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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top 'o the Morning

Today is a day dedicated to wearing t-shirts with pithy sayings like "Kiss Me I'm Irish" and to drinking beverages like green beer.  It's also the day that corned beef gets showcased somewhere other than on a bar mitzvah deli platter.  It's St. Patrick's Day.

I have made a corned beef only once and it was enough for me.  It just wasn't all that successful.   Ted advised me, after I dealt with all that greasy water, that he didn't really like anything but really thin sliced corned beef or corned beef hash.  I don't need to be told twice and corned beef hasn't darkened our doorstep since.  I have since limited my corned beefiness to the Smallman Street Deli.  Ted often orders the hash when we go out to breakfast but that's about it.

But I was feeling festive this morning, and I decided to have a corned beef redux but not like the last time.  I decided that since Ted likes corned beef so much when he eats it out at restaurants, I could do better.  And, to make matters much easier, I was at Trader Joe's the other day, and they had very lean looking precooked corned beef that would be perfect for the hash.  All systems were go!

And I figured that, if I was making the hash, why not whip up an Irish soda bread too.  I don't even need an occasion to enjoy soda bread.  It's dense and good with stews and soups.  Nonetheless, today is St. Patrick's Day and I wanted to be authentic.

The end result was breakfast for dinner, kind of.  I served the whole thing with a salad, which I think made it seem more like dinner.  Who cares -- it was good and, in case you were wondering, my corned beef hash was delicious.

Recipe:  Corned Beef Hash


1 pound piece corned beef, cut into chunks
1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup chopped onion
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes, then drain.  Pulse corned beef in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

Saute the onion and bell pepper in butter in a large skillet over medium high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 6 - 8 minutes.  Add the blanched potatoes and saute over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes.  Stir in corned beef, season with salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.  Serve hot.

Recipe:  Irish Soda Bread
(Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home, 2006)

*  Note:  I was out of currants so I used the same amount of golden raisins.


4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for currants
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants


Preheat the oven to 375F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.  Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough.  The dough will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf.  Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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