St. Patrick’s Day Dinner 2019

Corned beef and cabbage is a must for any St. Patrick’s Day feast. And if haven’t cured your own corned beef, you’ve gotta try it! It really is pretty easy if you plan ahead — like brining a turkey, but for 5-7 days. The one special ingredient you need is curing salt (sodium nitrite), also known as prague powder or pink salt (not the same as Himalayan pink salt). It’s easiest to purchase online — I bought this one a couple years ago and it will probably last me forever.

Typically corned beef is made from brisket — but any tough cut will do (must be suited for long, slow cooking, like a pot roast). So this time I’m trying it with a chuck roast. That has led to a slight hiccup in my menu planning: Because the roast is thicker than a brisket, there’s no room for cabbage in my slow cooker! Consequently I’ve added a mustardy coleslaw to the lineup, which I think complements the corned beef pretty well.

This year’s St. Patrick’s Day menu:

  • Home-Cured Corned Beef (roughly based on this curing recipe and this cooking recipe)
  • Mashed Potato Casserole with Cheddar and Green Onions (recipe)
  • Braised Collard Greens (recipe: Braised Winter Greens from Cook’s Illustrated‘s More Best Recipes)
  • Mustardy Cabbage and Apple Slaw (recipe)

Pictured: Corning Ware Green Macrame P-332 Roaster, Corning Ware April DC-1 1/2-B Designer Casserole, Pyrex Spring Blossom 043 Oval Casserole, Pyrex Verde 444 Cinderella Mixing Bowl

Mashed Potato Casserole with Cheddar and Green Onions

Sure, regular mashed potatoes are tasty. But with a couple of extra steps, you can turn them into something even more delicious — mashed potato casserole! I must admit that another motivation for making this dish was to use a vintage casserole dish from my collection. Corning Ware is a particularly handy choice, because you can assemble the casserole ahead, refrigerate it overnight, then pop it in the oven with no risk of thermal-shock-induced breakage.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

3 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
8 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 green onions, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

In a large pot, combine potatoes with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cook until softened, about 15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, then put back in the pot. Add 7 tbsp butter, cut into smallish pieces. Mash with a potato masher until butter has melted and is mixed in. Add sour cream, milk, garlic powder and salt and mash until smooth. Stir in green onions and 1 cup of the Cheddar.

Transfer the potato mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. (At this point the casserole can be covered and refrigerated overnight, if desired. Leave out at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking, and extend cooking time as needed.)

Melt 1 tbsp butter. In a small bowl, combine with bread crumbs and stir until butter is evenly incorporated. Stir in 1/2 cup Cheddar, then sprinkle the mixture over the potatoes.

Bake, uncovered, until topping is lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Pictured: Corning Ware April DC-1 1/2-B Designer Casserole

Sausage and Spinach Spaghetti Pie

I’ve been on the hunt for a casserole that is fun, dramatic and delicious in equal measures — and I think I’ve found it! I love this recipe because it’s a meal in itself, but a side of garlic bread and salad wouldn’t hurt. I’m also planning to try making it again with other ingredients — a meatless version would still be tasty, as would other vegetables (eggplant? chard? zucchini?). Just be careful not to add too much moisture, or the final product won’t set properly.

If you don’t have a springform pan, an 8-inch cake pan will do. But you’ll miss out on the fun of releasing the sides of the pan and letting the pie stand on its own.

Adapted from Food Network’s Beefy Cheesy Spaghetti Pie.

Serves 6

Ingredients

6 oz uncooked spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz bulk Italian sausage (remove casings if you’re using links)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes
12 oz baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt
pepper
4 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz small mozzarella balls, drained
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, until it’s just al dente. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, then toss with 1 tbsp olive oil to keep it from sticking together. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage in 1 tbsp olive oil, breaking it up into crumbles, until no pink remains. Spoon it out onto a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Add the onion to the skillet and saute until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute more. Add the tomatoes and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the spinach a handful at a time, stirring until wilted. Stir in the cream and simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken the sauce. Add salt (about 1 tsp) and pepper to taste.

Stir together the spaghetti, sausage and sauce. Allow to cool slightly. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and 1/4 cup Parmesan, then stir into the spaghetti mixture.

Grease a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Transfer half of the spaghetti mixture to the pan, then dot with half of the mozzarella balls. Add the rest of the spaghetti mixture, then top with the rest of the mozzarella balls and 1 tbsp Parmesan.

Bake until the center is set, the edges are browned and crispy and the cheese is starting to turn golden, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Pictured: Pyrex Verde 444 Cinderella Mixing Bowl, Corning Ware Snack-It Plate

Spinach, Artichoke & Leek Dip

Most recipes for spinach artichoke dip require a particular step that has always put me off: thawing frozen spinach and squeezing it dry. The bits of wet, defrosted spinach tend to stick on everything, and it’s hard to get enough liquid out.

Then I discovered that using fresh spinach is actually easier, because the liquid cooks off when you saute it! Suddenly a ho-hum dish turned into one I actually enjoy making. Plus it’s so delicious, people inevitably keep coming back for more.

