St. Patrick’s Day is a party day enjoyed by Irish and Irish-wannabes alike. From coast to coast, at the core of the celebration is satisfying, easy-to-prepare fare. It’s the corned beef and cabbage that first comes to mind.
The briny classic’s origin is a subject of great debate, but whether it was the Emerald Isle or the New World doesn’t seem to matter.
Thumbing through Kevin Dundon’s new book, “Modern Irish Food” (Beazley, $24.99), sparked devilish hunger pains. Dundon, an award-winning Irish chef and PBS television personality, features beautiful recipes for what he calls “modern Irish house cooking.”
But it’s often the goodies that accompany the corned beef that make the meal so darn splendid.
Irish Soda Bread is a menu must. I’ve always made it in loaves, but found a recipe for making a dandy muffin-style version that is studded with dried currants.
And a finale of an irresistible apple tart is perfect. Use refrigerated prepared dough, such as Pillsbury Pie Crusts or Trader Joe’s crusts, and then layer thin apple slices on top, slightly overlapping the slices in concentric circles to cover the dough.
The flavor of the tart-sweet apples shines through, the crust offering a pleasing texture contrast that compliments the fruit and corrals the rich juices.
According to the Irish proverb, there are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were. With the table laden with Irish fare, we can all be Irish at least for a day.
Pulled Corned Beef
Yield: 6 servings
1 (about 3 1/4 pounds) corned beef (brisket or bottom round), cut in half, without packet of additional spices
1 cup beer
2 oranges, halved
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
3 star anise, see cook’s notes
2 tsp black peppercorns
2 cups water
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 1/4 pound baking potatoes, such as russets, peeled, quartered
1 1/4 pound baby carrots, peeled, cut into sticks about 2 1/2-inches long
7 ounces baby turnips, peeled, cut into small chunks
1 small head of cabbage, about 10 ounces, cut into wedges
Cook’s notes: Star anise is a dried spice. It is a star-shaped pod that is native to China. It is sold in the spice section of some supermarkets and in Asian markets. If you want, you can omit it.
1. Place the beef in a large saucepan with the beer, oranges, garlic, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, honey, vinegar, spices and peppercorns and cover with water. Put a lid on the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 1/2 to3 hours, topping up the water during cooking if necessary, until a fork can be easily inserted into the center of the meat. Carefully remove the beef and put it on a cutting board to rest for about for 10 minutes.
2. Add 2 cups water to the pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Put in the vegetables and bring back up to the boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Discard the orange pieces.
3. Use 2 forks to pull the meat apart. Divide it between bowls. Add broth and vegetables.
Source: “Modern Irish Food” by Kevin Dundon (Beazley, $24.99)
Simple Apple Tart
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated crusts (2 rolled crusts in rectangular box), chilled
Juice of 1 lemon
5 to 6 medium-sized Pink Lady apples, see cook’s notes
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
1/3 cup turbinado sugar, divided use
2 tablespoons honey
For serving: whipped cream or ice cream
Cook’s notes: Pink Lady apples are delectable in this tart. I find them at my local supermarket, but if you prefer, substitute Gala apples. Turbinado sugar is raw sugar that has been steam-cleaned. The coarse crystals are a honey-brown color and have a subtle molasses flavor. It’s often sold in the natural food section of the supermarket and is available at natural food stores.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll one of the pie crusts and place on parchment paper. Unroll second pie crust and cut out a ring 1/2-wide around the edge of the crust. Cut crosswise into three pieces to make them easier to transfer. Transfer to edge of crust that is on the pan and press in place (so now you have a double layer of crust around the edge). Pinch to make a ridge around the edge about 1/2-inch high. Prick with tines of a fork at 2-inch intervals. Place in refrigerator.
2. Squeeze lemon juice in medium-large bowl. Peel, core and cut apples into thin slices, placing them as you work in the bowl with the juice and tossing them from time to time to prevent browning.
3. Remove crust from refrigerator and lightly brush with butter. Arrange apple slices in two concentric circles overlapping them slightly (start with the outside circle). Brush with half of the remaining melted butter. Remove 1 tablespoon of the sugar and set aside to use as garnish; sprinkle remaining sugar over apples. Bake 12 minutes.
4. Remove from oven (and shut oven door). Brush apples and rim of tart with remaining butter. Drizzle apples with honey. Return to oven and bake 15 to 17 minutes longer. Remove from oven and sprinkle with reserved sugar. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. If desired, serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
Irish Soda Bread Muffins
Yield: 1 dozen
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided use
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
3/4 cup dried currants or raisins
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin pan(s) with butter. In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and caraway seeds; stir to combine with whisk. In another bowl, beat the egg, buttermilk, butter and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in currants.
2. Fill greased muffin cups three-fourths full. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack. Serve warm.
Source: Taste of Home