Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and Potato Soup

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Here it is, folks, the last of the last of the St. Patty’s Day meals. Although I’ve enjoyed the Irish recipes that we’ve dished up this month, I’m ready to retire my potato peeler for a while – and so is my waistline. This soup is a lighter version of the standard “potato leek” but it’s heavier on the leek than it is the potato, offering more flavor for less calories – and no cream added! If you like your soup super creamy (is that homophone getting old yet?) you can blend it to be smooth (like in the photo above), or leave bits of potato, leek, and celery. Regardless of how you dish it up, I think you’ll enjoy this tasty Irish soup. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! ♣

Leek and Potato Soup

Serves 4

  • 2 Tbsp. oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 medium sized russet potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 celery stalks, with leaves included, roughly diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks), depending on preference of thickness
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. sour cream thinned with milk for serving (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped, for serving (optional)

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(I decided to add the garlic and bay leaf at the last minute so they didn’t make the family photo, sorry.)

Leeks: I always leave a hint (just a hint) of dark green parts on my leeks because it makes the soup greener (is that right?) Greener? More green? Anyway, you should use about this much leek…

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Leeks can hide dirt in their super thin layers, so after you slice them, it’s a good idea to swish them around in water to release any grim hanging on, like so…

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Celery: Nothing special about these guys, just chop them and include the leaves.

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Potatoes: Peel them, then cut them into ¼-inch slices. Cut the slices again into ¼-inch sticks, and finally cut the sticks into cubes. (I do the potatoes last so that they don’t turn that weird pinkish color as the sugars oxidize.) The progression of the potato…

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And the gang’s all here!

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Add butter and oil to a large soup pot set over medium-high heat, and cook until butter has melted. Add the vegetables and the crushed bay leaf, and sauté until soft, but not brown, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add 3 cups of the stock, bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are easily pierced by a fork.

Purée soup with an immersion hand-blender right in the pot; or in two batches, purée soup in a food processor or blender until you’ve reached the desired consistency, either smooth or chunky. This is chunky…

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Return to pot and taste for seasoning. Thin with more stock if needed.

Ladle into preheated bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped chives and a drizzle of sour cream (or a sour cream shamrock – see How To below). Serve with dark Irish soda bread, or another hearty bread.

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How To: 

Making a sour cream shamrock is easier than it looks, here’s how you do it.

1) Thin sour cream with a little milk and stir until smooth.

2) With a small spoon, place 4 dots of sour cream in the middle of the bowl.

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3) Using a toothpick or bamboo skewer, drag one of the dots into the middle of the circle.

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4) Follow suit with the other 4 dots, dragging them to the center of the circle, forming the body of the shamrock.

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5) Continue to pull the sour cream downward, creating the stem of the shamrock.

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And violà!

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Chocolate Guinness Layer Cake

Chocolate Guinness Layer Cake

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Well this cake has just about all of my favorite things: chocolate, beer, and espresso – need I give you any more of an introduction than that? I thought not. (Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appètit)

Chocolate Guinness Layer Cake

Makes 12 servings

Cake:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) salted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs, separated
¾ cup Guinness, chocolate stout, regular stout, or porter
2/3 cup freshly brewed strong coffee (I stopped by Starbucks and bought a Grande French Roast, used a bit for the cake, then drank the rest. It’s called being resourceful, people!)

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Frosting:
1 pound bittersweet chocolate (54% to 60% cacao), chopped
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

PREPARATION

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 ½-inch-high sides. Line bottom of each cake pan with parchment paper round; butter and flour parchment and sides. Place chopped chocolate in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water and set aside. (This is not the time to lick your fingers, friends. It looks really melty and delicious, but remember it’s unsweetened, so it still tastes skunky at this point! Wait until the batter’s finished then lick the beaters clean.)

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter and 1 ¼ cups sugar in large bowl until fluffy and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. (I can’t stress enough how important it is to properly cream the butter and sugar; this is what makes the cake light and fluffy instead of heavy in the middle. Cream it until you think you’re done, then go an extra minute. It should look like this…)

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Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Pour ¾ cup of Guinness into a measuring beaker, then drink the rest. In the same measuring beaker, pour 2/3 cup of freshly brewed coffee – if the coffee’s still warm the beer will help cool it down. Beat in lukewarm melted chocolate, then stout and coffee. At this point the batter will look a little strange, like it’s separating or curdling, but that’s normal. Beat flour mixture into chocolate mixture in 2 additions just until incorporated and batter is smooth. Oooh, now we’re getting somewhere!

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Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in another medium bowl until stiff but not dry. (They should form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted from the bowl, like so…)

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Fold ⅓ of egg whites into cake batter to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions. Divide batter between prepared cake pans (about 3 cups for each); smooth tops. (Now you can lick your fingers!)

Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and cool in pans 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks; remove parchment paper and cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.

For frosting:
Place chopped chocolate in medium heatproof bowl. Combine whipping cream and espresso powder in medium saucepan. Bring cream mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Pour cream mixture over chopped chocolate; let stand 1 minute, then whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Chill chocolate frosting until slightly thickened and spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours (or for quick chilling, place frosting in freezer until thickened and spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes).

Using serrated knife, trim rounded tops from both cake layers so that tops are flat.

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You’ll end up with extra-thin slivers of cake. Don’t let these go to waste, they’re perfect for snacking on while you sweat over getting your frosting smooth and your cake looking beautiful.

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Place 1 cake layer, trimmed side up, on a cake plate. Drop 1¼ cups frosting by large spoonfuls over top of cake layer; spread frosting evenly to edges with offset spatula or butter knife.

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Top with second cake layer, trimmed side down so that the flat bottom side creates nice sharp edges – this makes it much easier to spread the frosting evenly without getting pesky crumbs in it. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake.

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This recipe yields plenty of frosting, so don’t skimp, really lay it on thick! DO AHEAD: Can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let cake stand at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours before serving.

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Beautiful! Now slice it up…

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Oh, yeah!

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Stuff My Kid Eats: Chicken Pot Pie

Stuff My Kid Eats

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You’ve heard me mention before that word “chicken” in response to “what’s for dinner?” can insight a riot from my toddler. That is unless the word “chicken” is followed by the word “pie.”  As you can see from the photo above, the little stinker pulled a steps tool up to the counter and started to dig in before I could get her plate to the table.

Chicken Pot Pie

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There’s a lot of different ways to make chicken pot pie, and a lot of different crusts you can use; the way I’ve always done it is by filling individual ramekins with chicken, vegetables, and gravy, then topping them with a light and buttery sheet of puffed pastry. Feel free to skip the individual dishes and use one large one, or alter on the veggies if you want (for instance I add broccoli, which isn’t traditional), and if puff isn’t your thing, then swap it out for phyllo dough. Just don’t forget to thaw the pastry in the refrigerator the night before, otherwise you’re going to end up with a couple frozen, unusable blocks of dough that have no business near your beautiful chicken – I know this first hand. (To adapt this recipe for vegetarians, see Vegetarian Modifications at the end of the recipe.)

Chicken Pot Pie

Serves 6

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. flour plus more for dusting
  • ½ cup Sherry
  • 2 cups chicken stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup diced carrots, from about 3-4 carrots
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled and cut in half (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (from about 3-4 potatoes)
  • 1 cup diced celery, from about 3-4 celery stalks
  • 1 cup diced broccoli
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed from bone and torn or cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 sheet frozen puffed pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat butter and oil in a large skillet set over medium heat, until butter has melted and begins to brown. Add shallots and thyme and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add thyme and garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour and cook until thick and starting to brown. Add sherry, stirring and cooking until liquid has reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes. Add milk and stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

To the simmering liquid, add carrots, pearl onions, and potatoes and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add celery, broccoli, chicken, peas, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, sugar, and salt and stir until combined. Cook for another couple minutes until all the ingredients are covered in gravy.

Scoop chicken mixture into individual oven-safe baking dishes or ramekins, or one large oven-safe baking dish, filling to the top.

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Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out puff pastry dough to get rid of the seams. If you’re making individual pot pies, then with a sharp knife, cut rounds slightly larger than the circumference of ramekins. Place a pastry round over each filled dish, crimping the edges a bit and allowing about ½ of dough to hang over the sides. If you’re making one large pot pie, lay the sheet of dough over the baking dish, with a sharp knife, trim the dough to fit, leaving ½-inch overhang, crimp the edges slightly.

Brush dough all over with egg wash and use a sharp knife to make a few small slits in the top for steam to escape. Place baking dish(es) on a baking sheet to catch the drips.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the inside is bubbling at the edges.

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VEGETARIAN MODIFICATIONS

  • Omit chicken and replace with 1 additional cup each of carrots and broccoli.
  • Omit chicken broth and replace with vegetable broth.

Dublin Coddle Crockpot Version!

Dublin Coddle Crockpot Version!

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Hey, everybody! I just did a little online research and found out that you can make yesterday’s Dublin Coddle in your crockpot as well, here’s how:

  • 1 lb. bacon strips
  • 8 good-quality port sausages
  • 4 onion, sliced
  • 1 leek, some green tops included, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 starchy potatoes, such as russets, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 large chucks
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

In a large skillet, cook bacon until just starting to crips. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Let cool, then slice in thirds widthwise, set aside.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add the sausages to the bacon fat and cook, turning, for about 15 minutes, until evenly browned. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into thirds, widthwise, set aside.

