Hot Water Crust Meat Pie

April 28th, 2017

So, apparently it’s a British thing… I had never heard of a hot water crust until I started watching the Great British Baking Show.  But, in the first season, the contestants were challenged to do a 3-tiered pie and I was amazed to see them unmold pies from springform pans and stack them on top of each other for service, so I figured I’d give it a try.

I’ve got to say, I was somewhat uncertain about trying the hot water crust based on what Cook’s Illustrated has to say on the topic of this kind of crust: “When we compared a hot-water crust in several recipes…with our Foolproof Pie Dough… we understood why it might not have been eaten in the past. …[S]ome tasters called it “mealy”…. While a hot-water crust is simple to prepare and easy to work with, stick with our Foolproof Pie Dough if you want pastry worth eating.”

Having taken their opinion into account, though, I checked out a few British sources for an authentic recipe and settled on one from the BBC, though, of course, I didn’t follow it precisely.

  1. I rendered beef suet to use in the crust, because I was out of fat back to render for lard and also because I was making a beef pot pie.
  2. I cut the amount of suet used in half and substituted butter for the other half because I was concerned that 100% beef fat would be too much.
  3. I added some salt, hers, and spices to the recipe to add some flavor in (and perhaps battle against the shortcomings that Cook’s Illustrated perceived).
The end result was good.  It was a bit mealy, but I think that’s okay for a savory pie.  The crust baked up crisp on all sides, and the pie unmolded from the springform pan quite easily, straight from the oven.  The pieces held their form when cut, and the overall result was quite pleasing.
In case you’d like to give it a try, here’s the general recipe I followed.  SO sorry to give the figures in grams, but that’s the Brits (and the rest of the world) for you, they follow this crazy thing called the metric system that no one outside of a lab around here seems to have any use for :)
Pie Crust
  • 100g Beef Fat (or Lard)
  • 100g Butter
  • 220mL Water (I measured in grams on my scale)
  • 575g All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Herbs (oregano, marjoram, thyme)
  • Spices (Aleppo Pepper, Garlic Powder, Paprika)
Filling
  • 4 quarts combined leftovers from a roast beef and roasted vegetable dinner, including about a cup of croutons, and moistened with a bit of tomato juice.
  • Next time I do this, I am leaning toward using braised, shredded meat instead of roasted meat.  Either will work just fine, though.
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Combine butter, animal fat, and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, measure dry ingredients into a large bowl.
  4. Pour hot water and fat mixture into the flour mixture.  Combine with a wooden spoon and then turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth.
  5. Cut 1/4 of the dough off for the top crust, then roll the rest out into a large circle.  It will not roll like a normal pie crust, but rather has an almost bready consistency.  I had a bit of an issue getting it to pick up and transfer without tearing; I might try putting down a bit more flour before rolling next time.
  6. Transfer the bottom crust to a 24″ springform pan.  Lift the edges and fit it into the bottom of the dish all the way around.  Cur some scraps from the edges and press in to patch any holes that develop.
  7. Press your 4 quarts of filling into the pan.  Roll out the top crust, place on top, and fold the bottom crust up over the top and crimp closed to guard against leaks (Paul and Mary don’t want the pie to have any leaks).  Cut some vent holes in the top.  From what I can tell, one centrally placed hole is typical for the Brits; sometimes they will use a cinnamon stick as the vent (and, one would assume, to impart flavor into the pie as it bakes)
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes at 375, then drop the temperature to 350 and bake for another 60.
  9. When the crust has developed an attractive golden brown and the pie is baked all the way through, set it on a raised surface (such as a jar) and release it from the springform pan.  Slide onto a plate or cutting board for service.

Food TV Worth Watching

April 26th, 2017

I’m normally not one for cooking shows.

I don’t particularly like to watch someone get yelled at for not having food ready on time or for it not being up to par.  If I wanted to experience that, I’d still be working at {redacted}.  And, when I watch main courses, I usually wind up heckling my TV screen, telling it that whoever is on screen cooking is doing it wrong.

