Sunday, March 17, 2013

I remember because of the fires that leapt

(from the media album)

Happy Feast of Pádraig! Don't drive under the influence.

Now, then. While I'm late on this, I figure I can at least help people for next year, who may want such help, as I'm very sure I'm not the only one stressed on time to cook. So here's a few links to (relatively) easy meals for the 17th--or any time you might want corned beef.

This year we went for simple, and scaled back as much as we knew how (because seriously, we usually cook to feed twenty and there's only three of us). I scouted around and found this recipe which seemed to suit. We made some alterations, though, along the way.

Crockpot Corned Beef
1 corned beef roast (trimmed lean)
3 red potatoes (scrubbed and quartered)
1 Yukon Gold potato (scrubbed and quartered)
1 large carrot (scrubbed and chopped into rough chunks)
1 onion (cleaned and quartered--we used a yellow Vidalia onion, but yellow or white onions would work)
1 bottle Guinness (or preferred dark stout)
1 head green cabbage
1 Tablespoon pickling spice
1/2 teaspoon ground garlic (or, if you have fresh garlic, two cloves sliced thin)
1 bay leaf
  1. Scrub the potatoes and quarter them, only peeling if you can't stand potato peel (it's where most of the nutrition of the potato is, after all). Place in crockpot.
  2. Wash corned beef and place on the potatoes.
  3. Chop carrot and onion, and place (along with any remaining potato sections) on top.
  4. Liberally shake pickling spices, garlic, and bay leaf atop the corned beef.
  5. Open bottle of Guinness. Pour over corned beef. Fill bottle and empty three times until all but the fat cap of the corned beef is covered.
  6. Turn crock pot to high, set the lid on, and check every hour or so until done (generally, about thirty minutes to one hour for each pound of the corned beef).
  7. If there's enough room after the corned beef is done, wash and quarter the cabbage and place on top the last half hour of cooking. If not, remove the corned beef and the vegetables, and set the cabbage quarters in the cooking broth to cook for twenty minutes to half an hour.
Now, for this, we're not oiling the crockpot beforehand, and we're using three times the volume of fluid this recipe recommends (with our twelve-ounce bottles, we're using forty-eight ounces, total). If you just want to use the beer, you can do that too, but keep in mind, we have a six-quart crockpot. If you have a four-quart crockpot, obviously, it's going to be a tighter fit.

We're making a more "traditional" (AKA, traditional to us), soda bread tomorrow (this year we went with dried tart cherries and dried cranberries, but in the past, we've used golden Sultanas and stewed apples, homemade candied orange peel with fresh rosemary, dried blueberries and fresh basil, dried apricots and thin-sliced dates...some have been successes--in particular, the orange peel with rosemary sprigs, we HAVE to try that again some year--and some less so, but we like experimenting). For a closer-to-Ireland version, though, try this one, and keep in mind that "real" Irish soda bread didn't include eggs, buttermilk, or dried fruit, because in general, those were luxuries most families couldn't afford. (We like the fruit additions, but we've also done savory breads; both are good).

And if you're still wondering about how to use up the rest of the Guinness (if you bought a six-pack, like we did), you can always make a cheddar and beer soda bread.

We're finishing with a simple Guinness chocolate cake. There's a lot of versions out there; the one we're adapting is this. I say "adapted" not because that's not a good version, but because we're out of Bailey's, so we're doing a simpler chocolate ganache frosting instead. (That recipe, by the way, doesn't have anything to do with the 17th, but I liked the ganache from it, so I nicked it earlier this month.)

(Though if you're sold on the concept of stout and chocolate, there's a vegan version if you prefer, and a low-carb, no-sugar-added variant if your concerns drift that way. And a cheesecake version if you're feeling decadent.)

Enjoy! Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig!

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