Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Paddy's Day lunch

I'm working nights this week, but I thought it would be fun to cook up something spring-related for St. Patrick's day. I decided to turn to "Sunday Suppers at Lucques" by Suzanne Goin, where she does a bunch of seasonal menus, because I remembered that there was a St. Patrick's day menu.
The whole menu is as follows, I only did the soup and the toasts with relish.

Menu 2 St. Patrick's Day
McGrath Farms' Watercress Soup with Gentleman's Relish Toast
Buttered Cockles with Peas, Pea Shoots, Green Garlic Champ, and Brown Scones
Corned Beef and Cabbage with Parsley-Mustard Sauce
Chocolate-Stout Cake with Guinness Ice Cream

Her current recipe for today is this:

tuesday, march 17

four course saint patrick's day dinner

coddle and slow-roasted salmon boxtys with

lambs lettuce, thick cream and soft herbs


emerald green watercress soup with

dublin lawyer and bay prawns


buttered cockles with sweet peas,

green garlic champ and brown scones


corned beef and cabbage with carrots,

turnips and parsley-mustard sauce


chocolate-stout cake with

guinness ice cream

irish whiskey flights and guinness stout available

I did the watercress soup with the relish toast. If you've never seen this book, I think it's worth picking up. It is VERY labor intensive, and takes far, far longer to cook the food than to eat it. But there are great lessons in there, and I've never made anything out of this book that wasn't incredible, unless I just totally screwed it up.

Watercress soup (I don't have access to McGrath farms, sorry, and it looked silly as Harris Teeter's Watercress soup)

This is a slightly bitter, buttery soup that would be best served in small portions. On the surface it's easy to make, but you'll see that she raised the bar a bit. This soup is made in three parts:

Make a vegetable stock
Fortify the vegetable stock
Wilt the watercress/blend the soup

1 cup thin sliced onion, preferably yellow
Red pepper flakes or a small dried chile crushed
Butter, unsalted, of course
5 cups of watercress, which amounts to two bunches at my grocery store
2 diced celery stalks, 1 diced carrott, 2 diced leeks

Make a vegatable stock
Medium heat. Melt and foam 4 tbsp of butter. Add the onions, celery, leeks, carrots, and chile with a dash of salt and pepper. Sweat the veg and just start to caramelize, approx 5-10 min.
Turn to high heat, add 2.5 quarts of water and bring to quick boil, immediately dropping back down to let it simmer for 30 minutes. Add a couple of stalks of flat parsley and a couple of sprigs of thyme or some coarse powedered thyme if you don't have it fresh.
She of course, never mentions defatting the stock or skimming it. It's implied, and although a little painful and needs babysitting, results in a better product in general. For this soup, it's hard to know exactly how best to approach that. The final blended soup should be sort of an emulsion, and the less fat, the more likely it will "break."

An easy trick you can do when it's simmering is to pretend you're skimming a pool, use you're skimming spoon to sweep everything to one corner, and then skim.

Once it's done, strain coarsely with a colander and then with a chinois or cheesecloth. You could let it cool and then defat it a little more. It's easier to do it that way. For this recipe, it's not critical, because it's going to be a blended soup. By itself, this stock is really incredible, and if you just wanted to throw some chicken or pork and a couple of vegetables, it would be great. Set the stock aside when you've "fixed it" and prepare to fortify it.

Fortify the vegatable stock
1 cup of diced onions
Cayenne pepper powder
3 tbsp of butter

Medium heat, melt and foam the butter, treat the onions the same as before. Sweat, just start to caramelize. Add the seasoning, then add the stock and bring to high heat just under boiling point. Taste for seasoning. You're not reducing this, so salt to taste.

Wilt the watercress/blend the soup
1 cup of heavy cream
2 tbsp each of flat parsley, chives, and tarragon
Fortified veggie stock, approx 6-8 cups

Things will go pretty quickly from here, and this is one of the easiest parts to screw up. You can do this in two batches, I think.
Add piping hot broth to a bunch of watercress, and let it wilt. How and where you do that, I'm not really sure, but I think this is where you have to wilt a little at a time. The alternative is to blanch it in the stock. The point here is that you want it to soften, you don't want to overcook it. The alternative is to wilt it in a sautee' pan, but you risk overcooking it because the heat of the broth could mess it up.
Mix 2-3 cups of broth with half of the watercress and half of the herb in the blender and blend slowly increasing speed until you have smooth puree. As with all of the blended soups, you're looking for the texture of heavy cream. Speaking of which, add 1/2 a cup of it with the blended mixture. Put it into a separate sauce pan. Repeat with the rest of your ingredients. Balance your seasoning, and you're done. Man, all that for soup.
The quick way is to skip both stock parts and do it with store bought veggie stock or light chicken broth, but that wouldn't be the same, would it?
Your finished product is nearly fluorescent green soup, perfect for St. Patrick's Day!

Now, what to serve it with? Make little crostini and serve it with her "Gentleman's relish" which is an anchovy/herb butter.

6 tbsp (yep) of butter
1 tsp of anchovy, oil packed (one whole fillet) minced
dash of lemon juice
tsp of lemon or orange zest
tbsp of parsley
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
Whip all of that together, and put it on the crostini. If you have anchovy haters in you house, don't tell them you put it in there, they won't really be able to taste it. It actually has a very sweet flavor, would go great with breakfast or as part of an appetizer.

The finished product, with (what else?) a yard of Guinness.

1 comment:

JW said...

That's what I'm talking about!