Sunday, March 16, 2008
Oh, she hides it well. None of her other guests suspects a thing, but that's because they don't ask for the secret of her succulent, sensational corned beef. I tried to get the recipe for all of you but she merely replied: "The secret is that I'll never reveal the secret."
I tried bribery. She collects vintage postcards so I brought her the one pictured above. She'd been insanely busy in the days before the party, so I volunteered to bring my marvelous marinated shrimp for an appetizer. She pronounced the postcard "divine" and the shrimp "delicious." And then she went back to fixing the evening's feast.
Unfortunately the photos I took of her table settings (each of three tables was completely different) turned out either dark, blurry or a combination of both, so I can't show you the beguiling tablescapes she created using her collection of antiques and kitsch. My table included an Antiques Roadshow-worthy multi-tiered epergne crowned with an arrangement of white flowers, vintage silver napkin rings holding shamrock-strewn napkins and some whimsical little figurines of pink pigs.
Since I can't deliver the recipe for corned beef, I'm sharing my favorite one for Irish Soda Bread. I've adapted this a bit from the "Blueberry Hill Menu Cookbook," Elsie Masterton's sequel to her delightful first cookbook This goes together so quickly, you still have plenty of time to shop for the ingredients and bake it for tonight's dinner.
Irish Soda Bread
(makes 2 small loaves)
Sift together 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon baking soda.
Mix in with a fork 1 cup currants. Add 2 cups buttermilk and blend with the fork until well mixed.
Flour your hands and knead dough on a floured board until smooth. It won't take more than two minutes of kneading.
Shape into two rounds and place on a greased baking sheet. (Masterton suggests using two heavy black iron frying pans, about 6 or 7 inches in size, but a regular baking sheet works fine.) Let rise in a warm spot for about 10 minutes Then slash the top of each round with a knife, shaping a cross and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until lightly browned and dry within.
(Test with a sharp-bladed knife which should be as dry and shiny when it comes out as when thrust into the breads.)
If possible, bake right before serving and serve warm along with some truly great butter.
Fashion postscript: Since my wardrobe is 90% black with an occasional madcap touch of gray, I had nothing green to wear to the party. Armed with a book of stickers and one of my favorite Marni necklaces, I created this. At the time I thought it was rather witty. In the cold light of morning: not nearly so amusing.