Dinner Club – March

As promised last week, I’m finally (after battling it out with a case of bronchitis) back to regale you with our March Dinner Club experience which was also our St. Patrick’s Day celebration. When choosing the date for this month’s club, we all noticed that St. Patrick’s Day was on a Saturday and that all of our schedules were free so naturally we choose that to be the date of our club and we choose traditional Irish fare as the theme. Eric and I ended up with the dessert course this time, if you remember last month we had the appetizer course, read more about that here.

Being of Irish heritage and having visited Ireland were definitely an advantage for this theme, however dessert was probably the most difficult course to research. Go ahead and Google it, not one major dessert will appear, if you’re even able to find one that is definitively Irish. In the end I did find a lot of apple cakes, recipes that combined Guinness and chocolate (not unlike the Stout Cake I made last week) and many that contained Irish Whiskey. I found one that was from an Irish restaurant and was for a white bread pudding with a caramel whiskey sauce. This recipe was different than most of the other and I liked that it deviated from the popular Bailey’s Irish Creme, or Guinness and chocolate ingredients. It also stated that this recipe “was the best thing you’ll ever taste in your life” if that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.

Start the recipe by soaking the raisins in whiskey and set that aside until the very end.

Remove the crusts from the white bread (I just used white sandwich bread, nothing fancy) and lightly brush with melted butter.

Toast one side under the broiler until it just begins to brown.

Remove from the oven and, once cooled, cut into cubes.

While prepping the bread cubes, combine the milk and heavy cream in a medium size sauce pan. Cut a vanilla bean lengthwise and use a knife to scrape out all the black seeds into the cream mixture. Put the vanilla pod into the cream and slowly bring to a boil, watch it carefully so that it doesn’t boil over.

Once it boils, immediately remove the pot from the heat (to avoid scalding the milk). Take out the vanilla pod and chill until cooled, about an hour.

Once the cream mixture is cool, whisk together the eggs and sugar.

Add in the cream mixture. Stir in the bread cubes and raisins and let the whole thing sit for about 15 minutes.

Pour the whole mixture into a buttered baking dish and dot more butter.

Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar mixture over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees until set, about an hour.

While that’s baking, make the caramel whiskey sauce.

Melt and sugar and water over medium heat stirring slowly until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Boil the mixture without stirring for about 30 minutes, until it just starts to caramelize (a hint of golden color).

While that’s caramelizing, warm the heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat.

Once the caramel is ready, add butter and whipping cream. Stir over medium heat until smooth, 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool. Now you can store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it. Once its time to serve, add in the whiskey and more cream until the sauce reaches the consistency you want.

Drizzle sauce over a big piece of bread pudding.

I was told it tasted like Cinnamon Toast Crunch on a Saturday morning, as a child. And everyone had seconds on dessert. All in all, the bread pudding was a great success! Not to mention, it was pretty easy. We have some sauce left over and Eric just asked if I would make another batch to “finish up” the sauce.

Here is the link to the recipe I found online.

Irish Bread Pudding with Caramel Whiskey Sauce

Since we started this post with dessert first, I guess I’ll go back and tell you about the first two courses. We began at the first house with some home made Irish Soda bread and Irish Rarebit. Yep, I know what you’re thinking, “Do you mean rabbit? Did you eat rabbit?” Nope. That’s what I thought when they first said what they were serving, too. But in fact, there is no rabbit to be found in this dish, nor does it look like a rabbit. Wikipedia only had an explanation for Welsh Rarebit but it states:

Welsh rarebit is a dish made with a savoury sauce of melted cheese and various other ingredients and served hot over toast. The names of the dish originate from 18th century Great Britain.Welsh rarebit is typically made with Cheddar cheese, in contrast to the Continental European fondue which classically depends on Swiss cheeses.

The Irish rarebit includes Guinness and cheese in the sauce. We all forgot cameras so I’ll pull one from the internet so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

Rarebit Recipe

After some rarebit and beers, we moved on to the second house and the main course.

We enjoyed some delicious Shepards Pie. Again, photo stolen from Pinterest because we forgot to take pictures.

Individual shepards pie

Finishing with the bread pudding was perfect. We all felt happy and comfy, just like you should after eating an Irish meal because it’s probably windy and rainy outside the window.

Thanks again to all our dinner club couples for putting in a wonderful effort to making great dishes. Can’t wait for April!

Irish Boxty

I love the fact that Americans celebrate their heritage so strongly in so many ways around the country and perhaps one of the best examples of that is St. Patrick’s Day. Americans who have any ounce of Irish blood in their veins assume the roll of a proud Irish American on this day that we celebrate luck, the color green and of course, beer. I’ll freely admit, that I too am one of those Americans and because I happen to look like I just stepped off of the shores of the Emerald Isle, I will inform you that I do have quite a bit of Irish blood in my veins. My heritage is made up primarily of German and Irish heritage. My father’s mother is Irish and my father’s father was German. My mother’s father, also Irish and her mother had English and Croatian blood. I’ve been able to do the ancestry.com thing and found out that some of my Irish ancestors came from County Donegal in Ireland, a very cool discovery. We’ve got a line of O’Connors, Fagans and Pauls that stretch back, just to name a few.

Eric’s family has been over in the US much longer than my family, which is pretty cool. I’m almost certain that he probably has a relative who has fought in ever major American war! We’ve been told that his heritage is Scottish and he may even have some links to the Vikings, among other things. He does have a great grandmother who was Irish though and on St. Patty’s Day, that’s all that matters!

Sidenote: As a teenager, one of my first jobs was working as a hostess at Chi-Chi’s Restaurant. Because of my fair complexion, freckles and very red hair I was often asked why, as someone who was Irish, was I working at a Chi-Chi’s restaurant? This was very strange to me and yet it happened frequently. I though Chi-Chi’s was a pretty American restaurant… Oh, well, I sometimes forget how Irish I truly look!

