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On Cooking Southern: Put Some Irish Into Your Cuisine

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SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Cranky
: The person is out of sorts, and just irritable enough that it won’t take much to set him or her off… a few turns short of ill as a hornet, and interchangeable with the equally descriptive word, crabby. Not born this way, but in a mood due to weather, work, lack of sleep, family or indigestion …

ADD FLAVOR WITH A WEE DROP O’ STOUT, WHISKEY OR IRISH CREAM

I love St. Paddy’s Day, the annual American excuse for an Irish-themed drinking party. But for this would-be daughter of Erin, the Day of the Green is always a mixed blessing.

I don’t drink.

In 2001 Bacchus decided to pay me back for past transgressions and reward every little sip of alcohol with a case of hives, a startling red complexion, and a furnace-fiery, from the inside-out, hot-flash. Only women who went cold turkey off hormone replacement therapy in 2002 can begin to appreciate the experience.

My grandfather, the old-school Women’s Christian Temperance Union-loving Methodist minister, probably pulled strings in Heaven to achieve this physical reaction to booze. He had hastily departed my wedding reception at the Petroleum Club after one scandalized glimpse of the open bar.

However, this teetotaler still loves to prepare special alcohol-laced dishes for family and friends. Bananas Foster, Steak Diane, Grilled Pork Chops with Bourbon Sauce, Tequila Lime Chicken… and the list goes on. Just call me a booze voyeur.

Booze cookery falls into three categories: (1) the alcohol is splashed in and burnt off (flambéed) to finish a sauce; (2) it’s added during prep to serve as the recipe liquid; or (3) it’s drizzled over the finished dish to add overt alcohol flavoring. In all three versions, less is more. The liquor notes should never overpower the overall flavor of the dish.

This is where St. Patrick’s Day and booze cookery converge. Modern Irish cuisine features farm-fresh produce, dairy, baked goods, salmon and mollusks. They frequently are flavored with or paired with Irish alcoholic beverages.

In fact, when someone tells you to put a little Irish into your cookery, they’re not talking about muscle power. They’re referring to adding a drop of stout, Irish Mist, Irish whiskey, or Irish Cream. It’s like a warm hug.


WHISKEY-GLAZED SALMON
I remain forever grateful to my college’s writer-in-residence for the introduction to Irish Whiskey. Bushmill’s. Jameson’s. Dunphy’s — they’re all good!

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1 T green onion, fine chopped, or shallot
1 T minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
6 twists of fresh ground pepper
1/2 c Irish whiskey
1/2 c light sodium soy sauce
1/2 c light brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
6-to-9-oz salmon “steak”

Whisk all ingredients except the salmon. Rest it for 10 minutes. Submerge salmon in the marinade for 30 minutes. Grill or bake marinated salmon, skin-side down, in oven until flakey – about 15 minutes on a medium hot grill or in an oven set at 350˚F. The salmon is done when it is flakey.

While salmon is cooking, pour leftover marinade into a pan and simmer on stovetop until liquid reduces to less than half. Plate grilled fish over fresh asparagus or crispy potatoes. Drizzle with glazed marinade and serve.

STOUT FONDUE
Unpack your 1970s fondue pot, folks, or buy one at the next household estate sale. A good cheese fondue is a terrific way to entertain and satiate a casual crowd or a hungry family on a busy weeknight. Use your imagination when identifying what to dip into the fondue.

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1/2 c Guinness stout
1 c whole milk
3/4 c shredded cheddar cheese
2 T all purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 T salted butter
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Chunks of dense bread
Sliced apples
Carrot sticks
Raw cauliflower
Raw broccoli
Grilled packaged meat strips, optional

Melt butter in a medium saucepan or skillet on medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour until lumps are dissolved. Whisk in the beer and continue to stir. Add milk, whisking, until mixture thickens. You’ve made Béchamel sauce! Stir in the cheese and mustard, whisking gently until cheese melts and mixture becomes smooth. Make sure to keep pan bottom scraped to prevent scorching. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Pour immediately into fondue dish and serve warm with dipping veggies, grilled meat strips and cut-up crusty bread.

CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CAKE WITH BAILEY’S BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
The recipe here is a three-layer cake containing espresso powder developed by “A Beautiful Bite” blogger Melanie Birkholz, with Bailey’s Irish Cream frosting. The finished cake makes a dramatic display for any occasion. NOTE: I found Cafe Bustelo instant espresso with other instant coffees at the grocery store.

