holiday

Irish Potato Soup

March 16 2014 024 Edited Irish Potato Soup

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! March 17 used to mean I embarked on an often unsuccessful quest to find something green to wear.  Over time, the quest shifted from green clothes to green beer. Today it has evolved into a search for a recipe with Irish in the title, which often involves potatoes. Last year it was Irish Mash. This year it is Irish Potato Soup.

Potato soup sounds about as exciting as my St. Patrick’s of Days Past. Imagine my pleasant surprise when this soup turned out to be magically delicious. (Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself).

I think it is the sour cream that makes this potato soup so much more enjoyable than others – which use whole milk as their base - I have tried. I can not say, given my love for mashed potatoes whipped with sour cream and my inability to eat a baked potato without a healthy dollop of the stuff, why I never thought of such a substitution before.

The most complicated thing about making this Irish potato soup is the bouquet garni. Fortunately, that is not complicated at all. A bouquet garni is simply one bay leaf, four sprigs of parsley, and four sprigs of thyme held together with a piece of string.

March 16 2014 009 Edited Irish Potato Soup

You don’t even need to peel the potatoes if you do not feel like it. I typically do not peel mine, if only because my mom always said the skin is the healthy part of the potato. Too bad we can’t say the same of a fried chicken.

In fact, the simplicity of this soup extends beyond the ingredients to the tools required to make it. I dropped the lid – which subsequently shattered – of my food processor this week, and I do not own a blender of any sort. I was not sure how I was going to make this soup smooth, but it turns out the potatoes and celery and onion are so tender after simmering for an hour, a fork would be sufficient to mash them all together.

I ended up using my hand mixer, which was perhaps not the most practical option, but it worked. Some bright green chives popped up in my tiny garden over the past week (come on spring!), so I topped my soup with those. Because bacon is the answer to anything, I think crumbling a piece of bacon over the top would be just as fine.

I’m off to find something green to wear. Enjoy!

March 16 2014 008 Edited Irish Potato Soup

Irish Potato Soup
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled if desired and diced
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 bouquet garni (see Notes)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Optional: chives
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic followed by the onion, celery, and potatoes. Stir occasionally and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the broth, cayenne pepper and bouquet garni.
  4. Reduce heat to low and allow the soup to simmer for one hour.
  5. Remove the bouquet garni and puree the soup with an immersion blender or transfer to a food processor or blender to make smooth.
  6. If you removed the soup to process, return it to the pot it was cooked in. Stir in the sour cream until completely incorporated.
  7. Garnish with sour cream and chives, if desired, and serve warm.
Notes
A bouquet garni is simply one bay leaf, 4 sprigs of parsley, and 4 sprigs of thyme tied together with a piece of string. Vegetables can vary in size, so a large potato to me may be a medium potato to you. For this soup, my medium onion yielded 1 cup and my potatoes yield 4 heaping cups.

 

Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Dessert

8690385110 49941bc647 z Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Dessert

Mexican chocolate pudding topped with sweet pepitas is my choice of  Cinco de Mayo dessert this year. A classic chocolate pudding goes Mexican-style with a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne. Pepitas, initially introduced in a pumpkin seed salsa recipe to kick off the week, now get the sweet treatment courtesy of sugar and agave nectar.

If spiced chocolate pudding does not appeal to your taste buds, simply omit the cinnamon and cayenne pepper to enjoy a classic chocolate pudding. As for the pepitas, they are as delicious scattered across a dish of ice cream, oatmeal or fresh fruit as they are pudding. Or just enjoy them by the handful. I definitely did, and I enjoyed every bite.

Thanks for joining me for Cinco de Mayo week. Enjoy a happy weekend!

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Day 1: The Appetizer - Pumpkin Seed Salsa
Day 2: The Main Dish - Mexican Noodle Casserole
Day 3: The Side Dish – Baked Mexican Style Beans
Day 4: The Drink – Michelada
Day 5: The Dessert
 
Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Dessert
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • For the Pudding
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 6 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used dark chocolate)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • For the Pepitas
  • 2 cups raw (green) pepitas
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler (or a dish – not Pyrex – set above a saucepan filled with a bit of water).
  2. Slowly whisk in the milk until fully incorporated with the dry ingredients.
  3. Bring the water in the double boiler to a simmer, and occasionally whisk the ingredients on top to ensure they remain incorporated.
  4. Add the chocolate when the mixture thickens to the point that it coats the back of the spoon, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Stir the chocolate in for until the pudding is smooth and thickened, about two to four minutes.
  6. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne.
  7. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any lumps (don’t stress if you do not have a strainer- you will just enjoy the occasional lump in the pudding) and into a serving bowl.
  8. Pour into serving dishes and refrigerate at least 30 minutes until soft set. To prevent a skin from forming on the pudding, cover the top of the pudding itself with plastic wrap before refrigerating. If you like the pudding skin, simply cover the top of the dish with plastic wrap.
  9. While the pudding sets, prepare the pepitas by stirring them together with the olive oil and agave nectar followed by the sugar.
  10. Transfer the pepitas into a skillet over medium-high heat. Make sure you get all of the sugary mixture into the skillet as well.
  11. Stir constantly until the pepitas are fragrant and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about two to four minutes.
  12. Spread the warmed pepitas across a sheet of parchment paper and allow to cool.
  13. Before serving, heap a few spoonfuls of the pepitas onto the dishes of pudding.
 

Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Side Dish

8690384450 a95d4aa76a z Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Side Dish

Whenever I order a meal at a Mexican restaurant, it arrives with what seems like an obligatory side of rice and beans. I sometimes get to choose what type of beans arrive, but that is about as exciting as it gets. Until now. Enter baked Mexican-style beans.

Let’s be honest. Unless we’re talking jelly beans, no one is ever going to scream for beans the way they do for ice cream. This recipe takes those beans up a few notches on the totem pole of  things that delight.

There is not a whole lot of pretty to this dish, but I am of the mind (hope!) that the taste makes up for the presentation. Tomatoes and chiles add flavor and bite as sour cream and cheese layer on the deliciousness.

Perhaps I am giving rice and beans a tough time because I eat them at least three times per week. Rice and beans, along with some sort of scrambled egg and rice bowl or egg sandwich, are common lunches and dinners in my world. After a while, plain beans begin to become tiresome, so I was happy to find this recipe.

8690385196 0ba9b08d5a z Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Side Dish

As for things you should know if you want to make this dish, first off, it makes a lot of beans. The recipe says the yield is four, but I would say that is a conservative estimate.

For leftovers, I have resorted to eating the beans along with rice, of course, but I have also found I like it as a sandwich spread. I simply used a fork to mash some of the beans before spreading it over toasted bread. I don’t know that I would eat just the mashed beans and bread, but it definitely adds to a sandwich as a condiment.

In the write up of the recipe itself, the author suggested making this dish a go-to for potlucks since it yields a good amount and is easily doubled for larger parties. I modified the recipe a bit, choosing to use pinto beans and black beans along with the kidney beans called for in the recipe. This can be baked in an 8 x 8 or a 9 x 13 baking dish depending on what you have available.

Overall, I liked the way this recipe gave me a new, but simple, way to prepare flavorful beans for use throughout the week. I hope you will find the same. If not, I hope you will stick around until tomorrow when we start getting to the really good stuff. Enjoy!

8689263443 b3758e7f0b z Five Days of Cinco de Mayo: The Side Dish

For more Cinco de Mayo menu ideas, check out my Cinco de Mayo Pinterest board or visit the Cinco de Mayo page to see last year’s menu.

Day 1: The Appetizers – Pumpkin Seed Salsa
Day 2: The Main Dish - Mexican Noodle Casserole
Day 3: The Side Dish
Day 4: The Drink
Day 5: The Dessert
 
 
Mexican Baked Beans
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ cups onion, diced (from 1 large onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1, 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1, 4-ounce can diced green chilies, drained
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3, 15-ounce cans beans (I used one can each of kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups grated cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions are soften and the garlic is fragrant, about five minutes
  3. Add the tomatoes, chilies, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper.
  4. Raise the heat to high and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid from the tomatoes has for the most part evaporated, about another five minutes.
  5. Combine this skillet mixture with the beans, either in the skillet if it is large enough, a bowl, or the baking dish (8 x 8 or 13 x 9 will work) you plan to use.
  6. Layer half the combined bean and tomato mixture in the baking dish (if you combined the mixture in the dish itself, you will simply want to transfer half back to the skillet for a moment) and top with ½ cup of the sour cream and 1 cup of the cheese.
  7. Add the remaining bean and tomato mixture, followed by the remaining sour cream and cheese.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until the mixture is hot and bubbly.