Boxty

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Of all things, my first boxty was not eaten in Ireland. It was, in fact, enjoyed in an Irish pub in, of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s called Kilkenny’s, and it’s been an established and popular Irish pub since 2002.

I really enjoyed the boxty, which I’d never heard of before. I only ordered it because I wanted something traditionally Irish since I was in an Irish pub. And of course it was good – it was a giant potato-based crepe filled with creamy goodness. I can’t really remember all of the details now, but because of that experience, I was determined to have one in Ireland… which I did just a few weeks ago.

We had lunch in Dublin at Gallagher’s Boxty House one Sunday. We went there knowing that it was a touristy sort of place, but I had to have my boxty. Gallagher’s Boxty House is an unassuming little joint of a restaurant in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

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It actually seemed like only locals were eating lunch there – especially families with children. The young man who waited on us was 17, and the son of the restaurant’s owner. It was nice finding out it’s a family business.

But touristy or not, we all have a fabulous lunch. I chose the seafood boxty and it was delicious.

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That day in Dublin was Latvia Day, as we surmised after passing loads of people dressed up in their traditional Latvian garb. (Of course, we had to ask what the hoopla was all about…)

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Aren’t these women beautiful?!!!

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I only mention Latvia day because the presence of the singing and dancing Latvians added to the frivolity of walking around Dublin on a beautiful Sunday when everyone seemed to be outside enjoying themselves. And the parade that ensued went right by the Boxty house while we were enjoying our lunch!
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Okay, little things like that get me excited. But back to the boxty.

After returning from Ireland last week, I wanted to make boxty. I own a book on Irish cooking*, and it revealed that the boxty originated in the north of Ireland, actually. The word boxty came about from the fact that people cut holes in boxes in order to grate the potatoes to make this dish! I now appreciate my metal grater even more than ever.

There are also, not surprisingly, a few different versions of boxty. One is exactly like what I had in Tulsa and in Dublin – an oversized pancake with filling. Another version is a pancake on a smaller scale served simply with butter.

The third version, which I didn’t make today, is from a thicker pancake batter – essentially a dough. Round shapes are cut out of it much like our biscuits, and baked. I think I actually saw these on breakfast menus in Ireland, because they were described as hash brown potato cakes. I’m sure they were delightful but unfortunately I never had one.

Here’s my version of the giant boxty pancake with a creamed ham and cheese filling, and boxty pancakes with butter.

Boxty with Creamy Ham and Cheese Filling

4 medium baking potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups milk, I used whole
Butter

Chop up two of the peeled potatoes and boil them until done. If you’re not sure, stick a fork in the pieces to see if they are tender. When they are cooked, drain the potatoes; set aside.
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Grate the remaining two potatoes and place them on paper towels for a few minutes to drain.

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Then place the grated potatoes in a medium bowl. Add the flour and baking powder. Mash the two cooked potatoes and add to the grated potatoes in the bowl.
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Give everything a stir, then slowly stir in the milk. The batter should have some consistency, yet be somewhat thin as well.
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Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Use a generous amount of butter for each pancake. When the skillet is hot, almost completely fill the bottom of the skillet with the batter. Don’t make it too thick, but also fill in any thin spots or holes. Turn down the heat to medium, and cover the skillet with a lid.

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After a few minutes, turn the heat down to low to finish cooking the pancake. I discovered that it was nearly impossible to flip over these “pancakes,” so I just let them cook on the bottom side slowly.

After a few more minutes, slide the pancake onto a large plate, turn up the heat again, and make a second pancake. When the second one is done, slide it onto a separate plate.

Complete as many pancakes as you wish, then proceed with the filling:

Filling

1 recipe for white sauce
About 2 cups of chopped ham
6 ounces Monterey jack cheese

Make a white sauce according to the directions using butter, flour, and milk or cream, whichever you prefer.

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Stir in the ham and the cheese. I also sprinkled in some white pepper, but that is certainly optional.

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Add a generous amount of the filling to each boxty, and fold the other side over. Repeat with the remaining boxties that you made. The filing will generously fill four boxties, approximately 8″ in diameter.

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Serve immediately, or reheat later right before serving.

Boxty Pancakes

Make the same batter for the boxty using the grated and mashed potatoes, the flour, baking powder, and milk.

Add a generous amount of butter before adding the batter to the hot skillet. Make these the size as breakfast pancakes, turning down the heat to cook them through and prevent burning. It should take about 3 minutes on the first side, then flip them over and cook for about another minute.

To serve, add a tab of butter to the hot pancakes. These can be served as a side dish, or eaten as is. Personally I would have to have them with a side salad, or a few wedges of tomatoes.

