Friday, March 15, 2013

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Hey y'all!

It's Friday! Ya know what that means? St. Patrick's Day is quickly approaching, along with various Irish festivals and events!

I know I just gave you an awesome recipe for Corned Beef and Cabbage with Horseradish, but you should just go ahead and plan to make these bad boys too -- Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes.

Ever had an Irish Car Bomb? I have -- I've had some good experiences and some not-so-good experiences with them. That's just the way the cookie cupcake crumbles sometimes haha. For those that don't know what an Irish Car Bomb is, it's essentially a half pint of Guinness with a shot of equal parts of Jameson Whiskey and Bailey's Irish Cream dropped down into the Guinness. Doesn't sound too intimidating? Well try this on for size -- as soon as you drop the shot into the Guinness, you gotta have your chugging pants on or else it will curdle due to a reaction between the Guinness and the Bailey's . . . then it's not going to go down as easily as it would have. If you want a little more information about Irish Car Bombs, check here, here, and here.

Now that you know what an Irish Car Bomb is, let's make them into cupcakes! I've definitely noticed a shift in cooking patterns lately, and it involves incorporating beers and liquors into cooking -- whether it be baking with liquors, marinating and braising with craft beers, or grilling with booze-infused sauces.

Guess what? I dig it. A lot.

The best part about these cupcakes? You don't have to worry about curdling or chugging. Win, win I'd say.

There are a few couple million pins on Pinterest for Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes but mine are different than most. Almost every variation I've seen uses Bailey's in the buttercream icing and Jameson in the inner ganache. How come? I guess it was a trickle down effect used by everyone that recreated these.

So what do I do that's different? The opposite. To me, the Bailey's just goes phenomenally with the ganache and the Jameson with the buttercream. That's how I've always made 'em. They're the bomb dot com and people will act like it's the best thing they've ever eaten. Seriously. Maybe we should form a support group . . . BCA -- Boozy Cupcakers Anonymous. Yes - cupcakers is now a word.

Either way, make these gems and take 'em to your St. Patty's Day festivities. They will certainly be a hit, especially amongst the DDs. Bee tee dubs (btw) -- this recipe makes 24 treats and they pair realllllly well with your morning coffee. Too well in fact. They're pretty alright with a glass of milk too :)

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes


What You'll Need

  • 1 C Guinness - some stores carry single pints for purchase, but what's the fun in that?
  • 3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 C unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2/3 C sour cream
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 C all-purpose flour

How To Make Them

  • Add Guinness and butter to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. I make sure my butter is at room temperature before adding it to the Guinness because I don't want too much of the Stout to burn off -- I don't know about y'all, but I like the flavor. 
  • Once the mixture has melted, remove from heat and add the cocoa powder to the mixture and whisk together to incorporate. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer, add your eggs, sugar, and sour cream and blend until incorporated. 
  • Next, add the baking soda and salt and mix until incorporated.
  • Now you may add the chocolate/beer mixture to the stand mixer -- blend until combined. 
  • Lastly, slowly add the flour to the mixture until incorporated and then mix for an additional minute or two.
  • Preheat your oven to 350F.
  • Pour your batter into cupcake liners about 3/4 full -- place in oven and allow to bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick/knife comes out clean.
  • Remove cupcakes from oven and allow them cool on a cooling rack.
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled, you will need to make a hole in the center of each cupcake. You can choose to remove the entire center or remove about mid-way down into the cupcake. This can be achieved with a sharp knife, or with the ease of a tool such as this or one like mine (corers come in various shapes and sizes).


What You'll Need

  • 8 to 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I buy the semi-sweet baking squares)
  • 2 tbsp butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 C heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tsp Bailey's Irish Cream (I'm heavy handed so I add to taste, which is usually always more than this)

How To Make It

  • Break apart your baking squares/chocolate in a medium-sized glass bowl. 
  • Add your heavy whipping cream to a small sauce pan over medium heat -- heat until bubbling. 
  • Remove from heat and add the vanilla and Bailey's to the hot whipping cream.
  • Pour this hot mixture over the chocolate and allow to sit for about 30 seconds. 
  • Begin to incorporate the two with a whisk. Initially it may look very "runny"-- just continue to stir/beat with whisk until it begins to incorporate and thicken.
  • Add butter and incorporate.
  • Taste and see if it needs more Bailey's :) If so, add while the mixture is still warm and somewhat "thin."
  • Fill each empty cupcake hole with the ganache.

