Truly Offal

My youngest daughter has lived with me since late last January.  She came to live with me after she and her mother had a meeting of minds and fists:  the daughter won.  While not condoning it, the parallels with the end of a Godzilla movie where the monster totters and falls does come to mind after hearing second hand versions of what went down.

Now while she is not a vegetarian any more since being brought to her knees several years ago by the humble McNugget  (which, ironically, depending on who is talking about it, may or may not be meat), she still does not really go for eating a lot of meat.  And the meat she does eat is usually chicken or pork.  Rarely does she eat red meat – and I have never seen her eat any form of offal. (She thinks it tastes “offal” – I had to say it, I could not resist such a bad and obvious pun.)

Now I love offal.  And for those who have only gotten their meat from the meat counter at the local supermarket, offal is the bits that the meat department rarely puts out in the display:  hearts, livers, stomachs, kidneys, sweet breads etc.  These are actually the best tasting bits of the animal (if they are cooked properly). 

I also love the texture and look of these “yukky bits”.  There is just something so cool that happens when you start prepping liver, for example and by the time you are done, it looks like a slasher movie was shot on location in the kitchen.  This is especially true when you factor in the fuck-off shiny sharp butcher knives that I use.  Now if I can just figure out how to work a Black and Decker drill into the mix ….

Offal is used, and often prized, in almost all cultures other than those touched by the clean hands of western consumerism.  It is the be-all and end-all of classical French cooking, and menudo is one of the truly great dishes of Mexican cuisine.  The most ironic thing is that offal is now one of the “moste” haute of haute cuisine – the people buying the crap parts are the people who have all the shit in the world.

However, I grew up in a rural area of England where people did not have all the shit in the world and I regularly played with friends who lived on farms or worked on farms.  Since it was a very trying time in the UK, everyone ate what was put in front of them.  I ate stuffed hearts, steak and kidney pies (usually with more kidney than steak) and my favourite of all was liver and onions.  These dishes were served to use up everything – nothing went to waste on a farm.  And of course, I was told that eating it would put hair on my chest – and as a result of this, I do have a nice hairy ‘70s porn star swath of chest hair (and back hair and arse hair).

There is a point to all of this rambling and meandering talk about things that one is not supposed to talk about in polite society.  The daughter is spending some quality time with her grandparents down at their beach house having a great time and being spoiled rotten (as every grandchild should).  And I decided that what would make me a happy camper was to have something for dinner that I usually cannot eat without giving her a case of the vapors.

A really good mate of mine bought a butchered lamb recently and the lady who sold it to him gave him an extra couple of livers since he is one of the few people who take the liver when offered.  And being the fine upstanding gentlemen that he is, he passed one in my direction.  So I made myself liver and onions the way my granny (not my mum) made it.  And it was so good…. And it brought back so many great memories of home and growing up.

 ¾ pound fresh lamb’s liver

Plain flour

1 ½ cups of beef broth or stock

¼ cup sherry

1 small onion thinly sliced

2 sliced mushrooms (optional)

1tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp thyme

Olive oil

Embrace the horror and revel in the blood.  Rinse the liver and pat it dry.  If the liver is a complete liver then slice it into ¾” thick slices.  If you want to really freak out those Peeping Tom neighbours, I would suggest wearing a complete Dr. Giggles surgical get up.  Put some flour into a zip lock bag, drop in the liver slices and shake in the flour to coat it. It’s really cool to see the blood start to seep through the flour!

Heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil to a medium high heat.  Put the liver slices into the pan and fry the liver for a couple of minutes on each side.  Do not overcook  – that is cook for at least 20 minutes a side like my mum does (shoe leather –yummy yummy)whether it needs it or not!  Remove the liver from the pan and set aside for a few minutes.

 Add a little more oil to the skillet and add the onion and mushroom and cook for 5 minutes or so until the onions get a nice colour.  Remember that when it’s brown it’s caramelized but when it is black it is burnt.

Combine the broth (or stock), mustard, sherry and thyme and whisk together and then pour over the cooked onions and mushrooms.  Return the liver to the pan and leave, uncovered to simmer for 15 minutes.  Check the pan every few minutes and if the gravy needs thickening sprinkle in some flour stirring to incorporate. 

Traditionally, liver and onions is served with mashed potatoes.  Bear in mind that the tradition is the tradition in my family – but most families around where I grew up ate their liver with mash or boiled (aka un-mashed) potatoes.  The flavor of the liver is rich and, most importantly, since it has not been overcooked, the meat is soft and tender.  If it is overcooked, liver is rubbery and chewy – this is not good.  It brings back once repressed memories of school dinners….

