A few delicious dishes inspired by Irish, English, and Scottish family recipes.
Em's been doing some of the cooking lately, going through a new cookbook and selecting recipes she knows we'll both enjoy, adapting the ingredients to what we are able to procure and what makes the most sense to us health-wise. I have listed a few of her more recent dishes—altered to suit our particular needs and tastes, including our entire Thanksgiving meal from this year which, of course, I assisted with.
Flame-grilled Steak With Irish Whiskey
2 8 to 12 oz. sirloin steaks
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
.5 c good Irish Whiskey
(Bushmills is nice)
2 c heavy cream
Coat steaks with pepper and allow to come to room temperature. Em bought a sirloin roast and cut it into four thick steaks, which was cheaper than buying already cut, thin sirloin steaks. Place on a hot grill for 2 minutes per side to sear, then cook approximately 5 minutes per side with the grill lid down for juicy, pink in the middle meat or longer if you prefer your meat more fully cooked. Meanwhile, melt butter with the oil in a skillet. Add whiskey and cream, stirring as it reduces and thickens. Season with salt and serve over steaks.
We have several different salts we experiment with, and I like to use a blend I keep in an old mustard jar in the spice cabinet outside by the grill. Sea salt is my favorite. It's a coarser salt than table salt, with a lighter, cleaner taste and no iodine added. It's great in soups and on steaks. Kosher salt is rather coarse with a strong, but pure flavor. It doesn't wilt salads and is delicious on homemade pretzels and bread. Earth salt has a slight mineralized flavor. Em actually uses this not only in earthy soups with mushrooms as a main ingredient, but also as a winter face scrub! Smoked salt is wonderful on gas-grilled foods you want a smoky flavor on. Seasoning salt is a spicy, all-purpose blend it's best to use as a flavor enhancer before you dig in rather than a substitute for salt as called for in most recipes. From there you have garlic salt and onion salt and celery salt and salt/pepper blends and Cape Cod seasoning and the like, but my salt blend includes equal portions of the first four salts listed and is doled out in pinches from the jar. Because of the smoked salt flavoring, I only use it on things I don't mind having a slightly smoky taste. We also have a bag of very coarse pebble-like salt nuggets I bought in Williamsburg years ago, but have never cooked with. I love the rustic whimsy of it and display it along with a cloth Virginia bacon sack and a pouch of cinnamon sticks, one of dried chamomile, and another of paper-wrapped vanilla beans. It adds to the old-fashioned log-cabin charm we have here.
Scotch Collops With Cream
.5 stick of butter
1 T olive oil
2 coarsely chopped medium onions
2 6 oz. steaks
salt and pepper
2 c. sliced mushrooms
1 T cream
Saute onion in butter until limp and golden. Set aside. Grill steaks 2 minutes per side on high heat, then five minutes per side with grill lid closed. Set steaks atop onions in container with lid. Saute mushrooms and cream in skillet until shrooms are soft and darkened. Serve atop steak and onions with salt and pepper to taste.
Em kept the steak and onions in a covered container whle the shrooms cooked because our kitchen is outdoors and therefore a favorite stopping point for neighborhood insects. For this reason, we wash all of our cooking utensils and pots and pans before and after use.
Honey Glazed Chicken
4 lb. chicken
salt and pepper
1 sliced onion
4 T melted butter
4 T honey
Wash chicken and remove any remaining feathers. Massage with salt and pepper. Quarter and core apple, toss with onion, cloves, cinnamon, and a little salt and pepper. Stuff bird. Drizzle with melted butter and set in roasting pan. Cook according to package directions, basting frequently. Drizzle with honey last fifteen minutes of roasting time.
Through trial and error, we have learned that honey burns on the grill, so honey and honey-based sauces are always added right before serving to avoid small fires or charred food.
Roast Duck With Orange Sauce
2 c port wine
2 c orange juice
8 garlic cloves
.5 stick butter
.25 c teriyaki sauce
1 T lime marmalade
1 T garlic jelly
Iron Chef orange glaze with ginger
Wash ducks and remove any remaining feathers three days before cooking. Place each bird in a plastic bag with half the port and orange juice. Seal securely and refrigerate, turning the birds over once each day to marinate. Heat grill to 300 degrees. Discard marinade. Stuff each bird with 2 plums scored with a knife, 4 peeled garlic cloves, and half the onion, quartered. Elevate birds over roasting pan on a rack so they do not sit in their own juices. Wrap foil over the longest wing joints and the ends of the legs to avoid burning. Baste with a mixture of melted butter, teriyaki, garlic jelly and lime marmalade every half hour. Roast with grill lid down for four hours. If skin becomes too dark, reduce grill temperature or move birds over to a side of the grill that is unlit. Serve with orange glaze drizzled over meat.