So, I was somewhat skeptical when my friend Sara suggested I check out the Great British Bake Off.  ”It’s really fun,” she said.  ”They make this amazing stuff, and it’s still high pressure, but because it’s British, everyone is very polite about everything.”

She’s right.

I mean, I don’t know what I would think if I were a pastry chef (I still might wind up heckling the screen).  But since I am largely inexperienced when it comes to the realm of baking, I wind up taking notes about what I see on screen.  Homemade phyllo?! Tips for making puff pastry! Wait, are they making English muffins from scratch?

And, the judges, while tough, are very even-tempered and level headed.  There might be a few tears at the end of each challenge; but no one can ever say that they’ve been mistreated.  It’s charming, really.

And, I’ve been inspired to bake different things than I might otherwise.  Last night, for instance, I did a braided yeast bread with dried cherries in one of the braids, raisins in the second, and dried cranberries in the third.  I never would’ve conceived of that 3 weeks ago.

Apparently, the BBC favorite was picked up by PBS in 2014 and has become incredibly popular in the meantime.  For those of us who are slow on the uptake, though, you can binge watch on Netflix.

On your marks, get set, BAKE!

Bloody Mary Beef Barbecue

February 28th, 2017

This is a super-easy recipe and it works with any cut of braising beef.  I usually use chuck roast, but have done it with brisket, rump roast, and shanks as well.

  • 1 (3-ish pound) chuck roast
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans tomato product: I like 6-in-1 Ground Tomato Product, but crushed, diced, or sauce will all work fine
  • 1/2 small jar prepared horseradish.  Not the creamed stuff.
  • Herbs and Spices to taste: salt, pepper, aleppo pepper, oregano or marjoram, basil, thyme, +/- other spices depending on your mood and tastes; plus one dash of cloves
  • Seasoned salt for seasoning the meat
  1. Rub the meat on both sides with your favorite seasoned salt mix (I make my own each time and finagle it to taste).
  2. Choose a pan that you can cover.  I usually use a cast iron pot, but lately have been using a 6-inch deep 1/2 hotel pan because I’ve been making double or triple batches.
  3. Pour a little of the tomato mix into the bottom of the pan, put the meat in that, and then cover with the rest of the tomato mix.
  4. Put in a 250-degree oven for about 6 hours or until it shreds easily.
  5. Pull the meat from the sauce and put the sauce on the stove to reduce and thicken while you shred the meat.
  6. Shred the meat (removing any bones, fat, and/or connective tissue).
  7. Toss meat with sauce.  Use any leftover sauce as a delicious soup base.
This meal is the start of Radiatore Angstromi Pasta!  It takes very little time, and because the meat can so easily be cooked from frozen, you only have to plan 6-7 hours in advance of when you want to eat (assuming you’ve got some sort of a pot roast in your freezer to cook).
Caveats: Thicker cuts of beef may take longer to cook.  It’s ok to bump the heat up to 275 or 300 if you want to decrease the cooking time.  You can use this same concept with any sort of liquid sauce; the important part to understand here is using long, low, moist heat on cuts of meat that have more connective tissue (here is a card I did for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank that shows which cuts of beef these are).  As the Beastie Boys once said, “Let it flow, let yourself go, slow and low: that is the tempo!”

The media are the friend of the people

February 25th, 2017

Not that this has anything to do with cooking, but for whatever it is worth, I find the rhetoric coming from our president incredibly frightening.  The news media has always played an important role in keeping the public informed about the goings on of the world.  I am glad that they continue to do their jobs and to bring facts to light.  It is complete insanity to block reporters from respected an legitimate news organizations from a briefing.  It is up to every one of us to stand up for the truth and for the reporting thereof in any way we can.

I could never bring the point home as well as John Oliver does in this clip, Trump vs. The Truth: https://youtu.be/xecEV4dSAXE.

Please watch, please share, please buy newspapers, please speak out in any way you can against the dangerous rhetoric spouted by the liar in chief.

Radiatori Angstromi

November 21st, 2016

(Radiator Pasta in Angstrom Sauce)

One of the first things I learned when I worked at Lidia’s was that pasta sauce can encompass a whole range of possibilities beyond tomato, alfredo, or cheese.  So long as there’s some liquid component to tie everything together, pasta can serve as a vehicle for all kinds of flavors.

