Monday, November 30, 2009

Mushroom and Potato Pie

Giant Gallete v.2! The other day Pete called me up and said "Do you want any chanterelles? I traded a set of snow tires for 2 pounds of chanterelles and some money."  Hm. Why, yes, some mushrooms of questionable provenance would be very nice. So here is what I made. Incidentally, this is an easily veganizable recipe, just use an appropriate pastry recipe.

1 recipe of savory pastry, enough for a double crust.

3 medium-small yellow potatoes.
1 medium yellow onion
2 sprigs rosemary, or other woody herbs, like thyme or something
1 lb chanterelles (or other interesting mushrooms)
olive oil, salt and pepper

First, decide if you are going to make this from start to finish, or begin on one day and finish some other time. I did the latter, because I was tired the day I brought the mushrooms home, so that is how my directions will go.

Cut the butter and salt into the flour for the crust and put it in a sealed container in the fridge.

Slice the taters and boil in salted water until they are about 3/4 done, drain and refrigerate.

Clean the mushrooms and slice them into rather big pieces. This is really only to allow them to lay flat in the skillet. Slice the onion quite thinly. Get your skillet pretty hot, add a bit of olive oil and scoot it around with a rosemary sprig. Leave the sprig in the pan and sprinkle a bit of salt in the pan. Put a single sparse layer of shrooms in the pan and let them sear, use tongs to flip them over once and sear the other sides. Repeat until all the mushrooms are done. Set the cooked mushrooms aside and throw out the herb sprigs or you will have a bunch of twigs in your pie...forgot to do that part, myself.

When you get through the whole batch, hopefully the mushroom juices won't have burnt all black and disgusting, and you can just add a good slosh of oil, some salt and the onions. If you have significant blackening rather than a nice brown glaze, rinse the hot pan out first, then put in your oil and onions. Add about 1/2 cup of water to the onions and cover them up. As the water boils out, stir a couple times until the onions are evenly caramelized, then put them with the mushrooms. Dash a bit of water in the pan to get the last bits of yummy out of it, pour that in with the shrooms  and onions, and refrigerate until you want to actually bake and eat your pie.

Let the pastry mix set out for about 20 minutes. If it's too cold, it'll be a pain in the ass. Preheat the oven to 425. I like to heat a large pizza pan in the oven too. A stone would be nice, if you have one, but you don't need anything fancy.

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a skillet and lay the potato slices in it. Add a half cup of water and a sprinkle of salt if the pots still taste bland. Cover, let the potatoes develop a nice brown crust. Rough 'em up with a spatula so that more potato surface is exposed to the pan and the slices are a bit smashed. Top with the mushroom and onion mix and let it brown again. Remove from heat, stir to combine.

Meanwhile, add the liquid to the pasty ingredients and mix it up. Roll the dough into a circle almost 18 inches across. I like to use a pastry cloth, for reasons I've mentioned before. Flop the crust onto a sheet of tinfoil, dump the filling in the middle and press it down into a nice compact heap and fold up the edges of the pasty.  Brush with egg or milk, bake on the preheated pan or stone for 1/2 hour or until it's a bit brown.

My conclusion:

Cheese. Gruyere, brie, something mild and nutty. Mushrooms and potatoes are subtle, but they would benefit from a little moisture. Especially after a couple days in the fridge.

Don't burn your mouth.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Proper Macaroni and Cheese

I have never understood the gourmet-izing of mac and cheese because this is how it was always made in my house when we were kids.

1 heaping cup of macaroni. It's closer to a cup and a half. It must be the elbow kind- any other sort is pasta, but it isn't macaroni.

1 heaping tablespoon all purpose flour. Mom had a particular serving spoon that was used to measure the correct amount.
about 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
about a half pound of medium or sharp cheddar, grated.
a heaping tablespoon of yellow mustard. French's was the brand of choice.
a good shake of dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste

Boil the macaroni and set it aside in your baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350.

To be perfectly honest, I am still not super good at the next part. I think I am too impatient, and usually put the cheese in too soon, or heat the sauce too fast. Alton Brown has covered this territory in an excellent episode of Good Eats. If like me, you find that your sauce has a slight tendency to break, and (unlike me) are motivated enough to find out why it does that, I recommend looking it up.

Put the butter and flour in a small saucepan on medium heat and fry the flour until it gets a little bit brown and smells toasty. Take it off the heat, add the milk and stir vigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Turn the stove down to medium-low, and heat the sauce gently, stirring constantly. When the sauce starts to thicken, add the cheese in about 3 batches, letting it melt between each addition. Once all the cheese is in, add the rest of the ingredients, stir to combine and pour over the macaroni. Top with a little extra grated cheese. I usually put a little green-can parmesan on mine, but this is not part of the official, Chin-child approved recipe. Bake for up to an hour, until it is as crispy topped as you want it.

