This past Saturday Mark and I hosted a little, slightly belated St. Patrick's Day gathering. I sort of love having an event like this to focus my attention on. I rather enjoy planning a menu based on a theme of some sort (it's kind of Rachael Ray-ish, isn't it?) So for the past couple weeks I've searched all over the internet looking for interesting Irish recipes. It turns out there aren't many. Irish food, it would appear, is quite limited. Potatoes and cabbage. That's pretty much it. But finally, after extensive research, I found a few recipes that I liked.
I wanted to do something modern but using the traditional Irish ingredients. To begin I served a nice little nibblie I got from Martha - thick cut potato chips topped with a small, buttery piece of smoked salmon, a teensy dallop of sour cream and a little sprig of dill. VERY good. I did an interesting warm salad of cabbage wilted in bacon drippings which was then tossed with a dressing made of white wine, shallots, cream and Irish blue cheese. For the main course I made my Guinness Beef Stew again, which I served with horseradish buttermilk mashed potatoes. And then for dessert, I made this, which is sort of based on an Emeril recipe as well as another apple crisp recipe I found, but I can't remember where.
(for the crisp)
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 1/2 pounds or so Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup Irish steel-cut oats
1/4 cup toasted, chopped walnut piece
(for the Irish Whiskey Cream)
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Irish Whiskey
First make the Irish Whiskey Cream: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until stiff. Fold in the honey and the whiskey. This can be made hours before serving or even the day before and it holds up fine.
To make the crisp topping, combine the flour, 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, the oatmeal, and 5 tablespoons of the butter in the bowl of a food processor. Plus until the mixture has come together and the butter is about the size of a pea. Place in a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
For the filling, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples, lemon juice, the remaining half cup of brown sugar and the remaining tablespoon of flour. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes. Add the whiskey, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Stir well and cook for 1 minute longer. Remove from heat.
Next place the apple mixture in a buttered casserole dish. Pour over the crumble topping and place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until it's bubbly at the edges and the topping has turned golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm with a spoon full of the Irish Whiskey Cream.
There are a number of reasons why I like this recipe. First of all, the prep method makes it really good to entertain with. The cream, the topping and the apple mixture can all be made hours ahead of time and then when you want to bake it off, you can just assemble the crisp and bake it off. Since the apples have already been cooked a little bit, the crisp doesn't take that long to bake in the oven. Very easy. I mean you could bake the whole thing early too, but it's so much nicer when it's still warm from the oven with the Irish Whiskey Cream melting into the crumbly topping and warm apples. Which brings me to the other reason I like this recipe. It tastes amazing. The apples are soft but still have body. They bring a nice tartness which contrasts fantastically with the sweet brown sugar. The cardamom is a great with the cinnamon and the steel-cut oats add a nice texture to the topping. And then there is the whiskey cream. Seriously, I could just sit and eat a bowl of it by itself. The recipe seems like it would be versatile as well. You could add blackberries in with the apples. You could substitute brandy for the whiskey. You could substitute quick-cook or even rolled oats for the steel-cut. You could substitute pecans for the walnuts. Don't you love having options?