Showing posts with label smoked salmon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label smoked salmon. Show all posts

Friday, October 14, 2016

Meet the Benny

Do you know what a benny is? I mean, the kind you eat? I didn’t until a few weeks ago, when I met my first one and fell in love.

In doing in-depth research for this post (that is, I googled it), I found that “benny” can mean (1) a tablet of benzedrine, (2) a rude, flashy tourist at the Jersey Shore, (3) a hundred-dollar bill (Benjamin Franklin, see), or (4) a sudden period of uncontrolled anger. No food version of benny made the first page.

But I had met one, face to face. And then in New Orleans for Bouchercon I met a second, different one, so I knew something was up in the food world.

A few weeks ago we had relatives visiting Cape Cod, so we joined them for lunch. They recommended a small, local restaurant down the road a mile or so: the Keltic Kitchen. Please forgive the place for their kitschy name, because the food is definitely Irish. Their menu is massive, but they had one page with multiple Bennys (Bennies?).

I ordered the most elaborate one, the Potato Cake Salmon Benny. And it was spectacular.

As near as I can figure, an edible benny is a creative adaptation of the old stand-by Eggs Benedict. The only consistent characteristic is the presence of a poached egg and hollandaise sauce on top. Underneath that, anything goes.

So here’s my homage to the Keltic Kitchen Potato Cake Salmon Benny.

Potato pancakes (two for each serving)
Thinly sliced smoked salmon
Thinly sliced red onion
A poached egg (it should be runny)
Hollandaise sauce*
A sprinkling of capers

*A note re hollandaise sauce: The traditional version is complicated to make, but I remembered that Julie Child had provided the simpler version called Blender Hollandaise in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Three ingredients: egg yolks, lemon juice and butter (plus a bit of salt and pepper). You make it in a blender (you remember those, right? The one I used was a wedding gift in harvest gold). 

I’m sure somebody has updated the recipe for a food processor or immersion blender. But I give you permission to buy the stuff if you can find it, or (gasp) just use mayonnaise.

For the potato pancakes, shred the potatoes, make patties about a half-inch thick, and cook them on an oiled grill until they’re golden brown and crunchy. These are what hold the whole thing together.

Place one potato pancake on a plate, then layer on the smoked salmon and the onions (if you like onions—the red ones are mild).

Gently poach an egg (you can do this ahead) and lay it on top. (Sound of hysterical laughter. I own an egg poacher, inherited from my mother. Can I find it, the one time in this millennium that I decided to poach eggs? No, of course not. Back to Julia Child, who makes it simple–along the lines of “slip a raw egg into simmering water, wait, remove from water and place in cold water.”)

Add a nice dollop of hollandaise sauce on the poached egg, then sprinkle with the capers. Place the second potato pancake on top. Serve hot!

And that’s it! If you’ve got the timing right, when you break into the egg, it melds with the hollandaise sauce and runs over and into the yummy stuff beneath. And the combination is amazing--crunchy, tart, tangy, salty.

A note: this is a large sandwich and makes a hearty lunch. And you can’t even think about picking it up—it takes a fork. But it’s worth the effort.

The next time I’m in that Cape Cod neighborhood (just east of Hyannis), I’m going back. If you’re ever vacationing on the Cape, stop in for a meal. And the manager happens to be from West Cork—I asked. Hmm—I know a great place for smoked salmon in West Cork . . .

A final note: having now made this dish, I think having a kitchen staff working with you (and cleaning up) is a good idea--it takes lot of pots and pans!

Seeds of Deception is out!

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and plenty of bookstores (I hope!).

Friday, June 10, 2016

Smoked Salmon Tartlets

I am in Ireland now, furnishing my very own cottage (once I get the electric and water turned on). I first visited Ireland in 1998 and fell in love, but it took until 2016 to stake a claim to a small piece of it (one-half acre, to be precise), in the heart of West Cork, where my father’s family came from. In fact, if you look up the hill, you can see where my great-grandmother Bridget Regan was born in 1841. The house is still standing.

When we first started traveling to Ireland, the food was as bad as everyone said: watery stews, with chunks of ham, cabbage and potatoes. The bread and butter were always good, as was the Guinness, but the sit-down meals? Not so much.

