Cheesy Beef & Macaroni

Posted on 06/16/2010. Filed under: Baking, Beef, Dinner, Pasta |

I am apparently terrible at sitting down and writing about food I’ve made.  I’m sorry.  The week of June 4 was Matt’s turn.  He’d just spent the weekend with his family in Chesapeake and one of his brothers made chicken fajitas, which Matt then made for us.  I was his sous chef, cutting and grilling stoplight bell peppers & onions while he cut and cooked the chicken.  We laid all the accourements on the table and we all dug in.  He cooked the chicken with Old El Paso fajita seasoning and it was damn tasty.  I was teased for allowing Matt to be cooking in my kitchen with me, side-by-side.  I’m usually pretty territorial in my kitchen when I’m cooking because I move around a bit and don’t like bumping into people.  But there was no running around, Matt and I worked together pretty seamlessly. 

Then on Wednesday, June 9, it was Matt’s birthday.  I made pepperoni rolls with Bittman’s pizza dough recipe, cutting the dough in quarters for Matt, Mom, Dan & myself.  I rolled each portion out and tried my best to shape it to the right shape, drizzled olive oil down on the dough, filled the center with shredded mozzarella and slices of pepperoni, and rolled up the dough into some sort of stromboli shape I learned at Whole Foods.  I placed the pepperoni rolls/strombolis on baking sheets (2 on each sheet), brushed olive oil all over the top and seasoned each one with S&P and dried herbs (oregano, thyme, basil), and baked them off at 425* for twenty minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through cooking.  I topped each roll (stromboli, whatever) with homemade pizza sauce I’d frozen from Grilled Pizza night.  After dinner, the boys and I rocked out to Dropkick Murphys at The National.  And then our ears rang for two days afterward.

Myself (revealed), Dan, Matt

This past Friday night, I decided to make a dish I’d seen on Michael Ruhlman’s blog that just got me.  He’s right, it’s ultimate comfort food.  I’ve had this dish before, but only in processed form, so I was excited to make it from scratch.  I began by dicing a large onion and sweating it in a little olive oil and salt (I don’t keep canola on hand, and olive oil’s healthier).  When the onion had released its liquid, I browned the beef, breaking it up with my bamboo spoon.  The beef I used wasn’t terribly fatty, and I knew I’d need the liquid later on, so I didn’t drain it.  Ruhlman says one can add any dried seasoning in mind at this point, so of course I went the Italian route and added oregano, basil and thyme, as well as garlic powder, stirring the seasonings in after adding.  Then I added a can of whole tomatoes, crushing them and tearing them apart with my hands, rather than pureeing them like Ruhlman suggests.  I knew the tomatoes would break down further in the simmering/baking process and I just wanted chunkier tomatoes.  I did not drain the can as I knew I would need the liquid.

I put a salted pot of water on to boil, and cooked a box of Barilla macaroni for half the suggested cooking time, about three and a half minutes.  The Barilla pasta had ridges, which is awesome as it helped absorb the sauce well.  I drained the pasta and added it to the now-HUGE pot of meaty sauce.  I stirred the pasta in well, making sure it would have a chance to asborb the liquid from the pot.  I’m always afraid of under- or un-cooked pasta in dishes like this.  If pasta is crunchy, I think it should be because it was baked with cheese on it and the oven made it crispy, not because I didn’t cook it well enough. 

Pasta is my comfort food.  When I can’t think of something to make, I’ll make pasta.  Usually it’s a plate of angel hair with butter and parmesan, sometimes a sauce of olive oil, minced garlic, whatever dried spices/herbs I want.  Simple, comforting.  This is one of the many, many reasons I could never do Atkins, and pray I never develop Celiac disease.  My uncle has Celiac, and I know how sensitive the allergy is.  If a piece of bread touches his steak, he can’t have the steak anymore, otherwise it’s an unpleasant night in the bathroom and bed.

