Thursday, March 17, 2011


This is easy, hardly worth posting, but definitely worth remembering!

In a cast iron skillet or heavy frying pan, cook on medium heat some minced bacon or pancetta, a slice or so per serving, for a minute or two. Add some finely minced onion, a fair amount, and cook a minute or two. Make sure there is plenty of fat, and if there isn’t, add some oil or fat. Add potatoes, diced small. Potatoes can be cooked or not, if they're already cooked, heat them through, if they're not cover the pan and cook until soft. Add chopped corned beef, to pan, turn heat to low and cook until everything is browned and slightly crispy. You want it crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, kind of like some of our favorite people.
Nice with an egg.


Colcannon is often made with ham or bacon and cabbage or other greens that have been sautéed in butter, and then mixed into mashed potatoes, with a well of melted butter on top. But leftover Corned Beef and Cabbage is so flavorful against the mild mashed potatoes, and with browned butter to boot you may agree with me that the Colcannon you have for lunch the next day is really the reason to make Corned Beef and Cabbage.

So here’s the strategy, formula, and technique. The proportions are more or less, give or take. Make what you need:

Make your browned butter: In a large pot, slowly melt 1 – 2 T butter per serving and cook over low heat until solids brown, but not burned, and have a nice nutty smell. Pour into a small bowl, but don’t clean the pot as you’ll be using it for your potatoes (that’s why you want a large pot and not a small saucepan).

Cook your potatoes: You’ll need some freshly mashed potatoes for this, so bake, microwave, or boil however many potatoes you’ll need, one or two per serving. I prefer to bake or microwave them. When they’re soft, rice, sieve, or mash potatoes into the brown butter pot. Add some warmed milk (or buttermilk, whey, half and half, or cream) and a very small amount of butter. I like to keep it light on the fat and salt, to balance the high fat and salt in the corned beef and browned butter. Pepper potatoes. Keep warm

Warm leftover corned beef in microwave or oven. Shred it by pressing slices along the grain with the side of a knife. Chop shreds into ½” – 1” pieces.  

Warm leftover cabbage and onions.

Per serving stir a few tablespoons of warm corned beef , a few tablespoons of warm cabbage and a teaspoon or so of minced parsley into mashed potatoes, reserving some to be served on the side. Make sure this potato mixture is good and hot.

To serve, mound piping hot potatoes into a bowl and place warm corned beef, warm cabbage, and minced parsley around the edges. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and fill with browned butter. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Makes a small round loaf

2 1/4 c flour
2 tsp sugar
¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 T butter or oil
½ c sour milk or buttermilk
1/3 c beer or soda water

Preheat oven to 375

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter or oil as you would for biscuits or pie. Add liquids and mix until just combined. Gather dough together with your hands and form into a round that is 2-3” thick. Place on greased baking sheet and cook for 35 – 45 minutes, until crust is dark and bread is cooked all the way through. Check the center with a skewer or knife to make sure. Brush with soft butter and sprinkle top with salt.
Cool on wire rack. 


This is another of those things we make as part of our seasonal routine, but since Jack loves it so much, we also try to make it whenever he comes home. If it’s a busy day, you can just throw everything in the same pot, adding the cabbage, carrots and potatoes in the last hour of cooking, and everyone will eat it and it will be fine. But it all seems so pale and wan when done that way. When the vegetables are browned and added separately, the color, flavor and texture are all better.

So here’s the strategy, formula, and technique. The proportions are more or less, give or take; make adjustments depending on the size of your meat and how many people you’re serving. Multiply or divide as you wish:

You’ll need a deep pot with a lid that holds your piece of meat snugly, with some room around it, but keep in mind that as it cooks it will shrink some. You may cook this on top of the stove, in the oven, or in a slow cooker, which works very nicely.

Place an onion or two, sliced lengthwise, in the bottom of the pot. I like to rinse the corned beef first, though many people don’t. On top of this place your corned beef and cover with more sliced onions, along with a bay leaf, one or two garlic cloves, and a few tablespoons of pickling spice. You can just throw the spices into the pot, but I prefer to wrap them in a piece of cheesecloth, or a couple of coffee filters, tied at the top, or put them in a tea ball. Otherwise you have to either deal with getting it out or you have to put up with it in your teeth.