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verdict: I think this boxty batter recipe pretty well tastes like my Dublin boxty. You could also substitute a crepe, but the potatoes really add something to the “pancakes.” And they’re not much work at all. The smaller boxty pancakes were good, but I prefer my own version of potato pancakes, that have less flour in them, and have much more texture. But both versions of boxty were fun to try!

* It’s called The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook, by Kay Shaw Nelson.

Brisket w/ Guinness BBQ Sauce

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I have an interesting history with beef brisket. First of all, I didn’t grow up on brisket so I wasn’t familiar with it. But to be fair, when I got married and started cooking regularly, I wasn’t that familiar with many cuts of meat because I had never cooked meat for myself much. I wasn’t a vegetarian, I was just on a budget, and cooking for one is not as easy as cooking for two or four.

So one day, 31 years ago to be exact, I remember asking my husband what kind of meat he liked. He told me, among others, that he enjoyed brisket. I had to look it up. I found one brisket recipe in all of my cookbooks, which probably already numbered around 100 back then, and it was a German brisket recipe. It was probably Sauerbraten.

So that’s what I decided to make for an evening when we had company. I was definitely not impressed with the brisket itself, even though I’d followed the recipe. And I’m pretty sure no one else enjoyed it, either. It was dry and stringy. And now that I’m thinking back on the experience, I’m positive my husband was actually thinking barbecued brisket when he suggested the cut of meat. But I wasn’t that familiar with barbeque back then, either!

Over the many years of living in Oklahoma and Texas, I have gained respect for brisket. It can, indeed, make a wonderful meal when cooked and smoked at low temperatures for many, many hours. And I do now smoke it about once a year in the summer.

As you know, I’ve been experimenting with my sous vide, and I realized that a good test of the sous vide process would be to use a brisket, instead of the already-tender cuts I’d been using. According to Stefan’s guidelines at the stefan gourmet blog, I was to cook the brisket for two days in 135 degree F water. So that’s what I did two days ago.

But to make things more festive, I decided to embrace St. Patrick’s Day – the day I would serve the brisket. So I also made a Guinness-based barbecue sauce for the brisket to serve on Sunday. So, here’s what I did:

Guinness Barbecue Sauce

1 – 14.9 ounce can Guinness
1 star anise
1 cup ketchup*
3 tablespoons brown mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 – 2 teaspoons hot sauce**
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter

Pour the Guinness into a medium-sized pot, and simmer it over medium heat with the star anise until it is reduced by at least half.

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Meanwhile, place all ingredients but the butter in a bowl.

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When the Guinness has reduced, whisk in the other ingredients, and simmer until the sauce thickens a bit.

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Then add the butter and whisk it in.

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* I used my home-made ketchup, but you can use any kind. I was just anxious to use it up so I could make a new batch with less sugar!

** I used my new favorite habanero hot sauce called West Indian hot sauce. I used all 2 teaspoons, but we like things spicy, and I knew I’d still be able to taste the other ingredients. If you’re using straight Tabasco, I would test first.

Verdict: I like all the flavors in this barbecue sauce, although I can definitely detect the Guinness after taste. I’m not a fan of dark beer, but Guinness is my husband’s favorite beer, so I decided to make this for him. But it is surprisingly good. I would cut back and use half Guinness and half lighter beer if I make it again. But Guinness lovers should indeed love this sauce!!!

For the sous vide brisket, I preheated the sous vide to 135 degrees. Then I placed my three pound piece of brisket into a vacuum seal bag and sealed her up. I completely forgot about any seasoning, but that’s okay.

Just for fun, on Saint Patrick’s day, I cooked some rice called Bamboo rice, which I got from Marx Foods.

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Unfortunately, it lost some of its green from the cooking process!

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Then it was time for the brisket to come out of the sous vide. It looked like this:

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I patted it completely dry, and trimmed off as much fat as I could from the one side.

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Then I heated some oil in a grill pan over high heat. I seasoned the brisket generously with seasoning salt and garlic pepper.

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Then I placed the brisket in the pan and browned the meat for about 2 minutes per side, and put on a clean cutting board.

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Then I sliced it up. It wasn’t very pink. I asked my husband to test the brisket and when he did, he almost fainted. So I had to try it. Oh my, this was the most tender beef I’ve ever had, let alone the most tender brisket!!! I was so excited. This is what the sous vide is all about! I wish the photos could convey the tenderness.

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So I heated the barbecue sauce, and placed the green rice on a serving plate, topped by the slices of brisket.

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I didn’t serve anything else green except some good asparagus. I’m just not that creative! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!