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I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Luck o' the Irish


Shamus on ye if you didn't attend our post St. Patty's Day event hosted by myself and my lovely friends Val, Eric, and Christine on March 19. We asked that 25 of our closest Good Eats and Meets friends grab a bar o' Irish Spring with its fine fresh scent and get clean as a whistle, throw on some green duds and pop on over to O'Val-ley's Roadhouse Pub and Eatery (otherwise known as Val's house) for a four-course Irish dinner paired with St. Patty's themed cocktails.

Chef Eric donned his shamrock green leprechaun chef's hat and served up grub to tickle the taste buds (and we're not talking about a soggy bowl of Lucky Charms here either) whilst the Charlotte Mixologist (that would be me) poured the cocktails that no doubt assisted in everyone believing they had seen a real live leprechaun at the party. Our Irish wannabe lassies Christine and Val assisted in slinging plates and glasses, taking photos and providing entertainment ~ the likes of which they're still no doubt talking about across the pond.

I've shared a few recipes from the dinner here, but please make sure you pop over to the Charlotte Cocktails Examiner site for the cocktail recipes.   

Our appetizer course consisted of a small-plate version of Bangers and Mash featuring chicken and apple smoked sausage served alongside renowned Las Vegas Chef Joel Robuchon's Pommes Puree (or as we Southerners call them, Creamy Mashed Potatoes. Recipe below.)  We paired this with a Green Dublin Apple Martini featuring smooth Irish Whiskey, sour apple Schnapps and a white cranberry juice combination.


Not to dis any of the other courses, but the salad course was by far my favorite. An Irish Goat Cheese and Wild Mushroom Terrine (recipe below) with pomegranate poached pear slices, mixed baby greens with mint vinaigrette and rye toast points showcased a lovely Irish Rose cocktail made with pomegranate syrup, lime, Irish Whiskey and a splash of Ginger Ale. Even though I'm not a huge mushroom fan, I could have noshed on the silky smooth terrine all night!


No Irish dinner would be complete without tender sliced corned beef brisket with mustard sauce, sauteed fennel, baby zucchini, baby carrots and lightly toasted rye pumpernickel bread. We gave the guests their choice of traditional Irish beers with this course: dark and hearty Guinness or George Killian's Irish Red.


We sent them right over the edge with Irish Mudslide Cupcakes (recipe below) for dessert. Rich and chocolatey, these cupcakes were topped with a combination of Bailey's Irish Cream and Kahlua buttercream frosting and were accompanied by a cocktail of Chambord, Raspberry Vodka, Celtic Irish liqueur, and half and half. So fruity and yummy, we named it the Celtic Berry Patch.

Now, before we divulge the photograph of our dessert course, pop over to this website and drool over the lovely picture of what the Mudslide cupcakes are SUPPOSED to look like. Go ahead....I'll wait.

Okay, now, a word to the wise about the buttercream frosting from someone who should know better. If you make the frosting ahead of time, DO NOT refrigerate the Bailey's Irish Cream frosting because the melted chocolate will amalgamate into solid form and clog up your decorating tip just as you are about to impress 25 of your closest friends with beautifully swirled frosting. You will end up with something like this, but hopefully your guests are too dizzy from kissing the Blarney stone after all the Irish whiskey you've served and no one will notice and/or care! You can certainly buy Kahlua and skip the making of your own, but I highly recommend doing it because it got rave reviews from the hosts and guests as we shot a few Dirty Irishmen with the leftovers.


Later, we sat around and sipped on some Irish coffee and contemplated what we'd do if we found the pot o' gold under the rainbow. It was definitely a magically delicious top o' the evening for everyone!

Pommes Purée

2 lbs russet potatoes
8 oz butter
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups milk brought to a boil and kept hot
sea salt to taste

  1. Starting with cold water, boil unpeeled potatoes until a fork inserted meets barely any resistance (may take 30 min or more)
  2. Peel potatoes while still hot (the potatoes are incredibly easy to peel at this point)
  3. Push the potatoes through a ricer into a pot and stir over very low heat until steam no longer escapes (about 5 minutes)
  4. Add butter by vigorously stirring potatoes until incorporated
  5. Add 3/4 cup milk in a slow stream while vigorously whipping potatoes, incorporating air into the mixture
  6. Add salt, more milk as necessary, until desired taste and texture
  7. For that extra level of refinement, pass through a fine mesh sieve
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Irish Goat's Cheese & Wild Mushroom Terrine
Serves 4-6

1 1/4 Tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
6 oz forest mushrooms, chopped (such as chanterelle, oyster, and shiitake)
8 ounces soft goat's cheese, crumbled (from a log)
1 1/4 Tbsp whole grain mustard
1 1/4 Tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 poached pear, quartered and fanned out
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh marjoram sprigs to garnish, optional

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes until softened but not colored. Add the mushrooms, season generously and continue to sauté for 3 - 4 minutes until tender and all of the excess liquid has evaporated from the pan.

