Pasta with Mushrooms, Lemon and Kale

I'm pretty stoked to tell you that we've managed to trade in the brown and gray of the still-winter midwest landscape for the vibrant colors of California spring!  Yes, that can only mean one thing... we're hanging out at the Western Headquarters of the Circle B Kitchen and breathing the ocean air of the Central Coast for a couple of weeks.  And when I say vibrant colors, I'm not even kidding.  Because of the torrential winter rains here, the wildflowers are partying as they haven't done in years.  It's taken a while for the eyes to adjust, but we're back to enjoying it all in technicolor.  

But Before we left home, I spent no small amount of time trying to put together a recipe to satisfy a certain wintertime craving I was having for mushroom pasta.   This is not an unfamiliar craving. Of course, pasta is always at the forefront of most of my cravings, and sometimes I need a mushroom.  This time I needed both; something vibrant and healthy and really mushroomy.  

Initially I made a couple of versions that included a creamy component, but I found them a bit too heavy which sort of muddled the mushroom experience.  And after a few more attempts, and some trial and error, this is what I came up with.

Turns out that when you combine just a few ingredients to maximize their effect on each other, you end up with some dang good eats.  And this, my friends, is definitely some very fine eats. And it's actually pretty easy to throw together.

While your pasta is cooking, (I used cellantani, which is sort of a corkscrew shape and very fun), you're just going to quickly saute some shallots, garlic, mushrooms and kale and then toss in the pasta with the lemon and parmesan and enough of the pasta cooking water to create a nice little sauce.

And then serve it up with a little more parmesan and wonder how you possibly got along without it all this time.  Here's the recipe...

Pasta with Mushrooms, Lemon and Kale

Click here for a printable recipe

I created this pasta in response to an overwhelming craving for mushrooms and it has turned into one of our favorite pasta meals and a regular in the Circle B Kitchen meal rotation.  The flavors and textures were just lovely together, but I encourage you to play with the ingredients and make it your own... more heat from the pepper, or less, more lemony if you like, and substitute zucchini or spinach for the kale.  Dried thyme can be substituted for the fresh, or leave it out altogether.  

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
16 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 small shallot, minced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested, juice of 1/2 of the lemon
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
2 cups thinly sliced kale (I used dinosaur or Tuscan kale)
1 lb pasta (I used cellantani)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed
1/2 cup or more of the pasta cooking water

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the pasta about one minute less than the package directions.  Reserve a large cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium high heat and add the crushed red pepper and shallots. Saute for a couple of minutes until the shallots are softened and then add the minced garlic and mushrooms.  Saute the mushrooms for about 5 minutes or until softened and cooked a bit.

Add the sliced kale to the pan, along with the salt and pepper and continue to cook until the kale is just wilted.

Stir the cooked pasta into the pan along with 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice and the thyme leaves.  Taste for salt and pepper and add the reserved pasta water as needed to create a little sauce.  Keep warm until ready to serve and then drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle the top with a little more grated parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.

Corned Beef Reuben Sandwich

Now that we've all had our fill of St. Patrick's Day corned beef, there's the question of what to do with leftovers.  If there are any.  The sum total of all of our leftovers are right up there in that reuben, and had I known that leftovers could taste this good, I would have cooked twice as much corned beef.  Maybe more.   Because a corned beef reuben on rye with sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Russian dressing is what life is all about.

The Reuben has absolutely nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day but was invented right here in Omaha by the chef of the Blackstone Hotel in the 1930's.  It is a much-beloved and iconic sandwich in these parts.  And for good reason.  It's simply delicious and my favorite sandwich ever.

So let's just get right to it.  Up there in that photo are your necessary ingredients.  There are lots of different kinds of rye bread out there, so choose your favorite.  But just to be clear.... there is no reuben without rye.  On the other hand, if you don't happen to have any leftover corned beef, pastrami, which is cured very similarly to corned beef, is a very, very acceptable substitute.  You'll also need a few slices of swiss cheese, some sauerkraut and some homemade Russian dressing to get things set up to make a delicious, if not legendary sandwich.  

And to make it, we're firstly going to spread some softened butter on one side of each piece of rye bread. Then we're not going to do what I did in those photos up there.  I would much prefer you to place the cheese slices on the bread before you slather them with the Russian dressing.  This prevents the bread from getting soggy from the dressing.  I really don't know what I was thinking, but more than likely my judgement was clouded by the impending joy of having this reuben sandwich for lunch. My apologies.

At any rate, you're then going to top one of the halves with your corned beef and then some sauerkraut,

and then place the meatless slice on top and then put it on a hot griddle or skillet.  When the first side is grilled to golden brown perfection, flip it over and turn down the heat.  I like to dome the sandwich with a metal bowl which encourages the cheese to get super melty and delicious.  It also hides the sandwich from potential interlopers. 

Then remove it to a plate, slice it in half and serve it with a cold one and maybe a big pile of fries.  

