Tag Archives: dinner with family

A Winning Irreverent Bread Stuffing (serves 12)

Here we go again! This Christmas was no different from any other in that the house was crowded with family and friends, there was mountains of delicious food and there was yet again another stab at reinventing my mother Maureen’s stuffing!

bread stuffing

Irreverent bread stuffing

It has to be reinvented because as I have said before, I have come to the very sad conclusion I will never replicate the taste she seemed to magically create with what I always hope are the exact same ingredients she used. It has proved to be true time and time again that everyone who cooks puts their own mark on the end result – watch the movie Like Water for Chocolate if you don’t believe me! Alright, I am certainly not saying that my mother’s stuffing had the effect that Tita’s Rose Petal Sauce had on Pedro, but it most definitely had a taste that makes my siblings swoon every time we mention “Ma’s stuffing”

The bread stuffing was plain looking on the Christmas tble but was not short on flavor

The bread stuffing was just one of the many dishes piled down the center of my Christmas table!

 When my mother was alive and well, I would call her to guide me through the steps, but even then, with her voice in my ear, I couldn’t get it right.  It probably had something to do with the fact that when she made it, she didn’t think at all. She just threw it together as if guided by the cooking god inside her, and stopping to think about it and tell me what to do felt unnatural. My sister June makes a “Chicken Dinner” that my kids beg me to cook, but I cannot seem to manage that one either. I have watched her make it several times, but like all wonderful recipes, this one also comes from the heart and will only reach sublimity if she is the one at the helm, not me.

My trifle and pudding standing by in the kitchen for desserrt (two more dishes i have had to come to terms with)

My trifle and Christmas Pudding standing by in the kitchen for dessert (two more dishes that my mother made but this “me” version will be the ones my children will struggle to recreate one day)

On important annual occasions like Christmas there is a yearning inside of all of us to get a taste or whiff of the past. We want to experience the joy of being a child again, and eating a dish our mother’s made for us is a huge part of that feeling of comfort. (Remember Ratatouille!). My Christmas dinners are different from the ones of my childhood in that I like all sorts of people around the table, not just blood relatives. I like a big loud-gathered mishmosh of people. The food is always festive but varies from year to year depending my whims and whose around the table. However there is ALWAYS a version of Maureen’s stuffing gracing the table. The meal would not feel like Christmas without it!

Famous Chicken Dinner

My sister June’s “Famous” Chicken Dinner

This year I did something completely unorthodox and instead of using my mother’s mashed creamed potatoes as a binder I used white sweet potatoes; positively sinful! In every other way I did my best to conjure up her flavor but I decided on the sweet potato substitute out of curiosity, and also because I knew I was going to mess up the recipe anyway. It turned out pretty fantastic and was a big hit with everyone. I figure my new mission is to make a “version’ of my mother’s stuffing every year, that way, in years to come, my children will feel that got it right every time!

Time for seconds!

Time for seconds!

You will need:

2 to 3 tbs olive oil

1 Large sweet onion –  small dice

3 celery ribs with leaves – finely sliced

2 large garlic cloves – finely chopped

1 lb white mushrooms – diced

3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves – finely chopped

1 cup chicken broth (or 1 good quality stock cube and 1 cup water)

2 tsp herbs de Provence

1 1/2 tsp allspice

10 cups bread crumbs (make in food processor with blade using regular plain old slices of white bread – works best!)

3 small/medium sweet white potatoes – large dice

1 cup milk

2 tbs unsalted butter

1 1/2 tsp med/coarse sea salt

several grinds black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven 400

1 – Put large saute pan on low/medium and add two tablespoons of the oil. Add the onions, garlic and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the thyme springs and rosemary. Add the diced mushrooms and turn up heat to full medium and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

saute onions, garlic and celrery. add mushrooms and herbs

Saute onions, garlic and celery. Add mushrooms and herbs

2 – Add the cup of broth and turn heat down to low. Cover and cook for another 5-8 or so minutes, until everything is nice and soft. turn off when done and set aside.

Add broth

Add broth

3 – In the meantime put the sweet potatoes into a pot and cover with cold water. Cover and boil until they are very soft (but not falling apart). Drain the water and add the butter, salt, several grinds of pepper and milk. Mash until very smooth and lump-free. Taste and adjust seasoning according to your taste if necessary.

Mash and cream sweet potatoes

Mash and cream sweet potatoes

4 – Put the bread crumbs in a very large bowl and whisk in the allspice. Add the veggies and mix with the crumbs (I use my hands!)

Add cooked veggies to bread crumbs

Add cooked veggies to bread crumbs

5 – Add the mashed sweet potatoes and mix until everything is well combined. Taste the mixture and add whatever you think it needs more of: salt, pepper, allspice etc

Add potatoes and mix together

Add potatoes and mix together

6 – Turn the mixture into two buttered loaf pan (or 1 larger loaf pan) and a couple of knobs of butter to the top. Cook in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a board or work surface.

Place in loaf pan, add knob of butter and place in oven

Place in loaf pan, add knob of butter and place in oven

7 – At this point you can slice and serve or slice and place in foil and reheat before you are ready to serve.

Before reheating, slice and place in foil

Before re-heating, slice and place in foil

It keeps very well in the fridge for a week. It is great fried in the morning with an egg if you are lucky to have any leftovers, or as part of a sandwich.

Barly remenbered to take this picture before it dissapeared!

Barely remembered to take this picture before it disappeared!