This recipe was a huge hit with the whole family, especially Angstrom.  It was when he ladled his third helping onto his plate that I realized it was a real winner and probably deserved to be written down.  Because his enthusiasm prompted me to write it down, I’ve named it in his honor.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • about 2 cups finely chopped mushrooms (I used a mix of maitake and crimini)
  • 1 leftover baked sweet potato
  • about 2 cups leftover pot roast, with its liquid
  • 1/4 leftover roasted cabbage
  • chicken stock as needed to adjust consistency
  • Salt and pepper
  • butter

Instructions

  1. Make a pot roast dinner, with baked sweet potatoes and roasted cabbage as the side dishes.  Save the leftovers at the end of the meal
  2. Dice an onion and cook it in butter in a #10 cast iron skillet with salt, pepper, and aleppo pepper, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until it has started to take on some golden brown.
  3. Push the onion to the outside of the pan and add a bit more butter to the well in the center.  Add diced mushrooms with a pinch more salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally (after initial browning period, they can be stirred in with the onions), for 10-15 minutes or until they have taken on some golden brown.
  4. Deglaze the pan with some bourbon.
  5. Add diced or mashed sweet potato, sliced cabbage, pot roast, and chicken stock (about 1 cup) to the pan.  Stir together and let simmer while the pasta cooks.  Adjust the consistency as needed with more chicken stock and/or some of the salted cooking water from the pasta.  (This is a trick I learned from Lidia’s—the starch that cooks out of the pasta helps to thicken the sauce and the water helps to thin it out.  I know it sounds weird to go after both ends of the spectrum at once, but it really does work)
  6. I used radiatori pasta because the grooves in the pasta help to pick up the sauce and the flavor.  It would also go well with fusilli or a wide ribbon like papparadelle.

I Catch Up with the Mainstream

November 14th, 2016

Nine years ago, back before either of my kids had even been imagines, and I had all the time in the world; in a post most notable for its grammatically-correct use of five punctuation marks in a row, I had indicated that I saw very rare use for a garlic press.

I stuck by my guns for quite some time, and have gotten quite adept at peeling and mincing garlic, but I am coming around to where the mainstream has been for quite some time: it really does make things quicker and easier to crush garlic with a press than it does to peel and slice by hand.

One thing I have discovered, though, is that rather than crush the garlic directly into the frying pan, it makes a lot more sense to crush into a prep bowl.  That way, you have all the time you need to crush (in my case, at least) a dozen or two cloves of garlic for whatever you’re cooking, without the first garlic into the pan burning before the last clove is crushed.

When it comes to garlic presses, though, I am on the quest for the best press.  Mine is fine, it does the job; but I feel like there might be a better option out there.  The brief research I have done so far shows a huge range of prices, from less than $5 to just about $45.  I checked Cooks Illustrated, hoping for a budget-friendly option, but they recommend a $40 model.  This seems like a steep investment, and so I hold out hope that there is a less-expensive but highly-functioning option out there somewhere.

Lacking the budget to buy and test all of them, please leave a comment to let me know if you have any recommendations (for or against) a particular brand, source, or style.  I’ll aim to identify a few different options and give them a whirl to see how my current model stacks up against others’ favorites.

Mainstream Media Catches Up with Me

November 12th, 2016

I got an email from my sister yesterday, letting me know that one of my earliest culinary creations had been picked up by the NY Times.

photo credit: Tony Cenicola/NY Times

photo credit: Tony Cenicola/NY Times

It was the peanut butter & pickle sandwich that my friend Brian and I invented when we were in, probably, first or second grade–with one big difference: whereas the NY Times recipe calls for bread & butter pickles, I would absolutely never use anything but a dill pickle on my PB&P.

