Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pork Pie

I've heard of a pork-pie hat, but I never connected it to an actual pork pie.  No surprise, it looks like the hat.

The extremely traditional recipe I found on the British site recipewise is labor intensive, takes three days, and uses way more pieces of the pig than I had in mind.  What I am presenting here is an Americanized, lighter, dumbed-down version that you can make in one day and serve the next.  Well, not totally dumbed-down, but you could substitute a store-bought double crust.  I don't really recommend that option, and it's ok if your pastry crust comes out hard, awkward, and barely edible.  This is a free-standing pie, and you don't want it collapsing.

A pork pie is basically pork encased in pastry.  It's almost a sausage in pot-pie shape.  You need some serious vegetables on the side to make this a meal.  Just a heads-up.

3-1/2 C flour
3/4 C + 2 Tb shortening
1/2 C water
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten, for glaze

1-1/3 lb pork shoulder, fat trimmed to 1/4"
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
2 Tb water
1 14oz can chicken stock
*1 bay leaf
sprig of thyme (or 1/2 tsp *dried thyme)
several sage leaves (or 1/2 tsp *dried sage)
1 envelope gelatin

1.  In a medium bowl, stir together salt and flour.  In a small saucepan, bring shortening and water to a boil until all of the shortening is melted.  Pour into flour and mix with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms.  (It smells like churro dough, in case you ever wondered what churro dough smells like.)  Add water a tablespoon at a time, if necessary.  Let sit until room temperature, about an hour, kneading occasionally to check for firmness.  Meanwhile, chop the pork into 1/2" cubes.  Back to that in a minute.

2.  When dough is firm enough to hold a shape, break off about 1/3 to use later.  On a rimmed, parchment-lined baking sheet, mold dough into a flat-bottomed bowl shape approximately 7" in diameter and 3" high.  It helps if you were any good in pottery class as a child.  I wasn't.  That's fine; it's supposed to look "rustic".  This is going to take you at least 5 minutes, so don't worry if you have to start over.  If it's lopsided, just break off some from another area and patch the low side.

3.  Preheat oven to 400º.  Get out your bowl of chopped pork.  Toss with salt, pepper, and water to mix.

4.  Place meat in crust.  It's going to help your bowl to hold its shape, which will be a huge relief.  Shape remaining third of dough into a lid and place on top.  Crimp up rim to seal.  Cut a vent in the middle large enough for a funnel, because you're going to use one later.  Brush top and sides with egg wash.  Store the rest of the wash in the fridge for another brushing later.

5.  Bake at 400º for 10 minutes.  Lower heat to 325º and bake another two hours, turning after an hour.  That's when you'll find out if you sprang a leak anywhere.  Oh well, too late to fix it.  Remove from oven briefly, brush again with the egg wash, and bake 10 more minutes to set the glaze.  Allow to cool to room temperature while you're making the stock filling.

6.  Soften gelatin in 1/4 C cold water.  In a saucepan, heat chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme, and sage.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain out herbs and stir in softened gelatin until dissolved.  Pour into pie using a funnel until filled, just a tablespoon or so at a time.  You won't use more than half a cup of the stock at this time, but refrigerate the rest for later.  What you're doing is filling all the tiny nooks and crannies inside the crust with a jellied aspic.  Chill the pie for at least 2 hours, then re-warm the stock and see how much more you can fit in the pie.  Again, you won't use all of it, but you can discard the rest now if you don't have another use for it.  Chill pie overnight.

7.  Being a British thing, this meat pie is served cold.  Slice it like any pie, and serve with an interesting mustard available as a condiment.

Serves 5 to 6

Difficulty rating :-0

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cherry-Almond Coffee Cake

I was going through my jams and preserves before the tomatoes ripen and I start canning again.  I need to start dating my preserves, because I found a jar of cherry pie filling that is probably from July.  Home-processed canned fruits and vegetables have about a one-year shelf life unopened.  I decided to use up the jar this week, but what to make of it?  I wavered between turnovers (I still have some puff pastry dough in the freezer) and coffee cake.  After some deliberation and flipping through the Bible, I decided to merge two different coffee cake recipes on page 430 into an über-rich cherry cake.  (Wow, spell-check recognizes correct German spelling.  Who knew?)