Anyway, I let the pot of pasta and meat sit covered for about half an hour while the oven heated up to 400*.  I got out my biggest glass Pyrex baking dish and loaded half the meaty pasta in.  I sprinkled a layer of shredded mozzarella in the middle, then added the rest of the meaty pasta.  I covered this with foil and baked it for about 30 minutes as it was still warm from sitting in a covered pot for the last thirty minutes.  I pulled out the dish after 30 minutes and turned the broiler on, topped the dish with the remaining cup of mozzarella and then added about a cup and a half of shredded mild cheddar.  I love cheese.  I especially love cheese when it’s added to pasta.  I put the pan under the boiler, on the bottom rack, until the cheese had bubbled and turned brown.  YUM.

Cheesy, Beefy Pasta goodness

Matt missed this because he was back in The ‘Peake with his family, and Dan was working.  A friend of Mom’s and mine, Missy, came over for dinner.  She brought a baguette of French Bread, which I immediately took, cut into quarters, spread butter on each quarter, sprinkled with salt-free garlic herb seasoning, and toasted under the broiler on the bottom rack of the oven for a few minutes until the edges were brown.  We dug into to the pasta.  Mmmm, meaty, cheesy, comforting.  And it was HUGE.  This pan of Cheesy Beef & Mac fed the three of us, I sent Missy home with a gladware thingy of leftovers, Mom and I had leftovers, plus there’s a gladware thingy of leftovers in my freezer.  A LOT of food.  I was happy because this one dish is kid-friendly and could feed the family I plan on having someday, along with all my kid’s friends. 

The ladies loved the dish, and a co-worker that had some of mine the next day enjoyed it as well.  I’m curious to see how it stands up after being frozen, but hell I’ve made pans of lasagne, frozen and cooked leftovers before without a hitch, I would imagine the Cheesy Beef & Mac would work just as well too.

This week, I’m re-creating the Shepherd’s Pie for Matt and our friend Amanda, as they missed out on the first Irish Feast.  However, we’re still celebrating Matt’s birthday (yes, a week and a half later), and instead of the bread pudding, he’s requesting a Red Bull cake.  I’m nervous about this cake, particularly making icing with Red Bull.  Any tips on icing made with a soft drink are much appreciated!!

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

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Graduation Dinner

Posted on 05/20/2010. Filed under: Baking, Dinner, Grilling |

This last week was my friend Matt’s turn.  He was graduating from college the day after we made this dinner, and this was what he wanted.  He went to the store and picked up four ribeyes, a navel orange, scalloped potatoes and a couple of cans of Bush’s Grilling Beans in Bourbon & Brown Sugar. 

Meat. Orange. Syrup. Ready to roll!

I dug out a casserole dish for Matt to marinade the steaks in.  He wedged the steaks together in the dish, cut and squeezed the orange out over top of the steaks, like so:

Preview of The Gun Show

After squeezing out all the pulp from the orange onto the steaks…

Pulpy goodness & fatty meat

The meat was drizzled with plenty of syrup…

I get the same intense look when I'm chopping things. Although Matt's form is impeccable.

And let them sit for about an hour while we chilled out and caught up on the week.

Marinating meat

After about an hour, and when our friend Dan arrived, the boys went outside to grill whilst I worked on the sides that Matt brought (boxed scalloped potatoes that we goosed up with extra cheese and the beans).

Meat. Fire.

When the steaks were done, they rested while the potatoes finished and the beans were heated through.  And here’s Matt’s final plate:

A manly meal of meat and beans. Potatoes were added soon after.

The steaks were delicious.  The syrup had caramelized on the meat, and along with the fire it was a unique combination of that sweet yet grilled flavor.  Matt cooked the steaks perfectly.  The beans complimented the steaks really well and the cheesy potatoes were a nice diversion from the sweetness of the other dishes. 

