On St. Patrick's Day everyone wants to be Irish. My Dad was named Edward Patrick, and everyone called him "Pat". His father's name was Clarence Edward but everyone called him "Patrick". Both of them had twinkling eyes that were full of fun, and all my growing up years, I figured it was because they were Irish. At weddings and such, my grandpa would go around saying things like, "Oh the luck of the Irish!". I assumed that his parents had recently arrived to this country. His wife, my grandmother Ivy, really had just "gotten off the boat" not too much before she married Clarence. However, it was England that she hailed from and her family actually immigrated here twice. I guess the first time they were so homesick they went back, but there were no opportunities for them in Britain, so they returned a few years later. Recently, I got on Ancestry.com to see where in Ireland my great grandparents were from. After poking around a bit, I realized that my grandpa was not quite as pure Irish as I was led to believe. I went back six generations, and the direct line all resided in the United States. I did find out that my great great great grandmother Mariah married at 13 and had five kids in nine years of marriage. After my multi-great grandfather died, she then married his brother and had six more children! She lived be 80 years old - what a woman! She probably knew how to make a stew or two as well as feed a lot of hungry mouths. Here is my dad's version of Irish stew. He always loved the good things in life and I think it's funny that instead of ale, his version calls for a wee bit of red wine. He served this with some crusty bread and a nice little green salad.
2 pounds beef stew meat
2 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
3 carrots, peeled and cut into hunks
1 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced celery
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 potatoes, enough to make 2 cups peeled and cut up
1 cup frozen peas
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Put everything except for the potatoes and peas in a dutch oven or oven-safe dish. Cover the pot with foil or an oven safe lid. Bake for 4 hours. Add the potatoes and turn the oven up to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 more minutes and then add the peas. Bake 15 minutes more. Ladle into soup bowls and serve with some good crusty bread.
There are hints of spring in the air; lots of the snow is melting off and it's getting just a little bit warmer. But it's still pretty cold in the morning and evening and I'm still in the mood for comfort food. I was talking to Caroline on the phone the other day and we were laughing over the fact that I am on a major tomato soup and grilled cheese kick. Lately, whenever I eat out, I order tomato soup. If I'm home, nothing beats having a grilled cheese sandwich with it. The recipe posted here is super easy and great on a weekend day when the tomatoes can be popped in the oven for an hour while other things are going on.
Ingredients for four cups:
3 or 4 good sized tomatoes 2 shallots 2 cloves garlic 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 fresh cracked pepper 1/4 dried oregano
1 (15oz.) can broth: beef, chicken, or vegetable
8 baguette slices 4 small pieces cheese such as cheddar or colby jack 1 tablespoons butter
Take a bit of the butter and rub it on the bottom and sides of a baking dish. Core and slice the tomatoes and arrange them in the baking dish. Peel and slice the shallots and garlic and tuck them among the tomatoes. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the salt, pepper and oregano.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
Pour broth into pan and add the baked tomato mixture.
Puree the mixture with an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor. Place the pan over medium high heat and warm to preferred serving temperature.
Spread the remaining butter on one side of each baguette slice. Put a piece of cheese between two pieces with the buttered sides facing out. Gently brown each side of the mini grilled cheeses over medium low heat.
Gently brown each side of the mini grilled cheeses over medium low heat
Ladle the soup into bowls and drop a mini grilled cheese into each serving.