Cover and allow to rise again for about 45 minutes, until the dough reaches the top of the pans.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the loaves, and cover the tops with foil if they start to brown too early. Remove the loaves from the oven and brush the tops with melted butter. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans (you may need to run a knife around the edge to loosen) and allow to finish cooling on a wire rack. If you prefer softer crusts, cover the loaves while cooling.

Slice and enjoy!

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

2018 Oscar After-Parties: Fashion Review

It amazes me to realize how many different gowns celebrities need to come up with every season for the various awards shows (check out my blog from 2013 listing all the various ceremonies a celebrity might attend in a given season). But on top of that, apparently they change into a different look for the after-party. Now, you might think, "Great, they can change into something more comfortable!" But that's often not the case - they simply change into another eye-catching coutre dress with just as much padding, boning, and double-sided tape as the one they wore for the actual ceremony. Let's take a look at what some of the stars wore to the after-parties, and compare it to their red carpet looks. Would YOU have changed??

Gal Godot's silver Oscar dress was a knockout, and it looked much more comfortable than many other looks of the evening - not too structured or bulky. But her softly draped red gown with plunging neckline and thigh-high slit looked equally comfortable, although perhaps a little more in danger of a wardrobe malfunction. But the waistline is perhaps a bit more forgiving for all the delicious nibbles that I'm sure were to be had at the Vanity Fair party. 

I can't imagine trying to eat anything while wearing Zendaya's one-giant-sleeved Oscar gown (assuming she's right-handed, anyway). But despite being more fitted, her silvery-white after-party gown looked much more comfortable for partying. The angled tulle ruffle that created a mermaid look started high enough that movement didn't look to be an issue, so no doubt she was able to mix and mingle in high style.

Margot Robbie's white Oscars gown was quite structured in the bodice, which I suspect would not be comfortable in the long run. In addition, maneuvering around a party with a train is always a problem. But Robbie combined comfort and practicality with fashion in her silver after-party dress of a short spaghetti strap underdress topped with a sheer floor-length skirt. I'd gladly attend a party in this pretty look!

I didn't love Lupita Nyong'o's gold Oscar gown, mainly because of the weird sash, giant shoulder pad, and oddly-structured bodice. But she hit it out of the park with her plunging-to-the-waist, open-sided black column at the after-party. She has such perfect posture (and a small enough chest) that she can wear a low-cut gown without looking like she's in danger of falling out of it. I wish she'd worn this one on the red carpet!

I'm not sure if Zoe Saldana attended the actual Oscar ceremony this year - I certainly wasn't able to find a red carpet photo. But I had to include her here because of the crazy getup she wore to the after-party. The sheer black yoke part is fine, but the dress starts to go downhill at the over-sized black marabou ruffle across the bust and then completely loses it when it becomes a giant poof as the body of the dress, then seals its own fate by gathering into another giant marabou layer right at the crotch. I guess this falls under the heading, "Even bad publicity is good publicity"?

Emma Stone's Oscar look wasn't terrible (although I hated the clashing hot pink sash), it just didn't feel Oscar-appropriate to me. It would have worked well as an after-party look, but her cute lime green satin cocktail dress worked even better. Cute, cool, and comfortable, this is another look I'd gladly wear myself (especially if I looked like Emma Stone).

I was not a fan of Emily Blunt's Oscar gown, although getting rid of the oversized shoulder pads and unnecessary sleeves and deepening the color a few shades would have made a world of difference. But her sleek black-and-gold column for the after-party was a real winner, skimming her figure perfectly and keeping enough visual interest in the beautiful fabric to balance the simple cut. Another after-party look that would have done well on the red carpet.

Elizabeth Banks is another celebrity who may or may not have attended the ceremony, as there does not seem to be any photos of her on the red carpet. But I loved her after-party dress enough to want to include her. Similar to Gal Godot's red carpet look, Banks' tea-length silver fringed halter dress looked gorgeous in still photos but looked even better as it caught the light and came to life as she moved.
I was not a fan of Salma Hayek's frilly lavender Oscar gown with its heavy, badly-placed diamond strands. I didn't love her quilted-looking two-piece post-Oscar dress, with its bolero-style jacket with almost-elbow-length sleeves and stiff skirt, but it was still an improvement. And I was glad to see that she literally let her hair down for the post-party!

Ellen Pompeo didn't hit the red carpet but she did hit the after-party in a metallic black and gold print romper with a black satin sash and drape. I didn't love it at first, but the more I looked at it, the more it grew on me. It's kind of fun and I do love the fabric, but the sash isn't quite right. Maybe if it were placed just a bit higher on her waist and the drape was a little smaller, I'd like it better. But as haute couture, it's not bad.

I wish Allison Williams could have combined her red carpet dress with her after-party dress. I loved the silhouette of her Oscar dress, but the color was too washed-out, and I loved the color of her after-dress, but the stiff bodice and feathery skirt didn't work. But remake her red carpet gown in the gorgeous red of the second dress? Perfection.

