Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!

Ireland holds a special place in my heart, and it has very little to do with the green shamrocks and drunk dudes from New Jersey getting into fist fights in the streets of Manhattan. It has everything to do with this:

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry

I spent six weeks exploring Ireland under the guise of “study” abroad in the summer of 2006. My time on the Emerald Isle supplied me with some of my fondest memories, and one day in particular stands out as one of the best of my life.

As the rain poured down on the small coastal town of Dingle in County Kerry on the Western coast of Ireland, a small group of us decided that despite the weather we’d venture the mile or so into town. We couldn’t spend one whole precious day sitting in the hostel. So we donned thin rain jackets, insufficient footwear, and our most ambitious spirits and powered through the sheets of rain that pummeled down from the skies. I have never laughed so hard and I have never been so drenched. By the time we reached Murphy’s Pub, each of us was soaked down to our skivvies and desperate for an Irish coffee, a bowl of chowder, and a thick slice of brown bread.

Many pints and bowls of chowder later, we were still damp but warm, sated, and happy. I know it was the company that made that day what it turned out to be, but the brown bread didn’t hurt.

Toasting in celebration of making it all the way into town! Murphy’s Pub, Dingle, Co. Kerry

This will never replicate the dense, dark bread served at most pubs and Irish restaurants in Ireland itself, but in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d fill my apartment with a familiar scent.

On the menu: Irish Brown Bread
Makes 1 round 9-inch loaf
(Adapted from Epicurious Brown Bread Recipe)

4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup milk

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, wheat germ, salt, sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a large bowl until combined well. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until integrated. Make a well in center and add buttermilk and regular milk, stirring until a dough forms. Gently knead on a floured surface, adding just enough more flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Transfer dough to cake pan and flatten to fill pan. With a sharp knife, cut an X (1/2 inch deep) across top of dough, 5 inches long. Bake until loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when bottom is tapped, around 35 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool, right side up, about 1 hour.

You can serve this right away but it slices more easily after sitting at room temperature for a day.

Best served when your clothes are damp from a long walk through the rain in Dingle, heavily buttered and accompanied by sassy lasses and a frothy pint of Bulmers cider.

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Mama Said

Since I started this blog, I’m proud to say I’ve become a source of information for my friends and family. I’ve been asked what I would make with the contents of a friend’s fridge, why does meat need to rest after cooking but before cutting (juice redistribution!), and what exactly makes a caramelized onion… caramelized.

Usually I have all the answers.

Okay, fine… sometimes I have some answers.

And when I don’t, I look to my favorite sources (most are listed at the right). When Mom asked if I had any ideas on keeping bread dough from sticking to the towel after it’s risen, I thought to ask the experts at The Kitchn.  And seeing as one of their editors is named Joann Miller (minus the ‘e’ but close enough), it seemed only fitting.

Apparently, they thought my question was interesting enough to post. So proud.

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Sunday Yummy Sunday

Breakfast is hands down my favorite meal of the day. Dinner is a close second, (followed by the “cold sandwiches suck” middle meal of lunch) but there is something about the sweet and savory meal that breaks the all-night fast that for me, really takes the cake. And when the rain outside is of Biblical proportions, I like to take to the kitchen in my pajamas and start the last day of the weekend with some good, good eats.

On the menu:
Goat cheese, mushroom, spinach, caramelized onion omelet
Homefries with peppers and onions
Crispy bacon
Orange juice

The omelet:
Serves 1

2 eggs
1 Tbsp milk
1/4 cup white mushrooms, slightly cooked over butter
1/8 cup caramelized onions* (see note)
1/8 cup cooked spinach
2 Tbsp goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together 2 eggs with a Tbsp of milk, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture into a non-stick pan over medium heat. (NOTE: the non-stickness of your non-stick pan is integral. Your omelet will look TERRIBLE if it sticks. Use cooking spray if you need to). Rotate the pan so the egg spreads to all the edges of your pan. Once the omelet is almost entirely set, line up mushrooms, onions, spinach, and goat cheese in one line down the center of the omelet. Slowly fold one half of the omelet over the filling, repeat with the other side (like a tri-fold letter). Flip the omelet and cook for 2 additional minutes, until the egg is completely cooked through and the filling is heated.
*Note: caramelized onions are so easy to make because onions have a ton of natural sugar. All you have to do is thinly slice a Spanish onion and heat the slices in a frying pan for around 15 minutes, until the onion develops a nice golden color.

The homefries:
Serves 1

1 potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil potato chunks for around 15 minutes, until you can stick a fork into one and it slides out easily. Drain potatoes. In a large bowl, toss potatoes with 1 Tbsp canola oil, and salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Toss onions and peppers with canola oil and add to the baking sheet. Raise oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake potatoes, onions, and peppers for 15 minutes, until potatoes are crispy on the outside and the onions and peppers have softened.

After the meal I’m going to suggest a nap. Because the rain is still coming down, the smell of bacon still hangs in the air, and your bed is still warm with that perfect, disheveled mix of blankets, pillows, and rumpled sheets. And it don’t get no better than that.

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“Impress a Date” Fish

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If your man likes fish, make this. Now.

Or if you’re single and hungry… make this. Now. It’s delicious and simple in either scenario, and even if you’re not entertaining a man friend, this is a crowd pleaser. It’s not incredibly difficult and I guarantee you have at least half the ingredients in your refrigerator right now.

On the menu: Filet de Truite Saute a la Grenobloise
(Fancy French for: Sauteed Trout, Grenoble Style)
(Serves 2)

1 trout, deboned (ask your local fish monger to debone them for you, pin bones included)
2 slices white bread, crusts cut off and cubed into 1/4 inch squared cubes
2 Tbsp butter, for cooking croutons
1 lemon
2 Tbsp capers
1/4 cup flour
6 Tbsp butter, for sauce

Cook the white bread over medium heat in butter until browned (constantly shake the pan so they brown on all sides and don’t burn). Set aside until needed. Peel the lemons (see note!), cut into supremes (see other note!) and set aside until needed.

