A St. Patrick’s Day Dinner


I am the granddaughter of an Irish immigrant 

who made her way, as a young teenage girl from Ireland to NYC, and worked as a hotel chambermaid. The Irish influence was strong in our home growing up, because my mother was proud of her heritage and celebrated it in a big way. Perhaps that is why emerald is my favorite color!

The tradition of corned beef and cabbage as THE Irish meal associated with St. Patrick’s Day is said to have not actually originated in Ireland, as one might think, but rather, emerged as an American tradition brought here by Irish immigrants like my grandmother, Madge Borg. In Ireland the cabbage was traditionally cooked with bacon, as beef was hard to get.  Though some very talented chefs will debate this history. When the Irish made their way to America, or New York, as it was for most, beef was plentiful and thus became the celebratory fare for those who journeyed from the Emerald Isle.

When immigrants leave their country, they often rely on food to maintain the love of homeland and culture.

As immigrants were likely to work long hours to make ends meet, this traditional March 17th celebratory dinner was turned into a one-pot, easy-to-make meal.  It basically is a “throw it all in the pot, cover and cook” meal which required little prep work.  It simmered for hours, sending off that familiarly mouth-watering, warm and cozy aroma wafting through the house, while kids were bathed, homework was done, the house was picked up and the table was set for dinner.

This meal was always a favorite in our home, reserved for the once a year celebration of the Irish, a tradition I carried on through all the years of raising my own family. 

My favorite memories come from sitting around our big round kitchen table with family and friends for hours on end, eating and drinking and just enjoying each other’s company.

Dressed in green, we started the day with a slice of Irish soda bread lightly toasted with a good butter. Everyone would go about their day and return for the evening meal.


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Corned Beef & Cabbage with Potatoes & Carrots
A Leprechaun’s Pot of Gold

The recipe we used year after year, moved from a somewhat authentic peasant recipe handed down to my mother, by my grandmother, to a recipe with a bit of a Mediterranean spin to it, compliments of my Portuguese father, to a cooking method a bit more refined.

Today, I still cook the same recipe for the once-a-year meal, complete with beer only, as we reserve the green martini for a more elegant moment in time.  

I’d like to share my family recipe with you:

Menu serves 6 (with lots leftovers)

  • Corned Beef & Cabbage with Potatoes & Carrots

  • Irish Soda Bread & Butter

  • Hard-Boiled Eggs & Mustard

  • Stout Beer for drinking and cooking!

Ingredients:

  • 2-21/2 lbs Corned Beef (as lean as you can find)

  • 2 lbs Red Potatoes (medium sized peeled & halved)

  • 2 lbs Carrots (peeled and cut into 2” pieces)

  • 6 Hardboiled eggs (I think a Portugese touch!)

  • 1 Head of Cabbage cut into 4 wedges)

  • 1 Onion (one medium sweet whole)

  • 12 Ounce Guinness stout

  • 2 Tbs Kosher salt (add more later to taste)

  • 1 Tbs Black finely ground pepper (add more later to taste

  • 2 Bay leaves

  • 1 c Malt Vinegar (yum!)

  • 1 Bunch finely chopped parsley

  • 2c Stout beer

  1. Fill pot with enough water to cover corned beef in an 8 qt pot (or Dutch oven)

  2. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Simmer on VERY LOW and watch carefully.

  3. Empty water and rinse

  4. Fill pot again with enough water to cover meat by an inch

  5. Place Corned Beef, salt, pepper, bay leaves, onion, vinegar and stout beer in pot

  6. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer
    ***Simmer and cook for 2 ½ hours or until meat is tender when pricked with fork. Be careful to watch that the water does not boil***

  7. Remove meat from pot and allow to rest on platter

  8. Add red potatoes and carrots to the water and continue cooking until tender (30 minutes).

  9. Add cabbage wedges and cook until tender (30 minutes)

  10. Hard boil 6 eggs in a separate pot. Peel and slice in half

It’s all in the Presentation

  1. Slice meat against the grain and arrange on a platter

  2. Remove potatoes and arrange on either side

  3. Remove carrots and arrange on either side

  4. Remove cabbage and arrange on either side

  5. Place 6 hard-boiled eggs sliced in half around the platter

  6. Spread mustard on meat (optional)

  7. Sprinkle entire platter with finely chopped parsley

  8. Serve with an Irish soda bread and a very good butter.

OR

Place all of it in a large serving bowl and serve as a stew.
** My preference is to serve all ingredients separately

Optional Condiments

  • Malt vinegar

  • Serve with course grain spicy brown mustard (we put it on everything!)