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3 c all-purpose flour
1-1/2 c natural cocoa powder
3 (0.09 oz) packets of instant espresso powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1 c vegetable oil
4 c white granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 c plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 T vanilla extract (3 tsp)
9 oz Guinness stout
2 c (4 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
8 c confectioners sugar, sifted
1/4 c plus 2 T Bailey’s Irish Cream
*Chocolate curls for garnish
Fresh berries for garnish

Line three 9-inch cake pans with parchment, sticking down the parchment with a spritz. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and dust with cocoa powder. Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Combine oil and sugar on medium-low speed until just combined. Add eggs, one at a time, followed by yogurt or sour cream and vanilla, again mixing just enough to combine.

Measure the stout by slowly pouring at a 45-degree angle into Pyrex measuring cup. NOTE: It takes practice to pour stout without creating a head of foam. Set aside.

Sift all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. With mixer running on low speed, slowly add dry mixture to batter in three parts. When combined, add stout and mix on medium-high speed for three minutes.

Divide batter equally among the three pans. Bake 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Remove cakes to cooling racks for 10-15 minutes. Loosen sides with a sharp knife and jiggle pans to loosen the bottoms. Flip out onto waxed paper and allow to cool completely before frosting. These cakes are so moist that I had to freeze the cakes overnight in order to peel away the waxed paper and parchment.

When ready to frost, beat butter until light. Mix in the confectioners sugar and Irish cream until fluffy. Divide frosting into three equal parts. Spread one part on first layer, cover with second layer and repeat. Add third cake layer and frost top only, swirling to resemble a head of foam on a glass of beer or stout. Garnish cake with chocolate curls and fresh berries. VARIATION: Use whipping cream instead of Bailey’s, and add a splash of Irish Mist.

TO MAKE CHOCOLATE CURLS: Microwave 3 oz of semisweet baking chocolate (3 squares) with 1 T of salted butter for 30-45 seconds. Stir until smooth. Pour immediately over back of a small metal baking, spreading it thin and smooth. Freeze for 5 to 7 minutes until finger touch does not make a dent. Use a sharp knife and scrape over the chocolate to create curls. If too cold, wait a few seconds.

CHOCOLATE WHISKEY CAKE
This recipe for whiskey cake is a variation of the classic Nigella Lawson Guinness bundt cake. The cake is beautifully dense and deep chocolate. If you prefer less of a booze flavor, reduce whiskey to a half cup, or switch to a flavored liqueur such as Amaretto or Kahlua.

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3 T cocoa powder for dusting the pan
1 c natural cocoa powder
1-1/4 c brewed dark roast or espresso coffee
3/4 c Irish whiskey
1 c (2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into cubes
1-1/2 c white granulated sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar
2 c all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
12-oz pkg semisweet chocolate chips
2 T chilled salted butter
1/2 c whipping cream
OR 1/3 c cream plus 3 T Irish whiskey or Irish cream

Line a 10-inch (3-qt capacity) springform pan with parchment. Grease the parchment with butter. Dust with three tablespoons of cocoa powder and knock out excess. Preheat oven to 325˚F. Sift the flour, soda and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

Combine cocoa, coffee, whiskey and butter in a 3-qt saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until better is melted. Remove from heat. Whisk in sugar until dissolved, about one minute. Transfer mixture to a large non-reactive mixing bowl, using silicone spatula to scrape entire amount out of saucepan. Cool for five minutes.

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While chocolate mixture is cooling, whisk eggs and vanilla in a small bowl until foamy. Whisk eggs into the cooled chocolate until blended. Whisk flour mixture into the batter until completely combined, and stir about two minutes. The batter will be thin and bubbly. Pour into the prepared springform pan.

Bake on center rack of preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Top of cake will crack. Remove to rack to cool for about two hours. Carefully release sides with sharp knife and loosen springform. Slide cake onto cake plate.

Place chocolate chips in a nonreactive mixing bowl. (I use a 3-qt microwaveable Pyrex bowl.) Top with cut-up butter. Scald cream by heating in a saucepan until bubbles occur around the edges and liquid feels hot to touch. Do not bring to a full boil. Pour cream over the chocolate chips and allow it to stand for three minutes. Stir with silicone spatula until smooth. If chips haven’t totally melted, microwave for 15 seconds and stir again. Slowly stir in the whiskey or Irish cream until blended. Pour over the cake.


Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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