Apparently, this is regarded as 'fancy' mac and cheese in some circles. The frying butter and flour thing. After a childhood of watching this done as a matter of course, both for this purpose and for making gravy for biscuits, it still seems prissy and nouveau-annoying to call it 'making a roux'. But so it is, I just never knew it. I think I was in my late teens or early twenties when it finally sank in that most people think macaroni and cheese from scratch is made with american processed cheese food. I'm sure the mac and cheese in the school hot lunch contained a large amount of it, and to this day I find it difficult to stomach macaroni prepared in such a way. The odor is quite distinctive.

American cheese was not known in our house. I realize that its characteristics are ideal for melting and staying liquid once melted, but its really gross. It does not taste like cheese. It does not taste like much of anything. It smells a little like feet, and not in a good way. Not like real cheese, which can have an intense pungency before I will be put off by it.  Yes, I do like a grilled cheese sandwich with it sometimes; but I maintain that it is not, in fact, cheese, and that real macaroni and cheese has nothing to say to it. But American cheese does explain why some people will pay 9 dollars or some foolish thing for a plate of mac and cheese at a restaurant. If all you ever had was Kraft Dinner or, as a step up, macaroni with american cheese further desecrated by the addition of such foreign objects as popcorn shrimp, peas, or hot dogs, macaroni and cheese actually made from scratch, with real ingredients, might be something special.

My recipe has changed a bit over the years. I like to use several sorts of cheese at once, if I have them. A combination of swiss and cheddar with something softer, like munster, makes a good batch. Parmesan and sometimes buttered breadcrumbs on top.  However, it is always to be served with peas and corn as a side dish.When I can first remember, Mom would make a clear gravy of sorts by leaving a little water in the peas and corn and boiling in a little cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Later we dispensed with this, having decided that peas and corn are actually pretty tasty by themselves. There must have been other things we ate with it, ham probably, because Dad had a fixation on those giant bone-in picnic hams.

At any rate, the other thing in the picture is my generic mix of roasted veggies. This time it was a fennel bulb and a celery root bought at the last farmer's market of the year, along with some odds and ends lying around the fridge: a few baby carrots, a large russet potato and a leftover onion half. Chop, toss with salt, pepper, rosemary, marjoram and lots of olive oil, bake at 375 until slightly browned. Stir a couple times or they'll cook unevenly. Try to keep the fennel at the bottom of the pile, it'll stay more tender that way.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Netarts Rolls

Jej said these are basically a Fannie Farmer recipe, but I don't know Ms. Farmer from a stump, so I say they are Netarts Rolls on account of having eaten them at the beach. They are best straight out of the oven of course, but the high fat content makes them keep very well.

This recipe is a bit more freewheeling than my other bread recipes. I said before that I am not a good baker. This is so. As evidenced by the recipes I use, I have worked out a couple formulae that I stick to pretty rigidly, because I don't know what will happen if I deviate even a little bit. Unlike the rest of my cooking which is usually a 'bit of this, some of whatever" approach, baking has an aura of mystique for me. It's intimidating.

But! I arrived at the beach and Jej had these rolls in the oven. I asked for the recipe and she said something like this:

You take about a half cup of water and a few tablespoons of sugar and about a quarter cup of flour and mix it up with a couple teaspoons of yeast and wait for it to get foamy, then take about a quarter cup of oil and a quarter cup of melted butter and another cup of flour and a cup of water and a pinch of salt and mix it in and wait for it to poof up again, then you mix in more flour until you get a really soft dough. Then you pull off bits and roll them on oil, you put them in the pan and wait until they're poofy, then you bake 'em at like, 375.


You know, it really was pretty much that simple. Some pointers though-

1. The middle part, the add-flour-butter-and-oil part, you should end up with a gooshy mix that is rather thicker than batter, but still too loose and sticky to be 'dough'.
2. When mixing up the last stage into dough, use only one hand to knead it with. It is supposed to remain super soft and will stick all over you.
3. Because it is so gooey, when you are tearing off lumps to form rolls, get your hands quite oily first.
4. The dough will forgive you. Don't bother trying to make perfectly round balls of dough, they'll magically fix themselves with no effort at all on your part.
5. The baking took about half an hour in the format you see here. I bet if they were more spread out, it would go faster.

I think I'll put them in a bigger pan next time, and make each roll a bit smaller though. That's a regular 9" pie pan they're in.