Lightly season the trout fillets (each half of the fish is 2 fillets, 2 fillets feeds one person) and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a non-stick pan. Once butter is melted, place fillets scale-side-down in pan and turn heat up to high. Once fish is almost cooked through (about 5 minutes), flip and cook for another 3 minutes on the other side. Set fish aside on a clean, hot plate.

Wipe the pan with a paper towel and add remaining 4 Tbsp of butter. Cook butter over medium heat, constantly shaking pan so the butter browns and doesn’t burn. In rapid succession, add capers, lemon supremes, and at the last second, add croutons, toss, and spoon immediately over the fish.

Notes:

*Lemon supremes:

Peeling the lemon: Cut off the ends of one lemon. Using a sharp knife, slice away the skin of the lemon, white pith included.

Creating the lemon supremes: Holding the lemon in the palm of your left hand, use the sharp knife to cut in between the membrane and the flesh of the lemon. Pull back the membrane with your thumb and slice between the other side of the flesh and membrane. A lovely little slice of lemon will fall out. Repeat, folding the membranes back as you go, like the pages of a book. The end result is a bowl of tiny lemon slices without the chewy membrane. These are called supremes. If this description was totally confusing to you, then squeeze a lemon over the fish when you’re done. It’s not the same flavor, but it’ll do.

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A Hug for Your Belly

If you haven’t already guessed, comfort food is a theme in this blog. And in the past few months, it’s all I’ve been craving. I can scroll through pages and pages of recipes for beet salads with arugula, light and refreshing white fish with citrus garnish, and quiches loaded with vegetables. But when all is said and done, I find myself in my kitchen making rice and pasta. Gemelli with mascarpone, risotto with parmesan, penne with tomatoes and vodka, spaghetti with butter. I’m thinking of opening Lauren E.’s Pasta and More Restaurant (heavy on the ‘pasta,’ light on the ‘and more’).

Talk to me in April and maybe I’ll be posting endless recipes for gazpacho and chicken salad, but for today, it’s linguine with bacon. Don’t worry, friends, it’s not bathing suit season yet.

On the menu: Linguine Carbonara

½ pound linguine
5 strips bacon
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 shallot, roughly chopped
2 eggs
½ cup heavy cream (or half and half)
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons freshly grated black pepper

Boil pasta until al dente, around 9-10 minutes (reserve ½ cup pasta water). Meanwhile, fry bacon in non-stick skillet until crisp. Let rest on a paper towel and trim any exceptionally fatty bits. Roughly chop bacon. Discard bacon grease. Add olive oil to the same skillet and over medium heat, cook garlic and onion until lightly browned. Add drained, al dente pasta to the skillet and cook for one minute, tossing a few times so it doesn’t stick. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and grated parmesan. Over low heat, slowly pour egg mixture over pasta in skillet, constantly tossing with tongs so the eggs don’t scramble (if you only have a spatula, that works, too but be very careful to constantly scrape the bottom of the pan so you don’t have a layer of cooked egg under your noodles). Toss over low heat until the sauce thickens and sticks to the noodles. Add the bacon and black pepper, toss until everything is heated through.

Yum, cheesy pasta. Yum.

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Where’s the Beef? Oh… there it is.

I’m a simple girl. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. A beautiful sunset. The wag of a puppy’s tail. Red soled Christian Louboutins filled with Cartier diamonds hand delivered to the front door of my mansion in the Irish countryside by a newly single Johnny Depp. Okay, that last one’s negotiable. I would accept Cillian Murphy, as well.

But really and truly, I love simple, delicious food. And what is simpler and more delicious than a burger and fries? Not much, my friends. Not much.

My native-California friend Selina told me about a burger place in my Astoria neighborhood that supposedly rivals In-N-Out. Famished after a ballet class (yes, some dancers do eat), we trekked over to Petey’s Burger for deliciousness on a bun.

On the menu:
Cheeseburger
French fries
Coke
(AKA the cheeseburger combo #2)

Verdict: HELLO NEW FRIEND. These burgers are really… really… good. Really. As you can see in the picture, these are relatively thin beef patties topped with your standard tomato, onion, lettuce, ketchup, special sauce (which is probably mayo and ketchup mixed together), and cheese on a basic bun. I think the key is in the proportions, the stand-out flavor of the beef, and the crispy-crunchiness of the fresh lettuce and onion. I also have to give Petey’s major props for essentially replicating McDonald’s perfect, golden French fries. The meal wasn’t super greasy but it definitely hit the “I need some junk food in my belly now” spot. Too bad they deliver. There goes my waistline.

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Dolla Dolla Bill, Y’all

New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world. And my paycheck is sickeningly small. But every once in awhile, God smiles down upon me and offers up His greatest bounty (food, that is) for just a buck. There is dollar pizza on St. Mark’s Place. Dollar drafts on Mondays at Third and Long. And while you may end up splurging on everything from bacon wrapped dates to crispy calamari while you’re there, there are dollar oysters at Lure.

On the Menu:
Raw oysters
Raw clams
Lobster croutons
Crab cakes

Look at those beauties. Hello, little friends.

Verdict: If you are hell bent on making it a cheap night, then pay attention: this place is great for the raw oysters and clams and the house wine (which will set you back $6 a glass). If you venture outside of this bar menu, you’re looking at a hefty bill. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the slurpy little creatures on the half shell. And for a buck a piece, you can’t go wrong.

For a comprehensive look at dollar oysters in the city, check out My Salty Sweet.

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