Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Slow Cooker "Dutch" Onion Soup

First, lemme just get this outta the way. Soup is not meat pie. I'm aware.

What's the difference between Dutch onion soup and French onion soup? The bread. My neighbor brought over some Dutch crunch rolls yesterday and I knew that if I didn't use them by today, they'd go to waste. The very fist thing that popped into my head was French onion soup. And I'm no food historian, so I'm not sure where else French onion soup got its name other than the bread, hence the name "Dutch" Onion Soup.

The recipe is easy to follow and uses only a few ingredients. What makes it different from traditional French onion soup is that bread is prepared separately and then placed on top of the bowl of soup at the time of service. I'm sure you could divide the soup into crocks so that the cheese and bread could be broiled in the soup, but I don't think it makes much difference. This dish's one flaw is that I should've peeled one more layer of onion off before adding it to the soup. Every once in a while you get a tough/chewy piece.

A note about eating this soup (or any soup): please let it cool a little. It was so good, my entire mouth is numb from being scalded.

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

3 large onions, sliced (3 cups)
3 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) ready-to-serve beef broth

Cheesy Broiled French Bread
8 slices French bread, 1 inch thick
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
2 tablespoons grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

1 Mix onions and margarine in 3 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker.
2 Cover and cook on high heat setting 30 to 35 minutes or until onions begin to slightly brown around edges.
3 Mix flour, Worcestershire sauce, sugar and pepper. Stir flour mixture and broth into onions. Cover and cook on low heat setting 7 to 9 hours (or high heat setting 3 to 4 hours) or until onions are very tender.
4 Prepare Cheesy Broiled French Bread. Place 1 slice bread on top of each bowl of soup. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Natchitoches Meat Pies with Spicy Buttermilk Dip

"Things like being careful with your coriander--THAT'S what makes the gravy grander!"

That's the line in Sweeney Todd's "God, That's Good!" that inspired this week's recipe. I, once again, went to Foodily and searched "meat pies coriander". This recipe from Food & Wine popped up, and while I assumed I wouldn't love it, I decided to make it anyway. (The reason I thought I wouldn't be a huge fan of this recipe is because of the spices--allspice and cloves, to be specific.)

I made minimal changes to this recipe. First of all, I ended up having to use store-bought pie crust. This is what happened why I tried to make my own dough:
Thank goodness I still had a packaged crust in my fridge from the first meat pies. "Waste not, want not," I always say. The next change I made was I used a red bell pepper that I already had instead of a green one. And the last change was omitting the thyme. Because if you've been reading this blog since the beginning, you'll remember I've sworn off thyme. Forever. Yes, really. Oh, and while the recipe suggests using Tabasco, I used our favorite hot sauce, Tapatio.

The procedure/assembly was easy, and it actually didn't taste as "spicy" as I'd anticipated. Since I had enough dough scraps to make one more pie, I decided to fry one, in hopes that it would encourage my husband taste it. He did, and, surprisingly, liked it! I did, too. And I almost liked them better without the dip. It's a little heavy on the celery salt. I don't think I'll make these particular pies again, but I could definitely make a version of them with different spices.

Natchitoches Meat Pies with Spicy Buttermilk Dip

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup ice water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound ground beef chuck
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/4 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Hot sauce, preferably Tabasco
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk

Buttermilk Dip
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Hot sauce, preferably Tabasco
1 scallion, thinly sliced

MAKE THE DOUGH In a food processor, combine the flour and salt. With the machine on, add the oil and process until the flour is moistened. Sprinkle on the ice water and pulse 5 or 6 times, just until the dough is moistened. Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead just until smooth. Form the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

MEANWHILE, MAKE THE FILLING In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the ground beef and cook over moderately high heat until no pink remains, breaking up the meat with a spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, onion, bell pepper and bay leaf and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cayenne, cloves, thyme, coriander and allspice and cook over moderately low heat for 3 minutes. Season with salt and hot sauce and let cool.

Discard the bay leaf. Transfer the filling to a food processor and pulse until chopped.

