Irish Bread Pudding

Lá Fhéile Pádraig That's Gaelic for Saint Patrick's Day or St. Paddy's. I like to use day-old French bread in my bread pudding recipe or Cinnamon-raison bread, sweet rolls, and even left over Irish Soda Bread can also be used. Serve with a vanilla ice cream spiked with a wee bit of Irish. Enjoy!

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Irish Bread Pudding

recipe by George Hirsch | Makes 10-12 servings 

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle

2 Granny Smith or baking apples, peel, cored and chopped

3-4 cups cubed dry French Bread, Irish Soda, Brown Bread or Cinnamon Raisin Bread 

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup raisins, plumped in 1 cup hot water for 5 minutes

2 Tablespoons butter, melted

4 cups milk

8 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons vanilla 

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup Irish Whisky

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder and beat with a whisk until well blended. Add whisky and slowly pour over the bread mixture. Add optional chopped chocolate. Poke the bread so that it’s completely covered with the milk mixture and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Place a pan larger than the cake pan or skillet in preheated oven and place the pan holding the bead pudding inside. Immediately fill the outer pan with enough hot water so that it comes up one inch on the sides of the bread-pudding pan. 

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the water bath, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for 25 additional minutes. Remove the bread-pudding and allow to set for twenty minutes before serving. Serve with ice cream and a good Irish Coffee! Sláinte! 

Italian Grits: I’m a Fast Cook, I Guess

My grandfather who was a great maker of polenta called it "mush",  as it was commonly eaten during Roman times. It seemed as though he stood at the stove for hours stirring and stirring until it was just the right consistency. No fancy sauces were put on this delicacy; it was just pored out hot onto a wooden board and you raced to dig right in before it disappeared. Later in life, Grandpa loosened from his traditional roots. He added red meat sauces and other salted meats; such as bacon or pancetta, and even anchovy to dress the polenta. He passed his pot on to me, so I ran with it and continue the family tradition today.

Polenta is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal and is often cooked in a huge copper pot, known as paiolo, for even heating. Traditionally polenta is a slowly cooked dish; it can take an hour or longer, and constant stirring is a must. The time, dedication and arm-stirring labor of traditional preparation methods has sparked the way for many shortcuts today. There is now instant polenta available from Italy that allows for quick cooking - kind-a-like instant grits, or there's fully cooked polenta in a tube that requires only slicing and reheating. I suggest reheating by grilling, roasting, sautéing or baking, then top with your own creative sauce. It may not be Grandpa’s, but if in a pinch, try it with my favorite recipe; grilled topped with a sauce of creamy gorgonzola and crispy pancetta. 

I'm a fast cook, I guess - reminds me of the classic line from the movie My Cousin Vinny. Mr. Tipton: “I don't know, I'm a fast cook I guess.” AS IF THERE IS SUCH A THING AS MAGIC GRITS!

Vinny Gambini: "So obviously it takes you 5 minutes to cook your breakfast."

Mr. Tipton: "That's right."

Vinny Gambini: "That's right, so you knew that. You remember what you had?"

Mr. Tipton: "Eggs and grits."

Vinny Gambini: "Eggs and grits. I like grits, too. How do you cook your grits? Do you like them regular, creamy or al dente?"

Mr. Tipton: "Just regular I guess?"

Vinny Gambini: "Regular. Instant grits?"

Mr. Tipton: "No self respectin' Southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits."

Vinny Gambini: "So, Mr. Tipton, how could it take you 5 minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit eating world 20 minutes?"

Mr. Tipton: "I don't know, I'm a fast cook I guess."

Vinny Gambini: "I'm sorry I was all the way over here I couldn't hear you did you say you were a fast cook, that's it?"

Mr. Tipton: "Yeah."

Vinny Gambini: "Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than anywhere else on the face of the earth?"

Mr. Tipton: "I don't know."

Vinny Gambini: "Well, I guess the laws of physics cease to exist on top of your stove. Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?"

credits, IMBD image

The Fruit Whisperer

This is a serious topic at my house—knowing when to cut into a perfectly ripened piece of fruit. There is a fine line between unripened and overripe. Here are a few ideas that may help widen that window of use for your pears. Are you ever stuck, trying to make a different salad? Try slicing a ripe pear with feta or blue cheese. Has that pear on the counter over-ripened? Don't fret, chop it up and add it to a spicey soup or make a decandent dessert like my Roasted Pears with Raspberry Sauce which is ideal during the holiday season!

Roasted Pears and Raspberry Sauce
by George Hirsch | 4 Four Servings

4 ripe Bosc or Anjou pears
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup seedless raspberry preserves
2 Tablespoons orange juice
4 sprigs of fresh mint

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut pears lengthwise into half, remove the cores.  Grease a non stick pan with butter.  Place quartered pears in pan and top with cinnamon sugar.  Cover pears and bake for 8-12 minutes or until slightly soft.  The time will vary according to level of ripeness.  Remove from oven and cool.

In a sauce pan simmer three fourths of the raspberries, the preserves, and orange juice for 4-5 minutes.  Press the sauce through a strainer, discarding the seeds.  

Pour the sauce evenly onto four dessert dishes, topping each with two pear halves.  Add the remaining raspberries on top of pears.  Top with fresh mint leaves.

Thanksgiving Countdown: Memorable Veggie Sides

Question- is the turkey the hero or are the side dishes? I say- it depends on the what the sides are. First, I promise not to serve up grey string beans and soggy canned corn then expect you to ask for seconds.

There's the trick to my veggie side dish mix that makes them stand out on their own. And, I have taken the stress away. Stop trying to get everything to the table hot. Opt out! That’s right! Don’t serve a complete menu of all hot sides. It can be a little stressful, even for the most experienced chef especially when having your mother-in-law looking over your shoulder thinking out loud- that's not how I do it.

Also, don’t feel compelled to make too many items. Do a few well is better than too many average. Prepare some traditional favorite family sides, then try out a new dish to start your own tradition. 

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Bacon

Garlic Artichokes

Roasted Root Vegetables

Grilled Asparagus

Fennel & Green Bean Salad

Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

© Hdconnelly | Dreamstime.com

What's Coming Up Monday: Thanksgiving Turkey Countdown Continues with More Sides: Potatoes, Stuffings & Dressings

Ginger Beer

I am seeing a resurgence in the popularity of an 18th century beverage, ginger beer. Not to be confused with ginger ale, which is made with ginger extract. The original version of ginger beer was actually an alcoholic beverage originating in England, today really only available by the home brewer.

Today's commercial brands are classified as soft drinks/sodas; containing less than a half percent of alcohol. Fentimans of the UK, is a great example of a company that has been brewing ginger beer since the 1900s. The point of difference in their ginger beer vs. any other, is their original brewing process requiring a few days of fermentation compared to the limited production time of other ginger beers available today on the market.

Fentimans on their ginger beer:

Unlike other Ginger Beers our process starts with fermenting the finest chinese ginger root. This goes a long way to explaining the wonderful Ginger "Burn" that each bottle contains. If you like Ginger, you will love our Ginger Beer!


Fentimans: available in the US