I've been cooking and competing for almost 10 years. I got started soon after my son was born, watching Food Network all day long with a tiny baby in my arms. One of my favorite shows was Challenge, a show where people would always compete against each other with cakes, sugar art and other dishes. This was LONG before the days of Chopped, Spring Baking Championship and all the other competition shows you see now. I remember watching Buddy Valastro (aka Cake Boss) and Bronwen Weber battling it out all the time with their cakes. And then one day, I saw a different episode. This was one where they focused on women who did cooking competitions for BIG MONEY. That episode changed my life. As a ridiculously competitive person, and a fairly good cook (or so I thought), I instantly googled "cooking contests for money." A website called "Real Women of Philadelphia" popped up, and that was it. Kraft had a special website set up for Philadelphia cream cheese, and they had created a community platform within a money-driven cooking contest. It was kind of like Facebook within a cooking contest involving cream cheese. I won money, I made friends and my life had changed forever.
Soon after, I found my wings in bake-offs, timed competitions, and Internet contests. I won some and I lost A LOT. My husband called it a habit. But, I found out that I was pretty good at making videos, so when the Raglan Road Master Chef competition came up, I sent in a video. I was one of five winners, and the prize was an all-expense-paid cooking vacation to the Motherland. The Emerald Isle. IRELAND.
Kevin Dundon was our host, one of Ireland's most famous chefs and someone I had always wanted to meet. I remembered watching an episode of his PBS show where he spent a day fishing off the coast of Hook, Ireland. He took the huge cod he had caught back to his kitchen, fried them up and made some of the most amazing looking fish and chips I'd ever seen. I was hoping for a similar experience...and we got it. It was a life changing trip that I think about every day!
On one of the first nights of the trip, something came up amid our conversations regarding Americans and our love for St. Patrick's Day. Kevin and the other chefs were giggling about our green beer, our instant mashed potatoes and our corned beef and cabbage.
"You know that's NOT an Irish dish, right?" Kevin announced. My eyes widened in disbelief.
"Really?" We all asked.
"NO." Kevin explained. He then proceeded to tell us the story of how it was developed by Irish immigrants in early US settlements.
"In Ireland we eat Rasher or Bacon with cabbage," he explained. "Rasher just wasn't as available to the Irish in the US, and so the corned beef became a substitute. But on this trip, I'll show you some REAL Irish dishes and how we do things here in IRELAND!"
So, today, I'm sharing a couple of those dishes with you (with a bit of my own twist), just in case you're wanting to do things the AUTHENTIC way this St. Patty's Day!
Oh, and just so you know, the whole thing about the Irish being big drinkers and consuming LOADS of Guinness and Jameson is NOT A MYTH. If you're planning on traveling to the Motherland any time soon, I suggest you work on your intake tolerance. They're REALLY not messing around over there.
Instant Pot Guinness Beef Pie
Pies are everything in Ireland. What we call a "pot pie" in the US, could be filled with any type of meat and/or vegetable in Ireland. Beef stews are also a major staple over there, so this "pie" filled with a Guinness Beef Stew is all kinds of authentic!
4 tbsp. corn starch, dissolved in 4 tbsp. cold water
3 sheets puff pastry, thawed
2 tbsp. milk
Turn on the Instant Pot to sauté and melt the butter. Once the pot is ready and the butter is melted, add the meat and brown it on all sides. You may need to do this in 2 batches. Remove the meat from the heat and set aside.
Add the celery, carrots, onions and garlic. Sautee for about 5 minutes, until soft.
Add about 1 cup of the Guinness and stir around to de-glaze the pot. Add the meat back in with the potatoes, the rest of the Guinness and beef stock. Stir to combine.
Tie the thyme and rosemary together with cooking twine to create an herb bundle. Add the herb bundle to the pot along with the bay leaves.
Lock the top of the Instant Pot and set it to cook on high pressure for about 45 minutes. Allow the steam to release naturally for another 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Manually release the rest of the steam and unlock the pot. Re-set the Instant Pot to sauté and bring the stew to a boil. Stir in the dissolved corn starch to thicken the stew. Stir in the frozen peas and combine.
Unfold the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Use 6 oven safe stew bowls, that will hold 10-12 ounces of the stew and place them upside down on top of the puff pastry. Cut around the bowls, leaving about 1/2 inch of room, so that the puff pastry can cover the bowls once the stew is inside of them.
Spoon the stew into the oven safe bowls. Wet the tops and around the sides of the bowls where the puff pastry will stick. Place the puff pastry circles on top of the bowls and seal them on the edges.
Beat the milk and egg together in a separate bowl and brush it on top of the puff pastry. Cut a slit in the center of the pastry to vent.
Bake the pies in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden brown.
Remove the pies from the oven and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Potato Bread Farls and Fried Eggs
This is great for breakfast the morning after a big dinner involving mashed potatoes. Warm up the mashed potatoes for 30 seconds or so in the microwave, just so they combine well with the flour and butter.
Add the mashed potato to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the butter and mix to combine.
Sift in the flour and then mix with your hands to make a dough.
Dust a flat surface lightly with flour and then roll out the dough into a 1/2 inch thick circle. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 6-8 slices, or "farls."
Heat a large non-stick pan on medium heat and cook the farls for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Place a fried egg on top of each farl and serve.
Croissant Bread Pudding with Whiskey-Kissed Crème Anglaise
Like any other fine pastry kitchen, there's a lot of French influence in the desserts of Ireland. With no lack of access to the finest French ingredients, Ireland can whip up some AMAZING pastries and desserts. A rich bread pudding made with day-old croissants seemed to be the most common dessert, but the DELICIOUS sauces like butterscotch, chocolate and Creme Anglaise were anything but ordinary!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease an 8x12 inch baking dish with the butter and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine the egg yolks, heavy cream, granulated sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk until the eggs are completely incorporated and mixture is smooth and combined.
Arrange the cubed croissants into the buttered baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the croissants and mix well with your hands to completely saturate the croissants. Pat the croissants down slightly to level the dish.
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until the top is a dark, golden brown. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
To serve: Spoon a large portion of the bread pudding onto a serving plate. Top with the Crème Anglaise (recipe below) and sprinkle with fresh strawberries
Whiskey-Kissed Crème Anglaise:
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 oz. Jameson whiskey
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the egg yolks and sugar on medium-low speed (3) until frothy.
In a medium saucepan, heat the vanilla and heavy cream, stirring occasionally just before it comes to a boil. Remove it from the heat and slowly temper it into the egg yolk mixture, just a bit at a time.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat on medium heat, stirring continuously, until it reaches at least 165 degrees (this will kill any bacteria from the eggs), thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Run the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Stir in the whiskey until completely combined and keep warm until ready to use.