A Belated St Patrick’s Day Dinner (that is just as good on any Tuesday!)

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St. Patrick’s Day weekend was a little hectic for us.  Actually, the last few weeks, clearly, have been quite busy.  We’ve finally settled all of the paperwork to move into our new house(!), but now we are packing up everything in less than a week to move in April 1st.  I’ve just gone through all of my clothes (I have no idea how I got so many) and even though I overhauled my closet less than two years ago, and gather up three garbage bags-worth of clothes and shoes to donate yesterday, I am slightly concerned about how I will fit all of it in my dresser and closet at the new place. I may just have to steal some of M’s closet space.  In all seriousness, I am over-the-moon with excitement knowing that we will each have our own separate closet and separate dresser.  Glorious! I haven’t even begun to sort through my kitchen items, yet.  That task is as frightening, but only because I keep assuring myself that I won’t have to get rid of anything.  Thankfully, this house comes with a huge, beautiful kitchen (with a giant pantry)!  I’m less concerned with being as selective with my precious kitchen items as I’ve had to be with my clothes.

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I am grateful that it is Spring Break, so one of my jobs is on break as well.  It’s been nice to have a little more free time to try to gather my life into boxes.  A few weeks ago, our St. Patrick’s day celebration was almost somber and sober, compared to most.  I said almost.  M had two shows with a changeover in-between.  I spent Saturday evening, while he was at Show #1, at my mother’s, to see my visiting aunt and cousin.  There, I had (the near-obligatory) corned beef.  I thought that was about the end of St. Patrick’s day food-celebrations.  However, the next morning, everyone else’s dinner proclamations on Facebook sounded just too tasty.  I found lamb chops for fantastically cheap and that settled the deal.  I set some cabbage to boil with bacon and pepper, cooked some carrots, mashed some sweet potatoes with garlic, baked up some popovers, and seared up the lambchops for a surprisingly fast and delicious dinner, complete with cider.  The perfect detail was the pan sauce I made.  M and I put it on everything.  Pan sauce is one of my favorite things to make because it is so simple.  Five extra minutes, plus a little wine and broth in the pan you’ve cooked the meat in is all it take to ramp up your meal from good to great!   

I don’t really feel like any of the cooking I did this day truly deserve a “recipe”, though I will do my best to provide a recipe-like breakdown for you.  All of the spices and flavorings are optional and interchangeable.  Choose herbs and combinations that serve your own taste.  Though I made this with St. Patrick’s day in mind, it really is easy enough to make any night of the week!  Next time you see lamb on sale, give these herbed lamb chops a try!

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Herbed Lamb Chops

Serves 4 | Prep time: 5-30 minutes | Cook time: 10-15 minutes

  • 4 lamb chops (bone-in)
  • 2 Tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp.+ olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Mix all herbs, salt, pepper, vinegar, and worcestershire sauce with enough olive oil to make a paste. Coat all sides of the lamb chops and allow to sit for, at least, five or up to 30 minutes.  After chops have marinated, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for several minutes.  Add a thin coat of oil or nonstick spray, and place the chops in.  Allow a little breathing room between chops. Sear the chops for 4-5 minutes, flip and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.  Remove chops from pan, cover and let rest while you prepare the pan sauce.

Pan Sauce

Serves 4 | Prep time: cooktime of a cut of meat | Cook time: 5-10 minutes

  • Drippings/leavings in a pan from searing meat
  • 1 c. chicken or beef broth
  • 1/2 c. white wine

Reduce heat to under the hot pan. Deglaze with wine.  Allow wine to cook for one minute, then add chicken broth. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan.  Raise sauce to a simmer, allow to reduce down to preferred thickness.

Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 15-20 minutes

  • 3 lg. sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp.+ milk of choice (nondairy is fine)
  • salt & pepper

Peel sweet potatoes.  Chop into even pieces and place into a medium pot.  Fill the pot with water an inch above the potatoes.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Remove potatoes from heat, drain, and add remaining ingredients.  Mash until smooth.

Boiled Cabbage

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 15-20 minutes

  • 1 sm. head of cabbage
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2 tsp. peppercorns
  • salt to taste

Core the cabbage and remove outer leaves.  Cut into quarters.  Place cabbage in large pot, cover with water.  Take one slice of bacon and peppercorns and wrap in a leaf of cabbage.  Add flavor packet to the pot.  Bring cabbage to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain cabbage, remove flavor packet, and discard.  Cook remaining bacon.  Use two forks to shred cabbage. Chop all three slices of bacon and add to cabbage.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

Well, perhaps I’m a little behind in blogosphere standards, but its better late than never to round-up my plans for Thanksgiving!  And since today is Prep Day #1, this update can help me build up my game plan for the next 48 hours.  Look at that multi-tasking skill!

This year, my family is doing Thanksgiving on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  My mother works Thursday night, I have a shift at a major American retail store early (so early!) Friday morning, and my sister is coming home with a friend on Wednesday then switching to her friend’s house for Thursday then back to our home for the weekend.  Plus, with Monday and Tuesday as my days off, I would have plenty of time to prep the food. All in all, Wednesday was a better day to celebrate.

We’re sticking to a fairly traditional menu, but this is my first Thanksgiving tackling gluten-free traditions.  I’ll admit, last year, only 4 weeks after going “off” gluten and at the home of an old family friend, I cheated.  Considerably.  (Confession: I am a stuffing addict).  I wasn’t ready to tackle the huge task of de-glutifying traditional foods, and I wasn’t so adjusted to making the fuss necessary to keep myself safe and healthy.  I didn’t want to impose.