Preheat the oven to 350° and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured work surface, roll out each disk of dough to a 12-inch round. Using a 4-inch biscuit cutter, stamp out 6 rounds from each piece of dough. Brush the edges of the rounds with some of the egg wash and place a rounded tablespoon of filling to one side of each circle. Fold the other half of the dough over the filling and press to seal. Crimp the edges with a fork. Transfer the pies to the baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.

MAKE THE BUTTERMILK DIP In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream, celery salt and lemon juice. Season with salt and hot sauce. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the scallion. Serve the pies with the buttermilk dip.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Yeah, I know--this doesn't fit with the meat pie/Sweeney Todd theme at all. But I saw a recipe on How Sweet It Is and I knew I had to make it...or at least a version of it. ;^}

My changes:
I used gemelli instead of spaghetti. I omitted the bell peppers and cilantro. I slow-cooked the chicken breasts in the enchilada sauce (for 4 hours on the high setting). I used packaged shredded Mexican-style cheese.

The prep for this dish is a no-brainer. If you've never cooked anything in your life, you could make this successfully. It tasted just a little bland to me at first, but after I squeezed a some lemon juice on it, it was great. I also think a heavier pinch of cayenne would've helped (as would the bell peppers, of course, but the palates in this house don't always dig 'em).

Here's the original recipe:
Chicken Enchilada Spaghetti

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/2 pound of dry whole wheat spaghetti
1 10-ounce can of red enchilada sauce
3/4 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
cilantro for topping

Boil water for pasta and prepare pasta according to directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. Add onions, peppers, salt and pepper and let cook until vegetables are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, then stir in chicken, cumin, cayenne, paprika and chili powder, along with the can of enchilada sauce. Turn the heat down to low, drain the cooked pasta, then add pasta to the skillet too. Fold in cheese and mix thoroughly to combine. Toss with a set of kitchen tongs until everything is mixed, then serve with a bunch of fresh cilantro.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Meat Pies

One guess why I've chosen this theme.

SWEENEY TODD! If you don't know me personally, then you probably don't know that my other passion--besides food--is musical theatre. In one week, I will be performing in a production of Sweeney Todd at Playhouse Merced, and meat pies are a theme in this story. So! I am celebrating our show by exploring various meat pie recipes.

I found this recipe by searching "meat pies" at foodily.com. I liked it because it didn't call for any nutmeg or allspice, and if I want anyone in my house to try a new dish, I shouldn't use those. I also liked it because it calls for store-bought pastry. Hehe.

I halved (ish) the recipe and used ramekins instead of mini pie tins. The meat I used was already sliced for fajitas so I had minimal meat-chopping to do. Score! Prep was very easy. When I tasted it, I felt like it was missing something, but I couldn't put my finger on it; however, I brought one to rehearsal--during which I am writing this post--and the three people who tried it thought it was great as it was. I am generally light-handed on salt, so that could have been it. I also used a rosato, so maybe a bolder red wine would have made a nice difference as well.

All in all, my first individual meat pies were a success! I can see myself making these again, for sure...and sprinkling with cheese for the last 2 minutes of baking. Hee. (P.S. I apologize for the photo. I was literally running out the door.)


350g store-bought shortcrust pastry
375g store-bought puff pastry
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1.5kg round or chuck steak, cut into 1.5cm cubes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4½ cups beef stock
1 cup (250ml) red wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
¼ cup (60ml) water
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF). To make the filling, heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes or until soft. Add the meat and cook for 5 minutes or until sealed. Add the tomato paste, stock, wine and Worcestershire sauce to the pan and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour or until the meat is tender. Blend the cornflour and water to a smooth paste. Add to the beef mixture and stir for 4 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and returned to a simmer. Add the salt and pepper, then set aside to cool.

Roll out the shortcrust pastry on a lightly floured surface to 3 mm thick. Cut out 6 pie bases (you may need to re-roll the scraps) to line 9cm-base x 11cm-top pie tins. Spoon in the filling. Roll out the puff pastry until 4mm thick and cut out six lids. Place on top, trim and press the edges of the pastry together. Brush the tops with the egg and make a slit. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Makes 6 pies.