Showing posts with label An Early Wake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label An Early Wake. Show all posts

Friday, March 20, 2015

Potato, Leek and Chicken Pie

by Sheila Connolly

Well, it’s still the week of the day of Saint Patrick, so I’ll indulge in another selection from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook. What makes this Irish? Well, there are potatoes in it, and some mushrooms. And a leek or two (wait, those are Welsh!). And it’s a handsome and tasty dish!

Potato, Leek and Chicken Pie


2 waxy potatoes, cubed
7 Tblsp salted butter
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast 
   (about 6 oz), cubed
1 leek, sliced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2-1/2 Tblsp flour
1-1/4 cups milk
1 Tblsp Dijon mustard
2 Tblsp fresh sage, chopped (use dry if you have no fresh)
8 oz phyllo pastry (thaw if frozen)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the potatoes in a saucepan of boiling water (I used the microwave) for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Melt half the butter in a skillet and cook the chicken for 5 minutes, or until browned.

Add the leek and mushrooms to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minutes, stirring continuously. Gradually stir in the milk and bring to a boil. Add the mustard, sage and potatoes, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

While the mixture is simmering, melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan (or microwave). Line a deep pie dish with half of the sheets of phyllo pastry. Spoon the chicken mixture over the phyllo layer and cover with a single sheet of pastry. Brush a little of the melted butter on, then lay a second sheet on top and brush it with butter as well.

Okay, this is where I started giggling at the instructions: Cut the remaining phyllo pastry into strips and fold them onto the top of the pie to create a ruffled effect. Really? How do you ruffle phyllo? (Fast, at least—it dries out quickly.) I soldiered along and came up with a result that looked pretty much like the picture in the book. Hard to go wrong, since it will taste good no matter what, especially after you drizzle whatever is left of your butter over the top. Be generous with it (support the Irish dairy industry!)

Cook in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. It doesn’t cut neatly, so you’ll have to serve it with a spoon. But it’s nice and crunchy on top, and the phyllo contrasts well with the creamy filling. I think the Irish are on to something!

In honor of Saint Patrick (who didn't visit County Cork, as far as I know), here's the trio of County Cork Mysteries (each of which was a New York Times bestseller--go Ireland!)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Red Cabbage with Mushrooms and Bacon

by Sheila Connolly (or Sile ni Conghaile this week)

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which has been celebrated since the ninth century, so I figured I should find an Irish recipe to celebrate. Thing is, my family didn’t cook “Irish.” Mostly we ate all-American meat and starch and veg, with the occasional lamb stew.

I have made corned beef and cabbage maybe once in my life, just to find out what it was all about. It’s not hard to make, but I prefer my corned beef in a Reuben sandwich. We do eat Shepherd’s Pie at my house (with ground lamb) and lamb stew, but lamb is hard to get around here and expensive even when it is available.

What’s a cook to do? Once again I turned to The Irish Pub Cookbook, where there are still plenty of sticky-tabs marking recipes I want to try. That’s where this recipe came from, although I made a few changes. It’s a side dish rather than a main course, but would go well with a nice leg of lamb. Or a pork roast, if you’re not Irish (sorry to hear that!). It’s tangy with a little sweetness, and it’s colorful.

Sorry, I couldn't resist--cabbage looks so interesting
in cross-section


1/2 large head of red cabbage (or a whole small head)
[Note: I weighed my cabbage—it was four pounds, and about the size of a bowling ball. Half of that would be two pounds. Two pounds of cabbage made enough of this dish to serve an army, and my vintage wok was the only pan I had that would hold it all. If you aren’t expecting hordes of people, you can easily cut this recipe in half.]

2 Tblsp vegetable oil

3 thick bacon strips, diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tsp thyme leaves
2-1/2 cups cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped (my market didn’t have cremini, so I used portobello mushrooms instead)
grated zest of one lemon
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tblsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
pat of butter

Quarter the cabbage lengthwise, discard the core, and slice widthwise to make ribbons. (Narrow ribbons will cook more quickly, but it’s not always easy to slice cabbage thinly.)

