Saint Paddy’s Way

On Groundhog Day, people around the world celebrate this very important, very American holiday.French and Italian schoolchildren draw pictures of giant rodents wearing top hats and driving Cadillacs.  Smoked turkey legs, macaroni salad, and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are specials on every restaurant menu.  Peruvian grocery stores have sales on Twinkies, mayonnaise, and aerosol cheese.

Japanese college kids wearing “Hug me I’m American” pins get drunk on alcoholic beverages in silver pouches and Budweiser tall boys served in paper bags.  German walk around in cardboard baseball caps and in England, for this one day, biscuits are actually biscuits, and not cookies.  But instead of butter or honey, they smother them with beans.And, this is how Irish folks feel when they see how we have distorted what traditionally was a pretty low-key feast day for Saint Patrick.  For those readers with little familiarity of the Catholic Church, a feast day doesn’t mean a huge meal, it’s just a day of remembrance of a particular saint.

And Saint Paddy’s isn’t even a top tier feast day.  The Catholics rank them, and Saint Paddy is strictly middle of the road.  It’s the iceberg lettuce, the 10% off sale, the Val Kilmer Batman of feast days. Although there is a legitimate source for drinking yourself silly on March 18.  The day falls smack dab in the middle of Lent, which is a period of self-reflection, and abstinence.  The church though, lifted the Lenten restrictions for the day.

So, party on, Garth.

For the day I have one legit Irish dish, and one recipe that is a complete and total corruption (but a fun, tasty, and easy-to-make abomination).

Classic Colcannoncolcannon 24 pounds waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into similar sizes

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 head green cabbage, sliced thin

½ cup butter

¾ cup buttermilk

5 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, crumbled

½ cup chopped parsley

Little pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Salt & pepper to taste (so taste, please)

Put spuds in large pot cover with heavily salted water.  Cook on medium high until fork-tender.  While potatoes cook, melt butter in large skillet on medium.  Put cabbage and onion into skillet and cover.  Let veg wilt down and release liquid, then uncover and cook until they’re lightly golden.  Remove from heat and set aside.

When potatoes are cooked, drain, then return to pot. Pour butter and vegetables over the potatoes, add nutmeg.  Mash with potato masher until mostly smooth.  Stir in buttermilk, a little at a time, until mashed potato smoothness.  Season, taste and re-season, if necessary.   Plate on large platter.  Sprinkle bacon and parsley on top.  Serves 8. 

And now, for an absolutely ridiculous, but totally yummy faux Irish treat (I don’t even think they sell Lucky Charms in Ireland…).

Lucky Rice Krispy Treatsirish rice krispies3 cups Rice Krispies

3 cups Lucky Charms cereal

2-16-ounce bags of marshmallows

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

2-3 drops green food coloring

Big pinch salt

Place butter into a large heavy pot and add marshmallows, vanilla, salt, and green food color.  With heat on medium, stir until the marshmallows are melted.Pour Rice Krispies and Lucky Charms into the melted marshmallows and gently stir until it’s combined.  Pour into greased 9X13 dish, smooth top.  Let cool (approx. 2 hours) before slicing.

I don’t think anybody really minds that once it crossed the Atlantic, St. Pat’s Day has become a little “different”.  It’s just kind of interesting.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to get a jump on my Arbor Day shopping.Thanks for your time.

I’m Not Martha Stewart

I have a confession to make.

Martha Stewart kinda scares the figgy pudding out of me.

There’s just something about her.  Anybody that can make a grilled cheese by starting with a wheat field and a cow is pretty darn intimidating.  Part of it might be that fixed, slightly deranged gaze of an unhinged synchronized swimmer.  I firmly believe that under the right circumstances, she’d happily cut me.  She’s done time in the slammer you know.

But, I do admire Martha’s skills.  That woman could take an envelope and an old sock and turn it into a chandelier.  She could take half a Big Mac, an apple, and four dodgy Brussel sprouts and create a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner for twelve.

I was on her website looking at recipes when I saw a Rice Crispy treat surprise birthday cake.  You cut the treats into round cake shapes and decorate it like a cake. But for Martha, the whole thing seemed run-of-the-mill and frankly, dull.

For anybody else this would be a masterpiece, but for Martha…well…

It did get my wheels turning, though.

I imagined a deep, deep Devil’s food cupcake, with a not too heavy or sweet seven-minute type marshmallow frosting.

But, in the bottom of the liner, I would put a Rice Crispy treat.  The only problem was, I had no idea if it would turn out awesomely epic or a Charlie Sheen/Chernobyl-level disaster.  So, I gathered my supplies, informed Petey he had guinea pig duty, and entered my kitchen/lab.

You know what?  It worked.  The marshmallow treat part didn’t burn or harden, the cake was moist and super chocolatey, and the marshmallow frosting was just the right touch (and as an added bonus, the frosting is fat-free).

But I do have a couple of tips to reduce possible stress and future heartache.

df cupcake

Since I had to make the rice treats, cupcakes, and frosting, I decided to use a cake mix.  Only I subbed out the water for coffee and added a couple tablespoons of dark cocoa powder because I wanted to cut down the sweetness and amp up chocolate.

I put a rounded tablespoon of the still-warm treats in the bottom of cupcake liners, which I had sprayed with cooking spray (You only need a half a batch of the treats at most.  The recipe for them is on the cereal box).  Then I flattened the treats with my thumb and poured the cake batter almost to the very top.  Because of this, I only got about 18.  Coincidentally they also baked for 18 minutes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe frosting stays sticky.  If they’ll need to travel, I suggest you toast it with a kitchen torch to seal it.  The recipe was a traditional cooked marshmallow/meringue topping.  It turned out to be easy to make, and so good you need to frost fast, to reduce the chance of eating it all from the bowl.

Marshmallow frosting

marsh frosting

4 large egg whites

1 cup granulated sugar

Big pinch of cream of tartar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Put mixing bowl over slowly simmering pot of water—double boiler style.  Whisk together eggs and sugar until sugar’s dissolved, and it’s warm to the touch.

Put on mixer with whisk attachment and beat until it’s glossy and holds a stiff peak (5-7 minutes).  Mix in salt and vanilla.  Immediately frost cooled cupcakes.  Piping the icing makes it go much quicker, and they’re especially pretty that way.

wallp toast1.pngI think, in a way, I may have out-Martha-ed Martha. But maybe I shouldn’t say that out loud.

She might come after me.  And hurt me.

Thanks for your time.