Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Special Day!

Three years ago on this day I posted my first recipe on The Red Plate. And oddly enough another milestone is being reached by this post. This is my one-hundredth entry to this blog. What are the odds of two unique occurrences coming together on the same day.

I feel rather nonplussed by the numbers, however. Three years and only one-hundred entries. My original intention was to give a glimpse to friends and family the things I cook and how and why. So mission accomplished insofar as that goal is concerned, but I'd like to do more, because I really love the planning, cooking and writing.

So for today, in thinking of something basic to commemorate this milestone, what better than a supper for two fit for a chilly Winter's evening. My inspiration came just before leaving work for my lunch break, so a quick stop by the local market and I've got it going now. Beef Stew and Irish Soda Bread. Perfect for satisfying the Irish heritage of The Horn Player. 

I chose a Sirloin Tip Roast for my stew. Buying a whole piece of beef is so much cheaper than those little packages of pre-cut meat. This way I can cut it like I want it, plus, I always have a left over portion for yet another meal.

When I got home for lunch after my shopping, I cut a section of the roast for the stew and set aside the rest. I cut the meat into about 1 inch cubes and seasoned with only a small amount of Kosher salt, a hefty amount of black pepper, pinch of celery seed, fresh chopped garlic and a bright splash of Louisiana Gold pepper sauce. I mixed it well together, covered it and put it in the fridge to marry the meat and the seasoning. 

 See how much I had left over. I can use it for another recipe by using my Food Saver. ♥

And into the freezer for later. The cost of the roast was $8 and change, but the little package of pre-cut meat was that much or more. This makes way more sense to me. Agreed?

Upon arriving home at 5 o'clock, I retrieved the cubes of beef that had, by now, gotten happy in the aromatic seasoning's. Into a large pot I added a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the beef cubes I had very lightly dusted with plain flour. Browned and ready for the next step, I added a combination of chicken stock and beef stock. This blend gives a very pleasing and milder flavor, almost like a veal stock. No other seasoning necessary, just some medium-low heat and time. Cook until the meat is tender adding more stock as needed.

Into the pot go 3 medium potatoes cut into cubes, 3 carrots cut into rounds and 1/2 onion diced. Stir all together add more liquid (this time I added just water). Cover and cook until veggies are fork tender.

A peak inside the steamy pot at the tender veggies. I removed a cup or so of both the potatoes and carrots and mashed them and added the mash back to the pot for thickening. Often I make a roux and thicken by that method, but I kept this very light by not adding additional oil and flour. The last addition I made, just before serving, was a splash of brandy. If you haven't tried this, do so, it's amazing how it elevates the flavor of everything in the pot.

Now to move on to the Irish Soda Bread. If you research this bread on-line, in cookbooks or by any other method, you will find as many variations of it as there are Irish folks who bake it. I found several I liked and struck out on my own to make it suitable to me. So many recipes are huge, making 2 or more loaves. Since this is my first time to bake this, I felt I should keep it small. 

3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-3/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter

Add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl except the 1/3 cup flour and stir to combine. Into a measuring cup or measuring bowl, add the eggs and beat well. Add the buttermilk to the beaten eggs up to 2 cups total. You will have 2 cups liquid, buttermilk and eggs, to add to the dry ingredients. Pour together and mix. If needed add the extra 1/3 cup flour to make a proper batter. Stir until very well combined. This will be more a batter than a dough. Pour onto a parchment lined and buttered sheet pan and bake for an hour at 325 degrees.

Just in the oven and ready for a long slow bake. You may also choose to add this to a cake pan, but I wanted it to be rustic and take its own shape. 

What a handsome loaf straight from the oven. I loved the craggy exterior and the crunchy crust.

A slice ready for butter.

Irish Soda Bread
One bowl for you...

...and a bowl for me!

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