Now the food is terrific, even in smaller towns. I’ve watched the restaurants moving in, and I’ve sampled the menus (all for research, of course), and I’m blown away. Even the pubs have stepped up their game.

This recipe is adapted from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook, which has gorgeous pictures. If I can find a pub where they make this dish, I may stake out a permanent seat. I do know where to find locally-made smoked salmon, made in a small building in Union Hall in West Cork (near the wonderful fish store I keep returning to)—and you can buy it at the Skibbereen Saturday Market. I’ve been known to plan trips so I can visit the market.

Smoked Salmon Tartlets

The original recipe called for six 3-1/2 inch fluted tart pans with removable bottoms. Most of us probably don’t have those, so you can improvise. I had one shallow six-space pan (a flea-market find), so that’s what I used. Line the bottoms with foil if you need to, to make it easy to get the tarts out. (You could also use standard muffin tins or even mini-muffin tins, if you want to make appetizers—just adjust the cooking time.)


1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
5-1/2 Tblsp cold salted butter, cut into pieces

It doesn't get much simpler than this,
does it?
Grease (or line) your tart pans. Put the flour and salt into a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and process until the mixture looks line fine bread crumbs.

Place in a large bowl (or just leave it in your food processor bowl) and add just enough cold water to let the dough stick together. Place the dough on a floured surface and cut into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a circle, then press into the tart pans. Clean up the edges. Put a piece of parchment paper in each, then fill with pie weights or dried beans and chill for 30 minutes.

I feel the need to point out that in general I am pie-crust challenged. This absolutely simple recipe produced one of the best I have ever made. It was easy to roll and didn’t fall apart, it didn’t get tough with handling, and it tasted great.

(Yanno, you can just buy your crust ready-made and then cut it to fit. I won’t tell.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the tart shells from the refrigerator and bake (yes, still with the paper and beans) for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove the beans and paper.


1/2 cup crème fraiche OR 1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp creamed horseradish
1/2 tsp (oh, all right, a squeeze) of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp capers, chopped
3 egg yolks
8 oz. smoked salmon trimmings (the scrappy bits, which is cheaper), coarsely chopped
Bunch of fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the crème fraiche, horseradish, lemon juice and capers and add salt and pepper and blend well. Add the egg yolks, smoked salmon and chopped dill and mix carefully (you don’t want it to turn into mush). 

Divide the mixture amongst the pastry shells and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the top and the crust edges have just begun to brown.

Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with sprigs of dill.

They'd look a bit tidier with a different baking tin, but they sure tasted good! (My husband approved.)

Is there a book? Well, the last Irish book was A Turn for the Bad, and in that one I send Maura and her friend Gillian to a nice small cafe in Union Hall, and then to the fish store. It's a lovely tiny town where the fishing fleet is based.

I can't tell you about the next Irish book because I haven't written it yet, and it doesn't have a title. But it will be coming next spring! I'm busy doing research in Ireland now, including exploring one very nice upscale hotel. The life of a writer is hard!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Irish Pizza

Wait, ­the Irish don’t make pizza, do they? Well, this didn’t start out as pizza. After last week’s fish casserole, I got to thinking about smoked salmon (which I adore, and I do know a great place that smokes their own in West Cork) and what to do with it. Not another casserole, so what about a crust? No—puff pastry (which even out of a frozen package is far better than my pie crusts)! And cheese. But not Italian cheese—how about goat cheese? A nice sharp tang to offset the smoky creaminess of the salmon. And some good Irish cheese (Kerrygold, which does use some milk from Cork). And maybe some of my homegrown chives (which overwintered quite well, thank you) for color contrast and a hint of onion.

It was only an hour or two later that I figured out what I had done: put together the colors of the Irish flag. Which is important because this week marks the hundred anniversary of what most Irish people regard as the birth of the Republic, with the infamous Easter Uprising, a disastrous and poorly planned confrontation with British troops in the heart of Dublin. If things had ended there, probably tempers would have cooled, but the British decided they had to execute the leaders of the uprising, which rallied the rest of the population to the cause of a free Ireland. So this is my celebration. 

The Irish flag (bratach na hÉireann) is a vertical tricolor of green, white and orange (in that order, left to right). The green represents the Gaelic tradition of the country, the orange represents the followers of King William III (of Orange) in Ireland (his troops defeated King James II at the Battle of the Boyne), and the white stands for the hope for peace between the two. It was first raised over the General Post Office in Dublin in 1916 and came to be seen as the national flag, and symbolizes the hope for union.