This year, I’m closer.  At the very least, I will be entirely gluten-free.  My mother is still making a batch of her from-the-bag store-bought stuffing mix that I was raised on.  I’ll be following along with the mix-in recipe on the back of the packaging, starting with a base of old-fashioned, flour-free cornbread.  Other than that sticking point, all of our rolls, our pie crusts, our gravies will be wheat- and gluten-free.  I’d say that is several steps forward.

The clock is counting down on my prep time, so, here is our

Thanksgiving Menu

  • Turkey (21 lbs, no brine or anything snazzy.  Just my mother’s tried & true roasting.  I’ll keep an eye out for any family secrets–we’ve never had dry turkey, and we’ve never had to brine for that moisture)
  • Gravy isn’t too hard for us, as we’ve always made gravy with cornstarch, even before I stopped eating gluten.  An extra minute to double-check that our broth was gluten-free was all the prep we needed.
  • Stuffing
    • Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing for my mom, sister, & guests with the traditional celery/onion/herb add in listed on the bag.
    • GF Cornbread Stuffing made with Nicole Hunn’s Old Fashioned Cornbread, a recipe using only corn meal.  I made the batter last Friday, and spread it into a greased jelly roll pan (the wide, flat cookie sheets with a low lip all around) and baked the bread at the same temperature for 10-15 minutes.  The bread came out moist and thin, so that every crouton will have the crispy crust.  With this stuffing, I will be trying to imitate the recipe on the Pepperidge farm bag (and maybe win over the critics for an entirely GF Thanksgiving for next year).  Look out for onions, herbs, celery, broth, etc adding to the mix!
  • Potatoes (I’ll be the first to admit: we’re going a little overboard on potatoes this year.  Ah well, ’tis the season to indulge!)
    • Mashed Potatoes mixed until smooth with onion and chive cream cheese, cream, and butter.  Any extra will be mixed up for potato pancakes to go with our eggs and turkey hash the next morning.
    • Roasted Red Potatoes With Balsamic Dressing was one of two dishes my sister specifically requested she make.  I’m a sucker for balsamic vinegar, so a second potato dish joins our table.
    • Sweet Soul ‘Taters from Ree at The Pioneer Woman.  I made this recipe once, on a whim for no more special an occasion than a Tuesday night.  It was gone by the next morning–my mother and I polished it off for breakfast.  Sweet and crunchy, this will be the bridge dish between dinner and dessert.
  • Green Beans won’t get too fussy, although I was sorely tempted to try adding bacon and shallots for a casserole.  But this year, we stick to the classic: sauté’d with butter, letting the fresh green taste keep center stage.
  • Popovers will be gluten-free, mostly because my GF recipe starts in a hot oven, and my mother’s needs to start cold.  I used a recipe modified from Living Without‘s October issue

Popovers

  • – 1 c. milk
  • -4 eggs
  • -1/3 c. tapioca starch/flour
  • -2/3 c. white rice flour
  • -Dash salt 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place a 12 cup muffin tin in the oven to preheat.  Keep the tin warm until you are ready to pour in the batter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended.  Add tapioca starch/flour, white rice flour, and salt.  Whisk until combined and smooth.  Carefully remove hot baking tin from oven.  Lightly grease with cooking spray.  Pour in batter, filling cup s 3/4 full.  Place popovers in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees for the final 15 minutes.  It may be my old, finicky oven, or knowing my mother’s tried-and-true recipe also necessitates a temperature change, but this is the trick that works best for me.

  • Cranberry Sauce is the second recipe my sister claimed.  All I know is that it will contain oranges as well.  We also have plenty of that lovely American staple: canned, jellied cranberry sauce.  We will serve it in the perfect can shape and all.  Some traditions cannot be broken.
  • Pumpkin Pie using my riff on Bette Hagman’s Dream Pastry Pie Crust and the filling recipe on the back of the Libby’s can of pureed pumpkin.  Again, a classic.

And we have our family’s tradition of pickles (sweet and dill) and olives (traditionally black, though we’re stirring things up and adding feta-stuffed green olives to the mix) and nuts to tide over the nibblers in the last hour, when all the smells drag everyone to the kitchen, milling apprehensively as we wait for popovers to rise, for the turkey to set, as we mash the potatoes.

The pre-dinner nibbles are a bit of a mystery.  I’m not sure who first set out the dish of pickles and olives on that first Thanksgiving…most who hear this tradition look at me like I’m a little crazy.  Finally, last year, my friend from New England backed up my insistence, as her family does the same.  Maybe its a northern thing?  My dad is from New England.  Either way, I’ll have a dish out for all of my Thanksgivings.  It keeps fingers from picking at the turkey wings.

I keep going back and forth as to whether I should make another vegetable dish (or another dessert) but time will be that deciding factor.  Today (Prep Day #1) I’ll be baking the sweet potatoes, mixing the wet and dry for Sweet Soul ‘Taters but storing the two parts separately.  I’ll be mixing the pie crust dough and let that refrigerate overnight.  My cornbread has been going stale on the counter all weekend.  Tomorrow, I’ll chop all the veggies, bake the pie, and set up mise en place.  The turkey will have to go in quite early Wednesday morning, so that we can eat by 1pm or 2pm, and having everything set up in a clean kitchen will let us have a little longer to sleep.

Thanksgiving dinner.  Here we go!