Domestic Quantum Mechanics (with recipes!)

Last week, we made plans for some farmer friends of ours to join us for dinner Sunday. Even the merest hint of a culinary holiday is generally enough to send me off into a theme-dinner reveries, so I was, of course, leaning Gaelic in my dinner plans.  Lacking the time to brine a roast for corned beef, I settled on plain old roast beef (albeit crusted with a lip-smacking horseradish rub), “Champ” (ie: Irish mashed potatoes), and cabbage.

Halfway through the day, our friends called to say that they needed to stay home and keep an eye on their animals, on account of impending snow.  So Andrew left to run some errands and I decided not to worry about cooking or cleaning.

Then, at 3:30, I received a text saying that they would, in fact, be arriving at 5 pm.  Meanwhile, Sylvan was resisting his afternoon nap with every bone in his small body, and the chaos of the ground floor of our house evoked scenes of a robbery, or perhaps a very short but violent skirmish between shoes, coats, and Cheerios.

When Andrew walked in the door at 4 and found Sylvan immediately deposited in his arms, I went into overdrive. Sweep-tidy-preheat-wash-chop-boil (it is in fact possible to do all of these things simultaneously, if sufficiently motivated).  Circa 4:45, with the roast tucked safely in the oven, the pot of potatoes boiling merrily, and the milk and scallions steeping, Andrew noticed the follow-up text that I had missed, apologizing for the miscommunication, and suggesting that Tuesday might perhaps be a better day to get together.

All of which is just to say that this St. Patty’s Day meal can be pulled together in no time flat.  We enjoyed it quietly last night (Sylvan by that point had finally given in to biology and was snoozing angelically) in a house that was, for a pleasant change, rather clean.

Horseradish-Crusted Roast Beefadapted from Primal Cuts

2 pound sirloin tip roast or bottom round roast
1/4 cup freshly ground or prepared horseradish
1 T kosher salt
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 T coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 T sugar
1/2 T sherry vinegar

You can scale this recipe up for a larger roast; you’ll just need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.  The general rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound of meat–it may well need more time than that, but you don’t want to risk overcooking it.

Preheat the oven to 375.  Remove the roast from the fridge and pat it dry.  Set a rack in a roasting pan and place the roast on the rack.  Blend the remaining ingredients into a paste and spread the paste on the top and sides of the roast.

Roast in the lower third of the oven for 40 minutes, then check the internal temperature with a thermometer.  Remove the roast when the internal temperature reaches 125 (it took my roast closer to 50 minutes).  Let the roast rest (and say that 3 times fast!) for 20 minutes, in which time it will continue cooking.  The goal here is rare or medium-rare, so make sure you are sourcing good quality beef!

Irish Champ (Mashed Potatoes with Milk and Greens)from Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk through the Ages

The point of these mashed potatoes is that the butter gets added at the end as a “fresh touch of luxury” (so says Anne Mendelson)  They really are quite delicious, and not nearly as rich as standard American mashed potatoes.

5-6 russet potatoes (1.75-2 pounds), cut into large chunks6 large scallions
scant 2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
4-8 T butter

Boil the potatoes in salted to water until tender.  While they are cooking, cut the scallions into thin slices.  Place them in a small saucepan with the milk and bring to a simmer.  Cook, uncovered, until tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Strain out the scallions and reserve.

Drain the cooked potatoes well.  Put them in a large, deep bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Mash in the drained scallions while adding as much of the hot milk as the potatoes will absorb without getting soupy.  Some lumpiness is fine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot, with everyone getting a nice pat of butter on top.

We chased all of this with an utterly un-Irish dessert: chocolate coconut ice cream with a hint of curry.  I loved it.  Andrew tolerated it on account of the chocolate, sugar, and cream.

3 responses to “Domestic Quantum Mechanics (with recipes!)

  1. My husband and I drove over your road yesterday and I tried to find the farm. We are friends with your landlords and had never been to the farm, though it has been on our list to visit and maybe buy something, for a long time. Coincidental that you should post because I said to my hubby that I hadn’t read a post of yours in awhile. Put up a prayer that you were all well!
    You are the model of patience and generosity. I might have ripped my hair out at my friends’ attitude of serendipity. Ahhh…but that’s why we call them friends! Their goodness outweighs their sometimes, um, how shall I term that? Nevermind! You know what I mean! Sounds like a lovely dinner for anyone and everyone! Éirinn go Brách!

  2. MK, The opening story had me laughing so hard I cried! Love your blog entries!!

    Kelly Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. I always enjoy reading your blog posts, Mary Kathryn. Every one of them!

    Kevin Grove

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