- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

When some of our friends, whose lineage is definitely Irish, discovered that St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday this year, they didn’t waste any time planning a party.

By the time I received their e-mail, they had decided on Shamrock Potluck. Since my family’s ancestry includes some Irish genes, I was equally enthusiastic about being part of a casual get-together to celebrate this holiday. I also knew exactly what I would volunteer to make.

For the past six months, I have been working on a soup cookbook, and one dish I have wanted to create for the collection is a corned beef and cabbage potage.

As luck would have it, I was ready to start testing my idea when the St. Pat’s invitation arrived. Last week, a talented assistant helped me bring the recipe to fruition.

We started by sauteing bacon, then cooked chopped onions, sliced cabbage and diced potatoes in the drippings. These ingredients were then simmered in chicken stock seasoned with grainy Dijon mustard.

After the vegetables were tender, thin strips of corned beef were added to the pot. The delicious mixture could have been served right then, but we decided to add an extra flourish by ladling the soup into ramekins and topping each serving with a round of purchased puff pastry.

The soup can be completely cooked, ladled into the ramekins, and topped with pastry several hours ahead. All that is necessary at serving time is to pop the bowls in the oven for 20 minutes. When you break into the golden, flaky pastry with a spoon, you discover the savory, hot corned beef and cabbage mixture beneath a fitting first course to begin a St. Paddy’s Day fete.

Corned beef and cabbage soup under cover

5 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces

11/4 cups chopped onion

1½ pound green cabbage, quartered and cored, then cut into ½-inch-wide by 2-inch strips

1½ pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/8 inch cubes

5 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons country Dijon mustard

½ pound sliced good quality corned beef cut into ½-inch-wide by 2-inch strips

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

17.3 ounce package frozen puff pastry, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

1 large egg

Water

Equipment needed: 8, one-cup ramekins or souffle dishes

In a large, heavy pot (with a lid) set over medium heat, saute the bacon until crisp. Add the onion and saute with the bacon until onion is just slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and potatoes and toss to coat with the bacon drippings. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 3 minutes.

Add the stock and the mustard to the pot and stir to blend. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, then cover. Simmer until vegetables are just tender, about 20 minutes. Then stir in the corned beef and season with salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon or more depending on saltiness of the stock and the corned beef) and with 1 teaspoon pepper.

While soup is simmering, prepare pastry tops. On a floured work surface, roll one of the pastry sheets into an 11-inch square. Cut out 4 pastry rounds, each about 5½ inches in diameter (or ½ inch wider all around than the tops of the ramekins). Repeat with remaining pastry sheet.

Cut a ½-inch circle in the center of each pastry round (a plain ½-inch pastry tip works well). The hole will let the steam escape while the pastry bakes. Cover and refrigerate rounds until needed.

When soup is done, cool slightly and then fill each ramekin to within ½ inch of the top. You will have about 2 cups soup remaining; refrigerate and enjoy as leftovers.) Whisk the egg with 1 teaspoon cold water in a small bowl, and brush one side of each pastry circle with some of this egg mixture.

Carefully place a pastry round, glazed side down, over each ramekin. Firmly press the overlapping pastry against the outside of each ramekin. Be careful not to press down from the top to avoid cutting the dough on the edge of the ramekin. Press the tines of a fork around the pastry sides to make it adhere tightly to each ramekin.

Brush the tops and sides of the pastries with the egg glaze. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and refrigerate, loosely covered with plastic wrap, at least 1 hour. (Soup can be prepared 4 hours ahead; keep covered and refrigerated.)

To bake ramekins, arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and bake ramekins until pastry is golden brown and slightly puffed, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove and serve. Makes 8 servings.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of “Big Book of Backyard Cooking” (Chronicle Books).

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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