Beef

Irish Skillet

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Irish Skillet

I know that some of you are busy roasting your Thanksgiving turkeys, but here in Ontario the aroma of roasting gobblers is but a faint memory tickling our brains and we have settled in to preparing comfort foods before the festive Christmas gourmet goodies are given priority on our tables.

One new comfort dish that I discovered completely by accident these last few weeks was this Irish Skillet dinner. Aside from the fact that it all cooks in one dish, there were a number of things that drew me in.

A. It uses cabbage! I love cooked cabbage.

B. It asks for apple juice. Yes! My eyes perked up at that idea. I can feature our fresh cider.

C. It’s naturally gluten-free, if you’re careful about which beef broth and Worcestershire sauce you use (French’s Worcestershire sauce does not contain gluten). 

D. And finally, it’s Irish! Lots of warm fuzzies here. Because it’s Irish, it gives me license to look at my photos from a couple of years ago when we visited the Emerald Isle. I will share some of them with you as we go along. Here are a few to get started. Ireland possesses a wild rugged beauty and the people match the landscape. 

 

I mumbled something to my daughter-in-law through my mouthful of the hash about the fact that it’s not exactly the prettiest dish in the world, and she replied that Irish food is not really known for its ascetic beauty, but for its taste. We both agreed that it was not lacking in the taste department whatsoever. I thought of various regional Irish dishes and this pretty much holds true for most of the foods. It tastes amazing, but it ain’t so much for looks. Sorry, Dad! I know you believed that food first should appeal to the eyes before it enters the stomach, and most of the time I agree with you. Here are some food pictures.

 

I made Irish soda bread to accompany the meal, of course, and it brought back fun memories of the Dublin giant who taught us how to make the bread, tossing the eggs to us as we were ready. Not a single one broke, believe it or not. He also taught us how to dance an Irish reel. He was definitely a highlight of that part of our organized tour. He also informed us that he’s single, for those of us who might be interested in that tidbit. Which I wasn’t, naturally.

 

The stories and recipes are provided by yours truly, sponsored by Martin’s family Fruit Farm. 

People often ask what the difference is between apple cider and apple juice. In our country, fresh apple cider is simply apples crushed and squeezed to produce a fresh tasting nectar. Apple juice, on the other hand, has been boiled and canned, sometimes made with a concentrate and water, and doesn’t have that fresh apple taste. One half bushel of apples will produce 1 1/2 gallon of cider. A variety of sweet and tart apples makes the best cider.

Fresh Apple Cider

 

Irish Skillet

Ingredients

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For the Sauce: 

  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup apple juice or cider
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

For the Skillet:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef or lamb
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound frozen hash browns or raw potatoes, chopped in 1″ pieces
  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage

Directions

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all the sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet, and brown the ground beef with the chopped onion. Add the oil, chopped bacon and frozen or fresh potatoes. (I used frozen hash browns, but next time I will use fresh chopped unpeeled potatoes. I think it would look nicer and be less mushy.) Cook uncovered over medium heat until the bacon and potatoes are starting to brown. Stir periodically to keep from sticking. Add the cabbage and the sauce and cook another 5 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve with Irish soda bread for the real deal.

 

 

 

 

 

Roast Beef for Grandpa with Mushroom Shallot Gravy

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I grew up living beside my paternal grandparents for most of my life at home, so many of my childhood memories include them. Grandparents can have a huge impact on children and I hope to be as positively impactful to my own grandchildren as my own were to me.

My grandpa was a strong, independent, deep-thinking Old Order Mennonite man; rather intimidating to children, but highly respected by adults. As I became an adult and listened to people talk about him, I realized that his advice was sought by many, including the community at large. He was a great horseman, taking in young horses or ones from “the tracks” and retraining them for buggy use. I loved to watch him handle them, crooning to them while currying their coats to a sleek, glossy shine. Every now and then he would let us sit on one while holding its head. Sometimes on rainy or snowy days he would drive us to school in his dachvegli (a covered buggy) OR… oh, joy of joys, his sleigh, with the bells ringing merrily. As I write this, I realize that this makes me sound really ancient, which I’m not, honestly! I just grew up in a pretty special setting and time. Later on, he had a mild stroke which forced him to retire from breaking in horses and eventually he had to sell off his own horse. That was a heartbreaking day for him.

