Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Week 9, Kiss Me I'm Irish.......

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Growing up, St. Patrick's Day was always celebrated in our house with a dinner of corned beef and cabbage and my mom's Irish soda bread - and of course, wearing the traditional color green. What began as, a religious holiday in Ireland; around the world it is has become a day of feasting and celebrating. For one day, no matter your ancestry, everyone is Irish!

If you have never made corned beef and cabbage before, you will be happy when you realize how incredibly easy it is to make - and how delicious it is. Every year when March 17th rolls around, and we sit down to this traditional dinner, I wonder why I don't make it more throughout the year. Of course, this will be one of the featured recipes this week, and it couldn't be easier because you'll make it in your crock-pot!! Check out the sidebar this week for my recipe for Irish soda bread, a little different then my mom's recipe - that one's just for me! (Irish soda bread gets it's name because it uses baking soda as the leavening agent, rather then yeast.)

In case you were wondering about the origin of St. Patrick's Day, and other tid-bits.....

The History of the Holiday

St. Patrick is the patron Saint of Ireland. St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years.

On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast — on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

Corned Beef

corned beef and cabbage

Each year, thousands of Irish Americans gather with their loved ones on St. Patrick's Day to share a "traditional" meal of corned beef and cabbage.

Though cabbage has long been an Irish food, corned beef only began to be associated with St. Patrick's Day at the turn of the century.

Irish immigrants living on New York City's Lower East Side substituted corned beef for their traditional dish of Irish bacon to save money. They learned about the cheaper alternative from their Jewish neighbors.

  • About 41.5 billion pounds and 2.6 billion pounds of U.S. beef and cabbage, respectively, were sold in 2007. The corned beef celebrants eat on St. Patrick's Day may very well have originated in Texas, which produced 6.8 billion pounds worth of beef, while the cabbage most likely came from California, which produced 581 million pounds worth, or New York (580 million pounds).

The Leprechaun

The original Irish name for these figures of folklore is "lobaircin," meaning "small-bodied fellow."

Belief in leprechauns probably stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.

Leprechauns had nothing to do with St. Patrick or the celebration of St. Patrick's Day. In 1959, Walt Disney released a film called Darby O'Gill & the Little People, which introduced America to a very different sort of leprechaun than the cantankerous little man of Irish folklore. This cheerful, friendly leprechaun is a purely American invention, but has quickly evolved into an easily recognizable symbol of both St. Patrick's Day and Ireland in general.

(source: http://www.history.com/minisites/stpatricksday/)

This week's recipes: Corned Beef and Cabbage, Tex-Mex Bean Soup, Asian-Style Noodle Salad, Flounder Stuffed with Crab Meat.

Items already in your pantry or fridge:

vegetable oil, soy sauce, salt, black pepper, soy sauce, chili powder, paprika, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, milk, 2 eggs, butter, bread crumbs, vinegar, sugar, beef bouillon, chicken bouillon, bread crumbs

Shopping List:**

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast

3 lbs corned beef brisket

6 ounces flaked crab meat

6 flounder filets

1 head of cabbage

2 large onion

1 bunch flat leaf parsley

1 small bunch celery

1 small bag of chopped walnuts (I like the already candied walnuts for the salad recipe)

bulb of garlic

2 baby bok choy

2 heads of broccoli

4 oz udon noodles or whole wheat spaghetti

sesame oil

rice vinegar

nam pla (fish sauce)

1 bulb of garlic

1 small ginger root

1 lemon

1- 15 1/2 oz can kidney beans

1- 15 1/2 oz can black beans

1- 14 1/2 oz can Mexican style stewed tomatoes

10 oz pkg frozen corn

1- 4oz can of chopped green chiles

1 bunch of carrots

1 bunch of chives

2 cups baby carrots

boiling potatoes

**Most recipes are for 4-6 servings. If you are making more, or less, you will need to adjust the shopping list accordingly**

Corned Beef and Cabbage (serves 4)

The following recipe is a pretty standard recipe to make Corned Beef and Cabbage in a crock pot. If you are buying an already seasoned cut of meat, then add more or less spices as you like. I like to add an additional tbsp of black pepper corns (although they are kind of pain to remove after cooking), a couple of bay leaves, and 1-2 beef bouillon cubes. If you have some cheesecloth available you can place these seasonings into a small circle of the cloth and secure with twine - that way it is easier to "fish" the seasonings out when they are no longer needed.

