St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

Sunday Brunch and Dinner – 18 March 2018

Green Flowers

Aunt Pat’s Lovely Bouquet

We had the folks and Aunt Pat over early this Sunday so we could work in a late breakfast as well as dinner. Claudia was up before 7 AM putting together her white chocolate and raspberry scones, which involved a very labor intensive process of grating frozen butter into the dry ingredients mixture. We tried using a food processor for this bit, but that didn’t work out, so she went back to the box grater, painstakingly dispensing two pounds of Irish butter. Once the dough was resting in the fridge, she headed out to Yoga while I started preparing a huge pot of veggies and corned beef.

We had Pandora’s St. Patrick’s Day station streaming as the family arrived, and Claudia baked the scones. I had some sausages and Potatoes O’Brien ready, and a fresh pot of coffee on. Claudia, Pat and Mom added a wee nip o’ Tullamore Dew to their mugs. Aunt Pat brought a lovely, festive bouquet.

Claudia had also made Shamrock Bark on Saturday evening as an additional treat.

After breakfast, the folks and Pat settled in for some games of cribbage while dinner continued to simmer. In past years, we had always cooked the corned beef in a crock pot, but this year I decided to try a recipe we’d seen in Sunset Magazine for Patrick’s Corned Beef and Cabbage. I honestly don’t know how we survived before we got a 12 quart stock pot, and toward the end of the cook, it was almost too small.

We used two point cut briskets, over seven pounds together, along with five medium onions, 2 pounds of carrots, 2 1/2 pounds of red potatoes and two full heads of cabbage. The addition of malt vinegar, Guinness and lots of whole spices to the pot added something special, but what was most notable about the recipe was that the cabbage was cooked perfectly. Instead of the limp, slimy mess that usually comes out of the crock, this still had a little firmness to it, since it was added late in the cooking.

I also tried a new soda bread recipe from BTE this year. The other recipe I’ve always used includes caraway seeds and raisins, and is a little sweeter, almost like a thick scone. This one turned out to be a much better compliment to the meal, with a dense, fluffy crumb and nice crunchy crust.

Claudia also served three varieties of Irish cheeses with the meal. The wine was a very nice Matt Iaconis Cabernet Sauvignon from 2015. Some Guinness Stout, Smithwick’s Red Ale and Tullamore Dew were also consumed, and after dinner one round of Grasshoppers with mint chocolate ice cream for dessert. :)

Sláinte Mhaith!


Sunday Dinner – 4 March 2018

PosoleSeveral years ago, my friend Christopher was kind enough to send me his recipe for posole, a hearty stew of hominy and pork loin that originally comes to us from the Aztecs. I experimented with it some and finally arrived at a version that maximizes authentic flavor while paring down prep time and kitchen cleanup somewhat. There’s no doubt that Chris’ original, which creates the red sauce base from stock and powdered chilies, gives you a better opportunity to control the heat and flavor. I think it would also be interesting to slake my own maiz blanco at some point. But this version does quite nicely. In fact, when we sampled the authentic posole at our parish Día de la Independencia festival a couple years ago, Claudia commented that it tasted nearly identical to mine.

We started this Sunday morning with  2 pounds of boneless pork loin that she was kind enough to cut into cubes. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, and browned it awhile in a skillet.Then it went into the bottom of the crock pot and got covered with a large can of enchilada sauce. Next I added a couple of small chopped onions, four or five cloves of minced garlic, two teaspoons of oregano, three large drained cans of hominy, and one small can of chopped green chilis.

Some folks also like to add cayenne, but I’m cooking for some older folks whose constitutions prefer we leave it out. It turned out plenty spicy anyway. I used some chicken stock to deglaze the sauté pan and added it to the crock to make sure everything was swimming in liquid. I also seasoned with just a little salt and cracked black pepper.

After cooking on high for three or four hours, we checked for doneness and to adjust spices. The stew meat was tender, but the broth was pretty spicy, so we added another can of hominy, including its liquid. Part of the thing about this dish is the interaction of the starch from the corn and the fat from the pork creating a silky gravy consistency, so the canning liquid doesn’t hurt. I also added another teaspoon of oregano. We let it finish cooking for a total of 6 hours on high in the crock.

We had shredded cabbage, cilantro, (queso fresco for Claudia) and fresh limes to squeeze on top. We also served tomato wedges, green onions, avocado slices, and tortillas on the side.

There’s really not a single thing I’d change about this recipe. It’s rich, tasty comfort food that ought to find its way into everyone’s home.

We served Sayanca Malbec with this meal, which was decent and paired nicely, especially considering that it’s dirt cheap from Aldi’s. Micheladas would also have been a good choice. :)

Mrs. Noe mixed up a batch of her awesome Mexican Brownies for dessert, using coffee as the liquid, espresso chocolate chips, plus a little bit of cinnamon and cayenne for the kick.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the posole.

2 LBS Boneless Pork Loin, Cubed – or Chop Suey Meat
1 Large Onion
4 Cloves Garlic
4 (29 oz) Cans Maize Blanco
1 (28 oz) Can Enchilada Sauce
1 Small Can Chopped Green Chilis
2 t Dried Oregano
S & P To Taste

Brown the meat, add everything to a large crockpot and cook on high for 6 hours.

Serve with tortillas, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, sliced radishes, avocado, chopped onions, etc.


