March 29, 2015

First Local Food of Spring - How Sweet !!

Maple Syrup!

Maple sugaring is our sweet farewell to winter. Crews of friends head into the woods to tap maple and birch and boil the sap to thick liquid gold. It's all-consuming work that requires hours of standing and stirring over open kettles, faces flushed with the steam, sipping maple coffee, maple hot toddies, and tossing syrup on snow for crackling candy. Syrup is the first real harvest of the season that can see us through the year.  

Nothing compares to the slightly smokey flavor of real maple syrup boiled over an open fire. In these two simple recipes, the flavor shines.

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette
Makes 1-1/2 cup (easily doubled)

I keep big jars of this on hand for salads (especially wild rice salad), to baste roast chicken, or drizzle over pork chops as they come off the grill. 

1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 shallots, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon coarse mustard
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Put all of the ingredients into a blender, except the vegetable oil and process. Gradually add the oil in a slow steady stream.

Maple Frango
Serves 6 to 8

It's really important to use great maple syrup in this very simple old fashioned dessert.

1 cup maple syrup
4 eggs, separated
2 cups heavy cream

In a medium sized saucepan, warm the syrup, then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened (it will lightly coat the back of a spoon). Remove and allow to cool.

Beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Whip the cream. Fold both the egg whites and cream into the maple mixture; don't overmix -- there should be streaks.  Pour this into individual glasses or into an 8 x 8-inch pan. Put into the freezer to chill until very firm but not frozen and cut into squares to serve. (You can make this ahead, freeze, then remove from the freezer to soften before cutting and serving).

March 16, 2015

Spirited Corned Beef!


St. Patricks Day, the favorite dish is corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. And while, it's not a traditional feast dish in Ireland, it is tender and delicious and about the easiest cut to cook, perfect for a crowd. The only trick is to cook it long enough on a low simmer with plenty of pickling spices and a bottle of beer -- a good stout (Guinness or a Harp Larger works well).  Once the beef is cooked, remove it and drain off most of the liquid, then remove the meat and glaze it with a little honey and mustard before serving it up. Add sliced potatoes and carrots in the pot to steam in the leftover cooking juices. Slice and serve the meat on top with lots of soda bread and plenty of beer.


Corned Beef Dinner
Serves about 8

2-1/2  pounds corned beef brisket
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon peppercorns
3 to 5 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1 bottle beer
10 to 12 cloves garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 small head green cabbage, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 leek, white part only, sliced into coins
2 carrots sliced into coins
1 parsnip cut into coins

Put the brisket, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves bay leaves, mustard seeds, cardamom, beer and garlic cloves into a large pot and add enough water to cover by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for about 3 to 4 hours or until the meat is very tender.
Remove the meat and set on a baking dish. Rub the mustard and honey over the top of the meat. Bake in in a preheated 350 degree oven about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the meat is nicely glazed.

Drain off all but about 10 inches of the cooking liquid from the pot. Add the cabbage, leak, carrots and parsnip and return to the heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 5 minutes.

Slice the meat thin and serve on top of the vegetables.