Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Pat's Day Mini Feast

I am not Irish. Not even a little bit. During my childhood for reasons unbeknownst to me, my mom (God bless her) used to sing us some traditional Irish songs around St. Patrick's day. I have no idea where amongst her Italian/German heritage she would have learned them, but that doesn't matter right now. Anyway, until I married my wife, that was my only exposure to Irish culture. Mrs. Hackknife is part Irish on her mom's side and her family maintains a strong connection back to the Motherland, so I have learned out of necessity to cook a corned beef as part of our St. Pat's festivities (although my mother-in-law shared with me just today that HER mother never even cooked corned beef, so I'm starting to get this bamboozled feeling over here). It's a crock-pot recipe, which makes it extremely simple and pretty much idiot-proof: Corned Beef Recipe.

A few months ago, I became the proud owner of a secondhand Irish cookbook entitled "Ireland - Grand Places, Glorious Food" that mostly contained old-school, French-inspired dishes such as Sauteed Lamb Kidneys with Bacon and Mange-Trout (read: too complex for me to attempt at this point in my foodie education). One of them, however, is for a simple soda bread (Granny O'Sullivan's Brown Bread) that is actually amazingly easy and not particularly bad:

1 1/2 cups coarse brown (I use whole wheat) flour
1/2 cup white (I use bread) flour
2 heaping tablespoons oatmeal
2 heaping tablespoons bran flakes (or raisin bran if you want raisins in it)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
1 pint buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix all dry ingredients together and blend in butter (I use a pastry cutter for this). Make a hollow in the center and pour in buttermilk. Mix until dough is fairly moist. Pour into a greased/floured round baking pan and bake for 45 minutes.

I tried this when I first got the book and rolled it out again to go with our corned beef. For dessert, I found a tasty-looking recipe for a Murphy's and Bailey's no-bake cheesecake that I couldn't resist trying. As this was my first-ever cheesecake, I ran into a few problems. First, I couldn't find Murphy's at my local grocery and didn't have time to run around town looking for it, so I had to settle on Guinness Extra Stout. Second, the crust part of the recipe calls for using a 9" round springform pan (I don't know what this is and certainly don't have one in the Hackknife Commissary), so I wimped out and bought a pre-made Keebler crust. Last but not least, I was unable to successfully produce a thick syrup for the mixture as specified in the recipe by cooking the beer with brown sugar in a saucepan. No matter how long I cooked it, my "syrup" basically ended up being runny beer mixed with sugar. After an hour and 15 minutes (the recipe estimated 20 minutes), I had to give up and assemble the thing since it needed 4 hours in the fridge to set before serving. Surprisingly, the end result wasn't completely inedible, although it could have used a chaser to help get it down the throat (VERY potent). Unlike most cheesecakes, which are fluffy, this one was more custard-y. It did actually get better upon aging in the fridge for a few days. Here's the recipe if you're willing to attempt it: Cheesecake Recipe.

Erin Go Brah! Please take care driving home from your seder (whoops, wrong holiday)....

1 comment:

  1. I bet you have seen a spring form pan before but just did not know what it was called. A spring form pan looks like a regular cake pan (flat bottom, tall sides). However, the bottom and the sides come apart. Opening the spring clip(s) on the sides allows you to remove the sides leaving the cheesecakeresting on the bottom of the pan. These pans are typically used for cheesecakes, particullarly deep dish/New York style cheesecakes. Store bought crusts just won't compare to a homemade crust in a spring form.