Dinner

Pulled Pork Barbecue

Posted on 09/20/2011. Filed under: Dinner, Life, Pork |

Hey y’all! I do believe I have mentioned before how much I love the pig. I love bacon, I love ham, I love prosciutto, I love sausage (ha ha, double entendre!), and I love some pulled pork barbecue. Really, I love barbecue in general. I’m the chick who has sauce all over her face while holding a rib in one hand and sucking sauce off her fingers from her other hand. I will slap my mother for some good smoked brisket. Barbecue chicken is summer. Anyway, I love barbecue. Last weekend, I was driving home from the Goochland Drive-In after seeing my friend Celia Finkelstein in Horrible Bosses, and I had the brilliant idea to turn my crock pot into a smoker and make some pulled pork barbecue. Why not?? I’d heard and read about methods where people turned their oven into a smoker with a roasting pan and keeping the temperature low, smoking the meat for 8 hours or more, so why not do it in a crock pot?

All week I’d been plotting in my head how this was going to work: I was going to put soaked woodchips in the bottom of the insert of the crock pot, put non-stick foil over the chips, poke holes in the foil, put the meat on top of the foil, put the lid on it (and everything will turn out riiiiiiigggghhhht! I love the Squirrel Nut Zippers!!), set that sucker to low and in 8 or 9 hours, voy-ola you have barbecue! Sounded easy and totally do-able! This means barbecue in the winter!!

So I consulted my Facebook friends, one of whom is the executive chef at Tommy’s Restaurant in Reedville, about my methods and where to purchase the woodchips as I had no idea, especially since fall arrived here suddenly this week and we’re now past Labor Day. I also figured this would be a good Supper Club meal for The Men as Matt would be home from college and Flogging Molly was playing The National on Sunday, September 18. Saturday, I went to Lowe’s and bought a bag of Hickory woodchips. Then I went to Kroger and bought a pork butt (I have no idea how much it weighed but by feel, I had a big butt…get it? No, seriously, the butt probably weighed 5 lbs? I know it was about $15 with my Kroger card), paprika, cumin, a 24 oz. can of Heineken, and a few other things. I came home and put dry woodchips in the crock pot to measure out how much to use, then put them in a pitcher, poured the Heineken over the chips, added about an ounce and a half of Wild Turkey American Honey, and let the chips soak starting at about 5pm on Saturday afternoon.

Chips soaking in beer and bourbon

And then I took Mom out for her birthday dinner at her favorite place in Richmond, Joe’s Inn in the Fan. We always get the same thing, her the Spaghetti a la Joe, and I get the Spaghetti a la Greek. And another great thing about going to Joe’s this time of the year is that they have my beloved Legend Oktoberfest on tap. This beer is one of the many reasons why I love fall. Awesome beer. After dinner, we picked up a friend from church and went to the Goochland Drive-In. Yes, this was actually my third week in a row going to the Drive-In, the first one being for a date (who then later dumped me after two dates because I didn’t put out….nice! haha!!), the second with a friend, and then this weekend for Chick Flick Double Feature of The Help (which was so good, really well written, directed and acted. I love Emma Stone and have a tiny girl crush on her) and Bridesmaids(which really could have been funnier…Melissa McCarthy totally stole the movie and was incredibly hilarious but Kristen Wiig’s character was just really frigging depressing). When we got home from the movies, I stayed up and rubbed my pork butt.

I’d found a recipe online (on my iPhone, how 21st Century of me) for a rub that looked good. It was a quarter cup of paprika and two tablespoons each of the following: sugar, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, cayenne, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder. I mixed the spices together in a bowl with a fork, rinsed and dried the pork with paper towels, and then massaged the hell outta my butt. (hee hee!) I coated the pork with the rub and got in any nooks and crannies, put it on a plate and wrapped it in plastic wrap (which my friend Frank later pointed out to me that next time to leave it unwrapped in the fridge as to let the meat “dry out” a little and there would be more of a bark on the pork…will try this for next time!). I put the butt in the fridge and went to bed at 2am Sunday morning.

Spices assembled for butt rub

Ready to be rubbed

 

All rubbed up and ready for the fridge

Y’all, 7am is damn early when you’ve only slept for five hours. Or for me it is anyway. I stumbled downstairs, rubbing my eyes and got to work. I took the woodchips that had been soaking in beer and bourbon since 5pm the day before out on the counter, strained the liquid from the wood and nearly got drunk from the fumes of the boozy wood. That was a hell of a way to suddenly wake up! I decided to reserve the beery bourbon for a sauce later and put it in the fridge. I think I had about two cups left.