Adapted from The New York TimesSpinach Artichoke Dip.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, chopped (white and light green portion only)
1 clove garlic, minced
12 oz fresh spinach, chopped
1 14-oz can artichoke hearts (I prefer bottoms), drained, patted dry and chopped
8 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
4 oz fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
4 oz sour cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
pinch red pepper flakes
salt
pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the leek in oil until softened and starting to brown slightly. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute more.

Add spinach a little at a time, allowing it to wilt in the pan before adding more. Saute until the spinach is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add artichokes and cook for a few minutes more.

Turn the heat down to low, then add cream cheese and mozzarella and stir until melted. Add sour cream, Parmesan and red pepper flakes and stir until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a shallow 1-quart dish and serve hot. You can also refrigerate overnight; reheat in a 375-degree oven until the dip is hot throughout and bubbly on the edges.

Pictured: Corning Ware Merry Mushroom B-1-B Round, Pyrex Verde 444 Cinderella Mixing Bowl

Slow Cooker Yellow Split Pea Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

On these cold stormy days, there’s nothing better than a big pot of soup simmering away in the slow cooker, providing an effortless meal that can feed a crowd. In this recipe, warming curry spices meld deliciously with earthy split peas and sweet potatoes. I prefer white sweet potatoes here because their flavor is a little more subtle than the orange variety. Spinach provides a nice pop of color and is a nice balance to the overall sweetness of the soup.

Try pairing this dish with No-Knead Harvest Bread — a classic combo!

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups yellow split peas
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
3 lbs white sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
salt
2 10-oz bags baby spinach
2 limes, cut into wedges

Place split peas in a large bowl and cover with about double their volume of water. Soak overnight, then drain and rinse.

In a large skillet, saute onions and carrots until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Put in the slow cooker with the split peas, sweet potatoes, spices, vegetable broth and water, and stir.

Cover and cook for 6-7 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high. About 20 minutes before serving, add the coconut milk and stir. Season with salt to taste.

Five minutes before serving, stir in the spinach. Serve with lime wedges.

Pictured: Pyrex Yellow 404 Round Mixing Bowl, Corning Ware French White F-15-B Oval Casserole

Christmas Dinner 2018

Arcopal’s French Hen pattern reminds me of The 12 Days of Christmas, so I made it the starting point for my Christmas dinner tableware this year. I haven’t had a chance to use my Arcopal casserole dish since finding it last year, so I’m excited to finally put it to work. I’ll combine it with some red and green Pyrex to round out the Christmas motif.

I’m also using some Corning Ware petite pans to make individual bread puddings for dessert. They don’t match, but they’ll allow me to prep the puddings a day in advance and then go directly from refrigerator to oven for baking — so hey, function over form!

The only thing I’m missing is a vintage platter for my Cornish hens. I’m going to have to start looking for one on my thrifting adventures.

Tentative menu:

  • Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Lemon and Herbs (recipe)
  • Barley and Herb Pilaf
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Salad
  • Mini Bourbon Bread Puddings (recipe)

Pictured: Pyrex Verde 404 Round Mixing Bowl, Arcopal French Hen Casserole, Pyrex 024 Holiday Casserole Round Casserole, Pyrex 024 Lime Round Casserole, Corning Ware Spice O’ Life P-41-B Petite Pan (x2), Corning Ware Blue Cornflower P-41-B Petite Pan (x5), Corning Ware Blue Cornflower P-89-B Lipped Saucepan

Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Lemon and Herbs

Cornish game hens are a great way to make a special meal out of what is essentially just ordinary chicken. There’s something festive about having your own tiny roast bird on your plate; it’s one of my favorite things to make for Christmas dinner.

Brining in buttermilk overnight helps make the hens extra tender and juicy, and also makes the roasting process more forgiving — it’s hard to go wrong! The only problem I’ve ever run into is overcrowding in the oven. I once tried to roast 12 hens at once (two sheet pans with six hens each, on two oven racks) for a big family gathering, and while they tasted great they never got the deep golden color that makes the dish so appealing.

Adapted from Kitchen Confidante’s Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens.

Serves 4-8 (1 hen per person, or half for a more modest portion size)

Ingredients

4 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry
6 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried thyme
juice of 1 lemon
1 lemon, cut in quarters
4 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
paprika (sweet)

In a large bowl or pot, combine the buttermilk, salt, cayenne, garlic powder, thyme and lemon juice. Place the hens in the brine, making sure they are mostly submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Take the bowl out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and adjust a rack to the lower-middle position.

Remove the hens from the brine and pat dry. Place a lemon quarter, garlic clove and rosemary sprig in each cavity. Truss the hens with cooking twine (I did a variation of the technique in this video; give yourself at least 2 feet of twine to work with for each hen).

Place the hens on a rack in a roasting pan or sheet pan. Rub the skins with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Roast until the hens are a deep golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, about 1 hour.

Pictured: Corning Ware White A-21-B-N Open Roaster