Eat with butter and honey. Yes I know they're already dripping with fat; food is for joy, not mere survival.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pete's Sausage Dressing

According to an old redneck I used to hang out with (bless him) it is properly called 'stuffing' only when it is served out of the cavity of an animal. Turkey or whatever. If it is cooked and served as a side dish, it is 'dressing'.

2 mild italian sausage links
1 large onion, diced
3 or 4 celery ribs, diced
fresh sage, parsley, rosemary, minced
salt & pepper
a bit of olive oil

about 1/2 recipe of leftover cornbead

Smash up the sausage links and fry them in a large heavy pan. Discard the casings if you like, they're sorta rubbery. When the sausage is mostly done, add the onions. Depending on how fatty the sausage is, you may need to add a drop or two of olive oil. Stir a bit, and when the onions are starting to go transparent, add the herbs and celery, stir, cover.

At this point, I cut the cornbread into rather thick slices and toasted them in a mostly dry skillet. You could skip this step, but I like the toasty bits from re-frying the bread. Turn the bread slices to brown both sides if you do this.

Once the celery is tender, add the cornbread to the pot and smash it up with a spoon or something.

Serve with squash. Pete usually does his mashed, like potatoes, but I like mine like this:

1 butternut squash
salt, pepper, olive oil

I use butternuts because they are very easy to peel with a potato peeler, and they have a very small amount of guts as compared to other kinds of squash. So, peel one, scoop out the guts, and cube the squash. Toss with a good amount of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Bake on a sheet for as much as an hour at 375. The time varies from 1/2 hour up, depends on how big your cubes are and how large your squash was.

I think goat cheese would be very nice with this.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trotter Chili

I made this because I had a pig's foot lying around. I guess you don't have to use a pigs foot, the shank-end of a hock would probably do just as well. The thing is, a fresh pig foot costs about 75 cents at Fubonn, and unless you're somebody's crazy chinese dad, you don't actually eat it anyway. (Bleah.) It's just to add gelatin and fat to the chili. It would probably be better to use fresh garlic, onions and bell peppers, but I was pretty sleepy when I made this, so I went the lazypants route and used dry ingredients.

1 pig foot

2 cans toms- I used the ones at fred meyer that say 'chili ready'
1 can black beans
1 T red mole- I used Dona Maria brand, it's ok for this, but it's kinda sweet.
1 T cocoa mix, the best quality you can find, or a heaping teaspoon of baking cocoa
1/2 t each, more or less, oregano, marjoram, paprika, cumin, coarsely ground coriander
dash of onion powder
a bay leaf

Put the pig foot in a 3 qt pot with a half gallon or so of water and bring it to a boil. Pour off the water & put in a fresh batch. This step is probably unnecessary, but I admit to a little squeamishness. Add 1/2 tsp salt to the pot and set it on a medium boil for an hour or two, or until the foot starts to fall apart. The salt is important, it reacts with the proteins in the pig's foot and makes them softer, faster. My piggy toes were frozen to start with, they took a long time.

Once the pig's foot is falling apart, throw all the other ingredients into the pot and simmer until it cooks down enough that you like the texture. Stir it from time to time or it will burn, it may take as much as another hour.

You could serve it with the cornbread from the last recipe, but I actually prefer corn chips with my chili, the crunch is nice. Pick out the bone and skin fragments, there isn't anything really worth eating on a trotter.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I might make cornbread more often

Sometimes, authenticity is a big crock of dookie. Mom, if this makes you turn up your nose, so be it, but I've never made any "real cornbread" and now I doubt I ever will, because

1. Pete gave me a copy of The Food of a Younger Land which dwells with some emphasis on authentic cornbreads, in several forms, all of which sound perfectly appalling and

2. Cynthia's family recipe makes delicious cornbread.

Unlike the recipes in The Food of a Younger Land, which almost invariably call for lard or drippings of some kind, reject the addition of flour or sugar as heresy, and, depending on the age and poverty of the recipe's author, call for being cooked in hot ashes, on a used barrel stave, or the end of a farm implement with a grudging concession to cast iron skillets, the recipe for cornbread I now prefer is as follows:

1 c cornmeal- I used Bob's Red Mill medium grind, because every other brand came in huge packages.
1 c all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, whip in

2 eggs
1/4 c oil
1 c milk or 1 c water + 3/4 c dry milk. I did the latter, although I added the dry milk with the other dry ingredients.

Beat smooth, pour into a greased 8x8 pan and bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes.

Pete recommends using an electric mixer to blend some air into the batter. I used a whisk, which was a bit of effort, and made a slightly coarser pore structure in the finished product due to the fact that the airbubbles were somewhat larger than ones made by a mixer. Also, since I don't have a small baking pan, you can see that I used my trusty enamelled skillet, which I pre-heated in the oven to make up for the fact that it's pretty heavy.

