Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Chickens

clockwise from top : Rainbow Swiss Chard, fresh peas, Spinach, Garlic and Onion Ciabatta Bread from When Pigs Fly, Rainbow Carrots, Roast Chicken. Middle of plate : Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes  
 Properly roasted chicken is really just one of the best meals on earth. Reliable and comforting, yes...but still always delicious and most definitely welcome. One of the many great things about it is that it's such a blank canvas...whatever season it is, whatever you have on hand or are in the mood for...everything goes with chicken. Every culture seems to have its own favorite way of doing it, and everyone borrows from everyone else happily.

On the menu today was a chicken with plenty of vegetables....more of a preview to spring than actual spring, but hey - a girl's gotta dream :) The bird itself was seasoned with half a lemon (cut into eighths) and half a dozen garlic cloves in the cavity, and salt (half kosher and half Smoked Mexican), cracked pepper, and smoked paprika all over. Into my stoneware baker and into a 350 degree oven...two hours later, a delicious, perfectly seasoned, super juicy bird.

With some CRAZY carrots !!

Rainbow Carrots
Seriously, so crazy !
I know, I know...I was already doing rainbow chard (as mentioned, my new vegetable crush) and I'm not a huge fan of cooked carrots....but when I saw these at Russo's I couldn't resist - I have never seen rainbow carrots ! They tasted...well, like really good carrots. Will definitely try these again. And I know, we already had two vegetables...but Mark has to have peas with chicken, so fresh peas it was.

Along with the peas, there have to be potatoes....and Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes are serious Culinary Orgasm material. Sounds so decadent, but couldn't be simpler...boil up a 3 pound bag of baby white potatoes (in the skin...that's why I use baby ones) and lightly mash with half a small tub of mascarpone cheese and a splash of milk (until they're the consistency you like), salt and pepper to taste. That's it, I promise....serious Culinary Orgasm !

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Turkey Chili Verde (slow cooker)

Slow cooker season is sadly coming to an end. Woe. Yes, of course I look forward to the arrival of fresh that doesn't require a long time to cook...eating outside...all of that is made of awesome. But there's something to be said for coming home to a warm, comforting pot of food...all cooked and waiting for you.

Chili Verde is a great dish for the crockpot - the heat of the peppers really stands up to the long cooking, and there's really no way to overcook it. Traditional chili verde is made with pork, but turkey thighs lend incredible depth of flavor while cutting down on the fat - and they also benefit from the longer cooking time, where pork can dry out. The one downside is that you do lose some of the green color after all the cooking, but the flavor is not impacted in the slightest - this is some damn fine chili.

Cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to this - just leave the out the cheese as you don't need any more peppers to compete here. Throw the cornbread in when you get home and let it bake while you bone the turkey and shred the meat.

Oh Crock-Pot, I'll miss you so...

Turkey Chili Verde
Recipe feeds four - easily doubled . This is medium spicy - feel free to kick it up if you love the burn...

1 medium onion, chopped
2 bone-in turkey thighs (1 - 1 1/2 pounds each), skin removed
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup corn kernels (I used frozen baby white and yellow, mixed)
1 1/2 cups salsa verde (medium)
1 jalapeno, minced (or 1 small can green chiles)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

shredded Jack cheese and sour cream, for serving

Scatter onion in bottom of slow cooker, and place turkey thighs on top. Mix beans and corn together and spread over turkey. Mix salsa, chili, and spices and pour over mixture in slow cooker. Cover and cook 8 - 10 hours on low or until meat is tender. Pull bones out of turkey, and shred with two large forks. Stir in cilantro, and serve with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Monday, March 21, 2011


oh spring, you're such a tease....

