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Comfort Food Weekend

February 4, 2012

My Dad always says that my Mom could barely boil water when they got married. Over time, she has really become a spectacular cook and baker. She can whip up pretty much anything that she eyes in a magazine and holidays are no joke. She’s always been creative in the kitchen, so dinner-time in our house never felt routine, and she always created healthy, rounded meals that didn’t taste like that’s what they were trying to be.

One of her great achievements, though, will always be my Grammy’s Irish bread. My father is one of 11 kids (11!) , so my Grammy was a pro in the kitchen. Those are a lot of mouths to please. One of her specialties was an Irish bread, similar to what a lot of people call Irish Soda Bread. I think it’s about the same idea, but our family’s recipe operates mainly on “pinches,” “handfuls” and other very instructive terms.

Basically, once you get it, you get it, but until then, you’re on your own. Well, you and a failed Irish bread.

Out of my Dad’s siblings, six of them are girls, all of whom have spent many years in the kitchen learning to master their mother’s staple food. It’s at every holiday, but beyond that, it’s at everyone’s weekend breakfast table. It’s what we make for neighbors when they move in, or friends after a loss. It’s for the good and the bad, but it always helps.

So you can imagine the pressure for my mom, the in-law. My parents have been married for almost 30 years and during that time, she has raised two daughters, created a loving home and , of course, worked tirelessly to get her Irish bread just right. Are there too many raisins? Is it too dry? Does it have enough crevices so that the butter can melt evenly through? You see the challenge.

Turns out, and I don’t think it’s just because I’m biased, but she makes it the best! After many years of it not rising right, or burning the edges, my Mom has finally crossed over into expert territory. We’re all very proud.

So you can imagine my delight at this very special delivery  to my office yesterday.

Oh yeah.

Aahh.

Do you dare?

Recipe for Irish Bread:

Preheat Oven at 350

Prepare a heavy pan with cooking oil and a little sprinke of flour on the bottom.

( I usually use the heavy black cast iron pan)You will need something with sides if possible but not necessary if you form a loaf.  It should stay together.

4 cups of flour

4tsp. baking powder

About ½ cup of sugar

About 1 tsp. of salt

1/3 cup of Crisco (solid not liquid if possible)

1 and ½ cup of milk ( you need a biscuit type texture, and sometimes I need to add a very little more so that all the flour is blended, just add a little at time if you need to at all)

½ cups of raisins

Mix all dry ingredients together.  Add Crisco and cut into the flour until blended.  Add the raisins and make sure they are pretty well spread thru-out the flour then add the milk.  It should be a heavy biscuit like dough if you remember.  It will bake best in a 9 inch heavy pan, greased and floured.  Bake at 350 for 50 or 60 minutes.  When you take it out and while it is still hot I usually take a little butter, and rub the top of the bread and that makes it a little salty.  Not necessary if you choose not to do this.  Let cool and slice in half then turn on its side and slice away…hope it works out.

Not to overshadow the magic of the bread, but this is also Superbowl weekend. Sure, it’s an added perk that my hometown team, the Patriots are in it, but let’s be serious, we can basically eat fried cheese all day tomorrow with no judgement.

I’ll be ready for a quick re-cap of tomorrow’s delicacies, but in the meantime, enjoy some comfort food this weekend. Whether it’s just a bowl of chilli at a friend’s Superbowl party, or a family favorite. There’s nothing like it.

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