Deirdre Bourdet: March 2010 Archives

Irish Mouths Are Smiling Too

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irishsodabread.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Many holidays have their traditional foods, only eaten for the occasion.  Frequently such dishes are... shall we say... less than thrilling, which makes abstention the rest of the year pretty do-able.  But when something is truly fabulous--like champagne, or Easter ham, or Irish soda bread--why wait for the special occasion to enjoy it again? This St. Patrick's Day I faced my baking disability and associated fears head-on, and made soda bread from a recipe developed by Mrs. Mary O'Callaghan in County Clare, Ireland.

Miraculously it turned out great despite my usual compulsive meddling, and reminded me of how incredibly delicious this stuff is.  A few days after St. Patrick's Day, I tested the luck o'the Irish as a half portion, again with the lazy person modifications, and met with even better success because it didn't take as long to bake through (only 40 min).  I can only conclude that this bread recipe is fool-proof.

More Than A One-Tip Wonder

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Asparagus gets a bad rap.  Far too many people think of it as the limp, stringy, soggy, slimy, and stinky green-grey stripes garnishing a "fancy" continental cuisine plate of tastelessness.  But when it's not boiled or steamed beyond all recognition, asparagus has a sweet, unique flavor, a cheery spring color, and fantastic crunch that make it one of the most versatile vegetables out there.  "Continental" cuisine is the appropriate culinary tradition for asparagus only if it refers to Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Americas as well as Europe.  And at this time of year, the spiky green palisades are at the sweet peak of their season, waiting to be rediscovered.

Twice The Hen It Used To Be

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Brunch menus around the Napa Valley are gearing up for spring with a new twist on a breakfast favorite.  Potato hashes are as familiar and time-honored as buttermilk pancakes, but a new species of this staple brunch dish has invaded Napa this year: the chicken hash.

Much like caviar and smoked fish canapes, chicken hash brings together two of the most prized parts of the same animal: eggs and meat.  Unlike its fishy cousin, though, chicken hash also suits these frugal times and makes delicious use of an inexpensive and ubiquitous animal.  Who hasn't got eggs and a piece or two of leftover chicken in their fridge on any given week?  Shredding up those leftovers and mixing them with sautéed potatoes, garlic, and other pantry seasonings of your choice stretches them back into a full plate, and topping them with fried or poached eggs transforms the humble hodgpodge into a thrillingly rich and fabulous indulgence.  Toss in some leftover vegetables, sliced fresh asparagus, mushrooms, arugula, or whatever you've got to bulk up the nutritional value and the portion size, and you're very good to go.  Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, chicken hash rocks.

Pork and Greens

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By Deirdre Bourdet

My brother Andy does a killer pulled pork.  Every time he makes it is cause for celebration... and fevered, uncontrollable gorging by every family member and friend within driving distance.  My brother consistently stuffs himself to the point of needing Mylanta intervention, but thanks to my own iron will and samurai-like discipline, I limit my own consumption level to only slightly over the one-pound mark.  Smoky, succulent, and richly seasoned, it cries out to be stuffed into corn tortillas with mango salsa and cotija cheese... or piled onto little Hawaiian rolls with a dab of barbecue sauce... or shoveled directly from plate to mouth with the assistance of leafy green vegetables.

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