Last weekend was so gorgeous, we decided it was time to take the smoker out of winter hibernation and get it on. Unfortunately, it wasn't super warm so we decided to smoke things that weren't going to take all day. First up : smoked shrimp

Smoked shrimp is really absolutely amazing. I love shrimp any way you make it, and I thought I'd had it pretty much any way it could be done. That was before we got a, I think it's one of my very favorite ways. Particularly when accompanied with Cajun Remoulade :

Smoked Shrimp with Cajun Remoulade

The shrimp made the perfect appetizer while we smoked up the main course : chicken and sausages

on the smoker

Side dishes for this one were a huge salad, and beer bread

Not much else to be said for this one...I am SO glad it's time to cook outside again !!

Friday, March 18, 2011

a Full Irish Breakfast, Culinary Orgam style

just a small part of the spread
(last of the Irish posts for a bit, I promise !)

I really love having people over for breakfast. Well, really, I love having people over for any meal, but breakfast is just fun. And Irish breakfasts are especially satisfying...just the thing for a day's hard labor. Or, in our case, a day's hard pub crawl (our traditional activity on St. Patrick's Day proper....we are lucky enough to live within crawling walking distance of some fine'll have to check Facebook for those photos though ;) ).

We are also lucky enough to live within easy shopping distance of everything you need for a full Irish - and this year we put on a real winner. Whole Foods carries fantastic bangers (Irish sausages) as well as clotted cream, and this week had some of the best strawberries I have ever eaten in my life (which is why we needed clotted cream !) . Russo's has rashers (Irish bacon), and black and white puddings, which are also forms of sausage, using oatmeal as filler. White is pork meat and fat, and black is a blood sausage spiced with clove. I know what you're thinking...but calm down and try really is delicious ! Corned Beef Hash from the boiled dinner leftovers of course, and Irish Brown Bread to round out the meal (with some amazing blood orange marmalade from Stonewall Kitchen). Oh, and eggs...keep reading for the eggs.

Rashers, Black and White Puddings
Corned Beef Hash
oh, those strawberries !!
Irish Brown Bread

Mark did a fantastic job with all the meat, and his Corned Beef Hash is killer - it's the only time I actually eat turnips !

The eggs, though...that was my department. The problem with serving eggs at a big breakfast is that they're not the easiest thing to make in advance, especially fried eggs which are the most traditional in a full Irish. I could have done a mess of scrambled eggs or something, but that seemed kind of boring. However, Mark had given me a cookbook years ago as a Christmas gift (I sort of collect them), and it had a Baked Eggs with Creamy Leeks recipe that I'd always wanted to try. The perfect thing about them is you bake them all at once and just serve them up...exactly what I wanted. Besides, I seriously love soups, roasted, steamed, sauteed....any way you cook them, I want them. I adapted the recipe quite a bit - really, it was just the general idea that I liked - and oh my god, were these insanely good. So luxurious, and yet soooo easy. Definite Culinary Orgasm !

Leek-y goodness

Filling the cups

Finished product
Baked Eggs with Creamy Leeks
Heavily adapted from "The Ultimate Christmas Cookbook"

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra to grease custard cups
3 medium leeks, white and tender green only, cleaned and thinly sliced (see note)
2 - 3 shallots, thinly sliced
3/4 cup heavy cream
salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg to taste
12 eggs

Preheat oven to 375. Grease bottom and sides of 12 custard cups or other small ovenproof cups. Melt the 2T of butter in a frying pan, and saute the leeks and shallots until soft (not brown), about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the cream and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring, until cream thickens a bit. Add salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg to taste.

Divide leek mixture among the cups (which you have placed in a large roasting / baking pan), and carefully crack an egg into each one. Drizzle the remaining cream on top of the eggs, and season lightly with additional salt, pepper, and nutmeg (go easy with the nutmeg or it will try and take over !) Fill the pan with hot hot water until it reaches halfway up the cups, and place the whole pan in the oven. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your liking.

Note : to clean leeks - cut the leeks in half lengthwise, and rinse well (leeks trap mud like crazy). Soak for 15 minutes in a bowl with water to cover, to which you have added a tablespoon of cider vinegar. Lift leeks out (leave sand in bottom of bowl) and proceed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sláinte !!