Toad-In-The-Hole Is Not Some Kind Of Kinky Sex Act

Here it is, Easter Sunday, and since I am a live-alone dad, there really is not that much to do.  The Lakers are on the tube (who cares about them except for Portland’s one and only Laker fan).  There is no NASCAR for me to nap too (the droning noise that puts me to sleep is the engine noise, not Darrell Waltrip).  And the other awesome nap device known as the Oakland Raiders are a good six months away from losing their first game (of many, I am sure) of the season.So what am I to do?  Junior Wingmen #s 1 and 2 are still groggy and overwhelmed from the Muse concert last night:  quoting Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons “best concert everrrrrrr”.  The light show, the effects and the music all combined with a contact high not seen since the golden age of ‘70s arena rock to leave them in a semi-comatose state this morning.  I will be reporting on the concert though once their senses return.  But this means that there is nobody coming over for dinner this afternoon.

And since both of my girls are actually young ladies there is no Easter Bunny to deal with – although a visit from the Easter Bunny to clean my place would have been greatly appreciated.  (“Ooooh, Mr. Bunny, why do you smell like Scrubbing Bubbles, bleach and Orange Glo, rather than chocolate and Peeps?”)  I myself am still recovering from a sudden trip to Seattle to watch, or rather participate in, last night’s Seattle Sounders game.  This also will be covered this week as a review. 

A Sounders home game is an event, a happening.  My fervent hope for them is that the interest continues up there and grows stronger and stronger; and that it can be duplicated and replicated here in Portland when the Timbers put on their big boy shorts next summer.  The Sounders are the “Team of the People” in Seattle.  It is akin to how teams like West Ham, Portsmouth, Newcastle and Leeds are adored by their fans.  But then again, these teams are either struggling or locked in the lower divisions so should not be used as examples.  Seattle is an experiment in “American Sports” that I am rather excited about it.Now since I have already gotten my thesis statement ready to cut and paste to my Sounders article (I have to use statements like that since one of the people who reads this blog is my college English professor and I always expect to find a grade slapped on a post – but then again she would need to get to the grading, wouldn’t she?) I really should get to the point of this post which is this:  I am bored, bored I tell you. 

The only thing that is remotely entertaining today is cleaning my place. But, if I clean everything today, then how am I to pass the time spent waiting for people to call me back about working for them?  Yes, the job hunt thing is just that, a time consuming hunt.  Elmer Fudd did not have as much difficulty hunting wabbits as I am hunting a job.  Several interesting things have come up, but nothing so far has panned out.  And the boredom is getting to me.  I have to wait around this week so that I can talk to the production manager of a local company – but there was supposed to be a call at the end of last week, and now it is the beginning of this week.  And I played this game with another company that kept promising to call and never did. 

And what it seems like companies are looking for is either contract work which, naturally, carries no benefits, or as in the case of one company that I talked to, businesses are looking for PhDs to work for minimum wage.  The best thing that I have going on right now is some work I am doing from home designing algorithms for a friend who has a computer consultancy.  Looking toward the future, this may be the way to go.  Since my needs are minimal, if I could gross $3000 a month as a consultant/designer, I would be in good shape.  After all, if I work for myself, then it is kind of hard to get laid off.

But I have digressed, as I am liable to when I just sort of free write.  I am bored.  I have cleaned the commode (the loo, the bog, the W.C.), scrubbed the tub (my stiff brush and Extra Strength Simple Green used on the base of the tub, followed by a nice cleaning with Scrubbing Bubbles to give it such a nice shine that I really don’t want to bath for a few days so that the shine stays) and the counter top is nice and shiny and devoid of stray whiskers and nose hairs.  Even the taps gleam, it looks like a palace in there – I just need to put the little triangle ending on the toilet paper.My kitchen has been equally sanitized.  Even the screen over the stove top has been taken down and degreased and then buffed up.  The stove has been thoroughly cleaned; the rings were removed and the drip pans also degreased and rendered to a shine not even seen on a Marine’s dress blues; the knobs were pulled off and cleaned and the area under them has been rendered spotless.    The top of the refrigerator is clean and all of the detritus of everyday life that winds up there has been sorted and scrapped.  The counter tops have been sanitized and martinized and Scrubbing Bubble-ized. 