I would recommend buying a "flat cut" of corned beef rather then a "point cut". The point cut tends to be a fattier cut of meat. Retailers tend to package the corned beef with the fat side away from the clear plastic so that you cannot tell how much fat there is. One way to tell is to squeeze it. If it feels "squishy" then it has a lot of fat, if it feels firm then it probably is leaner. Another way to judge the fat is to find a point cut that weighs the same amount as a flat cut. Is the point cut considerably larger than the flat cut of the same weight? Don't be fooled into thinking you are getting more beef. You aren't. You are getting more fat. When you cook a high fat piece of corned beef, the entire piece of meat will shrink and you will be left with a much smaller portion of beef than you started with. That being said, I think a little bit of fat in your corned beef will enhance the flavor of the dish, but that is my personal opinion.

3 lb corned beef brisket

1 large onion quartered

1 head of cabbage, cut into small wedges

2 cups of baby carrots

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tbsp vinegar

2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 cups of water

boiling potatoes, quartered

Combine the ingredients into the slow cooker, with the carrots and cabbage on top.

Cook on low for 10-12 hours, or on high for 6-7 hours.

When the meat is almost done, place the potatoes in salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender. Drain, add 2 tbsp of butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the corned beef, cabbage and carrots.

Asian-Style Noodle Salad (serves 4)
(If you prefer to go meatless, then substitute tofu for the chicken - it is also a good recipe without either)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves minced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces.
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (I like to use the already candied walnuts)
2 baby bok choy, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 cup broccoli florets
4 oz udon noodles or 4 oz wheat spaghetti
2 tbsp minced chives
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp nam pla (fish sauce)
1/4 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl combine all ingredients for the dressing, mix well and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add garlic and saute over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the chicken and saute until cooked through, about 3 minutes a side. Add walnuts and saute 1 minute. Add the bok choy and saute 1 minute. Spoon the mixture into a salad bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli and blanch for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the salad bowl. Add noodles to the boiling water and cook until the noodles are tender. Drain well and cool for 10 minutes.

Add the noodles and chives to the salad bowl, add the dressing and combine well.

Tex-Mex Bean Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings (4-6 servings)
**prepared in a slow cooker**

15 1/2 oz can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
15 1/2 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
14 1/2 oz can of Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
10 oz package frozen corn thawed
4-oz can chopped green chiles
1 cup of carrots peeled and sliced
1 cup of onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1-2 tsp chili powder

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 egg white, beaten
1 tbsp of milk
1 tbsp of oil

Mix all the ingredients EXCEPT the ingredients for the dumplings into a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours, or on high for 4 to 5 hours.

Meanwhile, mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper; set aside. Mix the egg white, milk and oil; stir into flour mixture. Stir with a fork until just combined.

When the soup has finished cooking, turn the cooker to the high setting. Drop the dumpling batter into the soup by rounded teaspoonfuls. Cover and cook for 30 minutes without lifting the lid.

Flounder Stuffed with Crab Meat (6 servings)

1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped celery
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
3 tbsp butter
6 ounces crab meat, flaked
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg beated
salt and pepper to taste
6 flounder filets
2 tbsp melted butter
paprika to taste

Saute the onion, celery and parsley in 1 tbsp butter in a skillet until tender. Add the crab meat, bread crumbs, egg, salt and pepper; mix well.

Spoon the stuffing onto the fish filets. Roll to enclose filling and secure the ends. Arrange fish filet rolls in a buttered baking dish. Brush with 1 tbsp of melted butter; sprinkle with paprika.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily, brushing with the remaining 1 tbsp melted butter.

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