Here endeth the history lesson. Let’s eat!

Irish Pizza

1 piece frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions

8 oz. smoked salmon (you don’t have to buy the expensive stuff—a package of the tag ends would do just fine and it’s cheaper)

4 oz. goat cheese (okay, here I faced a dilemma: goat cheese is squishy, in general, so how do I spread it evenly over the crust? I froze it first, then grated it coarsely!)

4 oz. Kerrygold Irish Cheddar, grated

1 bunch chives (however many you like)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and lay the thawed piece of puff pastry on top.

Isn't that a great rolling pin? It was a gift from
my sister in law, who knows the guy who
made it.
If the smoked salmon pieces are large and/or raggedy, chop them up into smaller pieces (but not too small).

Chill your cheese, then grate it. Roughly chop your chives.

Sprinkle the grated goat cheese evenly over the crust. Place the salmon pieces on top, then sprinkle with the chives. Add a top layer of the cheddar. (Don’t overload the crust or it won’t rise well.)

At this point a little oil might be good. I’d suggest butter, which would be more Irish, but I don’t think that would work, so a neutral vegetable oil or oil will do just fine. Add just enough to keep the toppings from burning while the crust is cooking.

Bake for…well that’s a little tricky. Bake until the crust has risen and the cheese in lightly browned. The edges will rise first, but be patient and wait until the center had risen too (it won’t go as far as the edges). Keep checking every couple of minutes to make sure things aren’t browning too quickly, but it wasn’t a problem. Total time was probably 20-25 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and let cool briefly, then cut into serving pieces. This recipe served two of us (my husband scarfed down the last piece as a late snack), but to serve more just duplicate it (the frozen puff pastry comes in a package with two, so you’d be all set).

Now raise a glass of Guinness (or Murphy's stout, which is made in Cork city), or maybe a shot of good whiskey (quite a few labels are made in Middleton, which is also in Cork), and salute one hundred years of Irish history!

[If I don't respond to your comments quickly, it's because I'm hanging out with all my cozy-writer friends--and probably some of you readers--at Malice Domestic in Maryland.]

A Turn for the Bad (County Cork Mystery #4) came out in February 2016 and was a Barnes and Noble bestseller.

The next book doesn't yet have a name or a cover, but it will appear in February 2017. I can tell you it involves an old open case and a big snowstorm (yes, they do happen in Ireland, if rarely)!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Smoked Salmon Chowder

by Sheila Connolly

I love to talk about Irish food. And I happen to be in Ireland at the moment, making the most of local food.

Smoked Salmon Chowder

Irish food keeps evolving, and quickly. I first visited Ireland in 1998, with my husband and daughter. With just my daughter in 1999. In 2001, with a friend I’d met online because we both had ancestors who lived in a tiny townland in County Carlow. There was a pause of a few years, and then I started going back in 2011, and 2012, and twice in 2013, and now again in 2014. The trips began long before I even thought of writing, but once I started writing, I knew I had to write about Ireland, and in particular, County Cork, where my grandfather was born.

Looking back on those first few trips, I have trouble remembering any noteworthy meals, either in Dublin or out in the country (unless you count the French fry sandwich in Carlow). It was almost as though the Irish were trying to live up to their own reputation for lousy food: watery potatoes, mushy carrots, soggy cabbage and grey meat. I ate my share of it, because there weren’t a lot of choices.

But things started changing. In an Irish paper just this month, I read that West Cork is now “a byword for good food.” The writer went on to say, “anyone who doubts that West Cork is now driving the food revolution begun in Ballymaloe [site of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, also in Cork] should visit the farmers’ market in Skibbereen any Saturday morning.”

I wrote about that famers’ market after I visited last November. Believe me, this year I’ll be there, shopping bag in hand.

This year I’m going back to Ireland (unexpectedly) because the pub that I write about—that used to be called Connolly’s—is reopening this month, after it went dark several years ago, and I want to be there. Having decided that I was going, I started making a list of places I wanted to visit or revisit, and the farmers’ market was near the top of that list (right after Connolly’s and the Drombeg Stone Circle). I’m actually staying in Skibbereen this time, and can walk to the farmers’ market. And to the amazing grocery store, where last year I bought wild game. Funny—sounds like I’m flying a couple of thousand miles just to eat, doesn’t it?