Pickling spice: a mix of allspice, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, dill, peppercorns, dark and light mustard seeds, and bay leaves. Other spices such as celery seed, chili, caraway, ginger or fenugreek can be added as you like. For corned beef, I go light on the cloves and cinnamon, and heavier on the coriander and mustard.

Pour in a half to a whole beer. I prefer lager or lighter beer, as a darker or black beer can be too strong and cover the other flavors (you may drink the remaining beer, or use it later in your soda bread). Fill pot with water to just cover the meat. Bring heat up to a simmer, turn the heat to the lowest possible setting, cover and let it cook for about two hours, every once in a while skimming any foam off the top. If you’re cooking it in the oven, set temperature to 300˚. If you’re using a slow cooker and it will be in all day, set it on low; if you’ve only got a few hours, set it on high. Whichever way you cook it, keep the heat low and try not to let it boil.

About an hour and a half before you’re ready to eat, melt some butter and/or oil in a sauté pan. Add whole new potatoes or large potatoes that have been peeled and cut into fairly large chunks or rounds, along with a carrot or two that have been peeled and cut into 1-2” pieces. More potatoes, less carrots. Cook, turning frequently so that they don’t stick, until they start to brown. Sprinkle the vegetables with a tablespoon or so of flour, toss it around, and continue to cook until potatoes are nicely browned.

Remove the meat from the pot and set it on a plate, covered. Run the broth through a sieve, pushing the softened onions through the mesh.  Return the meat to the pot, along with the potatoes and carrots, and a fresh bay leaf. Taste the broth to determine the saltiness, and if it is very strong and salty, dilute with water to taste before you add most of it back to the pot, reserving some for the cabbage. Cover and continue to cook on low for another hour or until the potatoes are just soft.

Meanwhile, cut a green or red cabbage in half. Notice how beautiful it is. Cut the core out, and cut into 1-2” wedges and then into 1-2” lengths. In the same pot you used for the potatoes, add a little more butter/oil and brown and onion, cut in thin wedges and then cut in half. Add cabbage. Saute over medium low heat, stirring frequently until it begins to soften and brown around the edges. Again notice how beautiful it is. Add a cup or two of the strained juice from the corned beef, scrape everything up from the bottom, cover and cook on a low heat until very soft. Remove the lid and cook off any excess liquid. Season with pepper, and salt only if needed, remembering that the meat may be fairly salty.

Let the meat rest on a plate or board, covered, for about 10 minutes. Slice corned beef against the grain and serve with cabbage and vegetables in a deep plate or bowl. Pour broth all around and add plenty of chopped parsley and freshly grated pepper.

Pass mustard or horseradish, or if you’re like me, enjoy it plain.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


A few years back brining was all over the place. Everywhere you’d look someone was raving about the virtues of brining, and we climbed right on the brining bandwagon. We brined and we brined, and by the time it was finally out of my system, I had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me because is seemed to me that it kind of left everything kind of the same. As lovely as it is to have evenly moist and seasoned meat, that is just what it is: even, and that evenness sacrifices variation. I enjoy having each bite of my meat a little different from the last: one bite may be seasoned more strongly than another, one might be a little more dry than another, one might have a texture that is a little different, and for me the experience will be more interesting and more gratifying.
I wasn’t too excited about this Charcutepalooza challenge, but I’d never corned my own beef, and enough time had passed that I was up to revisiting brining. One thing that had bothered me about brining was the dominance of the salt, how it permeated every bite. I also didn’t like the softened texture. That’s why I don’t buy meat that has been injected with anything. I hoped to be able to adjust the technique or recipe so that the meat was improved by the brine, but not taken over by it.

