A Wicked Scoff...Recipes and Food with Newfoundland and New England Influences.

This blog is dedicated to bring recipes, photographs, anecdotes, reviews and other insights on everything food related. As the name suggests, "A Wicked Scoff" will have a regional flare, a fusion if you will, of both Newfoundland and New England perspectives of the culinary world around me. Thanks for visiting and please come back often as updates will be frequent. Oh yeah, I also like tasting and cooking with regional beers. Expect a beer of the month, often paired with recipes.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beer Braised Corned Beef for a Deconstructed Corned Beef Hash

Well this is a first for A Wicked Scoff as I'm actually posting a slow cooker recipe. I don't have anything personal against slow cookers, but I just very rarely use mine. I see the value of them, and the whole set'em and forget'em philosophy, but I prefer being hands on in the kitchen. If I want to cook something low and slow, I like to brown it in my Dutch oven and cook it at 300 for 3-4 hours. As I'm finding out however slow cookers can be a indispensable kitchen tool especially if you are on a busy schedule such as working parents with a table full of hungry mouths that need feeding at the end of the day. After the success I had the other weekend with a slow cooker braised corned beef brisket, I'll be thinking up some new ways to utilize my slow cooker, which I no longer consider a wedding gift dust collector.

Deconstructed Corned Beef Hash Brunch
As you know, a couple of weeks ago was St. Patrick's Day, and to celebrate the holiday weekend, some friends and family came into town and we went out to a nearby Irish bar and restaurant for dinner and some live Irish music. We had a great time...a real scuff and a scoff! Since our guests were spending the night, I wanted to make a nice hearty brunch that would fit with the theme of the weekend as well as cure any ill effects from the night before. The plan was to make a deconstructed corned beef hash, whereby I would take the elements of traditional corned beef hash and serve them individually on the plate. People could eat them components as they liked, one by one, or all on the same forkful, thus reassembling the hash one bite at a time.

Since we would be getting home late I decided to cook the corned beef in the slow cooker and let it braise nice and slow overnight. I also cooked some cabbage in the pot with the brisket and to put a Newfoundland/Wicked Scoff spin on the whole thing, I added a bottle of Quid Vidi Brewing Company's award winning Eric's Red Cream Ale to the cooking liquid. The result was out of this world tender and flavorful corned beef. Move over bacon, this is my new breakfast meat staple! Also forget the alarm clock as the smells going through the house had everyone and feeling hungry bright and early.

I served the sliced corned beef along with some caramelized onions mixed with the braised cabbage, poached eggs, Habitant brand mustard pickles, rye bread toast and some homemade hash browns, seasoned with summer savory. Here are a few pictures of this delicious brunch, along with how I made the components and put it together.

Beer Braised Corned Beef Brisket
Beer Braised Corned Beef Brisket...in the slow cooker!
Add the following ingredients to your slow cooker. Set on LOW and cook for 7-8 hours. Remove from pot and let rest, covered with foil for about 15 minutes. To serve, cut thick slices against the grain.
  • 1-4 pound corned beef brisket
  • brisket seasoning pack f pickling spice
  • 1 head of green cabbage, quartered
  • 1 bottle of beer (Eric's Red Cream Ale), followed by 2 bottles of water
  • 2 bay leaves
 Caramelized Onions with Cabbage
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced fine
  • 1 Tbsp each of oil and butter
  • sliced braised cabbage
In a saute pan, heat the butter and oil over a medium heat. Add sliced onion, and cook in the butter and oil, siring occasionally for about15-20 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper. Once the onions have browned add the cooked cabbage, combine well and keep warm.

Savory Hash Browned Potatoes

Savory Hash Browns (serves 4-6)

  • 6 medium potatoes, rough cut into 1 inch dice, washed and drained
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp dried summer savory
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Lawry's seasoning salt
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok pan. Add the diced potatoes, toss in the oil to coat and cook over a medium heat. I like to cover the pan and let the potatoes kind of steam/fry until they become tender, about 10-15 minutes (stir occasionally). Once the spuds become a little tender and can be easily pierced with a knife, remove the cover and amp up the heat to medium high. Here I season the potatoes with the seasoning salt and garlic powder and begin to crisp the hash browns. Once they are nearly cooked and are crispy all over I add the savory, pepper and taste for salt. That's it, they're ready for brunch.

