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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Kilkenny Salad

There are two courses, or plates I suppose, that benefit from having names as opposed to being called by their components: salads and desserts. Think of some well-known salads: A Greek Salad, a Caesar Salad, a Cobb Salad, a Waldorf Salad; none of these are named by their components, but rather by an eponymous title of some type, denoting a general style for the salad (it contains Greek ingredients,) it was created by or for a particular person (Caesar and Cobb,) or at a particular place (the Waldorf hotel.) My tendency when naming salads is to go with a thematic name, rather than something directly related to the origin of the salad or its components.

This plate, for the most part, takes its ingredients straight from Irish cuisine: There's potato cakes, made like biscuits; there's a pear, poached in a syrup made from Harp Lager, sugar, and lemon zest and juice; A quenelle of goat cheese, seasoned and mixed with chopped parsley; and a vinaigrette made with lemon juice and salad oil, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. The salad itself is made with arugula, spinach, and an assortment of baby lettuces, a very springy, slightly spicy mix of greens.

Kilkenny Salad
5 oz (140 g)  arugula
5 oz (140 g) baby spinach
5 oz (140 g) mixed greens
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) sugar
3 cups (710 ml) water
3 cups (710 ml) irish lager (two 12-oz bottles, standard American size)
1 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
6 pears, firm, sweet (I used d'Anjou)
Goat Cheese
12 oz (340 g) goat cheese, mild-flavored
6 oz (170 g) cream cheese, softened
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup (175 ml) parsley, chopped
3/8 cups (89 ml) lemon juice
1 1/8 cups (266 ml) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon zest
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
sugar, to taste

1. Combine water, sugar, lemon juice and zest, lager. Bring to a simmer to dissolve and combine fully.

2. Peel and halve pears; remove stems and cores. Place in poaching liquid and bring to simmer. When simmer is reached, remove from heat, cover with plastic film, and allow to sit until softened and flavorful. When cooled to lukewarm, transfer to a container to hold until service.

3. Thoroughly mix goat cheese and cream cheese, do not whip in too much air. Season with salt and pepper. Add parsley and mix to combine evenly.

4. Whisk together lemon juice, zest, and oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and sugar.

5. Dress greens; place 1 oz on a plate. Place 1/4 pear on each plate, sliced to fan. Place 1 tablespoon-sized quenelle of cheese mix on each plate, next to 1 potato cake.

Oven-baked Potato Cakes
4 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, diced
2 pinch salt
12 oz  mashed potato, freshly cooked
2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
2 cups buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Sift flour and baking powder into bowl, rub in butter. Season with salt. Add mashed potato and chives, mix well. Add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough.

3. Turn on to a floured work surface, knead lightly into shape, and quickly roll out roughly 1/2 inch thick.

4. Cut into desired shape—I used 2" rounds.

5. Place on baking sheet and bake until crisp, golden brown, and well risen; roughly 20 minutes.

Yields 25-30 cakes.

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