So how to add some flavor and moisture without letting it take over? How about less salt, more herbs/spices, less brining time and more resting time? For each meat, except the corned beef, I cut the salt and brining time by about half, and doubled the herbs/spices and resting time, to see if I could come up with a milder and more flavorful treatment that added something but didn’t take away from the character of the meat. It worked!

Here’s what we did. Recipes to follow:

We made an out of this world corned beef, for corned beef and cabbage, with leftovers for hash, sandwiches and colcannan.

Ham steak from our Amish farmer is not cured, so brining in basic brine with lots of mustard and sage added nice flavor.

We brined and cooked a chicken on the rotisserie. My sister Mary over for dinner that night, and she pointed out that in Italy they frequently brine game, which is leaner and often tougher, to tenderize it. Free range animals are similar to wild animals in this respect, and also respond well to a light brine.

We figured out how to deal with latter day lean pork tenderloin.

And we got a batch of sauerkraut going for good measure, though we didn’t float it in brine, but just kneaded salt into it as we usually do.

James Peale, Still Life with Balsam Apple and Vegetables, at The Met
A Cool Cabbage Hat at the Met
Cabbage Tureen at Minneapolis Museum of Art
Cabbage Field by Simone Nieweg at St. Louis Art Museum

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Cookies decorated by Sarah, Katie, and Jenny. Sarah says that the last instruction should be, "Spend hours decorating cookies!"

There are sugar cookies, and there are sugar cookies. Some are thin and crisp, and good for dipping in tea, some are thick and soft, and best alongside a cold glass of milk, and some are in between, crisp and soft and chewy all at once, perfect with any drink. It’s nice to have a recipe for each, for whatever your mood.

These are the perfect in between cookies. They are a bit crispy and a bit chewey. They are very sweet, so the lemon extract is just right. And they travel well too. It is the most requested sugar cookie recipe I’ve made. I treasure my copy, in Emily’s handwriting, given to me many years ago: it reminds me of my sweet little sister.  
Makes about 6 dozen

1 c soft butter
2 c sugar
2 eggs
3 ¼ c flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract (sometimes I add finely grated lemon zest too)

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl.
In large  bowl, beat sugar into softened butter until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time and mix in thoroughly.
Blend in vanilla & lemon extracts.
Slowly mix in dry ingredients until dough is well blended.
Chill dough well.
Heat oven to 350˚
Roll out about one fourth of the dough at a time on a floured cloth with covered rolling pin, or in between two sheets of lightly greased waxed paper (or plastic wrap). Roll to approximately 1/4” thick, cut and bake approximately 10 minutes.
Remove from oven before edges brown.
These can be decorated with sugar before going into the oven or iced and decorated after they are cooked.

These are the soft cookies. Katie & Jenny copied this recipe from Grandma’s box several years ago, though Grandma says that she often just uses the Land O’Lakes recipe. Whatever recipe, I think that what makes  Grandma’s  cookies uniquely hers is her hand: she rolls the dough out very thick, to about 3/8”, and cooks them on the very light, almost underdone side, and they are always completely sealed on top with a thin glaze. And another thing that makes them so wonderful is her cheerful delivery-it is always a good day when Grandma comes by with a plate of her cookies!
1 c soft butter
½ c sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 ¼ c flour
¼ tsp salt

1. Mix up.
2. Chill.
3. Roll out (in two pieces; flour board)
4. Bake  about 10 minutes at 375˚
(Directions as written by Jenny when she was about 10; Grandma’s recipes are often simply a list of ingredients!)
1 c sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 – 1 ½ T water
½ tsp almond extract
Color with food coloring if you’d like, though white cookies are lovely.

These are the crisp cookies. Because the dough holds up well, it is a good recipe to use with children, and it can be rolled out very thinly. They last for a long time in a tin and freeze well. It is a good idea to keep a few around as they make a great crumb crust for cheesecake or pie. My favorite way to eat these is dipped in hot tea.
1     (1/2) c shortening or butter
1     (1/2) c sugar
3 ½  (1 ¾) c flour
2      (1) egg
2     (1) tsp vanilla & almond extract
2     (1) tsp baking powder
Cream shortening and sugar. Gradually add egg and extracts.
Sift flour with baking powder and add to creamed mixture.
Should be easy to handle; if not, chill.
Roll out ¼” thick.
Cut out cookies.
Brush with white of egg and sprinkle with colored sugar.
Bake 10 – 15 minutes in 375˚ oven.