Server the corned beef sliced along side the onions and cabbage, hash browns and your favorite style of eggs and toast. With some refreshing juice and good quality coffee and you'll be in brunch heaven.  Enjoy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Taco Pizza

 With the weekend here it's always nice to have something fun for dinner on a Saturday night, especially if you are staying in, having friends over for a movie night, a game of cards or to watch the hockey game on TV. One of the best things to eat for such an occasion is pizza, and why order take out pizza when you can make great tasting, innovative pizzas at home. This recipe is for my taco-pizza, inspired after a visit to Boston Pizza last year. It combines all the classic taco toppings and a few extra twists. First I start with a homemade dough, followed by a homemade spicy tomato sauce featuring chipotle peppers, then a generous layer of spiced ground beef, and onion, jalapenos, bell peppers and Mexican cheese. After the pizza is cooked I top it off with some shredded lettuce, fresh chopped tomato, avocado, sour cream and cilantro. Yum! It's just like a taco but in pizza form. Here's how I make it.

Basic Pizza Dough

3 1/2 cups flour (I use 2 cups bread flour with 1 1/2 all-purpose)
1 1/4 cup of warm water (100 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 packet of yeast
1 tsp white sugar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, add the warm water. Be careful to get the temperature right or the yeast will either not activate if it is too cold or be killed if it is too hot. I use my digital thermometer. Dissolve the sugar in the water and stir in the yeast. Let the mixture activate for about 10 minutes. Once the yeast has worked, add the salt and oil, and begin adding the flour gradually, mixing with a wooden spoon. I like to mix it into a well incorporated think batter, and then begin adding the flour more slowly. Near the end or the flour, its time to get your hands in there. On a clean counter, begin kneading the dough. This is a critical process, and it is important not to under knead. You may need to add flour to the board occasionally. I like to press the dough with the palms of my hands, fold it back on itself, and give it a quarter turn, and repeat. After kneading you will have built up the glutens in the bread...a key in good pizza dough. Form into a ball, and add a little olive oil to the bottom and sides of your bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with a clean towel, and rest in a warm place to rise...about 1 hr, until well risen to the top of the bowl.

At this stage, I like to punch down the dough, cut it into however many pies I want to make (e.g. in half for two large pan pizzas). I next grease my pie pan with olive oil and begin stretching the dough. Once done, I cover again and let it rise a second time...for about 15-30 minutes. Then I restretch to the corners and its ready for toppings. If I am using my pizza stone, I let the second rise take place in seperate bowls, and hand toss the dough to make my pie.

Spicy Tomato Sauce for Taco Pizza

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can of tomato puree (32 oz)
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp Dry Oregano
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
Salt and Pepper

In a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion and garlic, salt and pepper. Saute until softened, and add remaining ingredients. Simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste and that's it.

Spiced Taco Beef: (makes two pizza)

- 1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
- taco seasoning (if you're desperate use a store bought packet, by I prefer to make my own by adding the following:
- 1 tsp of chili powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, paprika, chipotle powder, black pepper
- 1 tsp salt

In a saute pan, a a little oil and heat over a medium heat. Add the beef and the onion and the jalapeno and brown in the hot pan, stirring occasionally. Before the meat has cooked through add the seasoning and combine well. Add a little splash of beer (or water or beef stock), about a 1/4 cup and let the liquid reduce down. Reserve for topping the pizza.

To make the pizza, divide the dough in half and spread out over two greased pizza pans or cookie sheets. Top each pizza with the sauce, followed by the seasoned beef mixture and then some grated Mexican cheese. Add additional sliced onion and or pepper or black olives if so desired. Cook in a preheated 425 degree over for about 13-15 minutes until the crust is browned on the bottom and the cheese is bubbly.

Let cool for 5 minutes and cut into serving pieces. Let your guests top their own pizzas with such toppings as shredded iceburg lettuce, diced tomato, pickled jalapenos, fresh cilantro, sour cream, diced avocado, black olives, banana peppers, etc.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Potato and Leek Soup

If you're like me, you are still in the Irish spirit of St. Patrick's Day. Where I come from St. Patrick's Day celebrations last up until your last drink of the day this coming Sunday. I did a wee bit of celebrating on Thursday with a couple  pints of Black Cat Stout and a fine Corned Beef sandwich at the Northampton Brewery in Northampton, Massachusetts (there was also great live Irish music). It was a good time but my real St. Paddy's Day party will be tonight at The Irish Times in Saratoga, New York. Friends and family are coming later today and we'll be heading out for some Irish fare, a few pints and hopefully a jig or two while listening to the band. I think I might try their Potato and Leek Soup, a classic Irish dish, and see how it compares to the batch I made last weekend.

Some Potato & Leek Soup recipes are cream based, meaning they contain a fair amount of dairy (either milk or cream) however I make my potato-leek soup mostly with chicken stock, using only a small amount of milk at the end to round out the soup and give it nice body. I find the potatoes do a great job on their own of making the soup "creamy" and you can really taste the leeks and potatoes without too much cream. To give my soup an extra flavor burst I topped it with some sauteed diced potatoes and onion, in addition to a little cheese. Since we were having a fancy dinner last weekend I used Gorgonzola cheese to finish off the soup and it was amazing. The cheese offered a little saltiness and tartness, in addition to a great texture contrast, as did the crispy diced potato and onion. This is a very simple recipe and I hope you give it a try.