But it’s not happening only in the big town (Skibbereen’s population is about 2,700), but in the smaller villages as well. There’s Leap, which now has a bistro (that opened last year) with good food. There’s tiny Union Hall (2006 population, 192, although there are plenty of summer holiday visitors), which has its own fishing operation and a fishmonger with fresh fish that make me want to weep; and a place down the road that makes its own smoked salmon; and a new distillery that makes Irish whiskey.

Yes, West Cork has discovered food--fresh, local, and outstanding. They even have a food festival (in September, alas, so I will miss it). So rather than find a cute B&B (since I’m traveling without family and friends this time), I’ve rented a small one-bedroom place so I could have a kitchen and take advantage of some of this fabulous fresh food.

And lest you think that this town has gone food-mad merely as a tourist gimmick, as a central town in the region Skibbereen has been holding weekly markets for well over a century—year round. Live chickens and ducks. Apple trees. “Tat” dealers (sort of like a flea market table). And one man who carves magic wands from bog oak. Yes, I have one.

This recipe is a nod to the Union Hall Smoked Fish Company that I hope to have explored fully by the time you read this. (Wonder how much I can fit into my carry-on?) The recipe is derived from one I found in Margaret Johnson’s The New Irish Table, into which I inserted more than a dozen sticky notes the first time I read it. Yum!

Smoked Salmon Chowder

3 Tblsp unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz. white mushrooms, chopped
2 Tblsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
Ground white pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour
2 cups fish stock or bottled clam juice
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
Sour cream and a few fresh dill sprigs for garnish

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic, mushrooms and parsley. Cook for 2-3 minutes until tender. Add the salmon and the pepper and sauté for another two minutes, until the salmon is heated through.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour. Return to the burner  and cook over low heat, stirring (this “cooks” the flour). Gradually add the fish stock or clam juice, stirring continuously until the flour is incorporated. Return to medium heat and bring to a boil, then quickly reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Stir in the cream.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Add a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraiche and top with a dill sprig.

It's a fairly quick recipe (once you get done chopping everything!), and I have a suspicion that this soup might be good cold as well.


And since I'm talking about Ireland, here's a sneak peek at the cover for the next County Cork Mystery, An Early Wake (coming February 2015)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pasta with Smoked Salmon

by Sheila Connolly

I love smoked salmon. There’s nothing that tastes quite like it. Of course, I can’t afford it most of the time, but now and then I indulge in a package of kind of tag ends (what's left after all those tidy slices you put on your canapés along with a sprig of dill and a few capers). Tastes just as good and it’s less expensive. 

So there was this day when I didn’t feel like cooking anything elaborate, so I started rummaging in my fridge…  Oh, joy, smoked salmon shreds. And some nice chives. And cream cheese. And behold, a pasta dish was born. 

This is a no-brainer, and can be made for as little as one person, or expanded to feed many (well, I haven’t quite tested the upper limits).  

For each serving for two people: 

1/2 pound smoked salmon, chopped or diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 half-inch bunch fresh chives, chopped however fine you like them
4 oz. cream cheese (note: I use the real stuff, but you could use the lo-fat version; the same goes for the cream)
Pepper (you won’t need to add salt because the salmon is salty)
Lemon juice if you want to sharpen the flavor a bit

Boil large quantities of water.  Add salt. Cook whichever pasta you fancy according to package directions. 

Chop the salmon and the chives.  In a shallow pan over low heat, melt the cream cheese together with the cream until liquid. Do not boil. 

Add the salmon and heat through (you do not need to cook it!). At the last minute add the fresh chives and pepper, and taste for seasoning. 

Drain your pasta, then put back in the pan or in a bowl and toss with the salmon sauce until blended. Serve immediately. 

Fast, tasty and pretty too! I suppose if you were in a fancy mood and happened to have some of those capers in the fridge too, you could toss them in for a bit of tartness.

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.

Can you see the smoke? (on the left)

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

Smoked salmon
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
mine in the microwave with a little water.  It took all of five minutes on high, and I didn't have to boil anything.  (Don't let them overcook!) Drain them, then while still warm, toss them with some of the vinaigrette and let them marinate in that for a while.

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.