Category Archives: dinner

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is the perfect comfort food for the weather we had this week.  Our first significant snow of the winter fell just before St. Patrick’s Day, arriving like a late and unwanted guest who shows up at the party just as you have started clearing up.

The hearty combination of meat, vegetables and creamy mashed potatoes will warm you up from the inside out on a damp, blustery day.   The original version, as the name suggests, was made with lamb. In the United States it’s usually made with ground beef, a version my mother calls “cottage pie.” A favorite of Irish pub menus and families, it pleases even the pickiest eater.  I recently made double this recipe for the family of a friend whose husband is undergoing treatment for cancer because it’s one of his favorite dishes.  She told me her husband and teenage son ate the entire pie in one night.

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef or lamb
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 russet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or cream

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan. Add ground meat and cook until browned.
  2. Remove browned meat to a plate. Pour off excess oil from saucepan.
  3. Add diced onion and carrot. Cook until onion is translucent and carrots are soft.
  4. Return meat to the pan. Add tomato paste, bay leaf, broth and peas if using. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cook about 20 minutes until meat mixture absorbs the broth. Pour the cooked meat into an oven safe dish.
  6. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Peel and cut potatoes into quarters.
  8. Place potatoes in medium saucepan. Cover with cold, salted water.
  9. Bring water to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
  10. Cook until potatoes are soft. Drain off water.
  11. Cover potatoes with a clean, cotton dishcloth. Cover saucepan and put back on a very low heat for five minutes to dry out the potatoes before mashing.
  12. Heat milk or cream and butter.
  13. Add to potatoes and mash.
  14. Top the meat mixture with the mashed potatoes. Use the tines of a fork to make a design in the potato topping.
  15. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the mashed potato is golden brown and the meat mixture is bubbling.
http://40shadesofflavor.com/shepherds-pie/

Irish Fish Chowder

This is the perfect warming bowl after you get home cold and hungry from the St. Patrick’s Day parade.   The genius thing is it only takes about 20 minutes to make and is filling enough for dinner.

I recently saw Irish chef Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody House in Wexford on TV making the fish chowder they serve in the hotel.  It looked so easy and delicious that I couldn’t wait to make my own version. In Chicago, we don’t have the same selection of fish that they have in Ireland, so I improvised using the wild fish my local supermarket had available.  I even threw in half a can of wild Alaskan salmon that I was leftover from lunch.  What makes this chowder Irish is the smoked salmon, but  other than that, feel free to use any other fish and seafood available to you.  I have converted everything into American measurements.

Nil geal an gaire ach san ait a mbionn an biadh — laughter is brightest were the food is best.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

If you like this recipe, please share it.  If you make it, please come back and comment and let me know how you made it your own.

 

Irish Fish Chowder

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 serving

Serving Size: one bowl

Irish Fish Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 small leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 2 medium red potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 2 oz. smoked salmon, cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups fish or seafood stock (I used Swanson's seafood stock in a box)
  • 1/4 lb. sockeye salmon, cut into bite size pieces and skin removed.
  • 1/4 pound cod, cut into bite size pieces and skin removed
  • 1/4 pound haddock, cut into bite size pieces and skin removed
  • 6 Key West shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tbsp. chopped, fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add leek, onion, carrot, potato and smoked salmon. Saute for a few minutes until the vegetables soften
  3. Pour in the wine and allow the liquid to reduce by half.
  4. Add the fish or seafood stock. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then add the fresh fish and shellfish.
  5. Bring the pot back to a simmer. Add the tarragon, cream, salt and pepper.
  6. Cover and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Serve in bowls with fresh bread and butter
http://40shadesofflavor.com/irish-fish-chowder/

Roasted Salmon with Lemon Butter

One of my friends call this roasted salmon “the beautiful dinner.”    There is no doubt that this is a dish that rises to the occasion.  I’ve made it for a gathering to support a friend whose mother had passed away and more recently for a special birthday dinner.  Even the birthday girl’s husband — a notoriously picky eater who is usually just so-so about salmon — asked for second helpings.

Since the flavor of the salmon shines through this simple preparation it is important to buy the best salmon you can find.   In general, wild salmon will have the best flavor, but it is not available fresh year round.   When wild salmon is out of season, seek out a fish monger who sells sustainably farmed fish.  I recently found sweet, melt in your mouth, salmon from Loch Duairt, Scotland at Dirk’s Fish Market in Chicago.

