|Can you see the smoke? (on the left)|
Friday, June 28, 2013
Irish Summer Salad
by Sheila Connolly
I'm almost done with the tales of my travels (unless you beg for more). I am content to enjoy Italian cooking when someone else makes it, but I don't plan to change my own style (although there are a few more recipes…).
So now I'm easing my way back to the real world. Sigh. I may have mentioned that I bracketed my Italian journey with a couple of days in Dublin, theoretically for research, but mostly because I really like Dublin.
On one end I stayed at the hotel I've been using since 2001—near the river, and close to Temple Bar. But they were booked for the outgoing leg, so I tried a new place, the far side of St. Stephen's Green. Very posh neighborhood, I must say. I had a room that must have once been part of the servants' quarters, up on the fourth floor (and no elevator), with a tiny bathroom, but it had a view of the green.
And it was close to my favorite cookware shop. Yes, I planned my stay around visiting Stock, only a few blocks away. I love that place. I came away with a Pyrex cup with European measurements (I can never get the math right with my US cups), and some great new cookie-cutters, and a square 9" pan with removable bottom that I've been coveting for six months (the blessed thing weighs nearly three pounds, so it kind of skewed my suitcase weight). And what's more, I had a lovely conversation with an Irish woman about my problems baking brown bread, and she recommended a cookbook by Tim Allen, who is married to Darina Allen, who runs the prestigious cooking school in Ballymaloe, which is in County Cork and which I really, really want to visit, and now I have the cookbook and I may know what I've been doing wrong… End of sentence.
Anyway, I had two nights in Dublin this month, thus two dinners, and they represented the extremes of Irish cooking. The first night, after leaving Italy, all I wanted was a soft chair and a quiet place to sit and eat. But Dublin was enjoying a string of incredibly nice weather so everyone was out and most places were full. I ended up in a veddy posh (and expensive) hotel restaurant where the food looked like it came straight from Iron Chef. I mean, the appetizer (cold-smoked hake) came in a glass bowl filled with smoke. And for the main course, somebody whittled all the veggies down to miniatures about an inch tall. I was beginning to feel like Alice through the looking glass. It all tasted good, I will admit.
The second night fell at the other end of the spectrum. I went to a pub recommended by the hotel manager, and it kind of captured the worst of Irish cooking: I had a chicken breast stuffed with mashed potatoes and smoked salmon. Now, I like all of these in their own right, but they just weren't working together. Oh, and it was topped with gloppy white sauce with no particular flavor at all. Not a great meal (but at least it was cheaper than the first one!).
But that got me thinking… This past weekend I happened to be in Goshen CT, where they have an outstanding smokehouse store, Nodine's. I came back with a bag full of smoked goodies, including smoked salmon. And I happen to have a spare chicken breast all cooked and ready in the fridge. So what if I deconstruct that bad Irish meal and get it right? And make it a summer dish? We've been having a heat wave, so how about a chicken and smoked salmon salad? And I'll call it Irish Salad, in honor of the source.
Irish Summer Salad
Cooked chicken breast
New potatoes (the waxy kind)
Greens of your choice
(Those of you who are fond of raw onions may add some chopped onion—red onions would be pretty)
Vinaigrette with chopped shallots (see, I fit the onion flavor in)
Shred or dice the salmon and chicken.
Make a simple vinaigrette. Yes, you can buy it if you insist, but it really is easy: olive oil or vegetable oil, vinegar and/or lemon juice, a dash of mustard, salt and pepper, and some chopped shallots. Let it sit for a little while so the flavors come together and the shallots soften. I usually use the cruet I inherited from my mother, which conveniently has the lines for vinegar and oil marked on it.
Wash and dice your potatoes. Since it was hot, I cooked
Wash and dry your favorite summer greens—whatever's fresh from the garden. Add the meats and the potatoes, then add the vinaigrette and toss lightly. Sprinkle with capers.
The recipe reminds me of a salade niçoise, the kind made in southern France around Nice. Maybe this is Dubliner Salad.