Apple Crisp with Irish Oatmeal topping and Whiskey Whipped Cream

Our annual St. Patrick's Feast was held this past weekend, and a grand, super, brilliant time it was, too. We somehow crammed 14 people in our tiny apartment for the usual Irish-American spread of corned beef and cabbage, potatoes, turnips and other various and sundry vegetables, apple crisp, and of course, plenty of beer and whiskey !

plenty of wet whistles !

Recipes at the end of the entry...

First, a word about the meal itself. Corned beef is actually not really a particularly Irish dish. Much more popular in Ireland is Boiled Bacon and Cabbage - but you need real Irish bacon for that, not always available here. The dinner we served is actually pretty much a New England Boiled Dinner...except that often is made with a picnic shoulder instead of corned beef, and has more vegetables. Confused yet ? You should be !!

Here's a bit more on corned beef, from Wikipedia : "Despite being a major producer of beef, most Irish...did not regularly consume the meat product in either fresh or salted form. This was due in large part to its prohibitive cost in Ireland, the fact that the beef cattle were owned by the British colonisers and not by the Irish, and that most if not all of the corned beef was exported. Despite the popular assumption in North America that corned beef dishes are typical of traditional Irish cuisine, it was not until the wave of 18th century Irish immigration to the United States that much of the ethnic Irish first began to consume corned beef. In Ireland today, the serving of corned beef is geared toward tourist consumption and most Ireland Irish do not identify the ingredient with native cuisine. The popularity of corned beef over bacon to the immigrated Irish was likely present due to that fact that corned beef in their native land was considered a luxury product, but was cheaply and readily available in America". Pretty interesting stuff !

Back to our spread...first, we started with a selection of Irish cheeses (two farmhouse cheddars and a Cashel Blue, which is an Irish blue cheese ..very delicate and sweet. )

Next up, the main course :

Here's the Beef !

Vegetables, Soda Bread

Mark's Corned Beef is really amazing. He adds a secret ingredient to the boiling water : grapefruit juice. I'm not 100% sure what it really does in there...I know it's a natural enzyme, so it makes things more tender. And I know that whatever it does, his is the best corned beef I've ever had and the only one I'll usually eat.

My Irish Soda Bread was written up a few months on the link for the details. This meal is really when I get into it...made six loaves this year, and they ALL went !!

The dessert for this meal - Irish Apple Crisp with Whiskey Whipped Cream - is really just amazing. I've been making apple crisps for years, of's one of my family's favorite desserts. I have two that I make - one with a flour and sugar crust, and one with an oatmeal topping...I wanted something Irish, so Irish Oatmeal it was. The whiskey whipped cream is something I saw mentioned years ago in connection with another recipe, which I thought might work here...and oh, baby, does it work. Something about the whiskey, the oats, the apples and the spices all combines for, well, a Culinary Orgasm :

starting the topping

finished product
 After all this feasting, of course, all we really wanted to do is sit around and drink whiskey. Good thing we had plenty !

a few of my favorite things...
Another year, another amazing dinner party...seriously, I love my family and friends. Sláinte to you and yours...and may you be in Heaven a half hour before the devil knows you're dead !!

Mark's Corned Beef

Mark says "If you can find a whole brisket, buy it - that way you get the point and flat at the same time, and some people prefer one or the other. The corned beefs made from eye of the round are also great, as they don't shrink and have less fat. On gray vs red...go with your personal preference. Gray is tougher and saltier, but more traditional in New England."

Recipe is given for one whole brisket...adjust accordingly. It's corned beef, pretty hard to get the proportions wrong !