I was inspired by a recipe for whole, baked salmon in Colman Andrew’s “The Country Cooking of Ireland.”  Since I don’t often see whole salmon in Chicago fish markets, I typically use a large salmon fillet.  I usually serve it with boiled new potatoes in their skins with lots of Irish butter or roasted fingerling potatoes and a spinach gratin.

Almost as delicious is leftover cold salmon for lunch the next day served with a peppery watercress mayonnaise.  Watercress is salmon’s natural partner — what grows together goes together.  As a bonus, the bright spring green mayo served with the pink fish is a beautiful plate.  To make the mayonnaise, puree a bunch of trimmed and finely chopped watercress in a food processor with two tablespoons of mayonnaise.   Stir the watercress puree into a cup of mayonnaise.

Roasted Salmon with Lemon Butter

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 serving

Serving Size: 3 inch/7.5 cm. per piece

Roasted Salmon with Lemon Butter

The flavor of the fish shines through this simple recipe, so use the best salmon you can find.

Ingredients

  • 2 lb./ 1 kg. salmon fillets
  • 1/4 cup/ 60 kg. Irish butter softened
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C.
  2. With some of the butter, lightly grease a roasting pan
  3. Lay the salmon fillet on the greased pan.
  4. Drizzle the lemon juice over the fish.
  5. Dot with about 2 Tbsp. of butter.
  6. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes (8 to 10 minutes per lb./15 to 20 minutes per kg.)
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Cut into pieces about 3 inches/7.5 cm. wide.
http://40shadesofflavor.com/roasted-salmon-lemon-butter/

 

The Irish Secret to Mashed Potatoes

 

Mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes are surprisingly difficult to get right.   I learned the secret to making perfect mashed potatoes in Ireland, and the Irish certainly know their way around spuds.  I am going to share it with you here.

Great mash begins with using the right kind of potatoes.  There are two kinds — floury and waxy — and they are not interchangeable.   The waxy potatoes are small, new potatoes that are perfect for recipes where the potato needs to hold its shape such as potato salad.  They are also good boiled or pan roasted.  For mashed potatoes, choose a starchy potato — in America that would be a russet (sometimes labeled baking potatoes in the supermarket) or a Yukon Gold.    Three large potatoes will make enough mashed potatoes for four people.  You will also need half a cup of whole milk or cream, two tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper.

Select potatoes that are unblemished and hard as rocks.  I prefer to buy them loose rather than in plastic bags because it’s easier to inspect them for blemishes or green spots.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into uniform quarters.  It’s important that the potato pieces are all the same size so they cook at the same time.

Wash the potato quarters and place them into a pot that is large enough for all the potato pieces to fit in a single layer.  Add enough cold water to cover the potatoes by half an inch.   Add a pinch of salt.  Put the pot on the stove at a high heat to bring to a boil.  When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down and let the potatoes simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes until the potato pieces are soft in the center when tested with a fork.

Drain the potatoes.  This is the secret to fluffy, floury mashed potatoes.   Place the drained potatoes back into the pot, cover with a clean, cotton dish (tea) towel, cover the pot and place it back on a very low heat for about five minutes to dry out the potatoes.

While the potatoes are drying, heat cream or whole milk and butter in a saucepan.  Warm the cream/butter mixture until the butter melts, but don’t let it come to a boil.

Turn off the heat under the potatoes.  Gradually add the heated cream and butter mixture — you may not need it all.   Mash the potatoes by hand with a potato masher — do not use a hand mixer or stick blender — or worst of all, a stand mixer.  All of them will turn the starch in the potatoes to glue.  When the potatoes are mashed, taste them and season them.   Since the potatoes were cooked in salt, you may only need to add pepper.  If serving the mashed potatoes family-style in a large bowl, make a well in the center of the potatoes and add two tablespoons of butter.

St. Patrick’s Day Bacon and Cabbage

Brian Brady, Phillippa Cannon, Rachel Allen and Nora Gainer at Chicago Irish Georgian Society Gala

Myrtle Allen, the matriarch of modern Irish cooking, celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this week.  http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/matriarch-of-ballymaloe-celebrates-her-90th-birthday-261396.html  When she opened a restaurant in Ballymaloe House, in Shanagarry, Co. Cork, fifty years ago, her constantly changing menus and use of local, seasonal ingredients were considered revolutionary.  Her granddaughter-in-law Rachel Allen was in Chicago a few months ago to speak at the Irish Georgian Society Gala about the historic house and promote her cookbook “Rachel’s Irish Family Food.”  Rachel continues the Allen family tradition of cooking with local, sustainable ingredients as Ireland’s best known TV chef and instructor at the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School.    The school sits in the middle of an organic farm which supplies ingredients for its classes.

