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Cider-Braised Chicken and Cabbage is a dish you might find served up in an Irish pub. It is cooked coq-au-vin style in a dry cider with a lively, crisp taste, which gives a new spin to the other traditional ingredients, carrots, cabbage and onion. Raisins also add an unexpected sweetness.


03/15/06 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom
Irish pub grub

Order some traditional food to warm the damp out of your still chilled March bones

Ease into a comfortable booth in an Irish pub. Settle your pint on the seasoned table in front of you, in mellow surroundings among antique bric-a-brac. Order some traditional Irish food to warm the damp out of your bones. It's only March, and St. Patrick's Day can be chilly.

On the other hand, you could stay home, browse through "The Irish Pub Cookbook" by Margaret M. Johnson (Chronicle Books, 2006, $24.95), inhale the ambiance and cook up convincingly good pub grub in your own kitchen from any of the 80 or so recipes in her selection.

The book is a culinary celebration of pubs, a beloved national institution.

"These licensed premises -- part clubhouse, part town hall, part church -- have served for years as venues for social events, sporting news, local gossips, music sessions, literary soirees, real estate deals, political debates, revolutionary plots, and, lest we forget, for knocking back a pint of Guinness or a 'ball of malt,' also known as a glass of whiskey," she writes.

Pub styles range from medieval to newly established, from Victorian Dublin with mahogany and mirrors to thatched country cottages. They are, Johnson says, "perhaps the best expressions of Irish life and culture and are true keepers of the spirit of the land." To say nothing of serving what has long been considered quintessential Irish food.

Johnson includes plenty of background and history along with her focus on the food. There's a sidebar on literary and musical pub crawls in Dublin, and profiles of individual pubs -- and, of course, of the people who run them: Durty Nelly, and Dame Alice, among other famous publicans.

Along with other recent commentators on the scene, Johnson confirms that you'll still find traditional country-style cooking in Ireland's pubs -- but also gastronomic surprises, some tasty changes, more cause for the high praise Irish food in general earns these days.

"I started to notice these changes a few years ago, especially in pubs in Dublin and the real 'foodie' areas around Cork," Johnson said in an e-mail exchange.

Johnson, food writer and author of "The New Irish Table" (Chronicle, 2003) and "The Irish Heritage Cookbook" (Chronicle, 1999) among other cookbooks, lives in New York City when she isn't visiting her ancestral home of Ireland.

This new book, illustrated with scene-setting color photographs shot by the author, and food photos made by Leigh Beish, samples a wide range of what you might find on current pub menus, from starters to desserts.

Johnson suggested a cider-braised chicken and cabbage dish for readers to try.

"I think it's kind of a surprise in that it has many traditional ingredients (carrots, cabbage, onion) but gets a new spin with the cider," she said. "The raisins also add an unexpected sweetness.

"I also like this dish because it's easy to prepare in advance and bake later. It's great with any number of traditional potato recipes as well, ranging from mashed to potato cakes."

• • •

This chicken dish is cooked coq-au-vin style in a dry cider with a lively, crisp taste. Serve it with mashed potatoes.

The recipe was developed by Bulmers, the Irish hard-cider maker, for restaurants and pubs. Cider has long been a popular ingredient in European cuisines, especially among Celts, Bretons and Normans, Johnson points out. "Irish chefs love to use it, often as a substitute for wine, because of the unique flavor it imparts to sauces, meat, and poultry."


1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 (5- to 6-ounce) bone-in chicken breast halves, skin on

1/4 cup olive oil

4 to 5 cloves garlic

3 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

1 large onion, thickly sliced

3 bay leaves

1/2 cup golden raisins

2 Ts. minced fresh flatleaf parsley

2 Ts. fresh rosemary

2 cups shredded Savoy cabbage

1 cup homemade chicken stock (recipe follows), or canned low-sodium chicken broth, or 1 chicken bouillon cube mixed with 1 cup boiling water

1 cup dry Irish cider

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl and dredge the chicken in it, shaking off the excess.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the chicken in batches and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Transfer the chicken to a large ovenproof baking dish.

Tuck the garlic, carrots, onions and bay leaves in between the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with the raisins, parsley and rosemary. Place the cabbage on top, season with salt and pepper, and pour the stock or broth and cider over the meat and vegetables.

Cover with foil and bake for 11/4to 11/2 hours, or until the chicken is tender.

To serve, place a chicken breast in the center of each of 6 plates, and spoon the vegetables and sauce over the top.

Makes 6 servings.

• • •


11/2 pounds chicken pieces (a combination of backs, wings and necks) and bones

6 cups cold water

1 onion, chopped

1 leek (white part only), washed and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black peppercorns

1 bouquet garni (a cheesecloth bag containing 3 sprigs fresh flatleaf parsley, 1 sprig fresh thyme, and 1 bay leaf)

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the chicken pieces and bones and water. Bring to a boil and skim any foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat to medium-low, skim again, and add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, salt, peppercorns and bouquet garni. Simmer, skimming occasionally, for 2 to 21/2 hours. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and let cool. Refrigerate for several hours, remove the congealed fat, then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes about 5 cups.

• • •

For dessert, bread-and-butter pudding is one of the most popular desserts served in Ireland, Johnson says. But recipes vary widely, and the whiskey-flavored one that follows is her personal favorite --"The hot whiskey sauce is a welcome alternative to the traditional custard sauce."


For the Pudding:

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup Irish whiskey

5 large eggs

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

8 ounces (8 to 9 slices) firm white bread, crust left on

4 Ts. unsalted butter at room temperature

For the Hot Whiskey Sauce:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup sugar

6 Ts. heavy (whipping) cream

1/4 cup Irish whiskey

To make the Pudding:

In a small bowl, combine the raisins and whiskey and let soak for 1 hour. Butter a 9-inch square nonreactive baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter. Cut the slices in half diagonally and arrange half the bread in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping the slices. Drain the raisins and sprinkle half over the bread. Repeat with the remaining bread and raisins. Pour the egg-cream custard mixture over the bread and let it soak for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Place the baking dish in a large baking pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the pudding is set and the top is golden. Remove the baking dish from the water bath and let cool slightly on a wire rack.

To make the Whiskey Sauce:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the sugar, cream and whiskey. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Serve the pudding warm with the whiskey sauce spooned over each portion.

Makes 6 to 8 servings; about 1 cup of sauce.

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