1 whole corned beef brisket
water to cover (will change once)
2 cups grapefruit juice (unsweetened - 100% juice)
1/2 tablespoon pickling spice (if the beef comes with a packet, great !)
1 tsp whole peppercorns
3 medium onions, skinned but left whole
6 lbs small whole white potatoes (leave skins on)
2 whole yellow turnips (good sized)
2 pounds carrots, peeled
2 heads cabbage, cut in eighths (leave a bit of the core on to hold it together

Rinse meat and put aside spice packet. Place in pot with water to cover. Bring to a low boil, and let boil for about 30 minutes. Drain and change the water in the pot, adding the grapefruit juice, onions and spices to the meat. Make sure you have enough liquid in the pot to add some vegetables later. Boil for about 2 1/2 hours. Add the potatoes and turnips at about the 2 hour 15 minute mark. Pull the beef out and cover (leave the potatoes and turnips in), and add the carrots and cabbage. Boil the vegetables for another 15 minutes, or until tender.

Apple Crisp with Irish Oatmeal

6 cups apples -- peeled and sliced
3 teaspoons cinnamon (or more to taste), divided
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg (or more to taste), divided
Half a lemon
1 cup rolled oats (McCann’s Quick Cooking is best)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar (I usually do light, or half light half dark)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place apples in ungreased 2-quart rectangular baking dish or pan. Toss with 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of the nutmeg, and the juice from the lemon half.

In large bowl, combine remaining ingredients including rest of cinnamon and nutmeg; mix with pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over apples. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown. Serve warm with cream, ice cream or whipped cream...or, to really do it right :

Whiskey Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons (or to taste) Irish whiskey (recommended : The Knot)

Whip the cream until it begins to form soft peaks. Add the sugar and whiskey and beat until stiff peaks form. Cover and chill until needed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's All In The Description...or, How To Make Amazing Dishes With Only Two Ingredients

Oven-Roasted Cod with Pineapple-Chipotle Salsa, Coconut Rice, and Asian Broccoli Slaw.

Doesn't that just sound fantastic ?

A lot of food writing is really all in the description. Written like that, last night's dinner sounds like something fancy that you could serve to guests, or something to impress your coworkers with..."Oh, I just whipped that up when I got home, no big"...just sort of casually slip it into conversation when your boss is around, or something. This is really how I got started blogging - I'd write up what we were having for dinner as my Facebook status, but I'd make the description as delicious as possible. Blogging was just the next natural step...okay, so I had a few friends gently nudge me along. Totally worth it :)

In reality, this dinner was so simple that it's almost embarassing to blog it. "Fish, rice and coleslaw" doesn't sound nearly as sexy...but that is in fact what this was. And each dish really had two ingredients.

For the fish, you just plunk a fillet or two in a baking dish, open a jar of salsa, dump it on top, and bake it in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork.

the salsa

the fish
Coconut rice is a snap too - prepare rice according to package directions (jasmine or Jasmati both worh really well) , but substitute coconut milk for part of the water. I used one cup rice and one can of coconut milk with enough water added to make 2 1/2 cups of liquid.

Same thing with the Asian Broccoli bag of broccoli slaw, with seasame-ginger dressing added to taste :
it takes two, baby...
There are two optional ingredients you can add to the slaw, if you want to go all crazy...a shot of toasted sesame oil, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds :

So remember - sometimes all it takes is some good p.r. to make you a star !!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lucky Dog Treats

honest, they're dog treats !
So my son was invited to a dog's birthday party this Sunday (seriously, a DOG ??), and wanted to bring a gift. Unfortunately, my son has a crazy foodie for a mom, so I of course suggested something homemade...'cause that's just how I roll. Alex rose to the occasion, though, and made these. I have a large cookie cutter collection, but I think the shamrocks spoke to him since it's March and all. So...Lucky Dog Treats ! I have to say, my house smells really, really good after baking these...those dogs must be on to something !

Adapted from from (seriously !)

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup beef or chicken broth
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash

Additional flour for rolling

Preheat oven to 350° F
Whisk together wheat flour and cornmeal.
Add oil, broth, eggs and milk.
Mix until thoroughly combined.
Roll out dough on a well-floured surface to 1/4" thickness.
Cut into shapes with cookie cutters, and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Brush the egg wash onto each biscuit. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: Approximately 2 dozen dog biscuits using a 2" cookie cutter.

Storing: will last for 4 weeks in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.