Sunday, July 5, 2009

Friday Night's Ode to the Irish

Friday night I made the first really nice dinner I have cooked since Brad and I got home from our honeymoon two weeks ago. It began with...

Pears with Cashel Blue Cream and Walnuts
4 oz. cream cheese
3 oz. Cashel Blue Cheese (I used whatever they sell at Aldi, and it was still delicious)
2 Tablespoons light cream
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
6 ripe pears
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Mixed salad greens
6 cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper

juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
generous pinch of sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil

Mix cream cheese and blue cheese together in a small mixing bowl with a generous grinding of black pepper (1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon). Add cream, and stir. Add 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and incorporate well. Cover and chill until needed.

Peel and halve pears and scoop out the core. Place them in a bowl of water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to prevent them from browning. To make dressing, whisk all dressing ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange a bed of lettuce on each of six salad plates. Place one tomato on each salad plate and sprinkle with remaining walnuts.

Drain pears well, and pat dry with a paper towel. Dip the pears halves in the dressing, and then set in the middle of the salad greens, hollowed side up. Divide the blue cheese mixture into sixths, and scoop it into the pears. Spoon dressing over the salads and serve.

Next, we had...

Pan Fried Gaelic Steaks
4 (8-12 oz) sirloin steaks
1 teaspoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup Irish Whiskey
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper

Dry the steaks with paper towels and season with pepper. Heat a heavy pan over high heat. When it is very hot, add oil and butter. When the butter is bubbling, add the steaks one at a time. Lower heat to medium. Thicker steaks will require more cooking time than thinner ones. Turn over half way through cooking time: for rare cook 3-4 minute, for medium cook 4-5 minutes, for well cook 5-6 minutes. To confirm, press gently in the center of the meat. If it is soft, it is rare. When there is some resistance, but the meat underneath feels soft, it is medium, and when it feels firm it is well done. (I bought my steaks at Costco, so they were about 2 inches thick. It took about 7 minutes per side to get them medium rare... I also cheat and use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.)

When steaks are properly prepared, remove them from the stove, place them on a plate, and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Remove any excess fat drippings from the skillet. Saute garlic for about a minute. Add whiskey and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any sediment from cooking the steaks. Allow the liquid to reduce a little, then add the cream. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until mixture thickens a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve next to or over the steaks.

Accompanied by...

Potato Cakes
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled (I used 3 large)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Boil potatoes in a large pot of water until tender, then drain well and mash. Salt well, the mix in the butter and allow to cool a bit.

Knead the flour (or as much as is needed to create a pliable dough). Roll to about 1/2 inch thick, and cut into triangles (or the shape of your choice, I suppose...)

Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan over low heat. Melt a small amount of butter in the pan. Cook the potato cakes for about 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Serve with butter or sugar.

This entire meal was fabulous. This was the first nice meal I made after Brad and I returned from our honeymoon, and it was SOO good. I would highly recommend any or all of these recipes.

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