By combining her Grandma and Granny's sugar cookie recipes, my daughter, Katie, has come up with what she calls "The Best of Both Worlds Sugar Cookie", which really are delicious. Here's her recipe, in her words:

For the "Best of Both Worlds" cookies I averaged the two recipes together.  Here is a rough estimate of what it was:
3/4 cup butter softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp baking powder
Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg, vanilla, and almond extracts.  Sift flour and baking powder together - gradually add to creamed mixture.  Chill, roll out, cut with favorite Christmas cookie cutters (snowflakes and trees a must).  Bake 375 for 10-15 minutes, depending on how soft or brown you like your cookies. 
No snowflakes left!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


At the end of the winter, we tend to bring out bags and jars of ingredients from the pantry to create our meals. This recipe combines elements of some orange cream puffs I made last month and a dried apricot, dried cherry, and orange breakfast bread I made last week.
This, and the Onion and Fennel Tart, are posted in this week's food52 contest.

Makes 2 8” Tarts

Tart Crust;
1/3 c almonds (with skin or blanched)
1 c all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
3 T sugar
4 T (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into 1” pieces
1 egg
¼ tsp almond extract
1-2 T cold water

Grind almonds to fine  in food processor. Add flour, salt and sugar and process again. Pulse in butter until it forms coarse crumbs. Add egg and pulse until it forms large crumbs. Pulse in almond extract and enough cold water to just bind it together.  Flatten ball, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Almond, Orange, and Apricot Filling and Topping
6 oz (about 1 c) chopped dried apricots
¼ c orange or regular vodka
¼ c fresh orange juice (or use ½ c orange juice if you like)
Zest from ½ orange, about ½ T
2 c orange curd(recipe follows, or can be purchased. To make it you will need zest of one orange, juice of 3 oranges,  1 T lemon or tangerine juice, 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk, 1/3 c sugar, a pinch of salt and 5 T butter )
3 T  candied orange zest (recipe follows, or can be purchased. To make you will need 2 oranges, 1 ½ tsp salt, 1 c sugar, and ½ c superfine or caster sugar)
1 1/2c almonds (with skin or blanched), chopped roughly by hand
3 T apple or apricot jelly
2 T orange marmalade
3 T sugar

Soak apricots and orange zest in vodka and orange juice.

Prepare candied orange zest: Thoroughly wash 2 oranges. Trim off the tops and bottoms, and then score from top to bottom, about 1” apart. Peel away these sections, and if the white part is very thick, scrape some of it away with the edge of a spoon, leaving about 1/8” – ¼”. Put in a bowl, and cover with 2 c cool water and 1 ½ tsp salt. Let soak for at least an hour, and for several more  if you don’t care for bitterness. Rinse, put in a saucepan, cover with cool water, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes and then drain them.  Cut into ¼” wide strips. Put orange strips back in pan with 1 c sugar and ¼ c water.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for another 30 minutes. Put ½ cup superfine (caster) sugar on a plate. Dredge strips in small batches, coating with the sugar entirely. Cool on waxed paper, and store in an airtight jar.

Prepare orange curd: Zest an orange. Put strained juice of 3 oranges with 1T lemon or tangerine juice in a small saucepan and reduce to ½ c.  Cool to room temperature. Beat 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk, 1/3 c sugar, reduced orange juice and a pinch of salt in the top of  a double boiler (or in a saucepan if you’re daring), and heat, stirring. When it is warm, beat in 5 T butter, a bit at a time, allowing each addition to blend in before adding the next. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (it will thicken as it cools). Add 2 or 3 drops of vanilla, and orange zest. Refrigerate, but serve at room temperature (when refrigerated, it may harden up a bit, but will soften up at room temperature). Can be frozen.