After dinner I whipped up some dessert.  There are conflicting opinions on what to call this dessert.  One person calls it “Fudge Pudding.”  I’ve also heard it called “Chocolate Pudding Cake,” which is really a more accurate description.  Matt dubbed it “Chocolate Crack.”  I got the recipe several years ago from a book I recently mentioned, The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, by Jill Connor Browne.  It’s addictive, really easy to make, but the bitch is waiting 40 minutes while it bakes and you’re smelling chocolate baking.  Torture followed by heaven.

I preheated the oven to 350, and began the batter by dumping a cup of granulated sugar, half a cup of a.p. flour and two eggs in a large glass bowl and mixed them on medium speed with the hand mixer until it was all moist.  Then I melted a WHOLE STICK of salted butter together with two HEAPING tablespoons of Hershey’s Cocoa together in the microwave, then added it to the egg/sugar stuff and mixed again with my beaters.  Then I added a quarter teaspoon of salt and one running-over tablespoon of vanilla (pure extract or flavoring is fine), and mixed the batter again.  Here’s where one can get creative: I’ve added cinnamon for a Mexican Chocolate flavor; I’ve added mint extract as well.  I think next time I may melt some strawberry jam or just add fresh strawberries to the batter and bake it off.  The boys were hovering the bowl at this point when I was done mixing and Matt went to town on his beater.  It was strange, yet fascinating watching two dudes that are like my brothers work the hell out of these beaters with their tongues, trying to get every last bit of chocolate.  Ahem…where was I?

Right.  Then I poured the batter into a greased loaf pan (scraping sides with my rubber spatula), put the loaf pan in a larger casserole dish, filled the larger dish with hot water until the water was about halfway up the smaller loaf pan.  Then I baked it off for about 40 minutes.  Then Matt helped by cleaning off the spatula and bowl….with his tongue.

Forty agonizing minutes of smelling heaven finally came to an end and what came out was gooey, fudgey, chocolatey heaven.  Crunchy on the top and warm and gooey on the bottom.  Much like some humans.  (Figuratively, of course.)  I added a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and we all dug in.

Chocolate Crack with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

So good, so rich, so bad for you.  A STICK of butter for every batch, as well as a cup of sugar.  Worth it though.

Next week is my turn, and I’ll be making a dish in preparation for our New Orleans trip.  It’ll be put off until Sunday though, as this Friday we will be enjoying the sights and sounds that are a Dark Star Orchestra show!  Woo hoo!

Many congratulations to my good friend, Matt, upon graduating! 

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

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Grilled Pizza

Posted on 05/14/2010. Filed under: Baking, Dinner |

If you haven’t already guessed, I love to grill.  And here’s the weird thing, aside from using a grill pan (which doesn’t really count, sorry), I never grilled a thing in my life until the spring of 2007.  My dad did all the grilling at our house, letting steaks and burgers get crispy while b.s.-ing around with me, friends or neighbors.  But when he passed, the grilling was then my duty (hee hee, I said “duty”).  For the last few years, people have been going bananas with grilling and there’s some great reasons why: minimal clean up and healthier.  And the taste of something being grilled doesn’t hurt either.

So I decided to try grilled pizza with homemade dough and homemade sauce.  Mark Bittman and I have a love/hate relationship apparently.  The Bolognese was a let down, but his recipe for pizza dough worked and produced a tasty dough.  However, his recipe for sauce was kinda bland, and I like herbs/seasonings so I used his recipe as a base and added my own touches.

The dough was super easy and actually kinda fun to make.  In a large glass mixing bowl, I dumped a cup and a half of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt and a teaspoon of rapid-rise yeast.  I made a little well in the middle and then added the wet ingredients: 2 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin’s fine) and a cup of room-temp water.  Bittman didn’t say what temp the water needs to be at, so I guessed.  I figured too cold and it would do something bad to the dough; too hot and it would do something bad to the dough.  I don’t know much about breads and doughs, but I know you don’t f*@% around with the ingredients and temps.  Another reason why baking is so frustrating to me–dough is too damn fickle.  Anyhoodles, I stirred all that with a wooden spoon until it started getting sticky.  I kneaded it a bit in the bowl to bring it together, then sprinkled some flour on my clean counter and kneaded the dough for about ten minutes (that was the fun part).  I put the dough in another clean glass bowl, covered with plastic and set it on my table to rest & rise for an hour.

