Doing Ireland three days before St. Patrick's Day? Who would've guessed?!
About this time every year, I get serious jones for corned beef brisket. Okay, that's a lie. I have serious jones for corned beef brisket pretty much all the time--but I usually only buy it around St. Patrick's Day, because a) It's on sale ($5 for a brisket? That's crazy talk!), and b) I can justify all the salt and fat once a year, because, it's St. Patrick's Day, dammit.
Making corned beef is both not a challenge, nor is it particularly Irish. In fact, corned beef brisket is one of England's national dishes, not Ireland's. I don't know how it became so associated with Ireland. Either way, I thought that in the vein of trying to be proper in my challenges, I would also make Champ (mashed potatoes with leeks), and, at Greg's request, Irish Soda Bread. Both very Irish! Both very delicious!
I won't put the corned beef recipe up, because you should just follow the boiling instructions on the package. However, here are the Champ and Irish Soda Bread recipes for your cooking pleasure.
Irish Soda Bread (from a Gourmet Magazine cookbook)
-4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling
-1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (**NOTE: Our local co-op was completely out of wheat germ. How often do you suppose that happens? Anyway, I substituted oat bran from the bulk bin (the grains looked similar), and forgot to toast it, and it was all still fine)
-2 teaspoons baking soda-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
-1 1/2 cups dried currants (or, failing you finding those, raisins)
-1 tablespoon caraway seeds
-1 3/4 -2 cups buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 400. Sprinkle flour on a baking sheet.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt. Add butter, tossing to coat. With your fingertips, blend butter into the flour until a coarse meal forms. Add currants and caraway seeds, tossing to coat. Stir in 1 3/4 cups buttermilk, adding up to 1/4 cup extra if necessary, to evenly moisten. Don't over work the dough!
3. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. With floured hands, knead dough for 1 minute, sprinkling with extra flour to prevent sticking (and the dough will be sticky!). Divide the dough into two equal parts and place on the baking sheet. Pat each part into 5" rounds. Sprinkle each round with flour, using fingertips to spread flour evenly over the surface. With a sharp knife, cut a shallow X into the top of each round.
4. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool for 2 hours before cutting (**NOTE: I didn't--poor planning. However, it was great served warm.)
-Makes 2 loves
-Calories: Unknown, but probably not too bad for you.
Champ (from a Gourmet Magazine cookbook)
-3 pounds potatoes (like Russet), scrubbed
-1 1/2 cups milk
-1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
-6 small leeks, rinsed well, divided in half lengthwise and then cut crosswise (about 3 cups)
1. Place potatoes in a large pot. Cover by 2" with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.
2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat butter and milk in a saucepan over medium heat, until butter melts. Add the leeks, simmer 5-10 minutes, until tender. Strain the leeks into a bowl, squeezing moisture through sieve. Keep the milk mixture warm by covering.
3. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and place into a large bowl (**NOTE: We love nutritious potato skins in our household, so the skins stayed on). Doing 1/3 potatoes and milk mixture at a time, mash the potatoes and milk mixture to reach the desired consistency. Mix in salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the leeks. Serve warm.
**You may make this up to 2 days in advance, if kept covered and chilled. Reheat, covered, in a 350 degree oven until hot.
-I think it's pretty obvious that this is not good for you, and you should eat it in moderation. :)
Verdict: I ate this meal with a Capital Brewery Imperial Dopplebock. I recommend you eat this meal with a nice medium to dark bodied beer, too. It was a winner. I love Ireland. Erin go Braugh. Vive le Ireland.