Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Week 12 - Hangover Cures

I'm no expert on hangovers, but for Week 12 of the challenge, during which we were supposed to cook some hangover cures, I had some idea of what to make. Something heavy, greasy, and starchy. With St. Patrick's Day falling during the challenge week and Trader Joe's advertising their special limited edition Irish bangers, it seemed like the perfect time to do bangers and colcannon (basically the Irish version of sausage and mashed potatoes).

The Trader Joe's Irish bangers are a "seasonal" item (I guess they are only around during March) and are made with a special pork sausage recipe. In addition to the spices/seasoning (the package listed salt, white pepper, mace, ginger, and sage), they also contain 5% rusk, which TJ's describes as "a sort of twice-baked crouton that adds texture to the meat." I wasn't sure if we had even eaten traditional Irish bangers before, so I was excited to try them for our St. Patrick's Day dinner.

For this meal, I used:

- 1 lb package of TJ's Irish bangers ($4.49)
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large blocks ($0.98)
- 10 oz bag of shaved Brussels sprouts ($2.79)
- 1/2 bunch of scallions, chopped ($0.65)
- 2 tbsp butter ($0.40)
- 1/2 cup of milk ($0.14)
- salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste ($0.10)
- 1 yellow onion ($0.55)

The total for all those ingredients came out to about $10.10, with the majority, of course, being the Irish bangers. Although we had no leftovers, we had a pretty filling and complete meal, absolutely worth the price.

Making the bangers was pretty easy. Just stick them in a skillet until they are fully cooked and brown, moving them around a bit. They smelled pretty good while they were cooking.

To make the colcannon, it's basically just like making any other kind of mashed potatoes in which you mix vegetables (remember stoemp?). Peel and chop the potatoes into chunks, put potatoes in pot of salted water, bring to boil, boil until potatoes are tender and then drain. In the same pot, melt some butter and then add the vegetables (here it's the shaved Brussels sprouts and the chopped green onions).

Once those are all cooked and a bit softened, add the potatoes, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher (something I've loved to do since I was a child). Mix it all together well, adjusting seasonings and ingredients as needed. Simple! I love mashed potatoes and I love them even more with vegetables mixed in. 

While the mashed potatoes were cooking, I decided to make an onion "gravy." Not a conventional gravy with a lot of liquid, but just something tasty and flavorful to put on top of the potatoes. I thought it would be fun to add some crumbled sausage in this gravy, so I set aside 2 of the bangers for that purpose. The first thing I did was place the sliced onions (with no oil) in the same skillet that the bangers had been cooking in, and cooked them until they were softened. Once they started getting softer, I added in the bangers (without their casings) and broke them down into small pieces with a spoon. I let it all cook together (mmm, pork fat onions) and then when they looked pretty done, added some water to deglaze the pan. Once all the water was burned off and everything looked like it was starting to get caramelized, the gravy was done. I personally prefer caramelizing onions a little more, but it was really late so a "quick gravy" would have to do.

The entire dish together was quite good. The bangers were tasty, although A thought they could have been browned for longer. I found them a little different from regular sausages, a little softer and juicier. The colcannon was great and it was perfect with the gravy. Our favorite part was the sausage and caramelized onion gravy. The sausage there imparted so much flavor to the onions, and it was a good match for the colcannon. Perhaps next time using the bangers I would crumble all of it and use it that way instead of as actual bangers. It was really good that way and for some reason much easier to crumble than sausages like that usually are.

By the way, if you're getting a sense of deja vu when you're reading this post about bangers and colcannon, I did too. I couldn't figure out why at first. I knew I had made colcannon before. I knew I had made a quick caramelized onion gravy before too and I had this gnawing feeling that I'd written about it before. So once we started eating dinner, I set off to figure out why I had that feeling and I came across my post from Week 40 of last year's challenge about screw-ups revisited. What did I revisit? Bubble and squeak, which I made with some Italian sausages (and remarked that bangers would be better) and some quick caramelized onions for gravy. I usually try not to do the same challenge dish again, but it didn't even occur to me how similar this was until after the fact. They're not exactly the same (potatoes made differently, a twist on the other "gravy"), but they were close enough to give me that eerie deja vu feeling. I guess I just really like sausage with potatoes and onion gravy. And this should be, without a doubt, a hangover cure, so that works for me.

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