While the dough was hanging out, I began the sauce.  Bittman’s recipe is 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic (lightly smashed), a 28-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes (which I actually DID find at Kroger, kinda hidden behind a display and off to the side, but dammit they’re there!), S&P to taste.  No herbs?  WTF, Mark Bittman?  Yes I can see how this is a great basic sauce but to me, there’s no flavor besides a little bit of garlic and tomato.  So I added my spin.  I crushed four cloves of garlic in my press (which I really don’t use much but should more often), and sauteed a bit in the olive oil.  Then I added the drained can of tomatoes, salt & pepper.  And then I went to town.  I love a garlicky sauce, so I added a little garlic powder as well.  Then I eyeballed dried Italian Seasoning, dried Basil & dried Oregano.  It worked.  It was awesome, and Matt and Mom loved it.  So take that, Mark Bittman.  You can have your bland-ass sauce whereas mine is DELICIOUS.

Homemade sauce on the back burner, garlicky spinach in front.

Mom and Matt wanted a red sauce pizza with similar ingredients, I wanted to try a white pizza for myself.  The dough was definitely large enough for two pizzas.  For my white, I sauteed spinach with garlic and olive oil & added sliced fresh mushrooms.  Matt wanted pepperoni, green peppers & onions.  Mom wanted pepperoni, mushrooms & onions.  When Matt arrived, he and I shaped our doughs.  He made his a little thin, I left mine a little thick.  I preheated the grill and I assembled toppings by the grill.  I knew this was how it was going to go down: brush the side touching the grill first with olive oil, lay dough on grill, let bake a bit, flip dough, quickly add topppings and let pizza finish off.  Problem is I forgot to take the stupid top shelf that I never use out of the grill before heating.  So poor Matt was burning his hands laying down dough and flipping dough.  And for that I’m sorry.  His future children will ask how daddy got weird burn marks on his hands and he can tell them about the dangers of grilling pizza and how evil Shannon made him burn his hands.

Matt gets his dough down on the grill and he stretched it out a wee too thin, but we made it work.  Flipped the dough, added toppings, let it finish off.  Getting the pizza off the grill is a hell of a task without a pizza peel.  I held the cutting board while Spatula Master Matt slid the pie onto the board.  And here’s where my grill sucks.  It’s a two-burner gas grill that is at least five years old.  It’s a hand-me-down off brand my Dad bought several years ago and re-built it at least twice prior to his passing, and again, that was three years ago.  My point is, the outer parts of the grill are HOT (even on low flame), the middle is cool.  Burned crispy pizza edges, kinda undercooked in the middle.  Still edible though.

Then came my pizza’s turn.  Laid the thicker dough down and Matt commented then that my dough may actually work a bit better than his (which turned into crispy, burned dough that couldn’t hold the toppings well).  We flipped the dough, and I topped my white with olive oil, spinach, mozzarella and mushrooms.  Matt helped me slide the pie off the grill and we cut the pies and ate.  For some reason, Matt and I both ended up shaping both pies into squares.  I have no idea why, it just turned out that way. 

The pizza was really freaking good.  The dough was cripsy yet chewy (mine was anyway), the sauce I made was SO good.  Toppings were decent, nothing beats fresh veggies* or garlicky spinach.  Since making the pizzas, I read a great tip somewhere (I think it was June’s Rachel Ray ) where someone said to take a large terra cotta plant saucer, pre-heat it in a 400-degree oven, then put it on a grill inverted, spray the inverted saucer (bottom side up) with water and use it as a pizza stone on your grill.  I think it’s a great idea worth trying.  Cheap too. 