Heat the oil in a casserole or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon for 5 minutes, until crisp.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and the thyme. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.

Add the mushrooms and sliced cabbage to the pan, then cook for another 5 minutes, until the cabbage starts to soften.

Stir in the lemon zest, salt, pepper, and sugar and cover for three minutes. Pour in the vinegar and the stock, cover again, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until the cabbage is tender (keep tasting to see if it’s done).

Just a bit of green!

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the parsley and the pat of butter just before serving.

And raise a glass to St. Patrick!

Sure and there's still An Early Wake, the new County Cork book--only a month old, it is.

And if you're in the mood for something Irish but a bit shorter, there's the e-story Under the Hill--still free for Kindle and Nook!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie

by Sheila Connolly

Guess what: there are no apples in this pie!

My grandmother did not cook. Which is odd when you think that she worked in the food industry (for Lipton Tea) for almost twenty years, and she knew a number of New York chefs personally. But the kitchen (a liberal use of the term) in the apartment in the residence hotel where she lived for several decades had been a closet originally (in fact, her clothes closet was bigger), and had a tiny sink, a minuscule refrigerator, and two electric burners. She also had a toaster oven—and room service.

But one of the most vehement arguments we ever had was over this recipe, the one that used to appear on the Ritz Cracker box (alas, no longer), about whether it actually tastes like apples. I was skeptical, but she was adamant.

The recipe apparently emerged during the Depression, but became really popular during the Second World War, both eras when fresh produce was hard to get, and crackers were cheap. And I realized that despite that argument, I had never actually made this recipe. So this is a weird tribute to my late grandmother.

Ritz Mock Apple Pie (No apples needed!)

Pastry for a two-crust 9” pie
36 Ritz crackers (I love the way you have to count them!)
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tblsp lemon juice
Grated rind of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Fit one crust of pastry into your pie pan. Break the crackers coarsely onto the crust.

Combine the water, sugar and cream of tartar in a saucepan, and boil gently for 15 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and rind. Let cool.

Pour the syrup over the crackers in the pan, dot generously with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cover with the top crust and crimp the edges together. Slit the top crust to let steam escape.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is golden. Serve warm.

The Verdict: Well…too sweet and too soupy. Too much lemon rind, but that might have been my fault. The texture was convincing if you normally make your pie with mushy apples rather than ones that hold their shape. I can tell you that it did not taste like Ritz Crackers. But not a lot like apples either.

So since I had nothing more important to do than watch snow fall, I made it again. Same crust, but I changed everything else, just a little. Less water, less sugar. Forget the lemon rind. More butter and cinnamon. And a few more crackers.

Did it help? Well, maybe. It was firmer, and not so cloyingly sweet. But it still didn’t taste like apples! Think of it as a cracker pie and you might like it.

Looks like apple pie, doesn't it?

Yes, it snows in Ireland, now and then, but nothing like in Massachusetts! If you're looking for an escape from what's left of the snow/ice/slush/gloom of your winter, wherever you are, try a quick trip to Ireland with An Early Wake.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Apple-Cranberry Cake

by Sheila Connolly

You’re going to be seeing a string of baked treats from me over the next few weeks. Why? Because it’s been snowing in my home state for the past month (new records right and left), and there’s a five-foot drift outside my kitchen door and I can measure the icicles in feet instead of inches. When I’m snowed in I feel the urge to bake.

The last of my 2014 crop

I can already hear you whining, “Not another apple recipe!” Well, I’m trying to use up the last of my 2014 apple crop. Yes, I’ve kept some in my fruit bin in the refrigerator, just to see what happens to them over time (research for the Orchard Mysteries, of course). Some varieties hold up better than others. But keep in mind that storing apples over the winter is a time-honored tradition, at least in New England where winters are long, so I’m just following my ancestors.