Orange-Glo has been used on every wood surface – even the kitchen cabinets.  The television, the stereo surround sound components, everything, has been cleaned with the appropriate cleaner, be it isopropyl alcohol, Windex, or my special can of spray air.  And most important of all, the carpet has been vacuumed so that I have perfect lines going from my sofa to the wall.  I always move my sofa so that the lines go all the way to the sofa rather than having a little area where the stripes go in a different direction.    Yes – I am that anal.

So with all of that done, what is there for me to do to amuse myself this week: fortunately, house cleaning is one of those Sisyphusian tasks that exist in life (and thank God for that or I would really be doing my nut by Wednesday).  I really try not to just sit around and watch television all week, even though the Barcelona v Arsenal game on Tuesday looks rather tasty (Barca will win 4 – 2).  So now I need to go and plan my week and try to rack my mind for something entertaining to do work-wise. 

Oh, and I also have to go and cook my Easter Dinner for One!  You see, there really is a point to all of this free writing and equally free rambling.  I am making myself Toad-In-The-Hole for Easter Dinner.  Now this should not be confused with a butterflied leg of lamb or crown roast, but then again I never cook like that since my girls would rather have something less formal.  Plus, even when the going is good, I cannot justify spending that kind of money, and donating the requisite amount of time, for a meal that will be over and done with in thirty minutes at most.My TITH is perfect for this kind of day.  It is not overly time consuming, will feed me for several days, contains a pork product, and is good with gravy.  Toad-In-The-Hole is Yorkshire Pudding with sausages baked into it.  It is one of the staples of my mother’s cooking routine, but mine is modified so that it has flavour and some substance to it.  I love to have mine with lots of cooked veggies and mashed potatoes and gravy. 

Yorkshire Pudding is a Sunday dinner staple in the UK.  Supposedly it is to be served with roast beef, but my family (coming from rather Bolshevik stock on both sides) loved them so much that, growing up, we had them with any sort of roasted meat.  My mum actually makes great individual Yorkshire Puds.  They end up being crispy little gravy cups.

But when making Toad-In-The-Hole it is necessary to create a pan size Yorkshire Pudding.  Since I am a solo dude a lot of the time, I had to modify my recipe to fit my size or I would be wearing a lot bigger big boy pants than I do now.  My recipe creates an 8” by 8” TITH.

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2 Eggs

Pinch of salt

1/2 to 2/3 cup of sifted all purpose flour

2/3 cup of milk

1 tsp of mustard powder

1 teaspoon of caraway seed (optional)

**************************************************************************************************Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the pinch of salt and beat for about a minute.  Add the sifted flour and then the milk and beat until any lumps are gone.  Then add the mustard and the caraway seed and beat again.  The batter should be nice and runny.  Put the batter in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours.

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1 pack of pre-cooked pork sausages (I use Jimmy Dean regular or Fred Meyer brand)

1 tbsp butter (usually it calls for pan drippings from the roast, but it is too much fat for me)

****************************************************************************************************Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and put an 8” x 8” Pyrex baking dish into the oven to pre-heat.  The idea is to pour the chilled batter into the hot dish – remember that a lot of English and Scottish cooking is based on a dare.  When the oven gets to 400 degrees, I add the butter to the dish and put it back in the oven.  After the butter has melted remove the dish from the oven and pour in the chilled batter – a welding mask may, or may not, be a useful safety idea. 

Add the sausages to the batter leaving room so that the batter can rise on the sides and become crispy.  My mum often cooks her sausages some more – but this should be avoided or one ends up with burnt offerings (or something looking more like a piece of black pudding) in the bottom of the Yorkshire Pudding.Place into the center of the oven and cook for 15 – 18 minutes.  Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and rotate the dish for even cooking.  Cook the Toad-In-The-Hole for another 20 – 25 minutes until is golden brown to brown on the sides.  The darker it is, the crispier it will be.  I want the top on mine to almost be burnt.   Remove from the oven and serve immediately.  I like mashed potatoes and gravy with my TITH, but (believe it or not) Stove Top Stuffing is fantastic with it too if one really ones an all-out carbohydrate festival. 

This is basic English comfort food – it is not meant for people who exist in a world where they eat nothing but salad and then throw up.  This would be my UK equivalent to meatloaf.   Whereas everyone else’s mum has the best recipe, my granny had the best Yorkshire Pud recipe:  and, by the way, a friend of mine has the best meatloaf recipe (along with a pretty bitchin’ mashed potato recipe).