Transfer the goats cheese mixture into a 1 pint loaf tin that is lined with cling wrap. Leave to cool completely, then cover with more Saran wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight is best, to firm up.
To serve, turn the terrine out onto a chopping board and peel away the cling wrap, then cut into individual slices. Arrange on serving plates with the fanned out poached pear. Garnish with the marjoram sprigs and serve with crostini.
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Mudslide Cupcakes
Swiped from the Endlesssimmer website
Yields 18-24 cupcakes

Homemade Bailey Irish Cream

• 1 cup of heavy cream
• 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
• 1 ½ cup of Jameson Irish Whiskey
• 1 teaspoon instant coffee
• 2 tablespoon of semi-sweet chocolate, melted
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 teaspoon almond extract

Instructions:
Place all ingredients in a blender and set on high speed for 30 seconds. Keep refrigerated in a sealed container. Shake before use. Will keep for 2 months.

Butter Cream Frosting Base

• 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
• ¾ sugar
• Pinch salt
• 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into 16 pieces

Instructions:

1. Combine egg whites and sugar in a large heat proof bowl. Set the bowl over (not on) simmering water in a sauce pan and heat, whisking constantly until sugar has dissolved. The mixture is ready when with it is very warm to the touch, about 2 minutes and approximately 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

2. Remove from mixture from heat and transfer to a stand mixer bowl and beat on high until egg white mixture is fluffy, led to room temperature and holds stiff peaks, about 6 minutes.

3. Turn the speed to medium low, add salt and the butter a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. Turn the speed to high and beat until mixture is creamy, about 3-5 minutes more. Evenly split buttercream into two separate bowls.

Bailey’s and Chocolate Kahlua Frostings

To make the Baileys buttercream add 3 tablespoons of Baileys into one bowl and beat until combined.

To make the Chocolate Kahlua Frosting in the other bowl, add 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and 4 oz of melted semi-sweet chocolate and 3 tablespoons of Kahlua and beat until combined.

Chocolate Cupcakes

• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 large eggs
• 3/4 cup warm water
• 3/4 cup buttermilk
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preparation: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.

Instructions:

1. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

2. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Assembly:

1. Place each frosting in separate pastry bags and cut a small opening at the bottom. Use a third bag fitted with your preferred tip and then place both filled pastry bags inside. Make sure that the bottoms of both bags are pointed in the tip. Frost cupcakes as desired.

2. Optional: Sprinkle with crushed cupcake crumb and drizzle with chocolate sauce to finish.

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He likes it! Hey Mikey!


Back in the glory days of catering, I was guilty of strictly promoting menu items that appealed to my personal tastes. Menus were designed based on the foods that I would like to have at a party if I were a guest and I would always be baffled when the client would come back and request totally different selections. It was a bitter pill to swallow when I realized not everyone loves goat cheese and eggplant Parmesan as much as I do. How can that be??

So I share with you yet another Rachel Ray recipe (and then I promise I'll get off my RR soapbox), even though it was not one of my favorites. I felt the Gorgonzola cheese was a bit over-powering even though I only used 5 oz. and not the full 8 oz. called for in the recipe. You have to be a real lover of the stuff for this. It's very rich and I'll admit to adding a bit of jarred spaghetti sauce (go ahead and judge me for not slaving over the stove and making it from scratch) just to tone down the creamy, moldy richness of the sauce. But hey, just because I don't like it doesn't mean you won't think it's the best thing since sliced bread, right?

Grab your EVOO and your garbage bowl and enjoy Rachel's Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Roll-ups with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce.

Ingredients

* 16 crimini caps, cleaned with a damp towel and finely chopped in food processor
* 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
* 1 package frozen chopped spinach (10 ounces), defrosted and squeezed dry
* Salt and pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
* 2 cups part-skim ricotta
* 8 curly edge lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente (12-14 minutes)
* 1 cup fat-free chicken broth
* 8 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1-1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preparation

In a medium skillet over moderate heat, sauté mushrooms, chopped onions and garlic in EVOO until mushrooms give off their juices and darken and onions are tender, about 7-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; the salt will help draw water out of the vegetables as they cook.

Add dry chopped spinach to the pan and heat through for about 1 minute. Adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Add ricotta and stir into mixture to heat cheese through, about 1 minute longer. Remove pan from heat but leave in the warm skillet.

Heat broth in a small pan over moderate heat. Melt Gorgonzola into broth and bring liquid to a bubble. Stir in cream and thicken sauce, about 2 minutes.

Place cooked lasagna noodles on a large work surface or cutting board. Spread lasagna noodles with a layer of spinach-mushroom filling. Roll up pasta and arrange the eight bundles in a shallow casserole dish. Pour warm sauce over roll-ups and top with mozzarella. Place casserole under broiler to melt cheese.

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