I put the chips in the crock pot and put some non-stick foil over the wood and poked holes all over with a toothpick. I put the pork on top of the foil (fat side up), put the lid over the pork, plugged her in and set the temp to low. I quickly washed my mess and went back to sleep. When I got up four hours later, the house smelled so good. Smokey and spicy and porky yummy.

Then I got some bad news. Matt texted that he wouldn’t be able to make it, his fraternity was holding their pledge initiation that night. Well, I understood but since the pork was already cooking, and Dan was coming for dinner anyway, we went ahead with Supper Club. Although, Dan and I decided not to see Flogging Molly as he’d just gotten off work and I had household stuff to do like laundry. Besides, I was exhausted from all this cooking.

I took the beery bourbon out of the fridge and poured it in a saucepan and heated the pot on medium with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and a splash of apple cider vinegar and let it simmer and reduce down for about 45 minutes. While that was going, I roasted a head of garlic for hummus.

Simmering booze

I removed the sauce from the heat and took the garlic out of the oven, and let them both come to room temperature. When the pork was ready, I heated the vinegar sauce back up and in another saucepan I heated up the rest of an old bottle of still-good Whole Foods Mesquite barbecue sauce with liquid from the chips and pork in the bottom of the crock pot. I also added the same crock pot liquid to the vinegar sauce. I let the pork rest for about 20 minutes before shredding. I took the pork out of the crock pot at about 5:30. Mom had told me later that the outlet I’d plugged the crock pot in had stopped working and needed to be reset, and the pork didn’t start really cooking until 8am that morning.

I pulled apart the pork and it was just falling apart. Tender and juicy, the rub was nice and spicy. While it didn’t have a crust that I was hoping for, and it wasn’t as smokey as I’d hoped (because there ended up being a lot of juice in the crock pot from the chips and the pork), but it was still very good. I then added pulled pork to both the vinegar sauce and tomato barbecue sauce, put Tabasco in both pots for more kick. To the vinegar pulled pork, I added rice vinegar for more tang, Worcestershire sauce, and several dashes of Tabasco, salt, pepper, and honey for a little sweetness.

All done!

Just falling apart and fork-tender

Pulled pork with the vinegar sauce

Pulled pork with the barbecue sauce

 

Dan came over for dinner and we had a sandwich of each type of pulled pork, along with Kraft macaroni & cheese, Martin’s red skin potato salad, and Martin’s cole slaw. Y’all, my barbecue is so good! It’s different than what you’d expect of pulled pork barbecue but it’s just really good. Mom and Dan loved it and raved, and both had a hard time deciding which type was better. And the best part is that there are tons of leftovers. Dan brought a Meritage that was delicious and complimented the meal perfectly. A nice soft juicy wine that had the right amount of dryness.

Dessert was a devil’s food cake with white buttercream from Martin’s for Mom’s birthday. We watched football and laid about in a barbecue daze.

I would totally do this again, but I think next time I do believe I will try the oven method of smoking to see if I could get more of that smokey flavor and a bark to the meat. But who knows, I may go back to the crock pot method for more simplicity. Either way, barbecue and the pig are gifts from God.

Bon Appetit, Y’All!

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Egg Drop Soup

Posted on 06/26/2010. Filed under: Dinner, Soup |

Nothing sucks more than having a cold in the summertime.  Not that having a cold is ever convenient, but when it’s hot outside, it just seems worse.  I’ve been having a rough week, with personal issues as well as physical issues (vein closures in both thighs, and then the cold), so Mom and I ordered out for Chinese last night for dinner.  The place we ordered from only serves egg drop soup with corn, and I’m sorry but no.  My eggy soup should not come with corn in it.  No way, no how.

So for shits & giggles, and because I was craving it, I poked around on Tastespotting (seems to be my go-to recipe finder, those people are as big a foodie as I am), and found this recipe.  The best part of this recipe is that I had all but one of the ingredients on hand.  The missing ingredient was green onions.  Off I went to Martin’s and scored something else I didn’t think I’d find, but was super-happy.  And it was the last one on the shelf.

CHEERWINE!!

Before I went to Martin’s, I’d defrosted four cups of homemade stock in a hot pot and let it cool to room temperature while I was at the store.  When I got home, I finely minced more garlic than the author says, because I have a cold and I need to open myself up a bit.  And I like garlic.  So I minced…oh…about two large cloves and three smaller ones.  I whisked a tablespoon of cornstarch into the cooled-off stock, added the garlic, soy sauce and ginger.  Then I set the pot on the stove and brought it to a boil.