A Penne For Your Thoughts

I am non-Italian to the point that, well, I don’t even care for carefully constructed defensive and negative soccer, Ferraris or red wine:  but I do love pasta.  My favourite is penne (but not Penne a la Arabiata), followed closely by fafalle – it’s the closest I ever get to a bow tie.  Spaghetti gives me ‘orrible flashbacks to my mum’s variation on sauce (aka Ragu) so I try not to go there too often.  And I do love a nice lasagna (colour me orange and call me Garfield) but it is so much work to make a really good lasagna – not to mention the after party (or clean up detail). Now, to me, the ultimate bastardization of pasta is Kraft Mac ‘N’ Cheese.  My youngest daughter could live on the bowel sealing stodge.   To me it is slimy and orange – even if one gussies it up by chucking a can of tuna into the mix.  However, I have a recipe for a much better version of the dish that uses all that is good in life:  penne, parmesan (instead of cheddar) spinach and bacon:  because everything is better with bacon.The one thing not mentioned on the list here is the need for a compliant and amiable helper with a strong wrist since there is a need to keep stirring the sauce or it may well burn.  This is not a good thing.  In the absence of such an assistant, prep everything ahead (sort of like a real chef) so all attention is on the stove.

Penne in a White Cheese Sauce with Bacon, Spinach and Crumb Topping

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6 Slices of Bacon

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Rough chop and then cook the bacon until nice and crisp.  Put the bacon on paper towels to drain and cool.  Set the bacon aside to be added to the sauce later.  Originally, the recipe that this recipe is based on called for the bacon to be cooked with the onion but I did not want the sauce getting greasy.

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1lb of penne

Salted water

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Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the penne:  please do not add oil to the water.  Ideally it should be cooked slightly underdone (al dente) so that the pasta can finish cooking in the sauce.   Drain the pasta and put into a bowl.  You want to time the pasta to be done shortly before the sauce finishes cooking on the stove.

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1 tbsp butter

¾ cup of chopped onion

2 tsp of minced garlic

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 ¾ cups of milk (divided)

¼ cup of half & half or cream

1 package of fresh spinach

½ – 1 cup of parmesan cheese

1 ¼ tsp of salt

½ tsp of black pepper (or to taste)

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Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  (I use Fahrenheit since the US still lives in ye olde times and works off of the imperial measuring system still.)

Heat a large non-stick saucepan over medium high heat and add the butter (what can I say, butter and bacon in a pasta dish).  Once the butter has melted add the onion and garlic making sure that the onion and garlic are well coated in the melted butter so as not to burn.  Cook for 5 minutes until the onion becomes soft and translucent.

Place the flour into a small bowl and slowly add ¾ cup of the milk whisking until smooth.  Add this, the additional 3 cups of milk and the half & half (or cream) to the saucepan and bring to a boil:  stir the sauce constantly so that the milk does not scald or the sauce become lumpy.  Immediately reduce the heat to low and, still stirring, simmer for 2 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

Add the cooked bacon and the spinach to the sauce and continue to stir.  Remove the saucepan from the heat after a minute and start to add the cheese.  Do this gradually:  wait until the previously added cheese has melted and been incorporated into the sauce.  Once the cheese is melted and has been incorporated into the sauce, add the salt and the pepper, tasting the sauce as you go to check the seasoning.  Pour the sauce over the pasta in the bowl and toss well to combine. 

Pour the mixture into a 13 x 9 glass baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray so the cooked pasta does not stick.  Sometime I use two smaller pans so that I can cook them separately.  This amounts to one for the family and one for my youngest daughter who can take one of the pans and eat it with a spoon like ice cream.

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¼ cup of melted butter

Bread crumbs

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In a small non-stick saucepan, melt the butter.  Take the saucepan off of the heat and stir in bread crumbs until all of the butter has been absorbed.  Spoon the topping over the pasta.  Bake for 6 -10 minutes until the crumb topping is nicely browned and the sauce is bubbling.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the penne to cool for a few minutes.This can be served with any sort of meat dish such as meat loaf (a friend of mine does a brilliant meatloaf) or pork chops or chicken.  It also makes a wonderful stand alone meal and can also be served as the ubiquitous “left overs” in the days after.

Food Is Sexy: So Make Sexy Food

 I have, quite rightfully in my big headed way, talked ad nauseum about my Vodka Cream Sauce. It is one of the most flavorful and decadent meals in my armory. This dish is surprisingly simple to make and most ingredients are going to be in most people’s pantry.  It is the first choice for my oldest daughter’s birthday dinner as she loves the richness of the sauce (and the vodka taste).

