Archive for Holidays

Week in Review

Dixie and Desi enjoying the warm weather.


The weather has been warmer than usual, with highs close to 90. Even for the desert this is unusual.

At work we’ve been working for over a year on a project near Joshua Tree National Park. To this point it has been all paperwork shuffling with a lot of misdirections from the government. It looks like we are finally nearing the permit stage and we went up to look around. Found this little hummingbird on the ground, obviously stunned, after hitting a window. Poor guy! The homeowner moved him to a safe location to recover and I managed to get a some pretty cool shots showing off his colors.

Recovering Hummingbird


Recovering Humming bird


Recovered and back into the trees.

On the dog training front we were at the shelter again this week, leash training with basic obedience thrown in for good measure, along with evaluating new intakes. This guy is Skitch. A little skittish to start but he warms up fast. It was good to see that several of the dogs we have been working with have found homes.

Skitch

But the BIG news for this week is that we started corning the corned beef for St Patrick’s Day. I’ve blogged about this before, and it is a favorite subject. I cannot state emphatically enough that homemade corned beef is a gazillion times better than the chemical laden package you buy at the grocery store. Julia Child rocked the original recipe and, with a few minor tweaks, it has yet to fail me.

Start with assembling the seasonings: 1 1/3 c coarse (Kosher) salt
1 T cracked peppercorns (pound whole corns to crack them)
1 t ground black pepper
1 T cracked allspice
2 t thyme
2 t paprika,
2 crumbled bay leafs

Assembled spices


Blend the seasonings.

Put the meat (brisket, tri tip, rump roast) into a 2 gallon ziploc bag and rub the seasoning into the meat, evenly distributing.

Rub seasoning onto the meat.

Make sure all excess air is pushed out, zipper close the bag and then massage the meat thru the plastic.

Massaging the meat before it goes in the fridge.

Now it goes into the fridge, laying flat, with a heavy weight over it. (We previously used 12 packs of soda but this year we have 2 cast iron skillets with a garden brick on top.) Every day for two weeks the meat needs massaged and turned. You will see a nice red liquid by the first turn.

After at least two weeks (we’ve gone 4) remove it from the bag and soak in cold water, changing it out at least 3 times, for 24-48 hours. This desalting will make the meat perishable so it should be cooked ASAP. We do ours in the slowcooker on low for 8 hours with a can of beer, slices of onion and garlic, red potatoes and then at about half an hour to go sliced cabbage.

St Patricks is coming!!!

Last year I finally corned my own corned beef and it was amazing. I’ve gotten the process started for this year, grinding and mixing the seasoning to rub the meat with.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Here’s the link to last year’s post:

St Patrick’s Day, FINALLY

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I love St. Patrick’s Day. I may have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating. Corned beef is one of my all time favorite meals, but it is not necessarily a healthy meal, so we limit it to once a year. This year, as I posted previously, I attempted corning it myself. We also wanted to celebrate with friends so we thru a small dinner party for 20. To make it easier I told everyone that, if they wanted to, they were welcome to bring something Irish or green.

The evening started with a Dubliner and Guinness dip.

Dubliner and Guinness Dip

Since this was a new dish I made it ahead of time, tested it out on hubby during a NASCAR race, and made quite a few tweaks, ending up with this recipe:

8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 oz Guinness® Extra Stout Beer (leaves enough in the bottle for the cook to enjoy)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
7 ounce package Dubliner Irish cheese

Place the Dubliner into the bowl of a food processor and chop until well grated. Add cream cheese and pulse until well mixed. Add remaining ingredients, process until smooth. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Let set at room temp about 20 minutes before serving. Serve with pretzels and crackers.

As an appetizer or side, these Colcannon Stuffed Potatoes went very well.

Colcannon Stuffed Taters

No official recipe, but I baked the small, red potatoes for 45 minutes at 350. (Larger potatoes would take longer.) Meanwhile I chopped half of a small cabbage and small onion, sauteeing them in butter. Split the potatoes in half, scooping the potato into the pan with the cabbage and onion. Sprinkle salt, pepper to taste, add cream cheese. Mash. (This does not need to be smooth.) Fill potato halves, back into the oven at 375 for 10 to 15 minutes until the tops start to brown. Voila.

Finally, it was on to the star of the show. Corned beef is always cooked in a slow cooker (still called a crock pot by some of us) and simmered in there all day on low. My mother made it this way and so it just is.

First, a layer of thickly sliced onions.

Layer of onion slices.

Then the meat, topped with several garlic cloves, bay leaf, cracked peppercorns and then Guinness Extra Stout poured about halfway up the meat. (Don’t over do this…slow cookers don’t release the steam and will end up drowning in liquid if you pour in too much. I’m sure you can figure out how to finish off, er, use that extra beer that was opened.)

Add seasonings and beer.

Finally, top with a layer of cut potatoes.

Potatoes!

About 20 minutes before pulling from the slow cooker top everything wedges of green cabbage if desired. This steams them rather than cooking them to mush.

Since the corned beef was home corned and didn’t have any nitrates in it, it came out looking like pot roast rather than the normal bright pink. When I pulled that first tender, falling apart chunk out of the slow cooker to taste test and saw the brown, pot roast looking meat I was devastated. I thought for sure it would taste like it looked and all of the time and work of the last 4 weeks would be for nothing. Then I tasted it. It was amazing. It tasted like corned beef but without the chemical, almost pickled, tastes. And it melted in the mouth.

Unfortunately, in the picture everything looks, well, brown. I stuck a bit of parsley on there just to brighten it up.

Dinner

And finally, for dessert, we had Chocolate Stout Cake from Epicurious. I’ve been making this for several years and it is always a hit. A deep chocolate flavor, similar to mocha but without the coffee aftertaste. Chocolate Ganache icing tops it off to complete the decadence.

Chocolate Stout Cake

Corny, But That’s Me

I love St Patrick’s Day. I love the sillyness of it, that everything is green, you drink lots of beer (ok, maybe not this part, I don’t drink beer) and corned beef. OMG, I love corned beef. It’s one of my very favorite foods. If it wasn’t so darn salty that I swell up like a water balloon I would eat it every day. Don’t get me started on the potatoes that cook with it. But alas, I do only eat it once a year. And every year, never fail, I say “next year I shall corn my own corned beef!” I always forget this, tho, before the next St Patrick’s Day rolls around. This year, I have done it.

While I sit here typing, my beef is happily corning away in the refrigerator. After asking a few folks who have corned their own beef I went looking for the perfect recipe. No saltpetre, no nitrates wanted. I went with Julia Child’s very simple rub. It’s recommended that you begin the process at a minimum of 2 weeks prior to the big day.

Yesterday I went shopping for the ingredients. I live in the middle of nowhere, no huge supermarkets here. And since there were no briskets to be found, I went with a TriTip.

Everything is assembled.

After assembling everything together, here’s the rub.

The Rub

In a 2 gallon ziploc type bag I then rubbed the meat with the seasoning.

Meat is rubbed with seasonings.

I pressed out all the air and it now sits quietly in the refrigerator with 12 packs of soda sitting on top of it to keep it weighted. I’m assured that tomorrow a liquid will be present, the beginning of the corning process. Every day I must massage it well.

To be continued…