  • Serve with a side of horseradish and mustard sauce

  • Serve with a mustard gravy

  • Serve with Irish Soda Bread and butter…YUM!

  • Serve with beer of your choice for drinking

VOILA!

Butternut Squash Lasagna Rollups

Traditionally, our family makes the journey to Nantucket Island the day before Thanksgiving, arriving from all parts of the country. Besides the glass of wine they are handed when they walk through the door, they look forward to the “traditional” night before Thanksgiving dinner which includes Butternut Squash Lasagna Rollups with pumpkin sauce, an entree of either tenderloin, roasted chicken or Nantucket Bay scallops, and a FUN and fabulous salad, different each year.  The one part of the dinner that never changes is the butternut squash lasagna rollups!

They are easy to make and great for preparing ahead of time, while your head is spinning with the hundreds of ingredients you hope you have for the BIG next day, Thanksgiving!

This crowd pleaser is comfort food at its very best. Think football season!  I brought these to a Super Bowl party last year styled on a 32" long slender platter.  What a hit!  But the hit for me was to see the platter empty within a half hour of our arrival.  I love that.

 

This serving platter is very special to me.  I purchased it from a local artisan in Middlebury, VT while our son was attending Middlebury College.  It conjures up wonderful memories.  I try to buy a little something everywhere I travel. Serving pieces, like foods, can bring you back to a time and place that is part of this wonderful journey called life. 

This serving platter is very special to me.  I purchased it from a local artisan in Middlebury, VT while our son was attending Middlebury College.  It conjures up wonderful memories.  I try to buy a little something everywhere I travel. Serving pieces, like foods, can bring you back to a time and place that is part of this wonderful journey called life. 


Ingredients

  • 1 Box lasagna strips (I like Del Cecco!)
  • 1 Package of cubed butternut squash
  • 1 Jar Cucina Antica Tuscany pumpkin pasta sauce (Whole Foods)
  • ¼ Cup chopped parsley or parsley flowers
  • ¼ Cup grated parmesan (optional)
  • 1 Small box baby spinach
  • 1 Box MontChevre’ crumbled goat cheese
  • S & P to taste
I love, love this sauce!  I happened upon it a few years ago, and it has been my go-to since.  When you're cooking for Thanksgiving, it's okay to short-cut with a delicious jar of quality sauce the night before!

I love, love this sauce!  I happened upon it a few years ago, and it has been my go-to since.  When you're cooking for Thanksgiving, it's okay to short-cut with a delicious jar of quality sauce the night before!

  1. I box of long lasagna strips. I never use the precooked. I can’t really say why except that they just don’t seem right to me. And they are challenging to roll without breaking. If you want less pasta, you can use the shorter lasagna strips. You will just have adjust your filling amounts and make them smaller. Or just fold over in half like a loose ravioli.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions.  I like them on the al dente side as they are firmer to work with and hold up better when stuffed and rolled.
  3. Drain in cold water.  Do not leave in strainer!  Immediately remove each one, smoothing it out so it’s not wrinkled
  4. Lay each strip flat on a long piece of Aluminum foil. 
  5. Cover each layer with foil before the next layer
  6. Begin by smearing each lasagna strip sparingly with Pumpkin Sauce
  7. Spoon small clumps of goat cheese, 2-3 tsps, crumbled or from a softened log, per strip.  You will get the hang of it as you go along!
  8. Layer with baby spinach leaves washed and patted dry
  9.  Spoon on mashed butternut squash, 3-4 tsps, per strip. 
  10.  Season with Salt and Pepper
  11.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  12.  Gently roll up being careful to not let ingredients come out on sides.  You will learn amounts only by doing this.
  13.  Spread a thin layer of pumpkin sauce in bottom of 9X12 baking dish, enough to coat pan.
  14.  Place roll ups in dish and top each roll up with the sauce.
  15. Cover and Bake at 300 degrees until heated through, about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove foil and let cool. 
  16. Serve 1- 2 per dish with extra sauce if desired.
  17. Garnish with parsley, either chopped and sprinkled all over or dotted with a parsley flowers, as shown.
  18. Serve with Fresh grated Parmesan cheese. VOILA!