Also in the same skillet, gently cook the onions for 7-8 minutes, until soft but not colored.

Layer the onions, sausages, and bacon in your crockpot, seasoning each layer with plenty of black pepper. Add the leek, herbs, and garlic, and finish with a layer of potatoes. Season with a little more black pepper, then pour in the stock. cook at high (4 hours) or low setting (8 hours) until done.

Dublin Coddle

Dublin Coddle

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Dublin Coddle is a traditional Irish comfort food that dates back to the seventeenth century. Because practicing Catholics are prohibited from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, it is thought that this dish came about as a way to cook up leftover meat at the end of the week. The first time I tried it was at an Irish Festival in Weston, MO and I was surprised at how flavorful it was for its simple ingredients – onions, potatoes, sausage, and bacon – but wow, I was impressed! Ever since then Dublin Coddle has singlehandedly replaced Chicken Pot Pie as my all-time favorite Irish meal! (Recipe slightly adapted from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook)

Serves 4-6

  • 1 lb. bacon strips
  • 8 good-quality port sausages
  • 4 onion, sliced
  • 1 leek, some green tops included, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 starchy potatoes, such as russets, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 large chucks
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F. In a large skillet, cook bacon until just starting to crips. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Let cool, then slice in thirds widthwise, set aside.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add the sausages to the bacon fat and cook, turning, for about 15 minutes, until evenly browned. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into thirds, widthwise, set aside.

Also in the same skillet, gently cook the onions for 7-8 minutes, until soft but not colored.

Layer the onions, sausages, and bacon in the bottom of an oven/flame proof casserole dish (or Dutch oven) with a lid, seasoning each layer with plenty of black pepper. Add the leek, herbs, and garlic, and finish with a layer of potatoes. Season with a little more black pepper, then pour in the stock.

Cover the casserole dish tightly and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Sidekicks: Serve with plenty of dark Irish soda bread to mop up the juices and a Guinness.

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Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole for Daylight-Saving Time

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Ready to spring forward, everybody? Its daylight-saving time again (Surprised? Me, too!), which means that on Sunday we’ll loose and hour of sleep but gain an hour of daylight. Having a toddler in the house means sleep has become a very precious commodity (one we don’t seem to get enough of), so losing an hour makes a big difference. This season I’ve decided to give my husband the day-off from his Sunday Morning Waffles and prepare a savory breakfast casserole on Saturday night instead. This way, when daylight arrives earlier than we’d hoped for, I’ll simply transfer my casserole from the fridge to the oven then, go reclaim an extra hour of sleep while it cooks.

Quick, run out and get these 5 ingredients for your Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole!

Quick, run out and get these 5 ingredients for your Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole!

Serves 6

  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 30-oz. package of frozen shredded hash browns
  • 12 oz. ground breakfast sausage
  • 12 eggs
  • 4 oz. diced ham
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Add-Ins (Pick of few of the following to make your casserole more tasty – for this casserole I used leeks, mushrooms, and fresh oregano.)

  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, diced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli, diced
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, tender parts only, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh chopped herbs (added to eggs)

Lightly mist a 13×9-inch baking dish (2 quart dish) with cooking spray.

Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and heat oil until shimmering. Carefully add hash browns and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan (it helps if you break up any chunks before cooking). Cover and cook, undisturbed, for 4-7 minutes, then uncover and continue cooking, flipping occasionally, until browned, about 10-12 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Transfer hash browns to baking dish and spread in an even layer, set aside. In the same skillet over medium-high heat, add ground sausage and any vegetables you’re using, and cook until sausage is brown and vegetables are soft, about 4-6 minutes. Transfer sausage mixture to baking dish and spread in an even layer over hash browns. Allow to cool slightly before proceeding.

Layer the sausage on top of the hash browns.

Layer the sausage on top of the hash browns.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs (and herbs if you’re using) with a dash of salt and pepper until combined. Mix in ham and 1 cup of cheese. Pour egg mixture into the baking dish, covering sausage and hash browns completely. Sprinkle the top with remaining cup of cheese.

See how the eggs drip all the way down to the bottom of the dish? That means you get eggy goodness in every bite!

See how the eggs drip all the way down to the bottom of the dish? That means you get eggy goodness in every bite!

At this point you can either cover and refrigerate overnight, or bake right away.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place baking dish on a rack set in the center of the oven. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until eggs have set (no longer jiggly in the middle) and the cheese has melted and started to bubble. While it’s baking you can cut the fruit, make some coffee, and pour (or squeeze) a couple glasses of orange juice; or go back to bed for an hour — it’s your choice.

Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

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Don’t forget to set your clocks FORWARD and hour before hitting the pillow Saturday night!