Then I sliced three green onions on the bias, and whisked four eggs together in a measuring cup.  When the stock had come to a boil, I took the pot off the heat and slowly poured the eggs into the soup, whisking the soup while the eggs were poured in to create ribbons.  I must’ve whisked too quickly because I didn’t get any of the ribbons I wanted.  Oh well, I don’t cook for aesthetics, I cook for taste.  I then drizzled sesame oil into the pot and stirred it up. 

When I poured my soup into my preferred “bowl” (a huge latte mug), I topped with some green onion and some leftover fried noodles from the Chinese place.  I love those noodles.  Highly fattening, highly addictive.  I particularly love the crunch they give soup.

The soup was delicious.  Really good, really filling, and super easy.  And I imagine mine’s not nearly as fattening as the stuff you’d get at your local Chinese place.  The stock I made a while back and kept in my freezer, and I made it from the carcass of a chicken I’d roasted,  celery, onion, carrot, garlic and a few healthy pinches of crushed red pepper, so the stock already had a little bit of a kick.  I seasoned the egg drop soup with white pepper, and tasted it while it was cooking.  Seemed a little thin than what I was expecting, so I added a little more cornstarch but it still worked.

It was so good, and honestly it was just completely on a whim.  I had a full mug of soup and there’s enough leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.  Nice.  Accompanying my soup was another mug of hot mint tea with honey and Wild Turkey Honey Bourbon

Bon Appetit, y’all!

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Cheesy Beef & Macaroni

Posted on 06/16/2010. Filed under: Baking, Beef, Dinner, Pasta |

I am apparently terrible at sitting down and writing about food I’ve made.  I’m sorry.  The week of June 4 was Matt’s turn.  He’d just spent the weekend with his family in Chesapeake and one of his brothers made chicken fajitas, which Matt then made for us.  I was his sous chef, cutting and grilling stoplight bell peppers & onions while he cut and cooked the chicken.  We laid all the accourements on the table and we all dug in.  He cooked the chicken with Old El Paso fajita seasoning and it was damn tasty.  I was teased for allowing Matt to be cooking in my kitchen with me, side-by-side.  I’m usually pretty territorial in my kitchen when I’m cooking because I move around a bit and don’t like bumping into people.  But there was no running around, Matt and I worked together pretty seamlessly. 

Then on Wednesday, June 9, it was Matt’s birthday.  I made pepperoni rolls with Bittman’s pizza dough recipe, cutting the dough in quarters for Matt, Mom, Dan & myself.  I rolled each portion out and tried my best to shape it to the right shape, drizzled olive oil down on the dough, filled the center with shredded mozzarella and slices of pepperoni, and rolled up the dough into some sort of stromboli shape I learned at Whole Foods.  I placed the pepperoni rolls/strombolis on baking sheets (2 on each sheet), brushed olive oil all over the top and seasoned each one with S&P and dried herbs (oregano, thyme, basil), and baked them off at 425* for twenty minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through cooking.  I topped each roll (stromboli, whatever) with homemade pizza sauce I’d frozen from Grilled Pizza night.  After dinner, the boys and I rocked out to Dropkick Murphys at The National.  And then our ears rang for two days afterward.

Myself (revealed), Dan, Matt

This past Friday night, I decided to make a dish I’d seen on Michael Ruhlman’s blog that just got me.  He’s right, it’s ultimate comfort food.  I’ve had this dish before, but only in processed form, so I was excited to make it from scratch.  I began by dicing a large onion and sweating it in a little olive oil and salt (I don’t keep canola on hand, and olive oil’s healthier).  When the onion had released its liquid, I browned the beef, breaking it up with my bamboo spoon.  The beef I used wasn’t terribly fatty, and I knew I’d need the liquid later on, so I didn’t drain it.  Ruhlman says one can add any dried seasoning in mind at this point, so of course I went the Italian route and added oregano, basil and thyme, as well as garlic powder, stirring the seasonings in after adding.  Then I added a can of whole tomatoes, crushing them and tearing them apart with my hands, rather than pureeing them like Ruhlman suggests.  I knew the tomatoes would break down further in the simmering/baking process and I just wanted chunkier tomatoes.  I did not drain the can as I knew I would need the liquid.

I put a salted pot of water on to boil, and cooked a box of Barilla macaroni for half the suggested cooking time, about three and a half minutes.  The Barilla pasta had ridges, which is awesome as it helped absorb the sauce well.  I drained the pasta and added it to the now-HUGE pot of meaty sauce.  I stirred the pasta in well, making sure it would have a chance to asborb the liquid from the pot.  I’m always afraid of under- or un-cooked pasta in dishes like this.  If pasta is crunchy, I think it should be because it was baked with cheese on it and the oven made it crispy, not because I didn’t cook it well enough. 