Chicken Zucchini Mini-loaves Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Applesauce

Ingredients

  • 2 Pounds of freshly ground Chicken  (preferably not packaged)
  • 1 ½ c Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • Crumbled Goat Cheese
  • One finely chopped zucchini
  • 12 slices of Bacon
  • 1/2 c Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 c Applesauce
  • 1 tbs Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste (I use salt sparingly, but love pepper!)

Directions

  1. Mix meat with milk , eggs, S & P, breadcrumbs, 1 c applesauce and zucchini (for a more moist meatloaf, add more milk)
  2. Grease bottom of baking dish with olive oil
  3. Line baking dish with 4 strips of bacon
  4. Divide meat into 4 loaves (1/2 lb each) or 8 loaves (1/4 lb each)
  5. Mix box of goat cheese with ½ c applesauce
  6. Poke a well in the center of each “mini” loaf and fill with goat cheese and applesauce mixture
  7. Cover with a criss-cross of bacon
  8. Bake uncovered in a 325 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes

A Sunday Italian Supper in the Kitchen

One of my favorite memories of all times was dinner for six in the kitchen at the home of our friend, the famous French chef, Jacques Pepin, and his lovely wife Gloria. The other guests were the brilliant Morley Safer, journalist and host of CBS’s 60 Minutes, and his wife Jane. We sat around the center island, I feeling somewhat intimidated, sipping delicious French wine as we watched Jacque, this iconic world-renowned chef, whip up a magnificent duck with cranberry sauce. I was focusing so hard, I’m quite sure I didn’t even blink. The conversation was scintillating and intellectual, while the demonstration was a culinary excursion like no other. So much fun! From that point forward, my favorite thing to do is to have friends in for “dinner in the kitchen”.

It was here I learned that dinner in the kitchen can be as elegant as anywhere, that interesting people make for an interesting party and that a relaxed and fun host and chef makes for a relaxed and fun group of guests!

I’m an Italian food enthusiast. Okay, that’s probably putting it mildly. To put it another way, my mother-in-law used to laugh and say, “Penny would have cold rigatoni for breakfast everyday if she could!” And she was right. I love everything about Italian food, the romance associated with it, the traditions, the bright colors and the love that sits at the bottom of the pot of Sunday sauce! Whether we are in Florida or Nantucket, most Sundays begin with the Sunday sauce which I get up and start before my coffee. I love to smell the garlic sautéing and the sauce simmering for hours (with football on in the background all day!). Sunday sauce means different things to different people. Growing up, our sauce began by browning braciole (stuffed with garlic, parmesan and parsley and tied up with kitchen string), sausage and pork as the base. Today, we’re focused on a healthier approach to eating, cooking with less fat and fewer saturated oils, while still getting our robust flavors, but from herbs and spices, rather than from meats. Our Sunday sauce is a clean and simple Pomodoro sauce cooked with fresh plum tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt & pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic and olive oil.

NOTE:  I like to use a combination of fresh tomatoes and can tomatoes for larger batches. If you want a bigger batch use the 28 oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes with a ratio of 1 can of crushed tomatoes to 1 can of plum and 1 can of paste. (1-1-1)

This sauce can be made quickly, if need be, but tastes even better when simmered for hours. And it is especially tasty the next day! Not only will your family and friends enjoy a delicious meal, you will reap the benefits of a whole day of the best a ”ROMA”therapy!

Total Cooking Time: 2-3 hours
Total Prep Time: 20 minutes
Yields: 4 servings


Ingredients

  • 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil  (the best quality you can afford)
  • 6 garlic cloves (peeled & cut into large chunks, not minced)
  • 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt (better tasting than table salt)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly crushed black pepper (better tasting than ground pepper)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 6 Basil leaves (fresh)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 24 fresh plum tomatoes
  • ½ C grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Score tomatoes, and submerge into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and run under cold water. Peel and cut into halves. In a saucepan sauté the olive oil with 2 basil leaves for 5 mins to achieve a wonderful basil infused olive oil. Remove basil leaves from oil and discard. Add garlic, continue to sauté (do not let garlic brown! It should be soft and translucent) Add tomatoes, kosher salt, crushed black pepper & parsley and cover.