But now that I know how easy it is to make dough, and I have a package of Hormel pepperoni left, I might try making pepperoni rolls soon with the tomato sauce for dipping.  With tons of cheese.  Yeah, man. 

This coming week is Matt’s turn and I have no idea what’s in store.  He tells me it’s from one of his mom’s older cookbooks.  I’ve seen one of these cookbooks and it scared me.  It was a weird one from the 70’s with really odd combinations.  I can’t remember details (I’ve blocked them), but it was enough.  We’ll see…

Bon appetit, y’all!

The finished, half-eaten products. Matt & Mom's on the left, mine on the right.


*The thing about fresh vs. pre-cooked veggies on a pizza is this: when I made pizza for a living at Whole Foods, they insisted on pre-cooking all the veggies.  Spinach, I can understand, because raw spinach on a pizza in a 550 degree oven and it just dries out and burns, it doesn’t wilt nicely.  But by pre-cooking peppers, onions & mushrooms can kinda take the taste out of the veg, but they also lose texture.  By the time you’re eating the pizza, the veggies will have cooked twice.  And it saves time and clean up by just topping pizza with raw vegetables.  Obviously cook vegetables that NEED to be cooked to be eaten (potatoes, for example, but who puts potatoes on pizza?  anyone?).

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Shepherd’s Pie & Soda Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce

Posted on 03/20/2010. Filed under: Baking, Dinner |

Hello, my name is Shannon, and I only have a few drops of Irish blood in me. I am of mostly English & Dutch heritage, but that doesn’t stop me from drinking Guinness and singing along loudly to drinking songs in my favorite Irish bar, Mo & O’Malley’s in Norfolk, VA. Yes, I love McGuire’s in Pensacola, but Mo’s is very dear to me: it was there that I met my best friend in the whole world, Schmoopie; spent massive amounts of money at Mo’s; became so much a regular that my friend and favorite then-waiter Mike knew what I wanted when I walked in; and I have donated a bra to the wall at Mo’s. (And got it back…I’m not leaving a $40 Victoria’s Secret bra behind!)

About a month ago, I got the idea to make an Irish feast for St. Patrick’s Day and blog about it. I invited friends over, and wondered what the entree should be: corned beef & cabbage, Shepherd’s Pie, Lamb Boxty, Colcannon…what to make?! Then my friend Matt settled it the night of the Mushroom & Toasted Pasta dish by saying this, “Dude, you should make Shepherd’s Pie so I can come over and eat it.” Okay.

I’d known what dessert was going to be–soda bread pudding with Irish whiskey sauce. I made the soda bread the day before so all I had to do today for the dessert was just cut up the bread and assemble it. No biggie.

Yes, I intended on having this feast on St. Patrick’s Day, but a dear friend of mine from high school passed away suddenly, and the funeral was on March 17 in Charlottesville. I reunited with good friends I hadn’t seen in at least a decade. After the service, we went to West Main Bar & Grille, where we told stories about our missed friend and spent the afternoon and evening drinking pitchers of Guinness & green Pabst. We miss you, Scott Houchens.

Anyway, on Friday I started the pie early, as guests were arriving at 7 p.m. and I didn’t want to be in the kitchen the whole time cooking, a lesson learned the hard way. I knew I could assemble both pie & pudding and just stick ’em in the oven when needed (both to be baked at 350*–I love it when a plan comes together). I began the process by first peeling & slicing four small russet potatoes and three parsnips, put them in a pot and covered with water and put them on the stove to boil. I let them cook for about 25 minutes, until fork tender. While the root veggies were cooking, I diced my loaf of soda bread and put it in a large bowl and poured four cups of whole milk over the bread to soak. As I said in the previous post, both of these recipes for the pie & pudding came from the same source, the McGuire’s Irish Pub Cookbook.

When the roots were done, I drained them well and mashed them with my potato masher as finely as I could. I added salt, pepper, a Tablespoon of butter, a teaspoon of dried parsley flakes and a quarter of a cup of heavy cream, stirred it all together & set it aside to cool. Mmmm, mashed potatoes & parsnips. Verah nice.