As my roommate put it, "It smells like Christmas in here".

1/4 C butter + 2 Tb
1/2 C sugar + 1/4 C
1 C flour + 1/2 C
*1/2 C almonds
*1/2 C sour cream
2 Tb milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
*1/2 tsp vanilla
*1 C (or 1 small can) cherry pie filling

1.  Grease 8x8 square baking pan.  Preheat oven to 350º.

2.  Cream together 1/4 C butter and 1/2 C sugar until fluffy.  Add 1 C flour, almonds, sour cream, milk, egg, baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth and similar in texture to Toll House cookie dough, about 2 minutes.

3.  Spread cake batter in bottom of baking dish.  Layer on pie filling.  In a bowl, mix together remaining butter, flour, and sugar until coarse crumbs form.  Sprinkle over cake.

4.  Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before serving.

Serves about 8

Difficulty rating :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Linguine with Sausage and Vegetables

I transferred at work.  It is a positive thing for the most part, but I get home at 7pm three days a week.  I don't want to start cooking that late, so I have to find things I can make in the morning that will store well.  I kind of do that anyway, making about four portions and eating leftovers until it's gone, but now I won't always get to eat the first portion fresh.  However, I'll get to have breakfast at home almost every day.  I got out of the habit of making fancy breakfasts, but I do love them.

I tried to cut down on the number of pots and pans for this one, but there are just a lot of pieces.  If you're making it to serve fresh, it's going to take at least three.  Making it ahead, I was able to reuse the pasta pot for the sauce and the sausage skillet for the veggies.  This also gave me time to portion everything into four containers.  I kept two in the fridge and froze the other two for later, like making my own frozen dinners.  Anything that keeps me from stopping at McDonald's on the way home.

The Yellow Apron
Frozen Entrées Factory
8 oz (about 1/2 box, depending on the brand) linguine
4 Italian sausage links (about 12 oz total)
1 Tb olive oil
1 lb tomatoes
1/2 lb mushrooms
2 ribs celery
1/2 onion
1 green bell pepper
1 C milk
2 Tb butter
3 Tb flour
1/2 C parmesan cheese
salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

1.  Boil water in a medium saucepan and cook pasta until done.  Drain.

2.  While that's going on, heat sausage according to package directions.  Chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

3.  Also while 1 & 2 are happening, coarsely chop vegetables and sauté in olive oil until onions are translucent, but veggies are not limp.  Set aside.

4.  Get out another small saucepan and melt butter.  Stir in flour to make a roux and slowly add milk to make a basic white sauce.  Add cheese, taste and add salt, pepper, and paprika as needed.

5.  Toss all parts together and serve.

Difficulty rating  :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Barbecued Asparagus

OK, this is kind of a cop-out "recipe", but this idea turned out way better than I expected.  The asparagus actually picked up the smoky barbecued flavor.  Can't say enough good things about choosing to get a basic charcoal grill over a gas one.

In Southern California, there are perhaps 30 days out of the year that you would not want to barbecue.  Half of them are because of rain, and the other half because of high winds.  There is no such thing as bbq season, just days that you feel like it more than others.

1/2 lb asparagus
2 Tb olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1.  Get your grill going and make sure you put on the top for small items or that's in a checked pattern.

2.  Cut off tough bottoms of asparagus spears and rinse well.  Toss with oil, salt, and pepper.

3.  Carefully arrange spears on grill so they don't fall in.  Close lid and let cook 10 minutes.  Open lid, turn asparagus, and close lid for another 5 minutes.  The spears should look slightly charred, but not dry.

4.  Serve hot, either by themselves or with a sauce.

Difficulty rating  π

And almost totally unrelated to cooking, I got the workbench in the garage cleaned and organized!  I say almost because I found a kebab skewer and the missing steak knife.  What?!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Banana Rum-Raisin Matzoh Brei

Did I mention that I have a lot of matzoh left?  Me and my stupid rule that I can't buy bread until the matzoh is gone.  I can make it, just not buy any.  At this rate, I might be done by Rosh Hashanah.  Maybe.

