Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Cooked in Beer

I am a newcomer to Corned Beef and Cabbage. I have generally enjoyed my corned beef deli sliced on a sandwich and my cabbage in slaw. My father is a big fan of corned beef and cabbage, but somehow it hadn’t trickled down to me. I had certainly thought about developing a recipe for St. Patrick’s Day, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Then, this winter, I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner, one of those fun nights when everyone contributes an element to the meal. One guest brought the appetizer – thinly sliced corned beef, perfectly cooked, served with dark bread and a variety of mustards. It was gone as quick as it was put out. And of course, I begged her corned beef cooking secrets. She laid out the boiling and steaming method laid out here, and I knew I had to give it a try. Okay, I did veer of her path a little by adding beer and some spices, but this method creates a tender corned beef proclaimed by my dad “a triumph.”

While making my second test round of the dish, I happened to be reading the book 97 Orchard about immigrant families in New York bringing the traditions of their home countries to their adopted home. As the corned beef boiled, I read the section on Irish cooking, and learned that, counter to the popular tale that corned beef and cabbage is a purely American creation, it is in fact an old Irish tradition, and that Irish corned beef was packed for long voyages across the Atlantic in the days of the Pilgrims. I’ve added my own culinary heritage with the bacon-braised cabbage of the South, and the final product is a real treat.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Cooked in Beer

one 3 – pound thin cut corned beef brisket

1 (12-ounce) bottle pale ale or beer

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

1 medium head green cabbage

3 strips bacon, or 2 Tablespoons bacon grease

Discard any seasoning packet that comes with the corned beef. Rinse the corned beef and place in a large Dutch oven. Pour in the beer and add enough water to cover the meat. Drop in the bay leaves, peppercorns and mustard seeds. Bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming off any scum that rises to the top. Lower the heat to medium low, cover the pot and cook at a low boil for 3 hours, adding more water to cover the meat as needed.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. When the meat has boiled, remove it from the pan to the rack of a roasting tray. I use the one that came with my oven, which has a nice deep tray and a slotted top rack. Reserve all the cooking liquid.  Fill the bottom tray with as much of the cooking liquid as will fit without touching the meat. Cover the whole very tightly with foil, sealing well. The meat is meant to steam, so you don’t want the steam to escape. Cook for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining cooking liquid into a bowl or large measuring jug and put in the fridge. Rinse out the Dutch oven.

When the corned beef has steamed for two hours, remove it from the oven and leave it covered until ready to carve.

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to serve, cook the cabbage. Skim any fat off the top of the reserved cooking liquid from them meat. Cook the bacon strips in the Dutch oven until crispy, or simply melt the bacon fat over medium-high heat. When the bacon is cooked, remove it to paper towels to save for another use and discard all but about 2 Tablespoons of fat. Prepare the cabbage by removing the dark, outer leaves from the cabbage.Then cut the head in half and remove the core. Quarter the cabbage and cut each quarter into strips about ¼ inch wide. Drop the cabbage strips into the hot bacon fat, riffling it to separate the leaves. Quickly stir the cabbage to coat it in the bacon grease, cover the pot, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring halfway. Pour in 1 – 1 ½ cups of the reserved cooking liquid, stir well, cover the pot and cook for about 10 minutes. Feel free to cook the cabbage for more or less time, depending on how you like your cabbage – a little but crisp, or completely wilted. Salt to taste.

When ready to serve, unwrap the meat, remove to a carving board. Carefully cut off any fat from the top of the corned beef, then slice into thin slices. Some of the meat may crumble off.  No worries, eat that as is or stir it into the cabbage.

Serves 6 -8, with some leftovers for sandwiches

Keep the St. Patrick’s Day spirit going with some Champ: Irish Mashed Potatoes with Green Onions or some Kiss Me, I’m Irish Cookies!

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Kiss Me, I’m Irish Cookies

St. Patrick’s Day is a silly holiday – in the best possible way.  Grown folks dressing in green fuzzy wigs and big hats.  Pinching co-workers and friends who forget to wear green.  Drinking green beer.  Singing Irish songs as if you just came over from the old country.  In fact, celebrating a holiday largely based on snake-driving has an element of silliness to it from the get go. St. Patrick, it seems, never did have anything to do with snakes.  Now you know.

Except for college, when I am sure that it was a big beer drinking occasion (I assume that because frankly, I don’t remember), I have never really gone in for too much St. Paddy’s Day fun.  My only St. Patrick’s memory is a family spring break trip to Chicago right during the St. Patrick’s Day festivities.  Of course, my brother and I were too young to appreciate the principal activities of the day. But the Chicago River was dyed green, and we could watch the parade down Michigan Avenue from our hotel.  George Bush, Senior was staying in our hotel.  He’d just started his first presidential run (boy am I dating myself now), so the Secret Service were everywhere.  I can only imagine that Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day is a Secret Service nightmare.

So in celebration of the silly, I created these Kiss Me, I’m Irish Cookies.  I am not, by the way, Irish, but that’s sort of the fun of St. Patrick’s.  Everyone is Irish for a least a day.  The cookie base is flavored with Irish cream liqeuer, topped with a chocolate kiss.

Kiss Me, I’m Irish Cookies

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

½ cup sugar

½ cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup Irish cream liqueur (like Bailey’s)

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

24 Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, beating until combined.  Add the Irish cream, beating well.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt and add to the dough, mixing until fully incorporated.

Roll generous teaspoons of dough into balls and place on the prepared baking sheets.  Press a kiss into each cookie ball, letting the dough form up around the kiss.  Bake the cookies for 8-9 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 24 cookies

Don’t forget the Corned Beef and Cabbage Cooked in Beer!

Champ: Irish Mashed Potatoes with Green Onion

 

I’ll admit I don’t know too much about Irish cooking, but I do know the Irish can make incredibly flavorful and satisfying food from simple ingredients, and no one is better with potatoes.  Champ is so deceptively simple; you won’t believe the rich flavor.  Add this to any meal and it’s instantly a simple St. Patrick’s celebration.

Champ

Irish Mashed Potatoes with Green Onions

6 green onions (about 3 ounces)

2 pounds russet potatoes (about 3 large)

2 cups buttermilk

¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter

Salt

Melted butter for drizzling

Slice the white, light green and a small bit of the dark green part of the green onions very finely. Save the rest of the dark green part for garnish. Peel the potatoes and slice into chunks.  Place in a large pan and just cover with water.  Add half the sliced green onions.  Bring to a boil and boil until the potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and green onions in a colander, shaking out the water, then return to the pot.  Place a tea towel over the pot, the cover tightly with the lid.  Leave for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the buttermilk with the remaining green onions and the butter over low heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is warmed through.

Uncover the potatoes and begin mashing.  Pour in the buttermilk mixture and mash until smooth, adding salt to taste.  The mixture will be quite loose.  Scrape the potatoes into a small baking dish, smoothing the top. You can keep the potatoes covered for a few hours at this point, or just move on to the baking.

When ready to serve, heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.  Let rest for 5- 10 minutes before serving. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with chopped green onion tops to serve.

Serves 4