I then began working on the filling for the pie. I diced half a large white onion and cooked them in a bit of olive oil until translucent, then added two pounds of ground beef to the pot with the onions to cook, breaking it up with my wooden spoon. When the beef was done, I drained off the fat, and added two cans of drained plain diced tomatoes. The cookbook calls for 2 cups of peeled chopped tomatoes, but I don’t have time and patience for a pot of water to boil just to help slip some tomato skin off. Nuts to that. Drained and rinsed cans of diced tomatoes worked just as well, thank you very much. And I’m sure I’m not the only home cook that would do the same thing. It’s enough I baked bread for this feast rather than cheating and buying it. (ok, off the soapbox now)

Anyway, I returned the meat to the large pot I was working in and added flour to thicken things up, then stirred in salt, pepper, dried thyme & sage, a cup of beef stock, and a tablespoon of fresh parsley. (I used dried in the potatoes because a. I have it; b. it’s going to be cooked again anyway; and c. I also used another tablespoon of fresh as a garnish for when the pie was done.) The mixture seemed a little runny still so I kept adding flour until the gravy thickened up nicely. I can’t give you an exact measurement but I eyeballed it. I knew this thing wouldn’t fit in a 9″ pie pan and I wasn’t about to go out and buy a deep-dish pie pan for this, so I put the meaty filling in a 2 quart round casserole dish. Same diff. McGuire’s also mentions using a pastry bag to pipe the potatoes & parsnips, but again, nuts to that, a gallon plastic bag with a corner cut out worked perfectly fine. I spiraled the potatoes & parsnips on top of the meat and used the back of a spoon to even it out. I covered the dish with plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge to hang out until ready to bake off.

It’d been an hour or so since the milk was poured over the bread, giving it plenty of time to soak in. I mixed three large, lightly beaten eggs together with a cup and a half of granulated sugar and two tablespoons of pure vanilla extract. If you think the pudding is rich at this point, just wait until I get to the sauce. I took my biggest rectangular casserole dish and greased it up with three tablespoons of melted unsalted butter. In the dish, I put the milky bread in, then added the eggy-sugar mixture, and folded it all together. I then folded in a cup of raisins, dotted a few more on top, covered it all in plastic wrap & stuck it in the fridge to await baking off while we ate Shepherd’s Pie.

A little before friends arrived, I melted three tablespoons of butter (I swear I have used nearly a full pound of unsalted butter for this entire meal, Paula Deen doesn’t have anything on the Irish) and drizzled it on top of the pie. I put the pie in the oven and baked it for about 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, I noticed the potatoes weren’t very puffy and the top wasn’t brown at all, so I turned the broiler on for a couple minutes. When the pie came out of the oven, I sprinkled the remaining minced fresh parsley on top.

When the pie was on the table to eat, I put the pudding in the already hot 350* oven while we ate. I knew the sauce for the pudding wouldn’t take long at all, so I left it until we were done eating. We dug into the Shepherd’s Pie and it was soooo good. Hearty and delicious. I was reluctant about a “pie” of ground beef, gravy and mashed potatoes but it was so freakin’ good! The herbs complimented the onion, the gravy was nice and thick, the potatoes were well-seasoned….mmmmm just good. Buttery potatoes and hearty, meaty gravy. Almost a shame to be eating it for dinner on a day when the high was 74, but it wasn’t heavy. It’s not a dish to eat (or want to cook) in the middle of August, but it was a good meal on an early spring night.