Buttercream Frosting

What You'll Need

  • 1/2 stick salted butter at room temperature
  • 1 block of cream cheese (best if it's at room temperature too)
  • 6 C powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 tsp Jameson Whiskey (Again, I'm heavy handed so I add to taste, which is usually always more than this)

How To Make It

  • Using a bowl and hand mixer, add your butter and cream cheese to the bowl and incorporate with mixer until the two are fluffy.
  • Add the vanilla and Jameson Whiskey and combine. 
  • Now begins the tedious process. Add your powdered sugar to the creamy mixture one cup at a time making sure each cup is incorporated before adding the next. 
  • Do this until all the powdered sugar is incorporated.
  • I find that frostings like this one can sometimes be too sweet, so sometimes I add a little bit more butter or cream cheese to offset the sweetness if I find that I have made it too sweet. Adding more Jameson is another option too :)
  • Once the ganache has been added to each cupcake, add your frosting to a piping bag and decorate!
  • I chose to add a few green sprinkles and gold coins for a little added St. Patty's Day effect (I found my gold liners and coins at Michaels). 

Go crazy with decorating! These really can be quite fun! O and have a pint for me will ya' -- St. Patty's Day is a blast!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Irish Corned Beef and Cabbage with Horseradish Sauce - St. Patty's Day Delight

Guess what? 

I'm on Spring Break! 

The last one I'll ever have - boooo!

The bright side? Next year I'll be on clinical rotations and then the year after that -- wait for it -- I'll be a pharmacist! Time is sorta flying if I think about it, but when I'm up all night studying I'm all, "Oh em gee this process is never ending!"

Anyways - who's gearing up for St. Patrick's Day? I hope you're all saying, "Me! ME! Me! I am, I am!" I kinda love St. Patty's Day. I mean -- what other day can you dress up in green, talk in an accent, eat delicious food, consume wonderful libations, and do it all with your closest friends? There IS no other day! Seize it people, you'll be sorry if you don't. 

For Richmonders, Shamrock the Block is probably one of (if not) the first outdoor festival of the year -- we love our outdoor festivals in Richmond. Each year, my friends do a huge Irish brunch complete with Guinness, Irish Car Bombs, green mimosas and beer. It's an awesome time to say the least. Around noon, we walk on down to the festival (perks of friends living in Church Hill) and scope out our spot -- last year it was at good 'ol Rosie's. By the end of the day, we're all grateful that we stuffed our faces that morning.

In previous years, one of our friends always made the corned beef and cabbage. What's the problem this year? She moved! Such a bummer any way you look at it, especially since she's the most fun out of all of us AND her corned beef was the most delicious ever. 

My solution? I'll make it. 


Yea. That's right. 

I couldn't just show up this weekend with a corned beef that I had never tried, so last weekend I studied about a million recipes and pins to test things out. Here's my product. It's delicious. It's easy. You can't go wrong. If you do, call me up and have some beer waiting for me -- I'll help ya out. 

O and one more thing -- what's corned beef and cabbage without some horseradish sauce? NOTHING. You have to make this. I'd keep it in my fridge year round if I could. 

I can. 

But I shouldn't. 

Irish Corned Beef and Cabbage 

What You'll Need

  • ~3 lb corned beef brisket - in brine 
    • Yes, this matters. Let's talk brisket for a second. There's beef brisket and corned beef brisket. The difference? Beef brisket is plain and unseasoned. It's just beef. Corned beef brisket has sat in a brine, flavorings and spices have been added, etc. You can certainly purchase a beef brisket and brine it/season it yourself and then cook accordingly to achieve this dish, buuuuut that would take me forever and ain't nobody got time for that. Just google around or look on Pinterest, there are various beef brisket brine recipes (say that three times fast) out there.
  • 14 to 16 C cold water
  • 2 or 3 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 whole allspice berries
  • 2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 small head of cabbage or ~1/2 large head of cabbage - cut into thick wedges
  • 1 and 1/2 lbs. small, new potatoes (~11 potatoes) - halved 
    • My grocer didn't have new potatoes, so I opted for baby yukon golds instead - new potatoes will have a better flavor/thinner skin.
  • 1 small bag of baby carrots 
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • Guinness to accompany your meal -- it's a must.