Curried Chicken With Dried Cherries (serves 4) & More Fun With My Brother

Curried Chicken With Dried Cherries

Last Friday I paid an overnight visit to my brother’s, and I had so much fun that I decided to do it again! This time however I brought my two kids with me. I set off last week with the relishing thought of being away from everyone, but the honest-to-goodness truth is that I missed them. When I am with my son and my daughter they spur me on to do things I wouldn’t do when alone, like looking for frogs at the pond or going out for ice cream after dinner, and perhaps even turning the car stereo up really loud and singing at the top of my lungs (actually, I will admit to doing that last one solo on many occasions!)

My brother’s back porch

We arrived in the afternoon and after dropping in to my brother’s work place to say “ciao” we headed to the house armed with the ingredients for dinner. I put a bottle of prosecco in the fridge to chill and then off we went to catch frogs.

Anyone for late night badminton?

By the time Pascal arrived home, dinner preparations were in full swing, a movie underway and the bottle of prosecco half drained. I love nothing better than a loud kitchen with lots of happy people milling about amidst the wafting aroma of food. It has the magical effect of making you think everything is alright with the world, and if creating that illusion is a simply matter of preparing dinner I’m all for making the effort every evening that I can.

We ended the day with a riveting game of badminton, and although playing in flip-flops is not recommended, don’t let it stop you for a second!

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*This is also a Blood Type A diet Dinner. if you do not want to use the flour (which is neutral), just omit and you will end up with a lovely, but brothier version*

You will need:

4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

4lb cut-up chicken

1 white onion, large dice (yellow or sweet onion will do also)

3 celery ribs, including leaves, sliced

1/2 lb white mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup dried cherries

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 sprigs fresh oregano

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 1/2 tbs madras curry powder (or other aromatic variety)

3 tbs all-purpose flour,

4 cups veggie or chicken broth (or, 1 good quality bouillon cube & 4 cups water)

Method:

Prep all veggies before you start cooking

1 – Place big all-purpose pan (with lid) on medium/high heat and add the oil. When it is hot, sear the chicken in batches until surface is golden brown. Transfer to a plate as you go.

Sear Chicken in batches

2 – Turn heat down to medium/low and add the garlic, onion and celery. Saute for about 5 or so minutes, stirring occasionally.

Saute onions, garlic & celery

3 – Add the mushrooms, cherries, and herbs and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Add cherries, mushrooms & herbs

4 – Add the curry powder (and bouillon cube if using), and stir for a minute, then add the flour and mix well.

Add curry powder, then flour

5 – Add 1 cup of broth/water and stir well. Continue to add water/broth and turn heat to high. When mixture comes to a bubble, add the chicken in an even layer. Turn heat down to low (a simmer) and cover. Simmer gently for 1 hour.Turn off heat and let everything rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Add liquid

Serve alone, or with a pasta, rice or crusty bread. I served our dinner with tagliatelle (egg noodles) and it was really tasty.

Simmer on stove-top for 1 hour

Another lovely visit

Colorful Rice with Asian Chicken or Salmon (serves 8)

 I have been luxuriating in Ireland for the past six days, and what a glorious few days it has been. I have left the Crappy Kitchen to embark on a trip that has taken me back home to Ireland, then on to Italy to work, before winding up the adventure back in Ireland in May.

I have been in the best company ever; my sisters! Each day we take mini trips to town for lunch, or to some historical site (to satisfy the children), and in the evening, wine is opened, and the cooking begins.

Colorful Rice with Asian Chicken (option 1!)

It is not surprising that on the second day of my visit, I was whisked away to town to buy an apron (also, I didn’t want to get any olive oil on my new clothes and boots!).

I have been enjoying my time in a kitchen that is quite the opposite of “crappy”, and staying up way too late basking in the company of my favorite people in the world.

This dinner was concocted amidst loud talk and laughter.

More please.

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You will need: 1 onion, small dice, 1 large carrot, small dice, 2 celery ribs, small dice, 1 red pepper, small dice, 1/2 lb streaky bacon, chopped, (* omit pepper and bacon if blood type A devotee), 8 to 10 cups cooked basmati rice, 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or, 1 good quality bouillon cube & 1 1/2 cups water), 4 chicken fillets, 4 salmon fillets, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup mirin, 1 tsp fine sugar, 2 tbs finely grated ginger (peeled).

1 – To cook rice for eight people you will need about 3 cups of rice or 4 cups of rice if you are making rice in a rice cooker, and using a rice-cooker measure. Cook according to instructions, and set aside to use later in the recipe.

2 – Prep all veggies before you start cooking. Put big saute pan on medium heat and cook bacon for about 10 minutes. Add the oil and allow to warm., Add all of the vegetables (except the ginger), and saute for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

saute veggies and bacon

3 – While vegetables are cooking, mix the mirin, soy, sugar and 1 tbs of ginger in a bowl. Place the chicken and salmon in shallow bowls and divide marinade between the two dishes.

marinate chicken

Allow to marinate for about a 1/2 hour.

marinate salmon

4 – Add the thyme to the veggies after about 15 minutes. Turn heat up to high and add the stock.

add herbs

5 – When it comes to a boil,  turn down, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cooked, rice and stir all of the ingredients together. Turn off heat (or keep warm while frying fish and chicken).

add stock, then rice

6 – Put two pans on stove top on medium/high heat (or 1 pan at a time, if that is what is available to you). Add 2 tbs of oil to each and when it is hot, add the chicken and/or fish to each pan. Cook chicken for about 7 minutes, turning halfway through cooking.

Cook fish for about 3 1/2 minutes per side.

Colorful Rice Salmon, (option 2)

Serve rice with either a piece of fish or a portion of chicken.