Small Bites

The lowdown on Irish cuisine from a Gaelic chef, foolproof soda bread, and Restaurant Week returns



Small Bites

 

Beyond Corned Beef & Cabbage

 

 

 

Photo by Ben Fink/CIA

 

Soda Bread

Makes two loaves or 16 rolls

4 cups cake flour   1 Tbsp baking soda   ½ cup sugar   ¼ tsp salt   ¼ cup vegetable shortening  1 cup dark raisins  1 Tbsp caraway seeds  1 cup cold milk

 

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it lightly with cooking spray or lining it with parchment paper.

2. Sift the flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt together into a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse meal.

3. Add the raisins, caraway seeds, and milk. Mix the dough until just combined; avoid over-mixing as this will cause the dough to toughen.

4. Turn the dough into a lightly floured surface, and press it into a ball. Form into two equal loaves, or cut into 16 equal pieces to make rolls. Dust with flour, and lightly score an “X” across the top of each roll or loaf with a sharp knife.

5. Bake until lightly browned and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom (about 8-10 minutes for rolls, 25 minutes for loaves). Wrap in a tea towel directly out of the oven.

6. Cool the soda bread in the tea towel on a wire rack before serving. It can be held at room temperature for up to two days, or frozen for up to four weeks.

 

“Like most baked goods, soda bread doesn’t keep for long,” says John Reilly, associate professor in culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America. “If properly cooled, wrapped well in plastic, and stored at room temperature, it will maintain its quality for about two days.”

 

This recipe is from the Culinary Institute of America’s Breakfasts and Brunches cookbook (Lebhar-Friedman 2005, $35).

 

 

Q&A

Chef Phil Crispo

 

Chef Phil Crispo, an assistant professor at the Culinary Institute of America, was born in Beacon but raised mostly in Scotland, where “the food is very similar to Ireland,” he says. From the simple pleasures of the potato to sensational seafood, Chef Crispo tells us how we can experience a wee bit of the luck of the Irish by indulging in some authentic Celtic grub.

 

What’s the best thing about Irish cooking?

It has to be the abundance of seafood.

 

Is that a surprise for people?

Oh God, yes. If it’s Irish, people think it’s corned beef and cabbage, but I never saw anyone eat corned beef and cabbage until I came here. There are all types of stereotypes: you know, what’s the Irish seven-course meal? A six-pack and a potato. But it’s not like that.

 

What’s your personal favorite?

It has to be the seafood — the lobsters and the langoustines — the crustaceans. The water is ice cold, it is very, very clean. Unfortunately, the average person in Ireland can’t afford them.

 

So what does the average Irish person eat?

Seafood, but not the crustaceans. White fish of some kind, haddock, monkfish. There is also lots of lamb being consumed, and beef and steak — steak being a treat. The beef is so different over there; it is bred for superior flavor and quality, but the price is considerably higher.

 

Do you like going to Irish pubs here in the states?

There are a few good ones. But in Ireland and England there is a big push for gastro pubs — pubs that serve phenomenal, high-end bar food. Some of these places have been awarded the Michelin award for food. You can get an Irish stew. Or a seafood pie — it’s going to be rich, beautifully seasoned, with chunks of lobster and crab, and it’s going to have a nice crust on top, and you’re going to sit there with a pint of Guinness. The atmosphere is nice and relaxed. It would be great if they took off here.

 

What’s the appeal of Irish soda bread?

I enjoy the rich flavors you can get out of it if you use authentic ingredients. Unfortunately, a lot of people use the American butter — your butter here is really bland. Over there, you are getting full cream butter.

 

Are people surprised when they learn how much you can do with a potato?

They’re surprised when they learn there is more than one kind of potato. There are four or five, maybe eight different kinds of potatoes in real fruit and vegetable markets. For instance, you don’t use a high-moisture potato with low starch to make mashed potatoes — it ends up like your mother-in-law’s wallpaper paste.

 

How do you eat your potatoes?

One of my favorites has to be a beautiful new potato, a small potato, baked on some salt, split open with some nice crème fraiche or sour cream, maybe a little bit of caviar on top. That’s dynamite.

 

 

Calling all epicureans!

RESTAURANT WEEK MARCH 9-21

Ready your palates for the second annual Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (March 9-21). Over 50 Valley restaurants will offer a three-course, prix-fixe dinner for $26.09 per person (tax, tip, and beverages not included), Sunday through Friday. Some establishments also will serve a three-course prix-fixe lunch for $16.09 a head on the same days of the week. Eat, drink and be merry, and make a difference while you do it — a donation to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation will be made for each participating restaurant. For more information, visit www.hudsonvalleyrestaurantweek.com.

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