Sunday Dinner – 25 February 2018

paellaSanta brought me a paella pan for Christmas this year, and we’d been waiting for decent weather to give it a try. Although it’s still fairly cold here (in the mid 40s) the forecast for Sunday was clear so we figured it was as good a time as any. I seasoned the pan well on Saturday in anticipation.

I worked from another BTE recipe.

The broth started with a sauté of five cloves of pressed garlic in a little olive oil. After a minute or so, I added 3 tablespoons of tomato paste and a teaspoon and a half of paprika. Once that started to thicken and darken, in went a bottle of clam juice, 2/3 cup of sherry and 4 cups of chicken broth to boil for a bit.

Claudia had picked up some boneless and skinless chicken thighs from Aldi. They got seasoned with garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper, and then grilled for about 7 minutes, and reserved.

Next, I got the pan good and hot on the Weber Genesis (all three main burners on high) and sautéed a chopped onion in a little olive oil. Then came a jar of roasted red peppers. After five or ten minutes, it was time to add the rice. There was no Bomba or Arborrio to be found here, so I used a medium grain rice from the Hispanic foods aisle at Jewel, pouring three cups over the onions and peppers, then mixing things together well, coating the rice with oil, and spreading it out evenly over the pan. The chicken pieces went around the perimeter, and the juices from the plate, plus the broth, went on top. Dollops of chorizo went on as well, and this cooked, with the grill cover down and the burners on medium, for maybe 15 minutes.

We used shrimp that had already been cooked, so they were added late in the process, along with a bag of frozen peas. I’d coated the shrimp with olive oil and seasoned with paprika, garlic, pepper and salt. From this point on, it was really just a matter of rotating the pan a quarter turn every five minutes or so to make sure things cooked evenly. Toward the end, I scraped a spoonful or two from the edge to check for seasoning and doneness.

We covered the pan with foil to rest a bit at table while enjoying a nice tossed salad, some toasted baguette slices, thin slices of Manchego cheese, olives and some small grilled red and yellow peppers that had been tossed with sherry and olive oil.

Claudia’s parents and Aunt Pat joined us again this week. Pat had eaten paella once while traveling with her daughter in Spain, and hadn’t been impressed, but she loved this batch. I honestly think that it was beginner’s luck that it turned out at all. My guess is that the main trick is to not stir the rice once you’ve added the cooking liquid. All of the ingredients were done properly, and there was a good socarrat on the bottom of the pan, which, similar to Persian tadig, is a hallmark of the dish.

We enjoyed the last bottle of Cariñena Garnacha that was in the cellar, with Pandora’s Flamenco channel streaming all afternoon to help the mood.

Claudia tried her hand at flan for the very first time as well, and it was exceptional. She used this recipe from The Spruce adding chocolate dipped espresso beans for garnish.

This meal is definitely a keeper. The only things I might change would be to use more onion, maybe add some whole garlic cloves, and perhaps add some clams (and more chorizo) to the paella. I didn’t keep precise notes on timing, so I hope we’ll be able to replicate the dish this summer. It would easily serve a dozen or more, so a party may be in order.

New Food Project: Our Favorite Meals

For several years now, Claudia and I have treated Sunday Dinner as an opportunity to experiment with regional cuisines from around the world, update retro classics, or simply revisit favorite family recipes. It’s an occasion to gather around the table with her parents (and, lately, Aunt Pat as well), enjoy some unique dishes and maybe try out some new wines. Friendly games of cribbage often follow dessert.

Certain meals have become traditions for particular seasons or dates on the calendar (Jambalaya for the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, Saurbraten in October, etc.).

So, we’ve decided to start doing a little better job of remembering these memorable meals. We’ll be blogging photos, notes and links to recipes here, at least from time to time. Eventually we hope it will serve as our own personal cookbook of favorites.

Here’s some quick catching up for 2018 so far.

January 7th: Johnny Marzetti

I used a recipe from the Wall Street Journal for this. The wine was a Lodi cuvee, Sharon Weeks Cattoo Red.

January 14th: Salsiccia con Peperoni and Pasta

I grilled some mild Italian sausages along with onions and red bell peppers on the Weber Genesis to go with some rotini pasta and a mixed greens salad. Wine was F. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Zinfandel.

January 21st: Big Night Timpano!

This is a dish that had intrigued me for years before I had the nerve to actually make it. The recipe comes from Cucina & Famiglia (from the Tucci Family). After preparing this several times now, I finally have it down. Claudia made a nice salad and antipasto platter to go along, and we drank a bottle of perhaps my favorite Italian wine Nespolino Sangiovese Rubicone from 2014.

January 28th: Burns Night Supper

Our annual feast of crock pot faux Haggis, Cock-a-leekie soup, and Cranachan. The wine was an elegant and classy David Akiyoshi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. But the star of the show was some Oban single malt Scotch. :)

February 4th: Greek Fest!

When we were in Steubenville, Ohio for the annual Dean Martin Festival years ago, it coincided with the Holy Trinity Church Greek Festival. We had Spanakopita and Moussaka for the very first time. Claudia found recipes and has since perfected them. I’ll post links or recipes once I find them. We drank a nice, inexpensive Spanish Garnacha from Volteo with this meal.

February 11th: Mardi Gras

This is another meal that Claudia prepares each year, including Jambalaya and bread pudding with Bourbon sauce. Recipes to come. We drank our last bottle of Chateuneuf du Pape, a 2012 Le Prince de Courthezon.

More To Come

That’s it for now. More to come as the year unfolds.