I do have a plain cast iron skillet. But just now I've about got it seasoned up the way I like, and I want to be able to fry my egg in it tomorrow morning before work.

1/4/11 - On a second try of this recipe, I think I must have recorded the amounts wrong or something. The batter came out too runny, so I added another handful each of flour and meal, and baked it somewhat longer than the recipe says. I think the liquid should be reduced by 1/4 cup.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tofu Quickie

I like this method of fixing tofu because it doesn't require frying. Not that I don't like fried things, lord knows I do. It's just that when the weather keeps me from opening all the windows, anything that gets fried in my open floorplan apartment hangs around in the air for days. The kitchen vent fan is just for ambience.

Also, this dish requires exactly 2 cooking implements- one spoon for scooping & stirring (and eating), one covered casserole to cook and store leftovers in, plus a microwave. Awesome.

1 lb firm tofu
1/2 bag frozen chopped spinach
assorted condiments to taste. I usually use a mix of:

black bean sauce (master or comrade brands are my faves, but dragonfly is good too.)
oyster sauce- definitely Dragonfly brand. Read the ingredients.
trader joe's pad thai sauce.
sesame oil
sriracha- just a dab usually, more if I have a cold

and sometimes I use fish sauce too.

Drain the tofu and roughly chunk it up into the casserole. Throw on some good sized scoops of your chosen seasonings. Go easy on the fishsauce if you're using that, it's basically just stinky liquid salt. Top with the spinach, cover and microwave 3 or 4 minutes at a time until the spinach is as done as you want it to be. Poke the ingredients around gently between sessions in the microwave to get the flavors well mixed. Taste as you go along. Tofu is powerfully bland. If it's not sweet enough, add a dab of oyster sauce, if it's not salty enough, add bean sauce or fish sauce. If it's too salty, oh well, you're gonna eat it on rice anyway, it'll be fine.

I wish I had a bottle of sake with this...

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I started making my own bread because I am a cheapskate, and I picked up a really fancy bread machine at Goodwill for 40 bucks. I thought well, hell, I eat about a loaf of bread a week, sometimes more than that. At $3.oo a loaf or so, x 52 weeks a year on average, shit that's a ton of money! I had some pretty sorry results to begin with.  Gummy, crumbly wheat bread, sodden heavy white bread. The dough that over expanded and mushroomed out over the top of the pan. The dough I forgot to put yeast in.

But I got past that and now I have 2 recipes that I like an awful lot. This one is the simple one.

250 g. H2O
28 g butter or margarine
22 g dry milk
7 g salt
50 g honey
300 g white bread flour
90 g whole wheat flour
90 g old fashioned oatmeal
7 g instant yeast

The thing is, I don't feel like I really know how to make bread. I put the stuff in the machine, it makes the dough. That's the hard part, usually. I don't like to knead dough because my wrist hurts, and it makes a big mess. Mostly I don't like the mess; my apartment is small, and has carpet. So, the machine does the real work, then it beeps at me when it's time to put the dough in a bread pan. Yes, I know, I could leave the stuff in there and the machine would bake it for me too, but I like the regular loaf pan shape better, and besides, the dough beaters leave these annoying craters in the bottom of the loaf if you do that. Makes it hard to get a neat sandwich out of the middle of the loaf. So I put it in a regular pan, I let it poof up until it's about 1 inch higher than my pan, then I put it in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. Then I turn the oven off and leave it in there without opening the oven for about 10 more minutes. I take it out, whack the pan (lightly) on my bread board to pop the loaf out and that's it. Let it cool on a rack to keep the outside crispy.

Now I'm a bread snob. The last time I bought a loaf of bread was during the heat wave in august or whenever, and I thought wow, I should have just got bagels or english muffins or something, cuz this stuff sucks!

Here's my complicated recipe, it's the loaf in the picture.

350 g H2O
7 g salt
30 g brown sugar
30 g molasses-don't use the extra dark kind! it's gross.
15 g dry milk optional
30 g butter

Put the above ingredients into the bowl of your bread machine. Layer on the following, in this order:

240 g white bread flour
220 g whole wheat flour
10 g wheat guten
15 g sesame seeds-I use a mix of toasted black & white
12 g poppy seed
40 g cracked wheat
40 g steel cut oats
15 g ground toasted flax seeds
7 g instant yeast

Make the bread the same as above, but add 10 minutes to the baking time, it's a much larger loaf. If you want to make it prettier, take a sharp knife and gently slash the top of the loaf before baking.