How To Make It

  • Preheat your oven to 300F.
  • Using a colander in your sink, remove the corned beef from the package and rinse with cold water. There will be a flavor packet of seasonings somewhere inside -- just toss it out.
  • Once your meat is rinsed, add your corned beef to a dutch oven with a tight lid or a stock pot with a tight lid. The dutch oven I had on hand was only 6 quarts -- you really need something 8 to 10 quarts to ensure your meat has enough room with liquid inside. 
  • Next, add ~16 cups of cold water to your meat and pot. 
  • On the stovetop, bring your pot to a boil. As it begins to boil, skim off the crud that begins to surface. 
  • Now you can add all of your spices -- cloves, bay leaves, allspice berries, and peppercorns. Just an fyi -- if you deviate to much from this spice list, such as adding a lot more or less of any one thing, it will dramatically change the flavor profile of the dish. That's not a bag thing, just a heads up. "Whole" spices are very potent and flavorful which is why you don't need a lot. Adding them once you've skimmed the crud off will ensure that you don't remove any that accidentally float to the top.
  • Once your spices have been added, allow to bubble for a minute or two. 
  • Next, add your pot with a tight fitting lid to a 300F oven and cook for 3 hours and 40 minutes. 
  • When the meat is done, remove the meat from the pot and allow to rest on a serving dish/cutting board while your veggies cook. Make sure you cover it tightly in foil. 
  • Place your pot with cooking liquid back on the stove top and bring to a rapid simmer/slow boil. 
  • Add in your carrots, then potatoes, then cabbage leaving one to two minutes between each. Cabbage takes the least amount of time to cook and you don't want it to become mushy. After cooking for about ~10 to 15 minutes, remove veggies from liquid and reserve some liquid for serving.
  • All done - enjoy!

Creamy Horseradish Sauce

What You'll Need
  • 1/4 C + 1/8C sour cream
  • 1/4 C + 1/8C mayonnaise 
  • 1/8 C + 2 tbsp. jarred grated horseradish with liquid (often found near the eggs/dairy at your grocer)
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • Lots of fresh ground black pepper

How To Make It
  • Throw it all in a bowl and you're done! This sauce recipe can easily be doubled or more for larger crowds. One thing is for certain -- it's necessary. I like lots of horseradish and lots of lemon, so the more the better in my opinion. 

How many can you serve with this recipe? I'd say six healthy servings or eight proportional servings result. Variations for the entree? Some people use red potatoes, some don't use carrots or potatoes at all, some use a combination of these spices in addition to others, or leave a few out, and some even use Guinness. Horsey sauces vary too with the addition of mustard and various vinegars. As you can see, the possibilities are endless! 

Serving options? You could serve this with soda bread on the side and some fresh ground mustard if horsey sauce really isn't your thing. I'm not Irish and I've never had someone show me how to brine brisket or how an actual Irishman might cook their beef, but I do know one thing -- what I made is tender and melts in your mouth and that's good enough for me.

Seriously, what's easier than this? 

This dish isn't reserved just for St. Patty's Day - try it out at home for your family or perhaps for you and the loved one!


Friday, March 1, 2013

Pan Seared Scallops and Squid Ink Pasta with Peanut Sauce and Spicy Sesame Oil


Whose got plans this weekend? I'm gonna finish painting/distressing a trunk that I bought a month or so ago and organize some things - my life is the most disorganized it's ever been! Which isn't good and it's really strange for me because I have to have organization. I suppose living between two different zip codes will do that from time to time.

Switching gears - who watched the Top Chef finale this week? I'm guilty of having watched every season of Top Chef. I love it, what can I say!? I didn't get to watch the finale when it aired but I recorded it on my DVR and plopped down with a plate of food last night to watch it. I literally laughed out loud and said, "You've got to be kidding me" when Brooke and Kristin began to make their second dishes. Scallops. They had to use scallops in some form (pics of their dishes here). What was I eating at that very moment? Scallops. I'm sure you can see the irony. So I guess if I had been on Top Chef in Seattle, this is how I would have made my scallop dish (recipe at the bottom).

If you're not sure what you have planned for the weekend, how about trying your hand at this awesome dish? This could be served multiple ways - as a one bowl meal for you and your special someone, plated like I did as a centerpiece/appetizer/fancy meal-for-one, or as an amuse-bouche in a chinese serving spoon kinda like the ones here. No matter how you serve it, your peeps are gonna love it!

Also, let's talk scallops for a second. You need fresh ones. You're probably thinking, "Duh!" Sometimes it just has to be said though. I buy mine from seafood markets or Whole Foods depending upon the availability in my area (which is always, since I live so close to the ocean). By fresh, I mean never frozen and never injected. And by injected, I mean never filled with water or other foreign crud. You can ask before you purchase them and more than likely (depending upon where you're at), they will break things down for you about their product. Don't be afraid to ask! You're the paying customer, and no one wants to pay dolla-dolla bills for scallops, get home, and their dish not turn out. 

Now to address the elephant in the room - squid ink pasta. You're probably thinking, "This girl is cray!" Well that's probably true, but let's be honest here - regular pasta just doesn't give you the color contrast or wow-factor that this pasta will. By all means, feel free to use a spinach or whole wheat pasta - it will achieve the same flavors, but c'mon - black pasta is pretty darn cool. 