Potato & Leek Soup

- 3 Tbsp each of butter and canola oil
- 6 large starchy potatoes, thinly sliced (think a little smaller than fist size, and Yukon gold work great)
- 4-5 leeks, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 32 ounces of low sodium chicken stock (2 16 oz cartons)
- 1 Tbsp dried summer savory
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 cup of whole milk

- 1 potato, small dice
- 1 onion, diced fine
- 1 Tbsp each of butter and canola oil


Since their is a fair amount of knife work involved, you'll want to have your leeks and onion prepped before heating up your oil and butter. To get your leeks ready you'll have to clean the inside of them very well as they often have sand in them. To start, trim off the root end and then cut off the dark green tops. I usually make my cut just where the color turns to dark green. Next run your knife down the length of the leek, cutting it in half length-way. To clean them you can simply run the cut side of the leek under running water, opening up the layers of leek to wash away any grit or sand. With a sharp knife slice the halved leeks in into thin slices. Now, in your favorite soup pot add the butter and oil and heat it over a medium heat. Add the leeks and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Stir every couple of minutes as they cook and you prep the remaining ingredients. While the leeks saute, prep your onion (rough chop) and add it to the leeks. Next smash and chop the garlic and add it. Season the mixture with a little salt and pepper (not too much as its best to continually season as you cook).Peel the potatoes and half them. With the cut side down on the board slice the potatoes as thin as you can (think half moon shaped potato chips). Don't rinse the potatoes as the starch will help thicken the soup. Add the potatoes to pot, along with the dried savory, and stir the mixture well. Next add the chicken stock. This should be enough to just cover the leek and potato mixture. Bring the pot to a simmer and let cook until the potatoes are tender and have broken down. This usually takes about 30-45 minutes, thus giving you a nice break in the action. At this stage you can set the soup aside for hours or overnight in the fridge and finish it later.
After the soup has broken down and become tender it's time to blend. While this can be done in batches in a blender I recommend using an immersion blender as it is a lot easier. Blend the soup until it is smooth and add the whole milk. Taste for salt and pepper and add the freshly chopped thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the soup for about 10-20 minutes on a very low heat until ready to serve.

For the garnish, heat the oil in a non-stick saute pan and add the finely diced potatoes. Cook on medium heat until they start to become tender and then add the minced onion and butter. Season with salt and pepper and cook until crisp and golden brown.

Pour the soup into bowl and garnish with some cheese (cheddar or Gorgonzola) and then add a spoonful of the fried potatoes and onion. Serve with some crusty bread and enjoy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Beef and Guinness Stew

In just under one week, one if the year's most celebrated holidays makes its long awaited appearance. While many people with Irish blood (or like me just pretend they have Irish blood) will be drinking green beer and eating corned beef and cabbage next Thursday, many poeple will be in St. Patrick's Day mode from Thursday and throughout the weekend. As they say, there's 364 practice days and only one St. Patrick's Day! That's the way I remember celebrating when I lived in St. John's, Newfoundland, which might possibly be the most Irish place outside Ireland. One of my favorite ways to celebrate was to head downtown to George Street at about 11:30 in the morning on the last Sunday of St. Patrick's Day Weekend, find one of the many great Irish pubs/bars (Greensleeves was a great choice for a few years), get a large table up as close to the stage where there'd be numerous bands playing throughout the day and night, order up a big feed of steak and eggs with homefries and toast, and start drinking Guinness (after a coffee and Irish Cream). Needless to say, by the time evening came around we'd all be feeling pretty good, with my "Kiss Me I'm Irish" fake tattoos still hanging on and my feet tired from all the dancing. What a time we used to have.

I'm making new St. Paddy's Day traditions now down here in The Boston States and there's no shortage of Irish heritage and celebration in these parts that's for sure. One way I celebrate is obviously through food and I like to start the week off by making a big pot of delicious Beef & Guinness Stew. For a cold damp mid-March evening, you really can't beat a bowl of this hearty stew, with its tender morsels of beef, loads of carrots and onions, and savory Guinness broth. Here's how I make mine.

