Saturday, April 10, 2010

St. Patrick's Day feast

3/17/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Top of the morning to you! It’s March 17, which means that the whole world is looking over a four-leaf clover (really a three-leaf shamrock) and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with the Irish. Formerly a religious holiday, Dublin now welcomes nearly one million people to celebrate a more rowdy and secular St. Patrick’s Festival.

The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in the United States began after nearly one million Catholic immigrants flooded this country during the Ireland’s Great Potato Famine of 1845. Eventually they organized to become a serious political power and they hosted annual parades to celebrate their heritage.

Today, we Americans continue to go all out and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Although most of the time there is really nothing “traditionally Irish” about our menus or recipes, we dress, decorate and cook ‘green.’ Many people even drink green beer as an excuse not to get a St. Patrick’s Day pinch for not wearing green!

At our house, we eat Corned Beef and boiled vegetables with a side of soda bread and wonder why we don’t do it more often. I usually put together a green Jell-O combination of crushed pineapple and mandarin oranges to brighten up the dinner plate. Sliced avocadoes and fresh oranges on a lettuce leaf are also festive.

But if you’re planning on corned beef and cabbage for dinner tonight, you’d better get cracking. Corned beef brisket comes from the heavily exercised front limbs of the animal and is a tough cut of meat that need to be braised. In other words, cook it for a long time at low heat with plenty of moisture and it will be delicious.

Corned Beef in the crock-pot is the easiest way to go but if you prefer, just follow the instructions on your package of meat. Either way it will be delicious. And if you’ve never cooked corned beef before, prepare to be shocked at the shrinkage. Buy a much larger piece of meat than you usually would for your family or there won’t be any leftovers.

I always cook the vegetables separately, just before dinner, so they don’t get mushy. Some people add the vegetables to the cooking brine half way through the cooking process. Whichever method you chose, be sure and add some of the broth (pot liquor) to cook them in for flavor.

Irish soda bread is a basic quick bread served with family meals. It is not dessert and doesn’t have a cake texture. True soda bread does not contain sugar, eggs, shortening or sour cream. You can add them if you like but the Irish would call that cake. And if you add raisins, it’s called “Spotted Dog.” Soda bread is best eaten slightly warm from the oven. It dries out quickly but makes delicious toast the next day.

Dessert varies at our house according to my whim. The following Grasshopper Pie recipe is this year’s choice. It is a variation on the marshmallow pies of the 1980s. It is definitely not Irish but it is green. May good health and happiness be yours. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Crock Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage

3-4 pounds corned beef brisket
6-8 carrots, cut as desired
1-2 medium onions, cut into halves; each half cut into quarters
1 head cabbage, cut into small wedges
8 whole, small red potatoes, precooked 10-15 min.

Take the meat out of its packaging and rinse in cold water. Drain on paper towel. Put in crock pot with spices (if desired). Add enough water to barely cover the meat. Cook on Low setting 8-81/2 hours; or on high 5 hours. When meat tests done, lower heat or wrap in aluminum foil and place in oven on low heat until dinner.

Cook vegetables separately in large skillet. Add 1-2 cups pot liquor and cook slowly until done. Cabbage may be steamed separately in the microwave until tender-crisp.

Serve with strained pot liquor, horseradish, brown mustard or the following sauce.

Lemon-Mustard Sauce for Corned Beef

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper

Sauté shallots in olive oil until tender. Remove from heat; cool 1 minute. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and set aside until serving time.

Basic Irish Soda Bread

3-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8-10 ounces buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Mix dry ingredients together and sift into a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add enough buttermilk to make a soft (but not wet) dough. Knead quickly and lightly on a floured surface. Form dough into a round. Using a sharp knife, make a cross in the center. Bake at 450° F. 10 minutes; lower heat to 400° F. and cook another 20 min. or until it tests done.

Grasshopper Pie

1 package chocolate wafers
6 tablespoons melted butter
24 large marshmallows
2/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons crème de menthe
2 tablespoons crème de cocoa
1 envelope Dream Whip or 1-8 ounce tub Cool Whip, defrosted

To make the crust, crush chocolate wafers and mix with melted butter. Press into a 9 or 10 inch pie plate.

Melt the marshmallows and milk in a saucepan, over low heat or in the microwave. Once melted, add crème de menthe and crème de cacao.

Prepare one envelope of Dream Whip (or Cool Whip), fold into marshmallow mixture, put into crust and chill.

To decorate, break a chocolate wafer in half and rub the two edges together over the pie to make a nice sprinkling of chocolate crumbs.

Note: Add a drop of green food coloring to the filling if desired.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing 
a variety of recipes that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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