When we cooked the ducks, we actually smoked the second one, so it was not stuffed nor basted, though the marinade from both birds was poured into the smoker's water bowl to steam the meat with. I began the roasted duck according to the package directions, but it browned way too quickly in the gas grill so that I had to wrap foil on the extremities and turn the temperature down and move the bird to a cooler part of the gas grill for the last hour of cooking. The only rack I could find that would hold the bird up out of its own juices was a wire tortilla warmer, so our roast duck was a good five inches above the grill, right beneath the apex of the hood when it was closed. You may want to just follow the package directions for your own duck and then experiment from there if you run into difficulty like we did. The result was heavenly, however.
Roasted Sliced Potatoes
2 baking potatoes
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
.5 sliced onion
4 peeled garlic cloves
Wash potatoes, then slice to .25" thickness. Keeping slices together, wrap each potato with half the sliced onion, a sprig of rosemary, and two garlic cloves in foil. Roast for one hour on the grill, turning over halfway. Serve with your favorite potato toppings.
Should you decide to peel the potatoes, you may wish to include some fat to cook it in, like a drizzle of olive oil or a thick pat of butter before wrapping it in foil.
Broccoli Squash Bake
3 sliced yellow squash
2 bunches broccoli crowns
4 slices bacon
salt and pepper
4 to 8 oz. good melting cheese
Place 4 slices of bacon across bottom of small baking pan. top with sliced squash and broken broccoli crowns. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a pinch of celery seed. Place on medium grill with lid down for one hour. Top with slices of cheese and let melt and brown for fifteen minutes or until cheese touching the edges of the pan becomes crispy.
Dry Corn Bread
2 c cornmeal
.33 c flour
1.5 t baking powder
.5 t baking soda
.5 t sugar
.5 t salt
2 c coconut milk
.5 stick melted butter
Preheat grill to 350 degrees. Pour .5" olive oil in 8 or 9" cast iron skillet and let heat while you mix the ingredients. Sift together dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients in seperate bowl, then add to dry. Stir well, will have a paste-like consistency. Pour out hot oil and dump in cornbread batter. Cover grill and bake one half hour, making sure edges don't begin burning, but top forms a crust and feels cooked when tapped. Turn out on a plate to serve, pouring another half stick of melted butter over top for extra flavor if desired.
This is really good heated up later in the microwave and smeared with peanut butter and whole-berry cranberry sauce as a snack! Substitute buttermilk for coconut milk for a moister bread if desired.
We cooked the cornbread, potatoes, and squash right alongside our duck, keeping track of the time and checking everything for doneness each time we basted the bird. One half of the grill was left unlit so we could rotate foods to better cook them or just keep them warm while the duck kept roasting.
I recently purchased a tiny camp stove that uses Sterno or even just candles to cook or keep foods warm while we busy ourselves with other components of our meals. I try and use the microwave solely to warm already cooked foods rather than actually cook in it, so I kept the cornbread warm over three candles at one point while microwaving a can of plain green beans to accompany our meal. Running in and out of the house constantly is a pain, so I'm grateful for the growing popularity in outdoor kitchens and all the specialty shops that are springing up with new ideas to help make the process as easy and effortless as possible.
We're lucky to have a big grill with a spare burner on the side for stovetop cooking and a well on the opposite side I sometimes fill with ice to keep fresh foods in until I'm ready to start grilling them. Closed plastic containers are a must for ingredients you don't want flies in. Almost all of our spices are kept outdoors with the lids nice and tight to discourage humidity, and Em grows fresh herbs without chemicals so we can cook flavorfully without worry.
Stray cats have begun haunting the kitchen, so we use a large plastic popcorn tub lined with plastic grocery bags for garbage and throw it away as soon as we are done in the kitchen. Once a month we take the grill apart and spray grease and soot covered pieces with oven cleaner, hose them off, then reassemble the thing. Outdoors, cleanliness is as important as functionality to discourage bacteria and animals. While I prefer the manly let-the-burned-on-black-bits-from-the-last-meal-help-flavor-what's-cooking-today thing to scrubbing the grill grates prior to every use, at least I heat the grill high for several minutes before using it to allow any lingering bacteria to cremate first.
My guess is that you only cook outdoors occasionally and not for every meal like we do. Regardless, cleanliness is an issue to help keep friends and family from getting ill.
I recently watched a co-worker cleaning utensils after a group meal cooked at work, and was nauseated by the fact she never scrubbed between the tines of forks nor the slots of serving spoons before she put them away and gummy food was visibly stuck to all of them! I vowed to never eat anything cooked at work again! Thank God we have a deep double sink outside near the grill I can wash things immediately with or let them soak if necessary...and nothing beats washing baked-on yuck-foo with the jet spray from the garden hose (although hoses can harbor little germies and things, so you should go back over the pots and pans with soap and hot water after power-spraying all the gunk off!)
Cook safe, cook smart, eat well!
Until next time, slainte!