This weekend we’ll be celebrating with friends and a traditional Irish feast, however, as mentioned on Monday, I did make some Irish meals this week to celebrate this time of year and one of them was Irish Boxty. Here is a picture of it from a restaurant (not mine!):

Irish Boxty is the equivalent of the French crepe. It’s a potato based, pancake like dough that the Irish fill with meat, poultry or veggies usually with a cream sauce. I also equate it to the American chicken and waffles. It’s delicious.

When we visited Ireland a few years ago, we went to an exclusively boxty restaurant one evening, in Dublin. The food was fantastic and very economically priced. I recommend a good boxty dinner who anyone going to Ireland.

A few nights ago, I tried my hand at my very first Irish Boxty dinner. I had a more difficult time finding a good recipe for the filling, so I found one and then amended it to my tastes but I was able to find a good boxty recipe on Foodnetwork.com.

Start the boxty by pealing all the potatoes and boil half in salted water to make mashed potatoes. Grate the other half of the raw potatoes. (I used the food processor to make it easy on my arm.)

The grated potato end up being a bit larger than had you done it by hand but the labor saved is worth it.

Once the other half of the potato has been mashed, put both kinds of potato into a large bowl along with the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix it together well.

Slowly add in the buttermilk until you have a thick batter consistency. Eyeball it, you will likely not use all of the buttermilk.

Set the batter aside while you make the filling. I chose a chicken and cream sauce filling. Once your ingredients are prepped, cook the chicken in a large frying pan over medium high heat until it’s just cooked through. Then add the chopped shallots and cook for another few minutes.

Add the mushrooms to the mixture and cook until they’ve released their moisture. Add in the madiera and cook down for about 5 minutes.

Add in the cream and milk and stir well. Simmer until the sauce thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Now cook the boxty cakes on a medium griddle, just like you’d cook pancakes.

Top the hot boxty with the filling and serve alongside a pretty green vegetable.

Talk about yum! Mushrooms, cream, madiera, chicken, potato; good, good, good and goo-ood! The whole dish took me about an hour to make because I had to boil and mash the potatoes first. I’d recommend using some leftover mashed potatoes for you guys to shorten the cook time and reuse those potatoes. Leftover mashed potatoes are never that great anyway so this is a great way to reuse them!

And so I leave you with this Irish proverb:

For every wound, a balm.
For every sorrow, cheer.
For every storm, a calm.
For every thirst, a beer.

I wish you a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day and a fun weekend! I’ll be back next week with a full recap of our traditional Irish feast!

Here’s the boxty with chicken and cream recipe:

Irish Boxty
Print
Author: Adapted from Food Network
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 45 mins
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • Boxty Pancakes
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) freshly cooked potatoes
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) peeled raw potatoes
  • 8 ounces (225 grams/ generous 1 1/2 cups) white flour
  • 1/4 American teaspoon baking powder (1/2 Irish teaspoon bread soda), sifted *see note
  • 8 to 12 fluid ounces (225 to 300 millileters/1 to 1 1/2 cups) buttermilk
  • Pinch salt (optional)
  • Butter, for frying
  • Note: an Irish tablespoon is the same quantity as an American tablespoon plus a teaspoon
  • Chicken & Cream Filling
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 8 oz. sliced button mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup madiera
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
Instructions
  1. Boxty Pancakes
  2. Peel the cooked potatoes while they are still hot, drop into a bowl and mash immediately. Grate the raw potatoes, add to the mashed potatoes with the flour and sifted bread soda. Mix well, and add enough buttermilk to make a stiff batter.
  3. Heat a frying pan, grease with butter and cook large or small pancakes in the usual way.
  4. Chicken & Cream Filling
  5. Heat olive oil, in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add in cubed chicken and cook until just cooked through, about 7-10 minutes. Add the chopped shallots and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes, until they have released all their moisture. Pour in the madiera and reduce until there is about 1 tablespoon left, about 5 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream and milk and stir well. Lower heat to medium and simmer to thicken, 2-5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Chocolate Stout Cake

St. Patrick’s Day is in less than a week and as someone with predominantly Irish heritage, I always enjoy celebrating the holiday with some Irish inspired dishes. This week, I’ll be sharing with you some Irish dishes that you can make to celebrate too!

I spotted this recipe, a chocolate stout cake, on one of my new favorite baking blogs, Sweetapolita, a week or so ago and realized I had all the ingredients on hand to make it. Few things go together better than chocolate and Guinness and then add the fact that you can eat them together in cake form. Brilliant!

Start this cake by measuring and cutting parchment paper to line the bottoms of two round cake pans. Then spray the pans with baking spray.

Heat the Guinness and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts.

Remove it from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth.

Pour it into a separate bowl and set it aside to cool completely (I put mine in the fridge to speed up the cooling process).

In a medium size bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. In an electric mixer, mix together the eggs and sour cream until well combined.

Add the cooled cocoa mixture and mix until well combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients and combine on low speed.

Divide the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Once cooled, frost with the whipped vanilla bean frosting.

This cake was delicious. It tasted chocolaty but also had another layer of flavor from the Guinness. There is a visible difference between my cake and the one from Sweetapolita, my cake is lighter in color. I think I may have needed a darker cocoa powder but I couldn’t find any at the grocery store. I may have to start ordering some baking ingredients online in order to get what I truly need.

The frosting was sensational! Creamy and light and the addition of the vanilla bean was a great idea, it looked like vanilla bean ice cream covering the cake. The flavor in the icing paired very well with the cake. All in all, a simple and delicious recipe and perfect for your St. Patty’s Day celebration!

The recipes for both cake and frosting can be found at Sweetapolita.com.