Friday, March 17, 2017

Irish Recipes That I'd Actually Make

It's St. Patrick's Day, which means - since I live near Boston - that I'm supposed to be making corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread for supper. But here's my problem: I can't stand corned beef OR cabbage OR Irish soda bread. So what Irish foods can I make that I and my family (which includes two relatively picky children) will actually enjoy? Here's a list of some recipes that are delicious Irish alternatives to traditional St. Patty's Day fare.

Beef Stew with Guinness
I'm not fond of beer, but beer-infused Irish stew takes on the malty richness of the beer without the bitterness that I find so unpleasant. I first had beef stew made with beer in an authentic Irish pub, and I've been a big fan ever since.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 3 tsps minced garlic)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
3 cups stout beer (such as Guinness)
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beef, beer, sliced potatoes, and quartered potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the beef is tender, about 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

Shepherd's Pie
The dish I usually make by the name of shepherd's pie is really cottage pie, as it uses ground beef rather than lamb, and corn instead of peas and carrots. But this traditional recipe, flavored with onions, rosemary, and a pinch of cayenne, is a completely different - and even more delicious - creation. 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2s tablespoon butter, divided
1 onion, diced
2 pounds lean ground lamb
1/3 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
2-1/2 cups water, as needed
1 (12 oz.) package frozen peas and carrots, thawed
2-1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and halved
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 pound Irish cheese (such as Dubliner), shredded
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk

Place olive oil and butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion and ground lamb; brown the meat, breaking it up into small crumbles as it cooks, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour until incorporated, then mix in salt, black pepper, rosemary, paprika, cinnamon, ketchup, and garlic; cook and stir until garlic is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in water and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring mixture to a simmer; cook and stir until thick, about 5-6 minutes. Remove lamb mixture from heat and stir in peas and carrots until combined. Spread lamb mixture into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Place potatoes into a large pan of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and return potatoes to pan. Mash butter, cayenne pepper, cream cheese, and Irish cheese into the potatoes. Mash until combined and potatoes are smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Whisk together egg yolk and milk in a small bowl; stir into the mashed potato mixture. Top the lamb mixture in the baking dish with the mashed potatoes and spread evenly to cover.

Bake at 375 degrees until the top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling up around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes.

Bangers and Mash
I always assumed that "bangers and mash" was simply sausages served with a side of mashed potatoes. Not so! Irish "bangers and mash" have a wonderful rich wine and vinegar onion gravy that is served over both the meat and the potatoes. 
2 pounds pork sausage
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red onions, sliced thinly
1-1/2 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 cup full-bodied red wine (Shiraz or Malbec works well)
1 cup beef stock

  1. Place sausages in a roasting pan, drizzle with vegetable oil and toss to coat. Spread in single layer and bake at 400 for 30 minutes, turning halfway through cooking.
  2. While sausages are cooking, place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water, add about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and bring to boil. Simmer about 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Drain, cover with a kitchen towel and let stand until dry, about 5 minutes.
  3. In same pan over medium-high heat, combine milk and butter and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Place potatoes in a bowl and mash. Add hot milk mixture and beat until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. To make gravy, in a wide shallow saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in flour and cook until lightly colored, 2-3 minutes. Stir in vinegar and cook until evaporated. Stir in red wine and stock, increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until a rich sauce forms, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Divide sausages and mash among individual plates. Spoon gravy on top and serve immediately with extra gravy on the side. 
This Irish version of potato pancakes gets its name from the Gaelic words "bac", which means "hob" (a metal shelf in a fireplace used for cooking), and "stai", which refers to an open fire, which is where this dish would have originally been cooked. 
1 lb. potatoes, peeled
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons flour
2-4 tablespoons butter
  1. Line a large bowl with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth, or a clean linen towel. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the potatoes into the bowl. Squeeze the cloth to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the liquid, return the potatoes to the bowl, and stir in the onion, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the flour and mix well.
  2. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Drop the potato mixture into the skillet by tablespoons, leaving space between cakes. Flatten each cake with a spatula and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and crisp. Add more butter to pan if necessary for subsequent batches. 
  3. Keep the cakes warm in a low oven until ready to serve. 
Steak Pasties
Pasties (pronounced "pah-steez", not "pay-steez" - that's a different word entirely) are a delicious use for leftover cooked beef, whether it's Sunday's roast beef or Saturday's filet mignon. If you don't have any leftover beef, throw a roast in the crockpot with some onion soup mix and water until it falls apart, then make these. You can also use beef gravy from a jar or a mix instead of making your own.
1 lb. roast beef, cooked and cubed (or shredded)
3-4 potatoes, cooked and cubed (you can also use frozen cubed hash browns; no need to thaw)
salt and pepper to taste
2 prepared pie crusts (buy pre-made refrigerated or make your own dough)
roast beef drippings (if you have them)
1-2 cups water
2 teaspoons beef bouillon
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

Mix the beef, potatoes, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Unroll the pie crusts and cut in half. Put a good amount of filling in each crust, fold over, and seal. Place each pasty on a greased cookie sheet. Make a couple of small slits in the top of each crust. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. 

While pasties are baking, prepare gravy by whisking together remaining ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for a minute or two until slightly thickened. 

When the pasties come out of the oven, brush them with melted butter and serve with the gravy. 

Irish Whiskey Cake
No food blog of mine is complete without dessert, so here's an NC-21 recipe to bring out after the kiddies are tucked into bed with visions of shamrocks dancing in their heads. Don't forget to save a drop or two of whiskey for the hard-working chef!

For the cake:
1 (18 oz) box yellow cake mix
1 (3-1/2 oz) box instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 cup milk
1-1/2 oz whiskey
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

For the icing:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whiskey

  1. Combine all cake ingredients and mix by hand for 3 minutes. Pour into well-greased bundt pan and bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees, until toothpick comes out clean. Do not remove from pan!
  2. Combine all icing ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves completely and mixture begins to brown. Remove from heat. 
  3. While cake is in pan, poke holes into cake with a toothpick and pour 3/4 of the icing onto cake. Let set 15 minutes. Invert cake onto serving plate. Brush remaining icing onto top and sides of cake.

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