Thursday, March 7, 2013

I was about 42 years old when I discovered that I was Irish.  Until that point, we knew very little about my paternal grandmother's family, the Rounds family.  But through the miracle of the Internet, a Dodge County website that scanned old newspaper clippings, a distant relative out on the East Coast and, I traced my Irish roots back to the 10th Century, A.D.

My first St. Patrick's Day as an Irishman was...shall we say...memorable.  My friend Roy Fowler (an Irishman through and through) and I still wax poetic about what we refer to as "The St. Patrick's Day Massacre" in Prentice, WI where we both have cabins.  We were hung over for several days.  And no self-respecting Irishman can get through the St. Pat's season without a heaping helping of Corned Beef and Cabbage, in which we well immersed ourselves, along with copious amounts of green beer.

This is my very simple, straightforward way of preparing corned beef and cabbage.  It's not fancy and there's no fuss.  More effort goes into making the mustard sauce than anything else.  Here goes:

1 Corned Beef Brisket (any cut...I'm not picky)
1/2 head Green Cabbage
4-5 nice Carrots
2 Parsnips
1 heaping tablespoon Minced Garlic
1 packet Seasoning (comes with Corned Beef, usually)
1 tsp Black Pepper
Potatoes (optional)

In a crock pot, place the Corned Beef and all above ingredients.  Fill half with Vinegar, half with Water.  Turn on High for a few hours, then reduce to low.  Do this the morning of the evening that it will be served.   You don't have to cut up the vegetables, they'll fall apart.   You can add the potatoes to this, or just bake them on the side if you don't like the potatoes to have the vinegary taste (some folks find that it's just too much to have the taters brined also)

When the veggies fall apart easily, turn off or set on warm if your crock pot has that setting.  Serve with mustard sauce (recipe below)

Mustard Sauce:

1/4 cup of the juice from the finished meal in the crock pot
1/4 cup of Dijon mustard
1/8 cup flour
1 egg, raw
2 T horseradish
2 T honey
Salt and Pepper to taste

I like to take all of this and put it in an empty mustard or other squeeze type bottle, then shake the bejeesus out of it.  I then just put the bottle on the table.  I guess if you wish to be more elegant, you can put it in some sort of condiment serving vessel.  But since 9 times out of 10 when I make this, we're at the cabin, it's Maple Sugaring Season and the Jameson and Green Beer is flowing well, elegance is not high on the priority list.  :D

Friday, December 21, 2012

This cheese ball is really more of a cheese mold, but that sounds disgusting.  I think Paula Deen was the first to come out with this type of hors d'oeurve and she called it a "Blossom", for reasons that I can't fathom.  I'll call it a cheese ball.  Deen's version is very good, and my version is based on hers, but after several years of making this, I've found ways to up the flavor and lower the cost, mess, and fuss factor.  You can throw this together in about 15 minutes and it definitely WILL be the hit of the next party you throw or attend.


2 pkgs Cream Cheese, any brand
1 small jar of basil pesto (I used "Classico" as it was the cheapest)
40 shelled Pistachio nuts
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 3.5 oz bag of dried tomatoes (or dry your own in the oven)
A little Olive Oil
1 8 oz package of sliced provolone (when selecting, look for number of slices over size of them, for reasons that will become apparent)
Salt and Pepper

Start by removing the sun dried tomatoes from the bag.  Put in a small bowl or jar, squish down lightly and just cover with olive oil.  Let soak.  Do this first, before you even get any utensils or prepare your work area...they should soak for 15 to 20 minutes.

Next, shell the pistachios and peel the garlic cloves.  Put in a small chopper, food processor or blender and pulverize.   Soften the cream cheese in a large-ish bowl in the microwave.  Mix the pistachio/garlic mixture in with the cream cheese using a rubber spatula, mix it well.   Add salt and pepper to taste.

Next, take a small bowl with nice smooth insides, this will be your mold.  I used one of our household 'cereal' bowls.  Line it with a large piece of Saran Wrap with enough left hanging to bring back over the top.

Place one slice of Provolone in the bottom center of the bowl.  Then, working around the bowl, lay Provolone around the inside of the bowl until all the side surfaces are covered.

Now put in a small layer of the cream cheese mixture and smooth it around.

Then add a layer of Pesto, sort of draining it a bit from the oil in the jar as you remove it.  (You don't want it really oily, you want mostly the pesto 'stuff', not the oil).  Smooth that around.

Then lay another layer of the cream cheese mixture, and smooth around.

Now remove the dried tomatoes from the jar and oil and put in the food processor/chopper/blender.  Pulverize, then spread a layer of this over the cream cheese carefully.

Then layer the rest of the cream cheese, filling the bowl.

Finally, cover completely with Provolone.  Bring the Saran Wrap around, pinch the wrap all together in the center and throw the whole thing in the freezer, bowl and all.

When it's firm and hard, you can remove it from the freezer, remove the Saran Wrap from the top of the bowl, flip it over onto a serving plate and lift the bowl away.  Remove the Saran Wrap.  Use the bowl now as a 'cover' and keep in the will last for 3 weeks or more (but it never lasts more than a day around here!)   To serve, slice out a thin wedge with a serving knife.  Serve with crackers.

About the Author

Mikay is an avid cook, musician, sailor, writer and computer dork who lives in Sturgeon Bay, WI in the heart of Door County with his wonderful wife Kathy and their 3 dogs.

He loves to share his recipes and develop new ones. He's been on Green Bay's Fox 11 "Good Day Wisconsin" show and is working on a cookbook as well.