“Rachel’s Irish Family Food” includes recipes for family meals that are easy for the home cook and authentically Irish.  This St. Patrick’s Day instead of serving the typical corned beef and cabbage, why not try the dish that inspired it – boiled Irish bacon and cabbage? The bacon here is not a crispy breakfast strip, but a cured and smoked pork loin that is similar to ham. Here is Rachel’s recipe from the “Irish Family Food” cookbook. Serve with potatoes, either boiled in their skins with lashings of Irish butter, mashed or champ style — mashed potatoes with cooked scallions or leeks.

If you like this post, please share it.  Thanks!

 

Rachel Allen's Bacon and Cabbage

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Rachel Allen's Bacon and Cabbage

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (900 g) piece of Irish back bacon or cured and smoked pork loin
  • 1 small Savoy cabbage, outer leaves removed
  • 2 tbsps. (25 g) butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the parsley sauce:
  • 1 1/4 cups of white sauce:
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk
  • A few slices of carrot
  • A few slices of onion
  • 1 sprig of parsley
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 3 peppercorns
  • 2 tbsps. (15 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. (15 g) butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Plus:
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 7 tbsps. (25 g) finely chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Put the bacon in a large saucepan,cover with water and bring slowly to the boil. Drain, refill the pan with fresh water and repeat. This is to get rid of the salt which appears as a white froth on top of the water. Taste the water to test for saltiness and keep checking and boiling again until you are happy with the flavor.
  2. Cover bacon with fresh hot water -- heated in a kettle or saucepan, not from the tap -- and bring to the boil for a final time. Decrease the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for about 40 minutes (allowing 20 minutes per pound/450 g) occasionally skimming any sediment that rises to the surface. Once the bacon is cooked (a skewer inserted in the middle should come out easily), remove from the pan (reserving the cooking liquid) and let it rest, covered to keep it warm.
  3. In the meantime, prepare the parsley sauce. First make the white sauce. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and add the carrot, onion, parsley,thyme and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes.
  4. While the milk infuses, make a roux by melting butter in a small saucepan over low ot medium heat and add the flour. Allow to cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Set aside.
  5. Strain the infused milk through a sieve over a small saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil. Whisk in the roux, a little at a time, until well blended and allow to simmer gently for 4 to 6 minutes, or until thickened to the desired consistency. Season to taste. Stir in the Dijon mustard and 7 tbsps. of freshly chopped parsley. Cover and keep warm.
  6. Cabbage:
  7. Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the core, and finely shred across the grain. Rinse and drain. Bring the cooking liquid for the bacon to a fast boil. Add the cabbage and cook for about 3 minutes, until just tender (it's easy to overcook.) Drain well, squeezing out any excess water, and return to the saucepan. Add the butter to the cabbage, tossing to melt and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Remove and discard the rind from the bacon, if necessary, and slice into thick pieces. Serve the bacon, with parsley sauce, cabbage and choice of potato.

Notes

Serve this dish with red potatoes boiled in their jackets, mashed potatoes or champ. Champ is mashed potatoes with chopped scallions or leeks cooked in the milk/cream and butter for the potatoes.

Recipe from "Rachel's Irish Family Food" by Rachel Allen, published by Collins. Photo courtesy of Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board.

http://40shadesofflavor.com/st-patricks-day-bacon-cabbage/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beef Braised in Guinness

Beef Braised in Guinness

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Beef Braised in Guinness

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 lbs. boneless, good quality stewing beef, such as boneless chuck, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. Flour
  • ½ cup Guinness
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into circles
  • 2 celery stalks, washed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 Fahrenheit.
  2. Season the beef pieces on all sides with salt and pepper.
  3. In a dutch oven or other heavy oven safe pot, heat oil. Add the bay leaves, cover the pot because the bay leaves will jump and splatter. Cook for a minute or two, then add the beef.
  4. Cook beef until pieces are brown on each side, then add the garlic and onion. Cook until they gently color to pale gold.
  5. Sprinkle the flour over the beef, onion and garlic. Stir and let it brown. Then add the Guinness and broth to just cover the meat. Add the carrots, celery, tomato paste and parsley. Stir, cover the pot and braise in the oven for about two hours until the beef is tender. Check on the stew after an hour, stir and add more liquid if necessary.
  6. Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes.
http://40shadesofflavor.com/beef-braised-in-guinness/

I’ve been hibernating the last couple of days due to nasty winter weather here in Chicago — relentless snow began falling Saturday and didn’t give up until late Sunday afternoon, followed by brutally low temperatures today (a daytime high of minus 14 Fahrenheit with a recordbreaking windchill of minus 40.)    We are experiencing a “polar vortex” according to the TV weatherman.