That's how we roll with corned beef leftovers around here.  And just in case you're into it, here's the recipe...

Reuben Sandwich

Click here for a printable recipe

For each sandwich you will need...

2 slices of rye bread
Several slices of corned beef
2 -6 slices of swiss cheese, depending on the thickness of each slice
Russian dressing (see recipe below)
sauerkraut
softened butter 

To assemble your sandwiches, spread one side of each piece of rye bread with softened butter.  Flip them over and top with the swiss cheese slices.  Spread both pieces with a good amount of Russian dressing.

Place the corned beef on one piece of bread and top that with some sauerkraut.  Place the meatless slice of bread on top of the sauerkraut.

Place the sandwich on a well-heated cast iron griddle or nonstick skillet.  When the first side is golden brown, flip the sandwich, reduce the heat a bit and place a metal bowl over the sandwich. This will create a heated dome which will trap heat and help the cheese to melt more quickly.

When the bottom half is browned nicely and the cheese has melted, remove the sandwich from the pan, slice in half and serve while still warm.

Simple Russian Dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup catsup
3 tablespoons sweet pick relish

Combine the mayonnaise, catsup and relish.  This is also great on burgers and patty melts.

Colcannon

We've got one last Irish-y sort of thing for you to add to your St. Patrick's Day menu, the idea being that instead of making the cabbage and potatoes in our scrumptious Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe, you could opt for this delicious mix of the two.  Colcannon is an age-old Irish tradition and we've become believers.  This is lovely stuff... creamy mashed potatoes mixed with tender, cooked, shredded cabbage, which, when put together, if you close your eyes, tastes an awful lot like cauliflower.  Even with your eyes open, for that matter.

And if you're not real big on cabbage, this might be the perfect way to enjoy it... sort of melted into some buttery mashed potatoes.

We really were surprised by how good this was and could imagine adding in some bacon for extra deliciousness, but it surely doesn't need it.

On a side note, I just have to tell you that putting this recipe together was made even easier by using my Instant Pot to pressure cook the potatoes. This thing is a true wonder in the kitchen, and I've given it a place of honor on the kitchen counter so it's handy for anything that I can save time by pressure cooking.  Like potatoes...

8 minutes total in the Instant Pot and I had perfectly cooked potatoes that mashed up like a dream...  

And the cool thing is that it steams the potatoes.  Since they're not sitting in water (as in boiling), the potatoes absorb less water which makes for fluffier potatoes.  I've added Instant Pot instructions for this to the recipe in case you have one. (Of course, you can always steam your potatoes on the stove top instead of boiling them.)

In any case, Colcannon is lusciously delish and is going to show up around here a little more often. Here's the recipe...

Colcannon

Click here for a printable recipe

This makes a delicious side dish for your corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s also great with roast chicken, meatloaf, salmon or pot roast.  I’ve given you some directions for making mashed potatoes, but use your own favorite recipe if you prefer.  I used an Instant Pot pressure cooker to cook my potatoes and have given you instructions for that at the bottomof the recipe.

2 pounds potatoes (any combination of red, yukon gold and russets), peeled and cut into 2-inch wedges
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided (more or less to taste)
6 tablespoons butter
1 pound cabbage, cored and shredded (or chopped)
1/4 cup chicken broth
4 medium scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced and separated
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup whole milk, warmed

Place the potatoes and a teaspoon of the salt in a medium pot and cover with cool water. Bring to a simmer over high heat; this will take about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the 1/4 cup chicken broth, the shredded cabbage and another teaspoon of salt.  Stir with tongs to mix the cabbage in the butter and broth, cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook the cabbage for 6-8 minutes or until tender and then remove from the heat.  Stir in most of the scallions, reserving some for serving.  Cover the pan and let it sit until the potatoes are done.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the cooking pot. Add the warm milk, 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 teaspoons of salt and a little pepper.  Mash with a potato masher, retaining a few small lumps for texture.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Stir the mashed potatoes into the warm cabbage and fold to combine. Adjust the seasonings, if needed and then heat through.  

When ready to serve, spoon the colcannon into a large serving bowl and make a little well in the middle of the potatoes. Place a little pat of butter in the well and then sprinkle with the remaining scallions and black pepper.  Serve immediately.

Note:  I used an Instant Pot to cook the potatoes.  Just place 1 cup of water in the bottom of the instant pot and place the rack in the water.  Place your peeled potato wedges on the rack, secure the lid and make sure the valve is set to “sealing”.  Cook on high pressure for 8 minutes with a quick release.  The potatoes will be perfectly ready to mash.

Irish Soda Bread

Last week we shared our exceptionally superb Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe, and in my effort here to get us all up to speed and ready for St. Paddy's Day, as promised I've got some deliciously scrumptious Irish soda bread for you.  And oh my ever lovin' goodness, this is some seriously excellent soda bread.

There are like a bazillion recipes for soda bread circulating through the interwebs, but this is my favorite.  It's almost sort of completely traditional but not quite.  It's actually not as far away from traditional as most of the recipes you'll find out there.  And by traditional I mean, flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. That's it.  

