Suzanne Goin’s Corned Beef and Cabbage with Parsley-Mustard Sauce

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Having lived in Ireland on two separate occasions, I feel connected to the culture and will take this otherwise strange holiday as an excuse to celebrate all things Irish. That said, I’m not entirely convinced that corned beef and cabbage is, strictly speaking, an Irish tradition. Also known as New England Boiled dinner, I suspect that it was more commonly prepared by Irish immigrants in America, but it’s delicious and it’s associated with Ireland, and that’s good enough for me.

onions with cloves, turnips, and carrots

onions with cloves, turnips, and carrots

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Please, for the love of your health, buy corned beef from a place you trust! You don’t need something that’s dyed pink and full of chemicals. In Ireland, the concept of free-range beef is unheard of—because they can’t imagine raising cattle any other way. This dish is like an Irish twist on pot roast. Like pot roast, the key is to cook the corned beef for a long time at a low heat. I was tempted by Suzanne Goin’s recipe, but I simplified it by sticking to the simmer-on-the-stove cooking method. I’ve also had trouble sourcing chiles in adobo that don’t contain gluten, so I just left them out. I’m sure they would have added a smoky, spicy complexity, but I wasn’t disappointed with my more traditional, fork-tender corned beef.

let it rest before carving

let it rest before carving

I purchased a 4 ½ pound cut of well-brined corned beef and let it simmer with the onions, clove, bay leaves, and thyme for just under four hours. I removed the meat from the broth to let it rest and followed the recipe to prepare the potatoes, carrots, turnips, and cabbage. Once everything was tender but not overdone, I discarded the onions, carved the meat, and displayed everything together on a platter. The parsley-mustard sauce I made in advance, while the corned beef was simmering. It’s more like a vinaigrette than a sauce, but brightened up the whole meal with fresh parsley and lemon-vinegar tanginess. Even so, I added a small amount of Dijon mustard to my beef because that’s how I like it.

smashed parsley becomes a vinaigrette-like sauce

smashed parsley becomes a vinaigrette-like sauce

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Anthem’s dry hopped cider was the perfect drink to accompany this dish. This was a feast fit to celebrate my Irish friends. Sláinte!

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Suzanne Goin’s Corned Beef and Cabbage with Parsley-Mustard Sauce via Food52

 

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Fennel and Onion Braised Pot Roast with Carrots

Portland is in the midst of perfect autumn weather. The days are bright, clear, and crisp. The air is chilly, but I can still feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. To fully embrace the season, this week I made a pot roast. I don’t have a tried-and-true recipe that I always use for roast. In my opinion, if you cook it slowly enough, it’s almost guaranteed to be delicious. That said, when I’m making an old-fashioned standard I typically consult my Fannie Farmer Cookbook. It’s sort of the opposite of the healthy, gluten free blogs and cookbooks I look through nowadays, but I love it for just that reason. It gets me back to basics and reveals the fundamental aspects of a dish. Then when I go recipe hunting I keep in mind those two or three steps and ingredients that feel essential.

fennel and shallots simmering in wine

fennel and shallots simmering in wine

The variations on pot roast are endless, but I settled on this recipe because I love fennel and it uses a simple, one-pot approach. Braising fennel is my favorite preparation because it brings out the natural sweetness and manages to make this otherwise tough vegetable tender. I had a bunch of shallots leftover from another dish, so I substituted shallots for the onion. I also love parsnips and figured that adding one to the carrots couldn’t hurt. Other than those minor modifications, I followed the recipe and was very pleased with the results. This isn’t a fork-tender recipe; it’s meant to be sliced. If you want fork-tender just let it roast for another 30 minutes to an hour. If you want some of the carrots to stay a little firm you can add extra during the last hour of cooking. I serve mine with some Dijon mustard because the tanginess cuts through the richness of the meat. (A note on celiac and mustard: mustard seed is safe, but mustard flour is not. Be sure to check your mustard’s recipe label so you know it’s safe. Also, you can often substitute prepared mustards for mustard flour in recipes. It just takes a little creativity.)

before the oven and after the oven

before the oven

after the oven

after the oven

I paired this dish with simple mashed potatoes and a butternut squash puree, to use up some leftover butternut squash I had in the fridge. I would definitely make the puree again, and liked the seasonal element it added to this dish.  I also made a simple green salad, brightened with some watermelon radish.

salad with watermelon radish

salad with watermelon radish

This pot roast was my excuse to pull out my big, heavy, cast-iron pot and I fell in love with it all over again. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to invest in some cast-iron. I love my enameled Dutch oven, but with cast iron I don’t have to worry about maximum high temperatures. It’s durable, it distributes heat evenly, and it makes a darn good pot roast.

