The weather has finally become warm, and we’ve had some of our first spring storms. The kids are wrapping up the school year and squeezing in their final field trips. I think they had a pretty good year. My daughter received second place among 3rd Graders in a district-wide math contest a few weeks ago, and I’m so happy that my son has made huge strides from the beginning of Kindergarten to now. Now, I just have to figure out something to do with them for nearly six weeks during their summer break. I’m thinking of teaching them Japanese lessons and piano lessons, which means I only have a week to come up with some kind of “lesson plans.” Good thing the library and the parks department also have a ton of free things to do this summer.
|It looks good; it smells good...|
But in order to mark the end of my daily peace and quiet, I’m going to celebrate with some Irish food. The first thing I’m making today is Irish white soda bread. (There’s also a brown soda bread variety made with wheat flour.) It’s a bread of few ingredients. I started by mixing 4 c of all purpose flour, 1 tsp of baking soda (except that I used baking powder because my husband put the baking soda on top of the fridge where I couldn’t possibly see it or know that it was up there so I thought we were out), and 1 tsp of salt in a large bowl. Then I slowly added in 16 oz of buttermilk and stirred until it became a sticky dough, adding a little flour to stop it from being too sticky. I only kneaded this lightly because too much kneading would allow the gasses to escape. Then I shaped it into a round shape and put it in my springform cake pan (the one that I don’t trust to make a cake anymore) and cut a cross in the top of it. Before I put it in my 425º oven, I covered it with a large glass lid (to simulate what’s called a bastible pot) and baked it for 30 minutes. Then I removed the lid and let it continue baking for another 18 minutes. It looked browned on top, and the bottom sounded hollow, but when I cut it open, it looked like it needed another 5-8 minutes. Regardless, the parts that were done tasted really good. Not to mention that the edge of the pan burnt the most inconvenient part of the underside of my forearm when I was trying to get the bread out. So now I have to start my injury counter over.
|I love cabbage. Cabbage and potatoes remind me of my childhood. We'll try a different cut of meat next time, though.|
The main dish for today is bacon and cabbage. In the US around St. Patrick’s Day, many Irish-American families (and the Irish-for-a-day families) serve corned beef and cabbage. But in Ireland, it’s with bacon. And from my massive amounts of research this week trying to figure this all out, there are several different types of bacon and many different terms for it. So, here’s what I gathered, and please correct me if I’m wrong: American bacon is thinner, comes in strips, is generally fattier, and is cut from the pork belly. American bacon is almost always cured and smoked and is often called “streaky bacon” in the UK and Ireland. Irish bacon is thicker, more like a thin cutlet, and is also called back bacon, coming from the loin in the middle of the back. In the US, this is called Canadian bacon. (My dad used to cook green beans in jowl bacon, which is smoked and cured cuts from the cheeks of the pig. It also tends to be fairly fatty but adds a good flavor.) Not to mention all the other cuts of pork (cured or uncured) where we get hocks, slab bacon, fatback, gammon, rashers, salt pork, and a number of other cuts. So, needless to say, I drove to several stores including a meat market, and I still could not find any kind of back bacon. So, I bought several packages of Canadian bacon and hope that it’s close enough for Hoyle. Since it’s precooked, I didn’t have to cook it for an hour and a half. I did, however, put my Canadian bacon in a pot and boil it for a several minutes. I could skip ahead to cutting up my cabbage into chunks and taking out the thick stalks. I put my cabbage in a pot and boiled it for about five minutes. Then I added in some of the water from the meat and cooked it until the cabbage was tender. After it was done, I drained it well and seasoned it with black pepper. Once my meat has been boiled for a few minutes, I sprinkled the slices with breadcrumbs and a little bit of brown sugar. If I were using actual back bacon, I would’ve put them in the oven to brown for a bit. Although the meat and the cabbage are supposed to be served side by side, I ate them together. I think I would’ve been better buying the jowl bacon, thick cut (American style) smoked bacon, or even salt pork instead of the Canadian bacon. This dish needed the fat, and there was none with the Canadian bacon. Next time, I may go that route. But otherwise, it was very good.
|The best part of the meal. Clearly.|
And finally, an Irish meal wouldn’t be complete without some potatoes, and for this, I chose colcannon. I peeled and cut up about seven russet potatoes and boiled them. While my potatoes were boiling, I cut my kale into smaller slices and cut out the stalks. In a separate pot, I boiled my kale as well just until it has wilted and turned a darker shade of green. It didn’t take to long, a few minutes at the most. Once the kale was done, I drained it, then turned the heat back on to try to dry up some of the excess moisture. Then I added 1/3 of a stick of butter to the kale. When the potatoes were done, I drained them and heated them again to try to remove the excess moisture from the potatoes. Then I added in some heavy cream along with another 1/3 of a stick of butter and the chopped scallions. I put it back on low heat just to warm the milk and melt the butter. Then I mashed the potatoes, milk, and butter together, adding in the kale to the mix. Just before I served this, I added a little salt and made a well in the center to add the last 1/3 of a stick of butter in the middle to melt, stirring everything together. Lastly, I topped this off with freshly chopped chives. This clearly was everyone’s favorite. (Although it would’ve been better with a little bacon grease mixed in.) It was such the perfect comfort food. I will be sure to make this one again.
|Loved it all! I can't wait for leftovers tomorrow. Aw, it's too bad the kids'll be at school.|
This meal was really good. I enjoyed it even though it tried to prove how tough I am. Of course, there were things that I’d do differently next time (like wear welding sleeves when I cook), but these are definitely recipes that I would make again. The colcannon seems like the perfect Thanksgiving dish. Heck, both of them for that matter. I had pulled a recipe for Irish coffee, which consists of pouring a shot of Irish whiskey into coffee and pouring cream on top; however, I forgot to go back out and pick up some Irish whiskey. But now that I’m full from dinner, I could really go for some Irish coffee right now. After reading about Ireland, its people, and its poetry, I’ve come to realize how tough and resilient the Irish people are. And it makes me proud to have a bit of Irish in me somewhere in the mix.
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