Bantry Bay Mussels.
Ireland Hopping / By Margaret M. Johnson
Last year at this time I was driving leisurely through West Cork sightseeing, popping into pubs, and dining at casual eateries and a Michelin-starred restaurant; last week I was cancelling reservations for this year’s July trip to Kerry. No Fungi and Star Wars sites for the grandkids, no golf for the men, no shopping in Killarney and Kenmare for the ladies. As you might imagine, cancelling came with a heavy heart and great disappointment, but two things keep me smiling: already rebooking for 2021 and the great memories from 2019. Here are some of the most delicious ones!
BANTRY BAY MUSSELS STEAMED IN CIDER
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This recipe comes from The Fish Kitchen, a small-ish restaurant situated, appropriately, above a fish market on New Street in Bantry (thefishkitchen.ie). Proprietor Diarmaid Murphy focuses on three elements of serving fish here — freshness, simplicity and quality — and Murphy told me he “tries to keep the distance between the sea and the plate as short as possible,” an ethos not lost on his diners.
4 pounds mussels
1 bottle Cronin’s cider, or your favorite brand of craft
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped flatleaf parsley
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped dill
1/2 lemon, plus lemon wedges for serving
Garlic bread, for serving
1. Rinse and scrub mussels under cold running water. Using your fingers or a paring knife, remove beards (strings that hang from the mussels’ shells), and discard.
2. Put mussels into a large, high sided saucepan. Turn heat to medium, add cider and garlic, and then turn heat to high. Cover and cook for about 6 minutes, or until shells open (discard any unopened shells).
3. Uncover, stir in scallions, parsley, and dill; squeeze lemon juice on top.
4. To serve, spoon mussels and juice into shallow bowls and top with lemon wedges.
WEST CORK SEAFOOD CIDER LASAGNE
Elke O’Mahony of Bia Sásta (www.biabasta.ie), a food event planning organization in Cork, offered this interesting recipe in a Spring 2019 issue of “Irish Foodie,” a complimentary publication distributed throughout the region. The recipe showcases local seafood and layers it, quite cleverly, with lasagne in a cider cream sauce.
1 1/2 pounds mixed white fish, such as haddock, sole, or cod
1/4 pound shrimp
Juice of 1 lemon
2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1 to 1 1/4 cups cider
1 to 1 1/4 cups cream
1 teaspoon milk mustard
1 1/2 cups grated cheese, such as mozzarella or Swiss
1 pound lasagna sheets (fresh if possible)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a lasagna pan.
2. In a large bowl combine fish and shrimp; drizzle lemon juice over the fish.
3. To make the sauce, in a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add leeks and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft but not browned. Stir in the flour; cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in 1 cup cider and 1 cup cream until smooth (add additional 1/4 cup of each, if needed).
Stir in mustard and grated cheese; cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, until cheese melts. Remove pan from heat and stir in fish and shrimp (pan should be off the heat to prevent curdling).
4. Spoon some of the sauce onto bottom of prepared pan; arrange lasagna sheets on top. Continue to assemble, alternating with sauce and lasagna. Finish with sauce and sprinkle Parmesan on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, before cutting into squares.
Grilled Sea Scallops.
GRILLED SEA SCALLOPS WITH CHORIZO BREAD CRUMBS
Sea scallops, like these served with spicy chorizo breadcrumbs, are popular in pubs and casual eateries throughout the area. You can also sprinkle the bread crumbs on other seafood dishes or on grilled chicken.
For the bread crumbs
2 ounces dry chorizo, sliced
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Ground black pepper
For the scallops
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon butter
8 large sea scallops, patted dry
Remoulade sauce, for serving
Micro greens and grilled lemon, for garnish
1. Make bread crumbs. Combine chorizo and garlic in a food processor and pulse 5 to 6 times, or until ground.
2. In a small skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add chorizo mixture and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until sizzling. Stir in panko and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Season with pepper.
3. Make scallops. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil and butter. Put scallops in pan and cook, without moving, for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp.
4. Spoon some remoulade on serving plate, top with four scallops, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs; garnish with greens and lemon.
Brown Bread Cultured Butter.
BROWN SODA BREAD
MAKES 1 LOAF
Restaurant Chestnut, which opened in March 2018 and gained its Michelin star only seven months later, is located in a character-filled former pub on the slope of Staball Hill in Ballydehob (www.restaurantchestnutwestcork.ie). While I love casual dining, when you’re this close to a Michelin star-experience, you make the investment. This delicious brown bread appears at your table as a little loaf-for-two with cultured butter.
2 cups coarse organic whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cups organic white flour
1 tablespoons wheat bran
1 tablespoon wheat germ
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Softened butter, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 7-inch loaf pan and dust with flour; tap out excess.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, wheat bran, wheat germ, brown sugar, and salt. Sift in baking soda.
3. Make a well in center, pour in buttermilk, and with a wooden spoon stir until blended (Add additional buttermilk if the mixture if needed; do not over mix as it can make the bread heavy).
4. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Alternately, tap on bottom of bread to see if it sounds hollow. Let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into slices.
Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page also includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed copy of her new cookbook “Teatime in Ireland,” visit www.irishcook.com