What is squid ink pasta? Squid ink pasta is just that - it's pasta that's colored with squid ink. It has the same flavor/texture as other pastas, it's just a little more unique! Where can you get it? Good 'ol Whole Foods. Not every Whole Foods has a pasta case, but many do. Not many will carry this type of pasta either, but if you're near the ocean it's a good possibility they will.

Pan Seared Scallops and Squid Ink Pasta with Peanut Sauce and Spicy Sesame Oil

What You'll Need
  • Scallops - quantity will depend on who/what you're cooking for (I can eat 3 to 4 decent-size scallops and be a happy girl).
  • Squid Ink Pasta - I used one sheet (linguine cut) and it produced seven amuse-bouche servings. You could probably get eight servings from one sheet if you're using serving spoons because they will need a little less pasta.
  • Smoked Salt - not essential, but definitely adds to the flavor profile of this dish.
  • Pepper
  • White Sesame Seeds and Red Pepper Flakes
  • Olive Oil - for searing the scallops - about 3 tbsp.
  • 1/2 C Sesame Oil - I used toasted sesame oil because I wanted that deeper flavor, but you could easily sub non-toasted sesame oil if that's what you have on hand.
  • 5-6 tbsp. Honey
  • 3 tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 1-2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes 
  • 1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper 
  • 3 tsp. Peanut Butter (I used a good quality, crunchy peanut butter for added texture) 
  • 1 tsp. Warm Water 
  • 1 tsp. Vinegar 
  • 1 tsp. Soy Sauce 
  • 1/2 tsp. Honey

How To Make It (this looks intense, but I promise it's not)
  • Pull your scallops from the fridge and inspect to see if they need to be pat-dried or not - if they look a little wet, just pat them dry with a paper towel (be gentle). If not, let's season them. Sprinkle smoked salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper on both sides of the scallops.
  • Get a small pot of water on your stove with about 1/4 tsp smoked salt added to it. Don't boil it just yet.
  • Now let's make our sauces. 
    • Spoon out your peanut butter into a small bowl. Heat on stove top/microwave just so that it's broken down and more liquid-like. 
    • Next, add your water, vinegar, soy sauce, and honey - mix to incorporate. 
    • You're done with sauce #1 - just set aside. You may need to re-warm just before serving. 
  • Go ahead and bring your pasta water to a boil and begin to make your second sauce. 
    • For sauce #2, place sesame oil in another small sauce pan. Heat over low-medium heat for a few minutes. Watch your oil because you don't want to burn it. 
    • Next, add the honey, soy sauce, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper to the oil. 
    • Continue to heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. 
    • You're done with sauce #2 - just set aside. 
  • Now your water is probably boiling. Place your pasta in the boiling water for ~3-5 minutes. (Fresh pasta takes far less time to cook than boxed pasta does.) 
    • Once your pasta is finished, do not strain it in a strainer! 
    • Remove the pasta from the heat. 
    • Have a bowl ready with a tad bit of your spicy oil in the bottom. 
    • Using a fork, pull a small bunch of noodles from the hot water and add to the spicy oil bowl. Continue to do this until all the noodles are in the spicy oil bowl. You can add a little bit of oil each time and mix to incorporate noodles and oil. Set aside. 
  • Now for the scallops. 
    • Add a little bit of olive oil to a non-stick skillet pan over medium-high heat. Bring the oil to temperature and then add your scallops to the pan, but don't crowd them. Cook on one side for ~2 minutes, flip them, then cook for another 1 & 1/2 minutes. You want a nice sear on each side but you don't want to overcook them. Scallops can get very rubbery very quickly! 
  • Now you have all of your components ready. 
  • Plate how you like! 
    • If you liked my plating, just grab a spoon and fork for your pasta. Grab a couple noodles with your fork and twist them into the spoon making a round "bunch" (like this guy is doing). Just place each "bunch" on your plate. Garnish pasta with sesame seeds. Then add one scallop to each "bunch," drizzle a tad bit of spicy oil over each scallop, and garnish with red pepper flakes. 
  • Now you're ready to enjoy!

It may seem like there's quite a bit of cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes in this dish - because there is. But that's ok! I like my food really spicy so you can definitely cut down on the spice to match your taste preferences. The peanut sauce recipe listed above makes about 4 tbsp. worth of sauce which may not seem like much, but it would be very easy to double/triple ingredients to make a larger quantity. As for the oil, you will definitely have some left over because you just want it to coat your noodles - you don't want them saturated. Try saving the leftover oil and using it as dressing for chicken or salads for later in the week. 

Hope you enjoy!