One particular food that grandpa was fond of was beef. I can still picture him coming over to our house, beaming widely and declaring, “Vell! Mir hen da beshtischta beef rosht das mir noch einmal kotta hen.” (Well! We had the best roast beef that we’ve ever had!) We kids would snicker later, saying that if this continues, the roasts will be off the charts in goodness! I think of him whenever I cook a particularly savoury roast, and that comment is still heard rolling off our tongues many years later.

It seemed like a good time to post about my favourite new method of preparing the “best beef roast ever”, because any time now we hope to kill the fatted calf, figuratively speaking, in celebration of our third grandchild; our first granddaughter! I’m so excited.

This roasting method uses a high heat and an open pan to kick off the roast, which creates a nice brown crust and deep flavour. I drizzle it with a good olive oil (to sear and seal the crust), red wine or red wine vinegar (to tenderize it), and season it with salt, coarsely ground pepper and beef seasoning mix before the first roast. Then I add the mushrooms and shallots, cover the pan and roast it low and slow for several hours. Take it out, make the gravy, carve it and serve The Best Roast Beef We’ve Ever Had. Hats off to you, Grandpa, for encouraging me in my search for the elusive best!

BREAKING NEWS! While I was typing up this blog the new little miss decided to make her entry into our family. She is obviously a young lady of impeccable timing.

All the ingredients are ready to prep the roast. Need a good olive oil source? Olive My Favourites from Stratford is my go-to store. Great service and many wonderful choices.

 

Roast Beef for Grandpa (5)
The Best Beef Roast Ever. Remember this term is subjective. It might always be better next time!

 

Roast Beef for Grandpa (9)I like to serve the roast with mashed potatoes, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. With browned butter, of course. They’re all available at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm who kindly sponsors my posts.

 

I used cremini mushrooms for the gravy; one of my favourites. They are actually a baby portobello mushroom, so the flavour is similar, but not as intense. They have a firm texture and nutty flavour that pairs well with beef. Their look is similar to a white button mushroom.

Shallots are a staple at my house. Their flavour and appearance is somewhere between a red onion and a garlic bulb. I love the subtle garlic/onion infusion it adds to a roast.

Roast Beef for Grandpa with Mushroom Shallot Gravy

Ingredients

  • 4 – 5 pound beef blade roastRoast beef for Grandpa (10)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine or red wine vinegar
  • salt (generous sprinkle)
  • pepper (generous sprinkle)
  • beef steak seasoning of your choice (generous sprinkle)
  • 2 – 3 bulbs French shallots, chopped
  • 2 – 3 cups coarsely chopped cremini mushrooms

GRAVY:

  • beef broth plus water to make 3 cups
  • approximately 1/4 cup of flour or cornstarch to thicken
  • additional water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven at 400°F (204°C) on regular bake or convection roast setting. I like convection roast for this stage because it browns the roast so nicely. Place roast into a large casserole dish or medium roaster. Drizzle with olive oil and red wine (vinegar) and sprinkle with the seasonings. Roast, uncovered, for approximately an hour until it looks brown all over. Turn the heat down to 250°F (121°C) regular bake. Remove from oven and add the chopped shallots and mushrooms. Add about a cup of HOT water and stir the vegetables lightly. Now you cover it and put it back into the oven. Bake it for about three hours. If it’s browning too much, turn the heat back further. At this point you want it low and slow. Remove roast when it’s soft and succulent when pierced. Cover lightly with foil and let it rest while you prepare the gravy.

GRAVY: Strain the broth and vegetables through a sieve into a large measuring pitcher. Add hot water to the broth to make at least 3 cups. Pour into a medium saucepan and heat until steaming. Whisk flour or cornstarch into an additional 1/2 cup of cold water. Slowly pour into steaming hot broth, stirring constantly, until the gravy is as thick as you would like it. Let it bubble until thick, then taste for seasoning and add more if needed. Add the strained mushrooms and shallots to the gravy.

Slice the meat and pour some of the gravy over the top to serve. Serve remaining gravy on the side. Cheerio, Grandpa!

Note: The finished beef and gravy can be layered in a slow cooker if you want to prepare it ahead. Heat on low for 3 – 4 hours before serving.