I live in on the third floor of a 1920’s building with a bay window overlooking a tree-lined street.  On snowy afternoons it’s quite beautiful here in my tree house looking out at the falling snow and the frosted branches. In this kind of weather I crave something comforting and hearty. Since the weather forced me to stay indoors I turned necessity into pleasure by spending Sunday afternoon cooking this delicious braised beef stew with Guinness.It’s really good and just what you want on a frigid January evening. It’s based on a recipe from Irish food writer Theodora FitzGibbon’s 1968 cookbook “A Taste of Ireland in Food and in Pictures.”   She writes that nineteenth century cooks added prunes stuffed with grilled hazlenuts to the stew an hour before the meat was tender. I ate mine with champ, that is, mashed potatoes with scallions softened in cream.

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Irish Sausage Stuffing

We don’t always eat turkey on Thanksgiving or Christmas — sometimes we roast duck or have a crown roast of pork — but we always have my mother’s Irish sausage stuffing. Like most family recipes, my mother does not have a written recipe for this stuffing and has made it so often that she intuitively knows how much of each ingredient to include.   This is my attempt to capture it in writing.  You can vary the recipe to your own taste by perhaps adding some diced apple or using a different type of bread.  My mother often uses boxed croutons and the stuffing tastes just as good.

Irish style sausages are available in ethnic stores butchers or can be ordered online at:foodireland.com, shop.spencerfoods.com or winstonsmarket.net.age.

Irish Sausage Stuffing

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Irish Sausage Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf white country loaf cut into cubes to make 6 cups of croutons
  • 2 tbsps. butter
  • 3 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. Irish sausages
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. To make croutons: Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Slice bread, trim crusts, cut into ½ inch cubes. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet, toast in preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. Heat butter over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add onions, garlic and celery. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Using a kitchen shears, cut the casing on the sausages to remove the meat. Add sausage meat to the skillet, breaking it up with a wooden spoon to mix with the onions and celery. Cook for 5 minutes until sausages are no longer pink. Add the sage and thyme.
  4. Transfer the sausage, onion and celery mixture to a large bowl. Add 6 cups of the croutons. Toss well and season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth.
  5. Butter a shallow baking dish and spread the stuffing in it. If cooking the stuffing with a roast, add some of the juices from the roasted meat to the stuffing to give it added flavor. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F. or until the stuffing is heated through and the top is browned and crisp.
http://40shadesofflavor.com/irish-sausage-stuffing/

The Secret to Perfect Duck Fat Roast Potatoes

I associate roast potatoes with special occasions such as a holiday dinner or a leisurely Sunday lunch.  They seem like a special treat, but are not that difficult to make. As promised in a previous post, I am sharing my secret to perfect roast potatoes.  I should say secrets, because there are several elements needed to achieve potatoes with a crispy, golden exterior and a dry, floury middle. First,it is essential to use a floury potato — that is, a potato that is good for mashing or baking. Russet potatoes are a good choice. Next, the potatoes should be as dry as possible before roasting. Do not leave them soaking in water before cooking and do not parboil them before roasting.  This has led to family arguments — but I think the potatoes hold their shape better and are crispier if they are not parboiled. The potatoes should be cut into evenly sized pieces and dried before being placed in the fat.   The fat should be heated before adding the potatoes to the roasting dish.  The entire surface of the potatoes should be coated with fat at the start of roasting so they brown and crisp evenly. Duck fat is available at butchers, specialty grocers or online.  It imparts a rich flavor to the potatoes, but you can certainly use lard, shortening or vegetable oil in its place.

The Secret to Perfect Duck Fat Roast Potatoes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4

The Secret to Perfect Duck Fat Roast Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 russet or other floury potatoes
  • 4 tbsps. duck fat (lard, shortening or vegetable oil can be substituted)

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Add duck fat to a roasting pan or dish. Place dish in the oven to heat the fat.
  3. Peel and wash the potatoes. Cut them into evenly sized pieces.
  4. Dry them thoroughly with a paper towel or clean dish (tea) towel.
  5. Remove dish with the heated fat from the oven. Add the potatoes to the dish and turn them over with a fork until each side of the potato is coated in fat. Return the dish to the oven.
  6. After 25 minutes turn the potatoes – the bottom of the potatoes should be golden brown – to brown the other side. Return to the oven for another 25 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown.
http://40shadesofflavor.com/the-secret-to-perfect-duck-fat-roast-potatoes/