Then, in this morning’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there was a recipe for chili with kale.  The first time I put kale in my chili I was still in culinary school, overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of kale that we were getting from our CSA.  I figured, if kale is a braising green, why not braise it in chili?  The result was so good that the first question Aurora asked me the last time I told her I was planning on making a pot of chili was, “do we have kale?”  I’d say, follow the recipe from the P-G if you like, but better yet, just add kale into the pot for the last 30 minutes of cooking time on your favorite chili recipe and see how much you enjoy the results!

Greens with Mushrooms and Cranberries

November 6th, 2016

My friend Janice asked me if I could post the recipe for this.  It is a tasty, autumnal dish.  The tartness of the cranberries plays the role that vinegar would usually take in a dish of greens, and the mushrooms add a layer of umami that helps bring the dish together. (check out these mushroom cooking tips)

Read the rest of this entry »

Mushrooms & Ginger

October 30th, 2016

I was talking to my mom about making sausage the other day and I mentioned how I like to add ginger into my pork sausage.  “Is there anything you don’t put ginger in?” she asked.

Well, yes, but the reason I put it into so many things is that it is really a versatile spice.  Matching equally well with the sweet and the spicy, it just works well in lots of settings.  One of my favorite places for using ginger is definitely sauteed mushrooms.

Pictured here with a slice of Southwestern Sweet Potato Bake, a recipe I developed for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, mushrooms sauteed with ginger are a quick and easy side for just about any meal of the day.

I always start with crimini mushrooms.  In Pittsburgh, at least, these mushrooms are available in bulk from just about every grocery store at a lower cost and with more flavor than your typical white button mushroom, which makes them the better choice from both budgetary and culinary perspectives.  Today, I also had some beautiful maitake mushrooms from Wild Purveyors and the mushroom share that they offer via Kretschmann Farms CSA.

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Some Stuff I’ve Done Lately

October 17th, 2016

So, I recently paid the annual bill that keeps this page on the ‘net, and I noticed that it’s been a while since I actually did anything in this space except check my own recipes.  I do, after all, have my favorites that I go back to on an occasional basis to get some advice from myself.

But, just because I haven’t been putting stuff up here, doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on some cool stuff.  I’m linking below to some of the cool materials that I’ve been putting together for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank over the past couple of years.  These are resources that we publish mainly for our clients, but they are available online for anyone to use at pittsburghfoodbank.org/resources/nutrition/

Rolling Oats

This was a really fun project to work on, and really useful, too.  Most people know that it is important to eat more whole grains, but the advice we see can sometimes be confusing.  Case in point, Reese’s Puffs cereal, which proclaims across the front of its box that whole grain is the first ingredient (yes, but how many of the next several are some form of sugar?)

Oats are about the most economical source of whole grain nutrition around, and are always on Food Bank inventory.  This 16-page magazine gives several ways to make oats a more frequent part of your diet, whether by turning them into a savory pilaf, a fruit crisp, a granola bar, bread dough, or a no-roll pie crust.  Click on the picture above to download the whole magazine.

Special thanks to Kevin Watson of Savoy Restaurant for providing a great interview to make this volume complete!

Spuds Illustrated

Potatoes are one of my favorite flavor vehicles.  They’re such a versatile canvas to paint upon!  This 12-page magazine gives tips to make them more interesting at the table by combining them with other vegetables, and using each type of potato according to its own strengths.  Get tips including how to store, how to cut, best ever home fries, and the best vegan mashed potatoes you’ll ever taste.  Click on the photo above to download the whole issue.

CAN Newsletter

Every month, the CAN Newsletter goes out to everyone who gets food from one of the food pantries in the Food Bank’s network.  Each issue focuses on ideas and recipes related to an ingredient or theme.  Click the photo above to get this month’s issue, with 2 great winter squash recipes and some jack o’ lantern carving tips, or visit pittsburghfoodbank.org/resources/nutrition/ to see back issues and the Food Bank’s full lineup of photo-illustrated recipe resources.

If you need help with food, visit www.pittsburghfoodbank.org/gethelp to get connected with a food pantry, soup kitchen, SNAP benefits, and more.

If you’re in a position to help the food bank, visit www.pittsburghfoodbank.org/givehelp to volunteer, donate, or advocate for public policy that helps everyone have enough to eat.