irish blue cheese + walnut crisps

As I’m sure you’re aware Saint Patrick’s Day is on Monday. The one day of the year that EVERYONE is officially Irish, that green beer is a thing to be celebrated and that a meal of boiled meat is consumed with gusto by a significant amount of the population. Don’t get me wrong— I like St. Paddy’s Day just as much as the next Polish/Italian girl and I will in fact be eating corned beef (or Chicken Stout Stew) and soda bread right along with the masses. My question is why? Why was Saint Patrick such a big deal that he deserves an entire boozy and bloated from the brined beef day named after him. Seriously, why?

I did a little research and quickly found out few things. First of all Saint Patrick’s Day has it’s own website, nope not kidding! It’s filled with lore, recipes, parade schedules and the like. Secondly, I found this great graphic from History.com of Saint Patrick’s Day stats…

st-patricks-day-infographic-final-forweb

Pretty impressive numbers for a day celebrating a guy who wasn’t actually Irish. Yup that’s right, the third thing I discovered was Saint Patrick was apparently born to either British or possibly Roman parents; either way his lineage was not Irish. Crazy, right?!? So why is March 17th such an international big deal? Well, it wasn’t always. Prior to the early 1900’s the day was considered a minor religious holiday in Ireland; a simple church service, a big family meal (which could include meat and beer, items normally abstained from during Lent) and that’s about it. Hmmm, so then how on earth did it become such a “day” here in the States? Well I’ll tell you how… According to NationalGeographic.com: Eighteenth-century Irish soldiers fighting with the British in the U.S. Revolutionary War held the first St. Patrick’s Day parades. Some soldiers, for example, marched through New York City in 1762 to reconnect with their Irish roots. Other parades followed in the years and decades after, including well-known celebrations in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago; primarily in flourishing Irish immigrant communities. ‘[Saint Patrick’s Day] became a way to honor the saint but also to confirm ethnic identity and to create bonds of solidarity…'”  And there you have it; we apparently have a bunch of Irish mercenaries to thank for the grand celebration that is Saint Patrick’s Day as we know it.

When you think of typical “Irish food” potatoes, corned beef and beer are undoubtedly the first things to pop to mind. But in fact the Emerald Isle actually has a strong connection to seafood and dairy as well. You’ll find delicious Irish cheeses and butter for sale everywhere; from Costco to Shop Rite, Trader Joe’s to Fairway. Irish butter is a “European-style butter”, meaning it has a higher butterfat content than your average American butter and a richer, creamier texture. It’s fantastic on a slice of toast, or melted on some veggies but it really shines when you use it for baking. Your typical American butter contains more water and less butterfat than it’s European counterpart. When used for baking this additional water can act as a glueing agent and result in tougher pastry dough. Higher butterfat = light and lovely baked goods! (Next time you make a pie crust try using Irish butter instead, the results will amaze you.)

This year to celebrate the not so Irish patron saint of Ireland I’ve decided to pay a simple homage to the Irish dairy industry. What goes better with a few cocktails and snacks than some yummy crisps. (Listen to me, next I’ll be suggesting we put the kettle on the cooker and have a cup of tea!) Anyway back to the crisps… Irish Blue Cheese + Walnut Crisps to be exact. These are perfect with a bit of cheese and a pint, but equally delish all on their own! So until next we meet…

“May the Irish hills caress you;
may her lakes and rivers bless you;
may the luck of the Irish enfold you;
may the blessings of Saint Patrick, behold you.”

Irish Blue Cheese + Walnut Crisps
These are so amazingly tasty that you just may want to consider doubling the recipe so insure there are leftovers!

bluecheese crisps2

1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and finely chopped
8 tbsp. unsalted Irish butter, at room temperature
8 oz. Irish blue cheese, crumbled and at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. cold water
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. of water, for egg wash

  1. In a medium dry skillet over low fame, lightly toast the walnuts. Remove to a cutting board, finely chop and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and blue cheese for 1 minute, until smooth. Add the flour, salt, and pepper and continue beating on medium speed until the dough resembles large crumbles. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water and mix until the dough comes together.
  3. Gather the dough together (you’ll need to scrape the bowl) and place on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll it into a 12″ long log. Brush the log completely with the egg wash. Spread the reserved walnuts on a cutting board and roll the log back and forth in the walnuts, pressing lightly to distribute them evenly. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Carefully cut the log into thin coins with a serrated bread knife (you may need to reshape them a bit after cutting) and arrange the coins 1/2 inch apart on the cookie sheets. Stagger the cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 11 minutes, rotate and continue baking another 5-6 minutes until they are lightly browned and crisp. Cool on a rack and serve at room temperature. Sláinte!