Soda Bread 65.jpg

The Irish have very strong opinions about this sort of thing and some purists would tell you that it's the only way to make it.  Not being a total purist, I opted for just a couple more ingredients... a little baking powder, some raisins and a very wee bit of sugar.  Not too far from traditional, right? Especially seeing as how most of the recipes you find out there add eggs, honey, milk, butter, herbs and all kinds of whatnot.

And here's the best news of all... soda bread is easier than simple to make.  No kneading (please don't knead!), the scragglier and messier it looks the better and you can mix and bake it all in no time. 

This one isn't real sweet, but I do need my raisins.  If you're not a raisin kind of person, leave them out.  You'll be just that much closer to tradition.  Here's the recipe...

P.S.  If you're not into raisins, you could contemplate maybe adding just a bit more sugar to the dough.  But that's your call.  Totally up to you.  (the raisins are awesome though)

Irish Soda Bread

Recipe adapted from James Beard via Mark Bittman

Click here for a printable recipe

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup raisins

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Stir in the buttermilk, one half cup at a time, until the dough is soft but slightly sticky.

Lightly flour your hands and quickly knead the dough to form it into a rough ball in the bowl.  If the dough is too sticky, add just a little flour but do not over-knead or your bread will be tough.

Place the dough on the parchment-lined baking sheet and using a sharp knife, cut a large cross in the top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the outside is brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it. Serve immediately or place in a ziplock bag to store for up to a few days.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

I know, this is totally uncharacteristic of me, isn't it.  I mean like how I'm getting this to you BEFORE St. Patrick's Day.  Not usually this organized and intentional, but this year, I was determined to get this recipe to you in time so you could actually make it.  It really is a good one.

The backstory (cuz there always seems to be one) takes place five years ago when grandson Emmett was born.  I went to Colorado to help the new parents get through the first few weeks of sleeplessness, and St. Patrick's Day fell in the middle of my stay.  I whipped out my all time favorite recipe and made corned beef and cabbage for everyone.  And oh, man, it was so much fun and so good and we've been talking about it every year since.  Fast forward five years and little Emmett is now 5 (Happy Birthday, big guy!!) and thinking about kindergarten and we're way overdue to re-live that very special evening when Emmett was only a few days old.  Which is exactly what we did this weekend.

And it was just as good as we remembered.  Possibly, maybe even better.  This is how to cook corned beef... ignore whatever the instructions on the package might tell you because you do not want to boil this cured brisket in water.  No, it is begging for beer, people.  Lots and lots of beer. Well, you will need 2 beers; one a Guinness, and the other whatever you've got.  Or go all out and use 2 Guinness.  This is no time for fear.  

I've no clue what beer does to the meat, beyond tenderizing and moisturizing and creating something a bit magical and oh so delicious.  I just know that this is an awesome way to cook up your corned beef.

I've given you step by step instructions on cooking cabbage (of course), potatoes and carrots to accompany your corned beef; it's all done in one pot which gives it just like a million bonus points, if you ask me.

Oh, and I served it with our cheesy beer scones, because more beer (and cheese), but if you prefer some Irish soda bread to go alongside instead, I'll have that recipe for you very shortly.

If what you're looking for is a fun, delicious and happy St. Paddy's Day, we may just have you covered.  Here's the recipe...

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Click here for a printable recipe

Serves 4

1 head cabbage
4-lb corned beef brisket
2-3 bay leaves
1 to 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
4 large carrots, cut in half lengthwise and then into quarters
8 medium red potatoes, quartered
1 bottle Guinness beer
1 bottle regular beer
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Good quality stone ground mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Pour the beers into a large heavy pot (I use my heavy Le Crueset) and place the brisket into the pot.  Add water if needed to cover (just to make sure it's submerged, but no more than that), add the bay leaves and peppercorns and cover tightly. Bring to a simmer, place in the oven, and cook for 3 hours.

While the brisket is cooking, prep the veggies as noted above.  Halve the cabbage through the stem and then halve again, keeping the stem end intact.  You should have 8 cabbage slices that hold together.

After 3 hours, remove the pot from the oven and place it on top of the stove over a low flame.  Add the potatoes, cover, and let them cook for about 7 minutes.  Add the carrots, replace the lid and cook for a couple minutes before adding the cabbage on top.  Squish the lid down over the whole thing and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or so.

While the veggies are cooking, mix the melted butter and parsley together and place about half in a large-ish bowl.   Remove the potatoes from the pot and place them in the bowl with the butter and parsley.  Mix well and keep warm.  Remove the cabbage and carrots from the pot, drizzle with the remaining parsley butter and keep warm.   

Slice the meat and place in the center of a large serving platter, surrounded by mounds of the veggies.  Drizzle the meat and veggies with some of the cooking liquid from the pot.  Serve with more of the au jus and lots of stone ground mustard.