Toasties break you out of the corned-beef rut

  • Tue Mar 13th, 2012 7:31pm
  • Life

By Judyrae Kruse Herald Columnist

Just because slapping together a slab of corned beef and the go-with fixings doesn’t do it for you this St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t mean there aren’t other great options, if you want to do the day in Irish style.

Think sandwiches and soup…

Straight from pubs and home kitchens throughout the Emerald Isle, we have a grand popular Irish sandwich, the toastie. Nothing more, really, than a whupped-up grilled cheese sandwich, always known as toasted cheesers at my house.

This particular old classic certainly can or does, depending on what’s available and the whim of the moment, include sliced tomatoes, onion and ham. Obviously, it will also work well with no tomatoes, no onion and leftover or deli corned beef instead of the ham.

But you gotta have the cheese. Great Irish cheeses are now available around here, but nothing says our good old American cheeses won’t work just as well for us.

Coming up shortly, then, and thanks to the good Irish folks at www.kerrygold.com/usa, is a jumped-up, modernized and revised recipe for this old classic.

Sadly, this recipe makes only one sandwich, so you might need or want to increase everything to feed more than just you your own self. Alternatively, whether you need to up the recipe to feed more, remember than you can revert to the older, simpler but still-comfy versions of this yummer-upper.

To serve more than one, assemble the sandwiches in advance and cover securely with plastic wrap, ready for grilling. When family or guests arrive, grill the sandwiches a few at a time, as your largest skillet will hold, or use a griddle to minimize the grilling time. Alternatively, grill the sandwiches just before family and friends are ready to go to the table, and reheat, uncovered, in a 350-degree oven for about 5 to 8 minutes, to warm the cheese and re-crisp the bread.

Then, for the soup, let’s spoon up another old classic.

This one, according to my trusty “Irish Heritage Cookbook,” tells us, “Brotchan foltchep (from the Irish words meaning broth and leeks) is a traditional leek and oatmeal soup served in Ireland for generations. Most cooks now prefer to combine leeks with potatoes, however, to make that perennial favorite, potato and leek soup.”

Irish toasties updated with prosciutto and tomato

2slices sturdy bread, white country, whole-wheat, rye or semolina

2 1/2ounces good-quality cheddar cheese, preferably Irish, thinly sliced

1/2ounce thinly sliced prosciutto

1/4cup arugula leaves

2-3 slices tomato

Coarse salt

Pepper

Butter, preferably Irish, at room temperature

On a work surface, top one slice of bread with half of the cheese, the prosciutto, arugula and the tomato. Season tomato with salt and pepper to taste. Top with the remaining cheese and top with the second slice of bread and press sandwich together.

Brush top of sandwich with butter. Place sandwich, buttered side down, in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Spread top of sandwich with butter and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the underside is golden brown. With a wide spatula, turn sandwich over. Place a small ovenproof plate on top and cook until the underside is golden brown and the cheese has melted, 2 to 3 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 sandwich.

Irish potato and leek soup

4tablespoons butter

2pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced

1pound leeks (white and pale green parts only), washed and sliced

1onion, chopped

1rib celery, sliced

5cups homemade chicken stock or 5 cups other chicken broth

2 1/2cups whole milk, divided

1bay leaf

2tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Salt and ground white pepper to taste

1/2cup half-and-half

1/4cup chopped chives

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the vegetables, cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the stock or broth, 1/2 cup of the milk, the bay leaf, parsley, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf and let the soup cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor in batches and process until smooth. (To make ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours, after cooling.)

To serve immediately, heat the puree in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in the remaining 2 cups milk. Heat through, ladle the soup into bowls and swirl 1 tablespoon half-and-half into each serving. Sprinkle with the chives. To serve later, return to heat and repeat as above.

Makes 8 servings.

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