And before anyone wonders about mixing vodka into a pasta sauce, I have two words for you: Bloody Mary! Tomatoes and vodka are made to go together. All the vodka does is enhance the flavors in this sauce. This is an understatement. It makes the sauce abso-fucking-lutely fantastic.  The basic ingredients and the technique were found in a Fine Cooking article several years ago. And then, I just kept adjusting the recipe to suit my family’s tastes. The original recipe called for crushed tomatoes, and did not call for the sausage or the puree and diced tomatoes.

What has been created is a rich sauce with some bite to it since my girls and I like “hot”. Where everything really comes together is at the very end where the sauce, the pasta, the sausage, the cheese and parsley are tossed together. Until then, everything is kept separate.
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1 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 lb Italian Sausage (Hot or Sweet depending on personal choice)
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The first part of the recipe is completely optional. I like to get the Italian sausages that are in the casings rather than the ground Italian sausage. I remove the skins and brown the sausage meat, chopping it into bite-size chunks as it cooks. Once the sausage is cooked, set it off to one side ready for the “final assembly”.
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16oz Penne Pasta

Salted water
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I bring my salted water to a boil so that the pasta can be added. I never add any oil to my water. Oil on the pasta will prevent the sauce from sticking to the pasta which is completely the reverse of what you want.   The goal is to only cook the pasta until it is al dente since it will finish cooking when everything is incorporated at the end. 

Drain the pasta when done and hold for the final coming together. Also keep the pasta pot handy. I always use mine to mix everything together.

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2Tbs. Olive Oil

1 Small Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped

2 Garlic Cloves, Minced

1 Can Petite Diced Tomatoes

1/2 Tsp Thyme

1/2 Tsp Oregano

1/4 – 1/2 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes (Depending on personal taste)
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The sauce proper, as taught in the article, is a series of reductions which get rid of the liquid and create an intense flavor. While the sauce is being prepared, I usually start the pasta. I want my pasta to be finished a few minutes before my sauce.

1)   Heat a large skillet to between medium and medium-hot, add the olive oil.
2)   Add the finely chopped onion and a pinch of salt.
3)   Add the garlic to the skillet:  by adding this second, the garlic does not burn. Allow the onion and garlic to cook for a few minutes until the onion begins to turn translucent.
4)   Add the diced tomatoes. Cook for several minutes to cook off some of the liquid.
5)   Add the spices and allow them to cook into the base.

At this point, there is a fantastic base in the skillet. And I would imagine, since I do not have a sense of smell all I can do is imagine, that there is a fantastic smell in the kitchen. It is now magic time!

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1 Can Tomato Puree

1/4 Cup Vodka (Unflavored or I will use a citrus flavored)

1/3 – 1/2 Cup Low Salt Chicken Broth or Stock (Vegetable broth is also good)
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1)   Add the can of tomato puree to the mixture and stir well. I reduce the heat at this time to medium. Allow the sauce to come up to a boil. Watch for splatters as they burn like a bastard.
2)    Add the vodka to the sauce and stir well to mix.
3)    Once your sauce is bubbling nicely, add the broth of choice. Allow the sauce to bubble away and reduce some of the liquid. You want a nice, thick sauce rather than a thin, wimpy, wussy-pussy sauce.IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE:

AT THIS POINT IN TIME, YOUR SAUCE LOOKS SO TASTY, SO INVITING, SO TEMPTING: BUT DO NOT SUCCUMB TO THAT TEMPTATION.

SAD, PERSONAL EXPERIENCE HAS TAUGHT ME THAT PUTTING A SERVING SPOON OF BUBBLING, BOILING VODKA FLAVORED GOODNESS INTO ONE’S GOB BURNS LIKE A BASTARD.

THIS WILL RESULT IN LARGE BLISTERS, EXTREMELY HIGH PITCHED PROFANITY, AND JUMPING UP AND DOWN IN PLACE AT THE STOVE WHILE HOWLING LIKE A BANSHEE. FURTHERMORE, YOUR ENJOYMENT OF THE SEXY FINISHED PASTA DISH WILL BE GREATLY DIMINISHED.

Now that all of the legalities and formalities (and any other ….ities you can think of) have been met, it is back to the program at hand.