You'll notice this recipe doesn't have a Passover tag.  I don't think rum is KLP.

For the uninitiated, matzoh brei is just French toast made with matzoh.  It is also annoying to type because auto-correct keeps trying to turn it into brie.

*1 matzoh
1 ripe banana
1/4 C raisins
*1 tsp light rum
*1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash salt
1 egg
2 Tb milk

1.  Boil some water.  Break up matzoh in a heat-proof bowl.  Pour about 1 C boiling water over the pieces and let sit while you make up the mix.

2.  Mash the banana in another bowl.  Stir in raisins, rum, salt, and nutmeg.  Beat in egg and milk.

3.  Drain matzoh and squeeze out excess water.  Add to egg mix and let sit for several minutes while you heat a 6" skillet over medium.  (I use a bit of butter in my pan, even though it's non-stick.)

4.  Pour mix into pan and cook until bottom is done.  Good luck flipping it in one piece, but brei is allowed to look like scrambled eggs.  Cook until eggs are completely done and serve hot, maybe with a caramel sauce.  I think this just turned into dessert. ;)

Serves 2, unless you're really hungry

Difficulty rating  π

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rhubarb-Orange Jam

They had fresh rhubarb at Sprouts!  I decided to make jam with it.  Because I've had a lone orange languishing in the crisper since the Duck a l'Orange, I decided on this recipe.  I thought there was at least one recipe in Grandma's box, but I may have tossed it when I thought I couldn't get any fresh.

Anyway, this is beyond easy to make.  You don't need to monitor the temperature because rhubarb has a ridiculous amount of pectin in it.  This will set up.  It takes about an hour to make, then a couple of hours to cool, and you're good to go.  I just wanted a rich jam to put on matzoh at tea time.  At some point, it will be gone.

I cut the original recipe considerably because I only bought half a pound of rhubarb.  Figured I'd test it before making an investment.  That's why some of the quantities look odd.

1/2 lb fresh rhubarb
6 Tb sugar
1/4 tsp orange zest
1 Tb orange juice
1-1/2 Tb water

1.  Place all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Stir, reduce heat, and cook until thoroughly soft and thickened, about 45 minutes.  It will thicken more as it cools.  Stir every ten minutes or so while cooking and skim off any foam.

2.  Remove from heat and place in clean container.  If canning, process according to directions.  Without processing, keeps in fridge 1 week.

Makes about 1 cup

Difficulty rating  π

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I rebounded hard from Passover and ate a lot of junk for a week, most of it take-out.  It culminated with my birthday, which involved cake, ice cream, and cookies.  Finally, I decided to restock the pantry and crisper from Sprouts and make something nutritious.

I don't like that falafel is fried.  There was a baked version online, but in one of those odd twists of cooking, something deep-fried actually absorbs less oil than something baked with oil on it.  Either way, I served it with salad and a cucumber-yogurt sauce much like tzatziki.  And yes, matzoh instead of pita.  I have over 3 boxes left, and that was after getting everyone at work on board with the matzoh pizza idea.

I've never used dried garbanzo beans before, but several recipe sources recommended them when making falafel because of texture.  A raw, soaked garbanzo bean is much more firm than one that has been cooked for canning, and tastes almost nutty.  They also have far less salt this way.  My only problem with most falafels I have tasted was that they were over-seasoned.  I cut back considerably for this, but added a touch of fresh cilantro from the garden, as well as coriander seed.  That's why I'm watering the plant.

1/2 lb dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1/4 lb (4 oz weight) yellow onion, coarsely chopped
*3 cloves garlic
* 1 Tb dried parsley or 1/4 C fresh
1 Tb flour
* 1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 Tb fresh cilantro (coriander)
*1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp baking soda
oil for frying

1.  The night before, soak beans in water with at least two inches of cover.  They can soak for up to 24 hours.  Drain when ready to use.

2.  Place all ingredients except baking soda and oil in the food processor.  Process until a grainy paste forms.  You're not making hummus; it should be somewhat chunky.  Chill for at least 30 minutes, to let flavors meld.  1 to 2 hours is better.

3.  Stir in baking soda when ready to cook.  Heat 1/4" oil in 6" skillet.  Once the patties are in the pan, the level will rise to 1/2", or halfway up the sides.  When water drops dance, you're ready to fry.