I didn’t have a lot left, which means I kind of mixed and matched for this recipe. That’s not a problem, because they differ in flavor and texture, and they all sort of even out in the end. The fact that they had softened with age didn’t matter with this recipe either, since the apples are shredded and put into the batter. One note: I’m not wild about peeling apples (or anything else, for that matter). My antique apple peelers are the exception, because they’re fun to use, but they work only on firm fresh apples, which these weren’t. So…I just cored them and shredded them in the Cuisinart without peeling. Hey, roughage is good for you, and as you’ll see, the skins more or less vanished in the cooking.

Three medium-sized apples yield 4 cups shredded fruit, if you use a food processor. This batter will be stiff, but it’s important to keep mixing until the apples and cranberries are evenly distributed.

Apple Cranberry Cake

1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
10 Tblsp (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
3 large apples, cored, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Shredded apples (with peel)

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg to blend them.

In a stand mixer set on medium speed, beat the butter with the granulated and brown sugars until well blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. With the mixer set at its lowest speed, blend in the flour mixture.

You might have noticed by now that 
most of us on MLK like to take pictures
of our mixer spinning

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. With a rubber spatula (or something pretty heavy-duty), stir in the apples and cranberries (and walnuts if you’re using them) until they are evenly distributed. Spread the batter in the pan.

Bake the cake for 65 to 70 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Ready to bake
After baking

I’m not sure whether this recipe wants to be a cake or bars—it works either way. If you’re thinking “cake” you can serve it warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

An Early Wake, released February 3rd, was a New York Times Paperback bestseller in its first week, and ranked #10 among Barnes & Noble paperbacks. The reviews have been heartwarming, and I am so happy that I've been able to make readers see Ireland the way I see it.

Go raibh maith agat!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ahem...a small announcement

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Irish Scallop Chowder

by Sheila Connolly

from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook 2012

If you think Irish pub food is dull and heavy on the cabbage, think again: this is a great cookbook that I treated myself to, with wonderful pictures, and I’ve bookmarked a lot of the recipes and am working my way through them. And of course I have to visit a lot of Irish pubs to make sure the recipes are accurate!

A few weeks ago I found that our local market had started to stock a new line of fish products: a mixture of shellfish, shrimp and whatever, flash-frozen. Since this recipe called for a variety of seafood, it was perfect, and it was exactly the right amount. I figured it had to be a sign that this dish would be on the menu.

I'm a sucker for baby squid (ooh, a pun!)

It’s a fairly quick and easy recipe—and definitely tasty. I served it with St. Brigid’s bread, which rounded out a nice meal.

Irish Pub Scallop Chowder

3-1/2 Tblsp butter

9 oz large scallops, quartered
4 bacon strips, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 starchy potatoes (russets or Yukon Gold), diced
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 cups chicken stock (or you could use fish stock)
2 cups whole milk, scalded
9 oz. mixed cooked seafood (shrimp, mussels, etc. (not fish)
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallops in batches (not all at once) and cook for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. [Note: you may find that the scallops release a lot of liquid, which makes it hard to brown them. Don't worry about it--you just want to cook the scallops lightly. The remaining liquid will cook down over the next few steps.]

Add the bacon to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to brown.

Add the onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes. [I have a confession to make: I don’t really like celery. I find that if I include it in a dish—and I know a lot of recipes do!—the result always tastes too much like celery to me. It’s up to you if you want to include it.] Season with salt and pepper, then cover and cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables start to soften.

Add the thyme to the vegetables. Pour in the stock, cover the pan, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

Remove the thyme sprigs. Mash a few of the vegetable with a spoon, to thicken the soup. Pour in the milk (which will already be warm, since you scalded it--a microwave works well for this).

Add the scallops and mixed seafood to the pan. Cook until they are heated through but don=t let the mixture boil.

Serve in warm bowls.

Ah, yes, the book: An Early Wake, third in the County Cork Mysteries, released February 3rd.

#10 in Barnes & Nobles mass market mysteries! #12 in all Barnes & Noble mass market books! And! (Drumroll, please) #10 on the New York Times Mass Market Bestseller list!

The reviews have been so lovely. I'm thrilled that I've been able to make readers "see" Ireland the way I do, and now they want to visit. It's worth the trip!