Now, the sauce for the bread pudding just makes it. The pudding itself is good, but it’s the sauce that truly makes the dish. And here’s why: it’s a whole stick of butter with a cup of sugar and a quarter of a cup of heavy cream. I brought those three lovely gifts from the gods to a boil in a saucepan, reduced the heat and simmered for five minutes. Then the best part–Irish whiskey. I use Jamison, for two reasons: 1. Schmoopie left a huge bottle here the last time he visited and 2. it reminds me of many drunken nights at Mo’s. McGuire’s calls for a quarter cup….I add a heavy third. A third of a cup leaning towards half. That’s just how I roll. I stirred in the whiskey and by the time a little of the alcohol had cooked off, the pudding was ready. I spooned hot bread pudding into bowls and drizzled sauce on top. Adjectives that describe this bread pudding: rich, delicious, filling, buttery, creamy, sweet….yum. Just yummy. Lip-smacking yummy. Slap your mama yummy. I often want to just make the sauce and not bother with the pudding.

So my first Irish Feast was a success and I would totally make the Shepherd’s Pie again. And it seems like I will have to, as my friend Matt that suggested I make it, didn’t make it to the feast. And the bread pudding, well that’s just an annual thing now, especially since I can make the bread myself.

Bon Appetit, y’all!

Bread Pudding, before the oven

The Shepherd's Pie, befire baking. Meaty goodness

The half-devoured pie

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Irish Soda Bread

Posted on 03/19/2010. Filed under: Baking |

I am no baker, by any means. It’s too scientific and it takes too long. You don’t know how things are going until it’s done, out of the oven, and if you’ve failed then there’s little to no way to fix it. But I needed a loaf of Irish Soda Bread for another dish I was making and I wasn’t about to spend $7 on two tiny-ass loaves of soda bread from Ukrop’s, even if they are going out of business. 

My (belated) St. Patrick’s Day Feast involved two dishes from the same cookbook, the McGuire’s Irish Pub Cookbook. McGuire’s is a popular restaurant in my hometown of Pensacola, Florida, and their bread pudding with Irish whiskey sauce is worth the long wait to sit down. The pudding is made with Irish Soda Bread that is baked in-house (I’m pretty sure…this is a place that brews its own beer, dry ages their beef, yadda yadda). The cookbook has a recipe for soda bread and I was stoked I didn’t have to go searching the internet for a recipe.

McGuire’s calls for four cups of all-purpose flour, one teaspoon of granulated sugar, one teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 Tablespoon of melted unsalted butter, one cup of buttermilk. I’m no baker, so I didn’t realize there’s no way in hell that the wet ingredients would form a dough with the dry. Until I started mixing and kneading and it became way too crumbly. Seems someone didn’t proof-read this recipe or try it out before the book went to print. Oh well. Fortunately I had enough basic ingredients on hand to pitch this crap and start over. I hunted around on TasteSpotting and found a good, basic soda bread recipe using everything I already had. Score!

I sifted the same amount of flour, one teaspoon each of baking soda & salt, and two Tablespoons of sugar in a large bowl. I melted a stick of unsalted butter in the microwave and let it cool while I made a well in the middle of the flour mixture. I poured two cups of buttermilk in the well and then the butter. I then pulled my rings off and got my hands all up in that junk.

(I hate stuff all over my hands…when I was in the kitchen at Whole Foods, I would wash my hands constantly. I’m amazed my hands weren’t cracking all the time. This is why I leave the meatloaf-making to Mom, and it pains me to roll meatballs. Yeah, this dough was sticky as hell, too.)

After getting my hands coated in sticky, sticky dough (lightly floured fingers don’t help either), I turned the dough out onto a lightly greased & floured flat baking sheet. I cut a cross on the top to prevent cracking and put it in a 425* preheated oven for about 39 minutes.

As much as I am not a baker, I love the smell of fresh-baked things. The warm, homey delicious smells of bread wafted through the house and when it was nice and golden brown I pulled the bread out of the oven. Amazing, bread that didn’t involve yeast or eggs!

I nibbled a little bit and it was crumbly and reminded me of homemade biscuits. I was damn proud of my first loaf of bread. And the end result of what the bread will be used in? Oh my God even better. But that’s for another blog.

Bon Appetit, y’all!

The end result, all crumbly warm goodness

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