Monday, March 21, 2011

St. Patty's Day dinner

For the last couple of years, Lynette and I have hosted dinner on St. Patrick's Day.  Not really for any specific reason other than it was a good time to get together a couple of years ago.  Then last year we said, "we did it last year, we should do it again this year."  Now, I think it's turned into the annual Rosendaul St. Patrick's Day Dinner.

The last two years, we've just bought the store corned beef.  Last year however I looked up how to "corn" beef and was surprised at how easy it sounded.  I vowed to corn the beef myself this year, and that's exactly what I did!  I got the recipe from Michael Ruhlman.  The only thing I changed in this recipe was that I bought the already assembled corned beef spice from the local Penzey's. It was just initially cheaper that way.  I got a brisket from Bluescreek Farm.  It was  BEAUTIFUL 8 lbs. slab of beef, which I was unfortunately too excited to get into the brine to take a before picture of.  Trust me though, it was beautiful!

I did have some trouble finding pink curing salt, which seems to go by 100 different names.  After talking to the candy guy at the North Market (yes, the candy guy), I got the phone number to Thurn's Specialty Meats (they don't seem to have a website so this facebook page or twitter account will have to do).  This was the first I had heard of Thurn's, and I'm really sorry it took so long.  They were wonderful!  Extremely helpful with some tips on corning, they let me try a couple of things (without me even asking), and I brought home a little over a pound of the tastiest bacon I've ever eaten.  I highly recommend checking them out!  Anyways, on to dinner!

I adjusted the recipe for the 8 lb. brisket (recipe calls for 5) and brined it for 5 days.  Albert at Thurn's said I should go at least 7, but I only had five.  He suggested a couple of tips to help it along.  The brine didn't quite make it all the way through, but it did pretty good!  Next year we'll go at least 7.  Here's the brine:

Brisket after 5 days in the brine and just before going in the pot to simmer for 4 hours:

The bread looks a little dark, but really it turned out great.  The crust was nice and crunchy and the inside was moist and airy.  It's a beer bread, I guess.  Beer is a leavening agent so you can't go wrong there.

This was all the post dinner prep work.  Appetizers started at 6:30ish and was prepared by my lovely wife.  They were her famous (and quite possibly a reason I married her) fried pickles!  We don't do fried food around here often.  In fact this is one of the only ones we do and it's only a couple of times a year, but oh my, are they delicious!!

The line-up
The beer batter
The frying
There aren't any after pictures because they didn't stick around long enough for me to take a picture.  Dipped in ranch......words cannot describe the delicious bad for your health goodness!

So after everyone had their fill of fried pickles, out came the corned beef!

I also put some red potatoes and cabbage in with it, but it wasn't all that photogenic.  The beef is the real looker in this anyways!

One of my goals with this dinner was to have everyone fit at the table.  We recently discovered that what we thought was a missing removable leaf to the table, we actually a built-in fold out leaf.  Yes, we felt silly.  With this additional length, we determined we would now be able to comfortably seat 6 at the table.  We've had dinners here before, but everyone ends up in the living room, sitting 10 feet apart, having 4 different conversations, with their plates on their laps, and drinks on the floor (all on guard for the dogs suspicious, stalking activities).  I want to move that meal, back to the table where it belongs.  Yes, this limits the number of people we can invite for dinner, but I think we'll try to mingle some different groups of friends within a rotation, at least for the more formal dinners. We'll still have lots of random gatherings that will be less formal. 

Don't forget dessert though!

This was a chocolate buttermilk cake with mint butter cream frosting and chocolate drizzles.  The buttermilk wasn't the cultured stuff so the cake didn't really rise, but it was still pretty tasty.  It was like a light fudge cake.  The frosting was wonderful too!  I'm really surprised at my recent baking/decorating successes.  First it was an awesome looking from scratch pie crust and now this!  I might just turn into a baker after all....

All and all, dinner was a great success.  I'm happy with how everything turned out, but more importantly it was good fellowship around dinner.  I saw a quote a week ago that sums it up pretty good.  

"Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly." 
- MFK Fisher

1 comment:

Sarah Dill said...

Isn't the beef always the real looker?