Yesterday, I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with my husband and my wonderful friends, Anne and Ryan. Yes, I know this post is a day late, but just try to blog after drinking a few glasses of Black Bush with Black Velvet (Guinness and champagne) chasers, and see how far you’ll get.
Although my family cannot claim to have any Irish blood in it whatsoever, my mom always liked to make corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day (my husband is about a quarter Irish, though). And I know it’s currently in vogue to prepare more “authentic” meals than corned beef, I still like to make (and eat) it. Besides, people expect it. This year, I decided to supplement it a little bit, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover a St. Patrick’s Day menu in the Lucques restaurant cookbook when I was looking for a recipe for Guinness ice cream. I surprised myself by preparing nearly the entire menu.
As a starter (this wasn’t in the cookbook), I served Irish chedder and Cashel blue (also Irish, from Neal’s Yard), and made Irish soda bread as an accompaniment. The soda bread is pretty easy to make – I think my husband could make it. But next time, I’ll forgo sprinkling the sugar on top.
The first course in the cookbook was a pureed watercress soup a la minute, with croutons spread with “gentlemen’s relish”. The “relish” was basically an anchovy butter with shallots, parsley and lemon. The soup was a little on the mild side, but the relish perked it up quite nicely. I also threw in a bunch of chives at the end.
The next course was buttered cockles on champ. Since “cockles” are pretty rare here on the west coast (they’re not indigenous to Northern America, nor are they farmed here), I substituted littleneck clams. The clams are sauteed with green onions, then white wine (I substituted champagne) and broth are added to steam them open, then they’re finished with a handful of parsley, snow pea sprouts, peas, butter and more green onions. Champ (pronounced “sham”) is a traditional Irish mashed potato dish. There’s as many versions of it as there are cooks making it, but it usually calls for loosely mashed potatoes with lots of butter, cream and green onions. When we visited my father-in-law, he prepared a version with smoked ham and mayonnaise. I decided to go tweak Lucques’ version, which called for green garlic instead of green onions (I used both). I sauteed the aromatics in plenty of butter, added cream, then added unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes that were previously boiled whole and smashed with the heel of my hand, then mashed them a little further over the heat as the cream reduced and absorbed into the potatoes. Yummy and heart-stopping. Lucques’ cookbook also suggested served brown scones with this, but I decided that it was a (carb) bridge too far.
The main course, obviously, was corned beef with boiled cabbage, turnips, potatoes and carrots. Instead of boiling the brisket for the entire time, the Lucques cookbook says to just bring the brisket to a boil, add onions and spices, then cover to pot and cook it in the oven for four hours. The brisket is then removed from the broth and baked in the oven in a separate dish at a higher temperature to “crisp” the top. In the meantime, the other vegetables are cooked in the remaining broth. I made a parsley-whole grain mustard-shallot sauce to go with this, but I think I would have like fresh horseradish as well.
Finally, for dessert, we had Guinness chocolate spice bundt cake, with Guinness ice cream. I’ve made Guinness chocolate cakes before, and the recipe I’d used previously was a dense 3 layer chocolate cake with a ganache frosting, which was quite a production to bake and assemble. I think that the spices, along with the addition of molasses, in the cake served to add extra oomph to the Guinness flavor, which was overwhelmed by the chocolate in the previously made version. The ice-cream also had molasses in it, which also served to amp up the Guinness flavor. My husband, who proclaimed he’d only have “a little taste” of the ice cream, found himself scooping up a third serving. The only difficulty I found with the ice cream is that it was slightly too icy. Next time, I’ll use only cream and no milk, plus I’ll boil down the molasses with the Guinness a little longer.
Alas, I don’t have many pictures, but I take comfort in the fact the any pictures taken would have borne witness to general debauchery, so you’ll have to take my word that it was a tasty meal. A hostess’s hint: These courses are pretty heavy, so start serving early and space lots of time in between. Do as much of the prep work (chopping all the veggies and herbs, baking the cake, making the sauces, freezing the ice cream, etc.) as possible the day before. That way, you can celebrate instead of being stuck in the kitchen the entire time. And, uh, it’s a lot easier to cook while inebrieted if your mise is already in place.