Make topping: over medium heat, cook ½ c chopped almonds with 3T sugar until sugar melts and then turns amber. Mix together to coat all almonds with melted sugar and remove from heat. Chop candied orange zest into ½” pieces.

Preheat oven to 400˚

Roll out tart crust: If sticky, dust lightly with flour. Roll out between two pieces of plastic wrap. Press gently into two 8” tart pans and freeze for 10 minutes.

Drain apricots (reserve juice and this evening make yourself a nice little cocktail with it).
Toss with 1 c chopped almonds.

Mix apple or apricot jelly and orange marmalade, and microwave 30 seconds to melt slightly. Spread mixture evenly over tart crusts. Top with apricots and almond mixture.
Put back in the freezer for 5 minutes. Bake for 25 minutes until crust is browned nicely.

Cool on rack until tarts are room temperature.  If they are warm, the orange curd will melt. Spread orange curd evenly on top of tart. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Top with candied almonds and candied orange zest.

Alternatively, when tarts come from oven let cool for about 15 minutes. Cut and serve warm with a tablespoon or so of orange curd on the side (let it melt), and  topped with candied almonds and candied orange zest.

ONION, FENNEL, AND BACON TART (from Charcutepalooza Challenge #2)

This was inspired by last month’s Charcutepalooza challenge, in which Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy encouraged folks to make their own bacon and pancetta. The fennel and onions are cooked separately, as they may have different cooking times, and so the fennel can be seasoned independently from the onions (the fennel is also nice prepared on its own, and served as a side dish). I made smaller free-form tarts, but if you like, the crust can easily be pressed into a tart pan with a removable bottom. 

Makes a 10” tart or two smaller ones

Make the crust:

1 1/3 c all purpose flour
2/3 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c cold butter, cut in small pieces
1/4 c vegetable oil or lard
1/4 - 1/2 c ice water

Mix together flours.
Cut in butter and oil until it resembles coarse crumbs
Add water. Give it a stir or two with a fork, and then bring it together with your hands, being careful not to mix it too vigorously.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes before rolling out. While it is chilling, prepare the filling.

Prepare the Onions, Fennel, and Bacon

2-4 T olive oil (more if needed)
4-6 slices bacon or pancetta, chopped into 1/4” - ½” pieces, to make ½ c
1 fennel bulb, stem and tough outer layer removed, cut lengthwise and then crosswise into ¼ - ½” strips. Reserve a handful of the green fronds.
4 medium-large onions
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ c dry vermouth
1/2 T fresh rosemary, torn or chopped roughly, or 1/2 tsp dried
1 T fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp dried
½ c cheese of your choice such as cheddar, gruyere, swiss, or guda, grated. The different cheeses give it different character, use whatever you like best or happen to have around.

Fennel: In a frying pan cook 3 T bacon until it begins to brown. Add sliced fennel and about 2 T olive oil, toss to coat the fennel and add ¼ c water. Cover and cook on a medium low heat until fennel is softened, but still has a bit of crunch, about  20 or 30 minutes. Remove lid and cook off any liquid, letting the fennel brown up. Add vermouth and cook for another minute or so. Toss in about 2 T torn fennel fronds.

Onion: In a frying pan cook the remaining bacon or pancetta until it is lightly browned around the edges. Remove from pan and drain, leaving grease in pan. Add sliced onions and two tablespoons of oil and toss to coat the onions (add more if there isn’t much grease, less if there is). Cook on a very low heat, and after about 5 minutes add the minced garlic, and salt and pepper lightly. Cover tightly and continue cooking until soft, for another 10 or 20 minutes. Try not to brown them too much. Remove lid and cook off any extra liquid.

Preheat oven to 375˚

Roll crust into a circle and press gently into tart pan, or place onto baking sheet.

Gently toss together fennel, onions, and bacon. Mound on tart crust. Top with grated cheese, rosemary and thyme.

If making a free form tart, fold over the crust along the edge.
Chill in refrigerator for 10 minutes.
Bake for about 20 or 30 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and cheese is melted.
Let rest for a few minutes and serve warm or cold.