4.  Scoop out heaping tablespoons of falafel mix and form into balls.  Set balls in oil, about 5 or 6 at a time.  Fry until bottoms are deep brown, about 3 minutes.  Flip and brown other side.  Drain on paper towels and serve hot while the next batch is frying.

Makes about 18 (4-5 servings)

Difficulty rating  π

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bubble Bread

Oh, I am so ready for some baked goods!!  I know, it's only one week a year, but that's an entire food group, plus legumes and corn.  And I don't like matzoh.

Not sure where this inspiration came from.  It came a day after the Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap dream.  Yes, that's how much I was missing chometz and bacon.  I got one of them with the freebie coupon, but this was a wonderfully yeasty teatime treat that kept me from buying donuts.

Whether you call it Monkey Bread or Bubble Bread, it's dough rolled into balls and baked so you can pull apart the pieces.  You can make it with refrigerated biscuit dough like Grands, and it doesn't have to be sweet.  We're doing a version at work with garlic butter and asiago cheese.  You could do chocolate instead of cinnamon.  The dough here is neutral, with just a tiny bit extra sugar to make the dough mature overnight with a richer taste.

I did a half-recipe for my practice and the photo so I wouldn't eat too much.  You actually have to double the recipe below to use a packet of yeast and it would fill a Bundt pan.  That definitely makes this a party item or something to serve a large family.

1 C milk, 100ºF
1/2 C butter, divided, plus more for pan
3/4 C sugar, divided
*1 tsp yeast
3 C flour
1 tsp salt
*2 Tb cinnamon

1.  Stir butter and 1/4 C sugar into warm milk.  Butter does not need to melt.  Stir in yeast and allow to proof until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2.  Stir together salt and 1 C flour in stand mixer with paddle.  Add milk mixture and beat into a batter, about 2 minutes.  Add another cup of flour and beat again 2 minutes into a thick batter or runny dough.

3.  Using about half of the remaining cup of flour, liberally dust work surface.  Turn out dough onto board and knead into a soft dough, adding as little flour as necessary to provide stability.  You probably won't use the whole cup.  When dough is smooth, pull into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hr.

4.  Punch down dough and let rest 10 minutes.  During that time, heavily butter a loaf pan.  In one small bowl, stir together remaining 1/2 C of sugar and the cinnamon.  In another small bowl, melt remaining 1/4 C butter.

5.  Chop up dough into small pieces.  Remember, something that looks "bite-sized" is going to grow when you proof it.  Coat each piece in butter, then in cinnamon sugar.  Place in loaf pan.  The bottom layer does not need to touch each other or the edges of the pan, and subsequent layers can just be tossed on.  All the spaces will fill eventually.  Sprinkle top with any remaining sugar.  The dough can either be proofed now, or covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.  This second method gives the dough time to mature and will result in a slightly different texture.

6.  When ready to proof, remove plastic wrap and set in warm place for 45 minutes, or until doubled.  Bake at 350º for 35 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.  Let sit in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto serving plate before the sugar hardens and you can't get the loaf out.  (I skipped this step and ended up with just bubbles.  The butter needs to cool enough to make everything stick together.)  Serve warm or cooled, and just let everyone pull pieces off as they wish.

Makes 1 standard loaf, about 8 servings

Difficulty rating :-0

Monday, April 1, 2013

So Much for Organic

I try to be a live-and-let-live kind of person.  It's wildlife's world, too.  However, the brussels sprouts are attracting whitefly and aphids are eating the tomato blossoms.  I'm going to war.

At first, I tried the dish-soap spray remedy.  There are pets in the house.  Plus, I don't want to eat pesticides.  After a week, it was clear that wasn't going to work on the young plants.  It does seem to be helping the citrus tree, though.  I found one ladybug in the vicinity.  It would take a swarm of them to make a difference.

I'm going to the garden shop tomorrow for something stronger.  I may also need some form of fertilizer.  I've been using coffee grounds.  It's eco-friendly, and I'll have well-caffeinated veggies, but they may need something more species-specific.

But I can harvest the broccoli for dinner!  No foolin'.