Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Browned onion and scallion champ

Yes, this is basically mashed potatoes, shot in a golden spring afternoon. But with the addition of a variety of alliums, it becomes champ - a classic Irish potato dish. I did mix it up ever so slightly for our dinner, but not much. I browned some minced onion and shallots in a small pan with butter, and then deglazed the brown butter and sticky, caramelly fond with heavy cream. I added a blob of butter, some sliced scallions and chives and let this sit on the stove (turned off - the latent heat wilted the scallions nicely) while I boiled some Yukon gold potatoes (preferred over a floury Russet for flavor). When the potatoes were tender, I smashed them with the cream-onion mixture and folded in a handful of grated Irish stout Dubliner cheese.

I read that traditional additions include peas or nettles, and I can testify that peas are wonderful with this (I had them with leftovers the next day). Nettles, though? Ooh, that's a thing. I'll be headed down to the crick this weekend and give that a try.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Apricot-caraway tea bread

I can't really call this Irish soda bread, or even Irish-American soda bread, since my ingredient limitations forced my creative hand (as they tend to do). This is, though, a basic soda bread - a quick bread leavened with baking soda instead of yeast. Since I ran out of raisins (and was already using golden ones at that), I supplemented with chopped, dried apricots. And since I was already going a different direction with this bread, I baked it in a buttered terrine pan (and added a bit extra sugar and buttermilk to the dough, per Joy of Cooking's direction) to yield a neat, uniform loaf with an elegant crumb. "I may as well," I figured.

I toasted the caraway to draw out the sweet, caramel-y undertones of the seeds, and the resulting aroma of this baking loaf was so powerfully evocative of my mother that I had to take a triple-take with my nose to pinpoint the reason. She never baked this bread, in my recollection, but the bread machine she gave me for Christmas when I was 19 years old came with a mix for this very bread (the standard version of it). This versatile recipe needs no such contraption, though; in fact, it begs to come out of an old-fashioned oven, cradled in mitt-clad hands.

Yankee it may be, we indeed enjoyed this lovely loaf on St. Patrick's Day, along with pressure-cooked corned beef brisket, garlicky roasted cabbage and champ (to be posted later this week). Served with tea (Constant Comment - my mother's favorite) and toasted with butter, leftovers made the pleasantest of breakfasts.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ebelskivers with blueberry preserves and orange zest

I've been trying to find the time to post this for more than a week, and I barely have the time to do it now, as Zephyr naps and dinner simmers away on the stove. I should be posting the Irish soda bread I made for tonight's dinner, or the lovely corned beef brisket, roasted cabbage and champ (creamed with browned onions and wilted scallions and chives, topped with grated Guinness Dubliner cheese), or even taking a phone-in post on the Guinness ice cream float I'll serve for dessert. But no, I must finish what I've started, even as Zephyr stirs from his fleeting slumber.

Ebelskivers (a Danish filled pancake) are kind of a pain in the ass to make, so I made a couple dozen and froze what we didn't eat for breakfast. These ones have a dribble of blueberry preserves in the center, yielding a gooey, jelly donut-like effect. I added orange zest to the batter for interest. Dusted with powdered sugar (and served with more blueberry preserves for dipping), these are a special treat that are worth the trouble.

I keep meaning to use my ebelskiver platar to make takoyaki - I even have some Spanish canned octopus I could use. Or maybe another savory donut (corn and cheddar?).

Serve with cripsy, thick-cut bacon and a peach-berry smoothie (because you're purging the last of your frozen summer bounty).

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Pork-Shiitake Niku Dango

Niku dango are Japanese meatballs, and are the perfect accompaniment to beer and noodles (two of my favorite things). Meatballs, in general are huge right now - Bon Appetit magazine recently had a whole issue devoted to them. Shit, 20% of all my (granted, now craptastic) blog traffic consistently comes from people Googling Swedish meatball recipes. I love meatballs, and since I've been fiddling with Asian flavors again these days - mostly Japanese and Korean - I thought I'd make some pork meatballs with a Japanese twist.

Flipping through my cookbooks, I saw a recipe for such "meatballs with a twist" in the Japanese Country Cookbook, and this is very loosely based on that (I prefer fresh shiitake to dried, soaked ones). Mix a pound of ground pork with a beaten egg, a small handful of panko, 2 minced shiitake mushrooms, a clove of minced garlic, a couple tablespoons minced shallot and grated ginger, a small splash each of soy sauce, mirin and sake, a tablespoon or so of sugar and a pinch of salt. I also added a pinch of chile flake for posterity. Some minced scallion would've been a nice touch, had I had any around, and I guess some finely chopped hijiki or nori flakes would've been kinda special. Oh well.

I know people will say there are better ways, and I know that grilling would yield the best flavor, but I just portioned these puppies out using a small ice cream scoop and baked them at like 375 or 400 for about 20 minutes. This is just always the easiest way for me to make meatballs, even if frying in butter or duck fat does taste better. The mushroom and all the seasoning liquids (plus the lovely pork fat) keep the interior of the niku dango so nice and moist that you can get away with a higher temp to get a crispier exterior, but I brushed mine with store-bought tonkatsu sauce (pineapple flavor, though you could use a mix of soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar) and returned them to the oven to get all sticky and glaze-y.

Since I cooked these to sate a trashy izakaya jones, I originally served them with udon soup and gyoza, but I had so many leftover that I enjoyed the rest for a fast lunch the next day (reheated in the toaster oven) with shoyu ramen, soft-boiled egg and sprinkled with shichimi togarashi (Japanese chile powder) and nori goma furikake (seaweed-sesame rice seasoning).

Enjoy with a tallboy of Kirin (Marc suggests Asahi for proper Japa-redneckness) and Keyhole TV.