2. Cook on low for 15 mins. Uncover and stir and mash down the tomatoes. Cover again to keep moisture in.  Repeat in 15 minutes. You want the tomatoes to soften and mashed to get all the liquid out.

3. Cook on simmer for another 15 minutes. Partially uncover to let some of the liquid evaporate. The more ripe the tomatoes, the more juice they will yield. I prefer my sauce to have the thickness of a puree, not too soupy. If need be add a can of tomato paste to thicken sauce.

4. Pour into food processor and puree until desired consistency.

5. Return to pot

6. Add 2 shredded bail leaves and simmer for 10 minutes more.

7. Add crushed red pepper to taste. I love spicy!

8. Cover for 5 minutes.  Let sit.

 

For years, I've been carving artichokes to use as a candlestick holders.They look awesome in a small grouping with candles at different heights! Here, I carved two artichokes to use as vases, a sort of vegetable vessel if you will, and used water tubes for these beautiful South African Orange Star flowers. I filled a Tiffany ice bucket with Florida oranges to bring more of the color orange in.


Spaghetti

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Cook spaghetti in a pot of boiling water with a dash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook according to directions on package, as you don’t want it to be overdone.  Al Dente is the goal! Return cooked spaghetti to pan and swirl in a tablespoon of butter.

Some like to mix the sauce and pasta together. I prefer to plate the plain buttered pasta and top with the delicious Pomodoro. You can sprinkle the whole plate with chopped parsley or simply garnish with a single basil leaf. Grated cheese is offered on the side, or can be mixed with the parsley and spread all over the plate like a garnish!


Tomato and Pepper Salade

  • 2 Yellow ripe tomatoes (the color is beautiful)
  • Box of red cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Baby sweet peppers (sliced)
  • Balsamic fig glaze
  • Basil garnish

This is served buffet style with the balsamic glaze on the side for people to help themselves.


Baked Thyme & Parmesan Chicken Breasts

  • 3 Whole breasts
  • 2c Italian Seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp Dried crushed thyme
  • Cayenne
  • Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish
  • ¼ C grated parmesan cheese
  • Egg
  • Flour
  • Olive oil

1. Leave breasts whole and pat dry.

2. Mix bread crumbs with 1 tsp of dried, crushed thyme (rub in the palms of your hands and release!) and a pinch of cayenne.

3. Dip breasts in flour then egg, and dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Lay flat, sprinkle parmesan in the middle.  Bring the sides up and overlap tight, turning over with  overlap facing down.

4. Gently mold folded chicken creating a football shape

5. Heat oven to 325 degrees

6. Pour EVOO into the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish. Pop in preheated oven for 5 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and place football shaped chicken breasts in the warmed pan. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil return to oven and bake for 15 minutes more.

8. Remove from oven and let sit for half an hour

9. Slice when cool enough to touch

10. Garnish with sprigs of thyme

Delish drizzled with the balsamic fig glaze or topped with pomodoro!


Sipps Organic Sodas & White Wine

I love these 100% Certified Organic sparkling drinks to serve in addition to wine. They are Gluten free, fresh tasting and come in the most interesting flavors.

  • Summer Pear with green tea & honey
  • Mojo Berry with blackberry, mint & lime
  • Pinot Grigio

Dessert

  • SO Delicious Dairy free Chocolate with mint leaf  
  • Garnish with Scharffen Berger shaved chocolate
  • Moscato D’Asti

 Resources

  • White Platter: Home Goods
  • Marble and wood Cutting Board: William Sonoma
  • Sipps Organics: Home Goods 
  • Dishes: IKEA
  • Wine Glasss: Crate and Barrel
  • Ice Bucket: Tiffany
  • Linen/Cotton Napkins: Williams Sonoma
  • Rattan Napkin rings: Williams Sonoma
  • Greenery: My Florida yard
  • Fresh Artichokes carved and filled with South African Orange Star flowers: Publix