Monday, March 13, 2006

I've Been Cooking on the Railroad

Welcome to all the Carnival of the Recipes readers. I've altered the recipe a bit based on the results of the stew I made friday. Half of a head of cabbage and 1 leek is sufficient, and the slurry is unnecessary, but it's best to add a full pint of beef broth.

Somewhere between the original solemn holiday and the modern excuse to get drunk, Saint Patrick's day is still, for many Irish Americans, a day to celebrate our heritage. While my family has been in America for so long that my exact ethnic makeup is unclear, we do know for certain that it includes Scots Irish. So I'm excited about this coming Friday.

In preparation for it, I plan to make an Irish meal, and have decided to give it the same treatment I've given other dishes -- give them an Oregon/Western US twist, to express my pride in THAT part of my heritage. But how to do that without rendering it no longer Irish?

It was The Feared Redhead who provided me with the inspiration. We were watching Food Nation with Bobby Flay, and she commented that an Irish Stew he was highlighting looked delicious, but she doesn't like lamb, so she wondered if we could make it using our favorite red meat, buffalo.


Along with the Chinese, the Irish comprised the majority of the laborers who built the transcontinental railroad. We Irish Americans are proud of the significant amount of this country that was built on our backs. And while they were building the railroad, I have to surmise that they were fed buffalo, since it was so plentiful. And while the railroads would eventually lead to the decline of the bison population, I think that it's a fitting meat to use to combine both my Irish and Western heritages.

Irish American Railroad Builder Stew

2 lbs buffalo skirt steak
4 oz. bacon (Irish or American)
1 small yellow onion
1 leek
1 lb carrots
1/2 cup Jameson's Irish Whisky
1 bottle beer (I know, it's usually Guinness these days, but here's where I add an Oregon twist: I'm using a 22 oz. bottle of Rogue Brewery's Kells Irish Style Lager -- TFR hates Guinness)
1 pint beef broth
1 bunch celery
1/2 head cabbage
4 large russet potatos
1 lb carrots

Wash leeks, cut to separate the white bulbs from the green stalks. Cop the leek bulbs, the onion, and the bacon. Cut the buffalo into 1-inch cubes. Cut the carrots into 1-inch long pieces. Cut the cabbage head into quarters, slice each quarter into 1-inch wide strips. Cut the potatos into 1-inch cubes, DO NOT PEEL. Chop the parsley fine.

Place the bacon into a cast iron Dutch oven and heat over medium hih heat. when the bacon is beginning to brown, add the onion and leek bulbs. Sautee intil the onions are clear, add the buffalo cubes, salt and pepper lightly and brown. Degalze with Jameson's and light to burn off the alcohol. Pour in the beer and broth, add the leek stalks, cabbage, carrots, potatos, and parsley. Salt and pepper lightly, bring to a boild. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 hours. Stir in the slurry, bring the stew back to a boil, then remove from heat and serve with Irish soda bread or American Baking Powder Biscuits.

The Worst Cuts Are The Cheapest

Last night I made my Beef Oregon, A variation on Boef Bourgognon that highlights the ingredients of my home state. As usual with my recipes, I modified it a bit -- honestly, I usually just go with what I know about a dish in my head, I only commint them to paper/electrons so that I can share them. I left out the rosemary, added parsley, and used a water/flour slurry instead of the butter/flower mix (not quite a roux since it isn't heated) in order to make it leaner, but it still came out really damned good.

One of the things I LOVE about this dish is that it can take the toughest cut of meat, and after cooking it for several hours in an acidic wine-base broth, it will be as tender and succulent as possible -- oh, yes, very tender indeed.

Last night was the first time I made it since The Lad started eating solid foods (and will probably be the last batch until fall -- it's a cool weather dish in my book). He went nuts for it, especially the meat.

The Feared Redhead jokes that our son will have the most discriminating palate of any child around. She teasingly postulated the following conversation:

Other Little Kid: My sandwich is a Peanut Butter and Jelly with the crust cut off! What's yours?
The Lad: Grill-Seared Flank Steak with crimini mushrooms, blue cheese, baby greens, and a mustard vinaigrette on rustic Ciabatta.
Other Little Kid: ........ Want to trade?