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2/3 Cup Heavy Cream
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1)    After the sauce has been percolating away for ten minutes or so and reduced by about a third, slowly add the heavy cream.
2)    Stir the sauce thoroughly in order to fully incorporate the cream, making sure to leave none of the goodness “above the waterline” so to speak. This is all flavour – and flavour is our friend.
3)    The heat can be reduced a little again, although I generally do not, and allow the cream to cook down a little. The sauce should be light orange in color and will have a silky look to it.
4)    Cook the sauce, stirring regularly for five to eight minutes.REFER TO THE EARLIER SAFETY WARNING: NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
YOUR SAUCE IS STILL REALLY, REALLY, REEEEEAAAAAALLLLLLLLY HOT. IF YOU PUT THE SPOON IN YOUR MOUTH, YOU WILL HAVE A LISP LIKE CINDY BRADY.
So now it is time to complete the dish. You are hot (of course you are), you are sweating, you probably have ignored all of my warnings and you have bits of your cheek lining stuck between your teeth where the blisters have popped, but you have prevailed.

You are a chef. Exhale loudly and let out a healthy Gordon Ramsay “fucking hell”. And now finish the dish.
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16oz Penne Pasta that was cooked to al dente (not quite fully cooked)

The Sauce

The sausage

1/4 – 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese

1/2 Cup Chopped Flat Leaf (Italian) Parsley
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1)    Return the drained pasta to the empty pot it was cooked in.
2)    Pour the sauce over the top of the pasta and gently toss
3)    Add the parsley and the cooked sausage (if being used) and gently toss again to incorporate the flavors
4)    Finally, add the parmesan and gently toss one more time.
5)    Cover and leave for a couple of minutes. The sauce will finish cooking the pasta. The cheese will melt and become incorporated in the dish too.

Eat slowly and savor greatly.

I love this dish with a Caesar salad and my garlic/parmesan toast

I Bind To Myself Today

Now today is March 17th. It is Wednesday and it is also St. Patrick’s Day – a festival of drinking until puking in this nation. And coincidentally, the day the Irish celebrate their patron saint: funny coincidence that. Now I come from a strong Irish Catholic background, and while I have been known to partake of the Liffy water (Guiness) on this particular day (and, actually, any day it is offered), this year the holiday coincides with being unemployed and quite frankly I have better things to be doing – such as seeking gainful employment.  This is actually proceeding quite well as there seems to be a swirl of activity around me.  If I was fishing, I would say that the fish are here and they are banging the bait.

I will, of course, have traditional Irish food:  especially since it is food that is made to be prepared on a budget.  There will be champ (basically mashed potatoes) and there will be cabbage (referred to by my youngest daughter as “fartweed” due to certain unfortunate side-effects it wreaks on my system) and there will be a yet to be determined meat; pork or corned beef – or even rabbit if I could scare one up.  This is much more difficult than it used to be since my coursing dog, Sam, died twenty years ago.  He could run a rabbit down and turn with a hare.

But one thing is for certain. There will be soda bread with the meal and there will be apple cake for dessert.

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Nanny Alice’s Soda Bread4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cups of buttermilk
¼ cup of corn oil
2 teaspoons of caraway seeds
1 cup of golden raisins
1 tablespoon of milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.

Stir the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Take a separate bowl and beat the eggs, buttermilk and oil together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Add the caraway seeds and raisins and stir until a soft dough has formed.

On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a large ball and place on the prepared pan. Cut a cross on the top of the dough ball with a sharp knife. I usually go about 1” deep. Brush the top of the bread with the milk.

Bake in the center of the oven until golden brown: 30 – 40 minutes.

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This is out of my granny’s cookbook that she left me in her will (along with cash): you gotta love a good well thought out will. My granny was a generous, lovely woman who grew up in Dublin. She would not mind sharing her recipe with anyone. It is easy to make.

Another one of her recipes is the apple cake that we have for dessert (actually referred to as “afters” by my Nan). Everyone should have an Irish Nan. This would be especially good when served up with a Bailey’s flavored ice cream.

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Apple Cake4 tablespoons of butter at room temperature (I always use unsalted)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
4 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and diced (2 cups)
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8” square cake pan

Cream the butter and sugar together, in a large bowl, until light and fluffy. Next, add the egg, apples, nuts, and vanilla and stir well. Sift the dry ingredients into the batter and mix well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean: about 45 minutes. Allow the cake to stand and cool for 5 minutes and then remove it from the pan.

I serve this with ice cream or whipped cream.

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So these are my St. Patrick’s Day presents for everyone from my family cookbook. And now I have to go and figure out what the meat should be for the dinner (and I do need a new bottle of Jameson’s).