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Fennel and Onion Braised Pot Roast with Carrots by thirschfeld via http://food52.com/

A Spiraling Illness (and Recovery)

My parents are visiting from Southern California this weekend and it’s so good to see them! We share our love of food, so their trips to Portland always include some culinary adventures. When my father was growing up, he worked as the butcher in my grandfather’s grocery store. Nothing makes my Midwestern-born dad happier than tender, perfectly cooked meat with a side of potatoes. That said, my love of cooking—not just eating—definitely began with my mother. She indulged my quest to find the perfect lemon bar recipe and praised my brownies to anyone who would listen (my secret is olive oil.)

We were one of the few families that ate a home-cooked meal together every night when I was a kid. As I got older and my celiac symptoms worsened, our shared meals were layered with the anxiety of whether or not I would get sick. Now that I’m healthy we don’t spend too much time reliving my illness, but when we do it’s clear how traumatic the experience was for all of us. What I learned from my experience is that it’s hard to watch someone you love suffer. The people around me struggled in their own ways.

Without a diagnosis, it was hard to understand what was happening. It’s human nature to search for the cause of the problem and try to fix it. Because that wasn’t possible, the only thing left to do was be with me in my sickness. Unfortunately chronic illness is cyclical—I could identify the early symptoms that a severe period of illness was coming, but I didn’t know how to stop it. The repetition became familiar to those closest to me, but for me it became more and more terrifying.

Accepting that no one had control over my illness was difficult. When a doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with me, he suggested I see a psychiatrist (and I did!) I’m not alone in this. The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association conducted research that showed that “45 percent of patients with autoimmune diseases have been labeled chronic complainers in the earliest stages of their illness.”  The AARD attributes this to the fact that the majority of people with autoimmune disease are young, healthy looking women. Everyone agreed I should be healthy, so if I took the tests and the medications and followed my doctor’s orders but was still getting sick, I must be the one doing something wrong. Of course my family and friends knew I didn’t want to be sick, but sometimes their questions (“What did you eat?” “Did the doctor say you can do that?”) left me feeling responsible for my illness.

It was my naturopath, Dr. Hudson, who finally believed my experience of being sick. After hearing my story she suggested we test for celiac and food allergies, and so began the path to healing. Looking back, I am so grateful for the family and friends who supported me in a myriad of ways. It’s one thing to spend hours in an emergency room with an ill friend, and it’s another thing to do it every month like clockwork. And I hold a special place in my heart for those who could just be with me in my illness and watch me suffer. It takes courage to accept that we don’t have control, and that we can’t understand why this is happening. Those who could face that reality inspired me to be brave and to keep trying to get better.

Chronic illness doesn’t have a linear progression. Just as the cycle of my symptoms felt like a downward spiral, my experience of healing has been a gradual move from the dark center into the light. Now I feel healthy most of the time, and although setbacks are discouraging, at this point they are rare. I can linger over a meal with my parents as we watch the late summer evening turn to dusk. I can sit back in my chair full and satisfied, and suggest we go for ice cream.

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Our Saturday evening meal was Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Asparagus and Slivered Potatoes. Served with our friend Pat and Leigh’s Dominio IV Temperanillo and topped off with ice cream from Salt and Straw. There are no recipes for this post—the meat is seasoned with salt and pepper then grilled to medium rare. The asparagus is drizzled in olive oil and sea salt and grilled to a light char. The potatoes (red and yellow) are slivered with some yellow onion, drizzled in olive oil and doused liberally with salt and pepper, then grilled in a foil packet until done. This is Midwestern cooking, California style!

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Check back for two more recipe-focused posts this week!