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We Could Use a Cupcake, Couldn't You?

March 13, 2014

When Irish eyes are smiling, it may well mean they’ve just eaten something delicious. Don your green and honor St. Patrick with these dinner, dessert, and drink recipes.

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Homemade Corned Beef with Vegetables

A corned beef supper makes a glorious Irish feast. This one calls on turnips, potatoes, and carrots to round out the meal.

2 quarts water
1 cup coarse salt
1 tablespoon pink curing salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 cinnamon stick, crushed
4 dried bay leaves, crushed
8 whole cloves
5 pounds flat-cut beef brisket
1 medium onion, halved
1 medium celery stalk, halved
1 medium carrot, peeled, halved
1 pound baby turnips, peeled, trimmed
1 pound baby carrots, peeled, trimmed
1 medium head cabbage, cut into 8 wedges
1 pound small red potatoes
Dijon mustard, for serving

1. Make the brine: Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add salts, sugar, and spices; remove from heat, and stir until salts and sugar dissolve. Let cool.

2. Make the corned beef: Place brisket in a nonreactive container just large enough to hold it. Pour cooled brine over meat. Place 2 small plates on top to keep meat submerged; cover, and refrigerate for 2 weeks.

3. Rinse brisket; discard brine. Place in a large pot. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add onion, celery, and halved carrot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

4. Set a steamer in a large saucepan. Add enough water to reach the bottom, and bring to a boil. Add turnips. Reduce heat, cover, and steam until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with baby carrots, steaming 10 to 12 minutes. Add to turnips.

5. Transfer corned beef to a cutting board. Tent with foil, and let rest for 30 minutes. Discard remaining solids from broth, then bring to a boil. Add cabbage and potatoes, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Add turnips and carrots, and cook until warmed through. Transfer vegetables to a platter; reserve broth.

6. Trim excess fat from beef. Slice thinly against grain, and transfer to platter. Serve with broth and mustard.

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Pull Apart Soda Bread

This traditional bread, studded with caraway seeds and raisins, makes a delicious St. Patrick’s Day breakfast or a fine accompaniment to dinner. Our preportioned version makes sharing easy.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

1 1/3 cups whole milk
1/3 cup apple-cider vinegar
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and dusting
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1/4 cup caraway seeds
1 cup (5 ounces) raisins
Salted butter, preferably Irish, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix milk and vinegar in a small bowl, and let stand until thickened, about 5 minutes.

2. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Cut in unsalted butter with a pastry cutter or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add bran, caraway seeds, and raisins; stir to distribute.

3. Pour milk mixture into flour mixture; stir until dough just holds together but is still sticky. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat and press the dough gently into a round, dome-shaped loaf, about 7 inches in diameter. Transfer to prepared sheet.

4. Lightly dust top of loaf with flour. With a sharp knife, cut an X into the top, 3/4 inch deep. Bake, rotating halfway through, until loaf is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour, 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Soda bread is best eaten the day it is made; serve with salted butter.

Pull Apart Soda Bread Recipe

1. Start with our basic soda-bread recipe. After turning out the dough on a lightly floured surface, divide it into 16 equal pieces and, with floured hands, roll each into a ball. Transfer the balls to a parchment-lined baking sheet in 4 rows of 4, making sure each dough ball is touching the ones around it. With the tip of a paring knife, cut a 1/4-inch-deep X on each ball. Because the pull-apart rolls are smaller than a full loaf, the baking time is cut in half. Cool to room temperature before serving with plenty of salted Irish butter.

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Irish Beef and Stout Stew

This comforting stew is made festive by a pop of green — and a generous glug of stout. Make a double batch and freeze for a rainy spring day.

4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cans (6 ounces each) tomato paste
2 1/2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed
2 medium onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium beef broth
1 can (14.9 ounces) Irish stout beer
10 garlic cloves, sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 boxes (10 ounces each) frozen baby peas, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, toss beef with flour; stir in tomato paste. Add potatoes, onions, broth, beer, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

2. Transfer pot to oven, and cook, covered, until meat is fork-tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Stir in peas, and season with salt and pepper.

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Irish Coffee Cupcakes

What’s better than coffee spiked with whiskey? Espresso-infused cupcakes topped with a billowy, whiskey-kissed whipped-cream frosting. Bottoms up.

For the Cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons instant-espresso powder
1/4 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs

For the Frosting
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon whiskey
Instant-espresso powder, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cupcakes: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour water over espresso powder; let cool. Combine espresso with milk. Beat butter and granulated and brown sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with espresso-milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour (batter may look broken).

2. Fill 15 cups (of two 12-cup muffin tins) three-quarters full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool; turn out cupcakes from tins.

3. Make the frosting: Whisk together cream and confectioners’ sugar until medium peaks form. Add whiskey; whisk until slightly stiff peaks form.

4. Top each cupcake with 2 tablespoons frosting; dust with espresso powder.

Black-Currant Cider Sparklers

This bright, zesty beverage is just the thing to balance a hearty Irish meal. If you can’t find black-currant juice, you can substitute cranberry, grape, or pomegranate.

1/4 cup black-currant juice
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups chilled sparkling cider
Lemon peels, for garnish

1. Combine black-currant juice with lemon juice. Add sparkling cider. Divide between 2 glasses, and garnish each with a lemon peel.

Cheddar-Topped Shepherd’s Pie

You don’t need your own flock to appreciate this traditional pub favorite. Even better: Both filling and topping can be made ahead.

2 pounds baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower
6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, and thinly sliced
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar (6 ounces)

1. Preheat oven to 450. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 1 inch with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. Set beef filling aside.

3. Drain potatoes; return to pan. Cook over medium, stirring, until liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add milk and 1 cup cheese. Mash until smooth; season cheddar-potato topping with salt and pepper.

4. Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling; spread to edges with a spatula. Using a fork, make decorative peaks; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes (if topping and filling were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Irish Beef Hand Pies

Beef, be it corned, stewed, or roasted, is an Irish menu mainstay. These hand pies give it a playful, portable twist.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 head green cabbage, shredded
1/2 pound red potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 pound ground beef sirloin
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Coarse salt and ground pepper
All-purpose flour, for rolling
2 piecrusts (9 inches each), homemade or store-bought

Cook’s Note
Prepare through step 2. Arrange unbaked pies on a baking sheet (they should not touch); freeze until firm, about 1 hour. Wrap each pie in foil. Place in a resealable plastic bag; freeze up to 2 months.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium; add cabbage and potatoes. Cook until beginning to brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Add beef; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, Worcestershire, thyme, and 1 cup water. Cover, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Lightly mash mixture with a fork. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely.

2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each crust into a 14-inch square; cut each into 4 equal squares. Place 1/2 cup filling on one half of each square, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the filling. Brush borders with water; fold dough over filling to enclose. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. With a paring knife or scissors, cut 3 small vents in each.

3. Transfer pies to 2 foil-lined rimmed baking sheets; bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.

4. To Bake from Frozen: Proceed with step 3, increasing baking time to 28 to 30 minutes.

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