Eiza Gonzales made this simple, form-fitting lemon-yellow gown work in a way that not many could. But it was still a bit bland. Her after-party dress, however, had some great details, including long narrow red panels at the front of the wrap, a few diagonally striped square panels, and some black embroidery in the middle of the bodice that seemed to be either a butterfly or Cthulu. Either way, it had personality, and I loved it.

Mary J. Blige could easily have swapped her red carpet and after-party dresses. As much as I loved her asymmetrical white Oscar gown, I adored her gold sequined column covered by a sheer white overdress with a single band of black and silver at the knee. She was a total knockout in both.

Tiffany Hadish's white-and-gold Eritrean princess dress was stunning on the red carpet, but I was glad that she went a bit less regal in this lovely green one-shouldered column with high slit and long scarf trailing from the shoulder. It looked comfortable and stylish and still elegant. (But I'd have kept on the crown, if I were her.)

Janelle Monae doesn't need a red carpet to show off her cutting-edge fashion. Her looks are sometimes over the top for me, but this striking take on a riding habit totally works for me. The tailoring is impeccable: structured without being stiff, draping beautifully, and fitting her like a glove. Love it.

Despite the unfortunate bangs, Emma Watson looks like Egyptian royalty in a simple sleeveless black velvet column topped with dozens of diamond strands forming a collar. I only wish she'd added an updo and a tiara, a la Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

I liked the way Mira Sorvino tied her two gowns together by having them the same pretty shade of mauve. The fabric and cut of her red carpet gown were lovely and flattering, but a bit too pale for her. I didn't love the silhouette of her post-party dress quite as well, but the beading at the top darkened the dress around her face and improved the way the color worked on her. I did love everything about her stain cape, though.

Gabrielle Union was downright demure at this year's after-party, compared to what she wore to the same party last year:
It was basically a bikini on the left and a gown on the right, and although it certainly showed off her body to its best advantage, it was just ugly. But this year's simple peach column with silver sequin bandeau bodice was a vast improvement.

If I had Allison Janney's gorgeous red carpet gown, I would never want to change out of it. But Janney made an excellent choice in swapping over to a flared floor-length skirt in the same hue paired with an open-front white cotton blouse, keeping her diamond choker and red clutch as accessories. Comfortable, glamorous, and coordinated with her memorable red carpet gown. Well-played!

I loved both of Kelly Marie Tran's dresses, although I think I'd want to wear something a bit less precarious for the after-party. Her full, ice-blue red carpet gown with plunging neckline was glamorous, but her silver-studded sleeveless black column with keyhole cutout was sleek and chic. I do prefer her hair down - although I'm sure those lovely waves are thanks to spending hours in the pinned-up braids.

Oh, Judith Light. You know I love you but even when you don't have a red carpet you manage to end up on my "worst on the red carpet" list. What's up with those humongous ruffled sleeves? Who wears sleeves like that to a party? You're totally going to drag them through the organic hummus.

The one feature of Betty Gabriel's dress that I hated on the red carpet is the same feature that I hate in her after-party dress: too much exposed chest being squished flat by a sheer modesty panel. The rest of both dresses are great, but the wide-open v's make both bodices look droopy and ruin the lines of the gowns.

Kerry Washington looked absolutely fierce in this black leather ensemble. This is certainly NOT a red carpet look (well, maybe at the AMAs). Her wrapped one-shouldered black leather minidress featured a red metallic ruffle from the shoulder and was paired with thigh-high stiletto boots. Fierce!

Greta Gerwig's yellow dress was simple and pretty, but it felt a bit too frothy to suit her personality. I much preferred her stark strapless black and white post-party dress, with its curved lines and just a hint of ruffle at the top. Even the diamond choker worked better with that dress than the red carpet one.

Andra Day set the bar low with her bulky, bunchy red carpet gown, so she could hardly help but improve for the after party. She chose a shiny pink high-low dress with long sleeves and a long keyhole front, topped with a matching scarf at the neck. I wouldn't normally have loved it, but it was such an improvement over her first dress that I can't help but approve.

Much like Allison Janney, Laura Dern opted to wear a casual but coordinated version of her red carpet look to the after party. She swapped out her white column for wide-legged white pants and a white corset, with a white tux jacket over her shoulders. Bonus points for the great splash of color in her red satin clutch!

Moving from one hot mess to another, St. Vincent (who? I have no idea, but she has terrible taste in fashion) swapped out an ugly black romper for an ugly print romper. Her after-party look was a satin romper in a chartreuse and aqua print, with a plunging neckline edged with jacket lapels and a wide belt paired with thigh-high shaggy black fur boots that could be part of a gorilla costume. Seriously?

Even the gorilla wouldn't wear those boots with that outfit. 

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