*adapted from barefoot contessa

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the penicillium roqueforti blues…

I am not a subtle girl. I’m invariably drawn to strong flavors, strong opinions and strong personalities. So it probably comes as no surprise that I’ll take a sharp, pungent and complex blue cheese over a mild cheddar any day. Blue cheeses are those that have been exposed or “needled” with a kind of mold, usually Penicillium roqueforti, and allowed to age and develop gorgeous blue-green veins. Blue cheese may seem too tangy for some, but in reality it’s the perfect accent to nearly any dish it’s added to. Blue cheese with a simple drizzle of honey… Perfect. Blue cheese on a spinach salad… Yum. Blue cheese in a turkey and fig panini… Amazing. Blue cheese with any type of beef…. Fantastic. Blue cheese with caramelized onions, sweet red peppers and toasted walnuts… sensational and as it happens this weeks recipe!

Making pizza from scratch is a pretty common occurrence at our house, but it generally only takes place in the winter months. I would prefer not to crank up the oven during the summer heat and while I’ve thought about trying to make grilled pizza, until recently I never actually attempted it. I don’t know why, maybe I thought that if things went awry I would have a giant hard to clean mess on my hands. Or maybe I was suspect that it would actually turn out as good as traditional oven baked. Whatever my reasons were, they couldn’t have been more off base. Grilled pizza is easier than oven baked and actually believe it or not, takes less time. As long as the grill is crazy hot the dough will immediately form a crust and puff up beautifully. Then you layer on some lovely toppings, pop it back on the grill and presto— pizza is served!

We’ve tried a lot of topping combos since first discovering this new style of pizza making. I’m still experimenting but I’d have to say the front-runners appear to be a simple sausage and tomato for the kids and a caramelized onion, red pepper, blue cheese and walnut for the adults. I’m thinking next week we’ll try shrimp and pesto with crumbled bacon. I’ll let you know how it turns out…

Caramelized Onion, Red Pepper & Blue Cheese Grilled Pizza
Not only is this pizza delicious but making it on the grill is much easier than making it in the oven. Give it a shot, become a convert!

blue cheese pizza slice++**

3 tbsp. olive oil
2 huge sweet onions, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 large red bell pepper, cut into long thin strips
1 lb. pizza dough (homemade or store bought), at room temperature
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
4 oz. buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup walnut pieces

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sugar and cook until golden, about 45 minutes, stirring frequently. (Caramelizing onions is a slow process that can’t be rushed. This recipe calls for more oil than ordinarily used, but you need it to keep the pizza crust moist.)
  2. Transfer the onions to a bowl and set aside. Place the bell pepper in the same pan, sprinkle with salt and cook until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the walnuts to the pan and quickly toast, set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, gently stretch the dough into an 18-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a rimless cookie sheet or a pizza peel dusted with flour and let sit for 10 minutes. Preheat your grill to 400°F.
  4. Dip paper towels in olive oil and carefully wipe them on the grates of the grill to grease them. Slide the circle of dough onto the hot grill; close the lid and let cook until it puffs up and brown grill marks form on the bottom, about 2 to 4 minutes. (As you transfer your circle of dough to the grill it may become more of an amoeba shape than a circle. Don’t worry, it will still taste delicious.)
  5. Transfer the crust back to your pan and with the grilled side facing up, begin layering on your toppings. Start by spreading on the onions as evenly as possible, then add the mozzarella, red peppers, blue cheese and finally top with the walnuts.
  6. Return the pizza to the grill and cook (with the lid closed) another 2 to 4 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the crust is crisp. Transfer to a cutting board, slice into wedges and serve.

*adapted from weber