Beef and Guinness Stew

- 2 pounds stew beef (approximately 1 inch cubes)
- flour for dusting
- vegetable oil for searing the beef
- 4 carrots, sliced crossways
- 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
- 1 can of Guinness
- 1 32 ounce carton of good beef stock/broth
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- fresh parsley
- salt and pepper
-  enough corn starch and water to make a little slurry to thicken the stew


Prepare the beef by cutting to the appropriate sized 1 inch cubes, and pat the beef dry with a paper towel. Season the meat with salt and pepper and toss lightly in some flour. Add oil to a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven and sear the cubed beef in small batches in the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pot as you will end up steaming the meat. It will be worth the extra effort as getting a good crust on the meat as it is a one way ticket to flavor-town. Reserve all the browned beef to the side and to the same pot, add the onion and carrots, along with a little oil if needed. Season the vegetables with a little salt and pepper (I like to season my food as I go through the stages) and cook for a couple of minutes, until they just start to get tender. Add the beef back to the pot, along with the can of beer, the beef stock and the tomato paste. Be sure to scrape all the bits of the bottom of the pot (more flavor-town action). The tomato paste adds additional depth and richness to the stew. Add the bay leaf, bring to a simmer, lower the heat and cover. Simmer the stew on low until the beef is super tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When there is about a half an hour left to the cooking, taste the soup for seasoning and adjust the thickness of the broth to your desired thickness. The flour on the beef would have added some body, but by combining some water and cornstarch (or wondra flour) you can quickly thicken the stew. Do this and let it cook on low for another 30 minutes to cook out any raw cornstarch/flour taste. Serve in large bowls with some Irish soda bread or rolls, and garnish with fresh parsley.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pesto Marinated Pork Chops

I love pork chops. I ate pork chops a lot growing up but we usually only cooked them one of two ways. Either grilled and lathered in barbecue sauce out of a squeeze bottle or pan fried (electric skillet) with onions and mushrooms with pan gravy. The majority of the time the chops we cooked were bone-in sirloin chops, which had great flavor from the fattiness and could be quickly cooked or slow cooked for fall off the bone tender.

These days I still eat a fair amount of pork, but I tend to steer towards leaner cuts like tenderloins, loin roast and loin chops. Of these I really like using bone-in, center cut loin chops, which have lean meat with an edge of cap fat, and a little T-bone. Just like with a piece of beef, this T-bone cut of chop contains a small piece of tenderloin and a larger section of the loin (i.e. striploin steak). I prefer the bone-in chops over simple loin chops as there is the extra bonus of the tenderloin meat and the flavor and juiciness you get from the bone, because really the meat in around the bone of the chop is really the best best part at the end. When cooking these lean center cut chops however there are a couple of rules of thumb to ensure that the end product is a tender, juicy and flavorful piece of meat. Number one is not to overcook the chop, a very common mistake as there has been a notion for years that you have to cook pork to death. I'm looking to cook my chops so that they have a slight pink hue in the center and that the juices run clear. There is no braising or slow cooking this lean cut. I'm looking to give them a quick sear on each side through either a skillet or on the grill and letting the meat rest for a few minutes in a warm oven or with the grill turned off so that it cooks just right in the center. The second rule is to subject the pork to either a marinade (which will flavor and tenderize the meat) or a brine (a solution usually containing salt, sugar and other spices and seasoning such as cider or honey that will suck out some of the water in the meat and replace it with salty, seasoned liquid, thus making for a well seasoned chop inside and out).

For this recipe I am using a super simple marinade that can be either made from scratch or can come from a jar. I got this recipe after seeing it on one of my favorite shows, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (Food Network) when a restaurant out in the western US was doing pesto marinated pork chops as part of their breakfast/brunch menu as an alternative to steak and eggs. I saw it and had to try it. The result is deliciousness that works for either breakfast with eggs or as a dinner entree. It really can't be easier to make as the marinade does a lot of the work for you.

Pesto Marinated Center-Cut Pork Chops

- center-cut pork chops (about 3/4 inch thick cut works great)
- good quality jar of pesto (a blend of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil)
- oil for sauteing
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

The day/night before you want to eat these chops place the pork chops and enough pesto to coat in a glass dish. I find the best way to coat the meat is to get you hands in there and massage the pesto around the chops. Cover them up and refrigerate them. In the morning give them another turn.

About a half an hour before you are ready to cook, remove the pork from the fridge and let them come up to room temperature. To cook, heat a little canola or peanut oil in a large saute pan over a medium high heat and season each side of the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Sear the chops on one side until nicely browned, about 4 minutes, and cook on the other side for about 3 minutes. I usually like to turn the chops on end with my tongs as well so the thin piece of fat cap can sear and render. Remove from the pan and let rest in a 250 degree oven for 3-4 minutes. Cooking time will be very dependent on the thickness of the chops and I mostly rely on the look, feel and smell of the pork. My senses never seem to let me down when cooking meat and this comes with practice. The best way to get good at it is to take mental notes on how the chops feel when you give them a little press.

For dinner I like to serve these with some steamed broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes and they are great with fried eggs and some hash browns and toast. If you would like to have a sauce to go with these, simple deglaze your saute pan with a little chicken stock, scrape off the browned bits and add a few dollops of pesto. Combine and you have a rich, delicious pesto sauce. Bon appetite!
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