Pasta is my comfort food.  When I can’t think of something to make, I’ll make pasta.  Usually it’s a plate of angel hair with butter and parmesan, sometimes a sauce of olive oil, minced garlic, whatever dried spices/herbs I want.  Simple, comforting.  This is one of the many, many reasons I could never do Atkins, and pray I never develop Celiac disease.  My uncle has Celiac, and I know how sensitive the allergy is.  If a piece of bread touches his steak, he can’t have the steak anymore, otherwise it’s an unpleasant night in the bathroom and bed.

Anyway, I let the pot of pasta and meat sit covered for about half an hour while the oven heated up to 400*.  I got out my biggest glass Pyrex baking dish and loaded half the meaty pasta in.  I sprinkled a layer of shredded mozzarella in the middle, then added the rest of the meaty pasta.  I covered this with foil and baked it for about 30 minutes as it was still warm from sitting in a covered pot for the last thirty minutes.  I pulled out the dish after 30 minutes and turned the broiler on, topped the dish with the remaining cup of mozzarella and then added about a cup and a half of shredded mild cheddar.  I love cheese.  I especially love cheese when it’s added to pasta.  I put the pan under the boiler, on the bottom rack, until the cheese had bubbled and turned brown.  YUM.

Cheesy, Beefy Pasta goodness

Matt missed this because he was back in The ‘Peake with his family, and Dan was working.  A friend of Mom’s and mine, Missy, came over for dinner.  She brought a baguette of French Bread, which I immediately took, cut into quarters, spread butter on each quarter, sprinkled with salt-free garlic herb seasoning, and toasted under the broiler on the bottom rack of the oven for a few minutes until the edges were brown.  We dug into to the pasta.  Mmmm, meaty, cheesy, comforting.  And it was HUGE.  This pan of Cheesy Beef & Mac fed the three of us, I sent Missy home with a gladware thingy of leftovers, Mom and I had leftovers, plus there’s a gladware thingy of leftovers in my freezer.  A LOT of food.  I was happy because this one dish is kid-friendly and could feed the family I plan on having someday, along with all my kid’s friends. 

The ladies loved the dish, and a co-worker that had some of mine the next day enjoyed it as well.  I’m curious to see how it stands up after being frozen, but hell I’ve made pans of lasagne, frozen and cooked leftovers before without a hitch, I would imagine the Cheesy Beef & Mac would work just as well too.

This week, I’m re-creating the Shepherd’s Pie for Matt and our friend Amanda, as they missed out on the first Irish Feast.  However, we’re still celebrating Matt’s birthday (yes, a week and a half later), and instead of the bread pudding, he’s requesting a Red Bull cake.  I’m nervous about this cake, particularly making icing with Red Bull.  Any tips on icing made with a soft drink are much appreciated!!

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

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Jambalaya

Posted on 05/26/2010. Filed under: Chicken, Dinner, Grains, Pork, Seafood |

In less than seven weeks, I will be in New Orleans.  I can not freaking wait for this trip for several reasons, in no particular order: 1. It’s NEW ORLEANS for a week, my absolute most favorite city that I have been to so far in my life; 2. I won’t be in Richmond for a week, which means I won’t be at work, always a good thing; 3. I see my boyfriend for the first time since March; 4. All I will be doing is grocery shopping and cooking, which is perfect.  When I decided to go on the trip, I thought, “Why not make dishes that are native to Nawlins while we’re there?”  Turns out, the church folks that are going on the trip as well are already expecting cajun cuisine.  One of the guys has a best friend that lives there and I guess one night we will be having a Gumbo Throwdown (his will be seafood, mine will be andouille & chicken like the Gumbo I made for this blog). 

But one of the dishes I was really nervous about making was Jambalaya, mainly because it has rice in it as a main ingredient and I was convinced rice and I weren’t ever going to be BFF’s.  I poked around Tastespotting and found this guy’s recipe, which looked pretty spot-on as well as pretty easy.  Andouille was purchased at my stand-by, Whole Foods, as well as the shrimp (which after de-veining looked terrible, but cooked beautifully).  I’d debated on using shrimp because of the cost (thanks, BP, for not only destroying the environment but also making seafood costs skyrocket), but thought why not and went balls to the wall with the meats.  Mom purchased the chicken, and to make the dish more flavorful, I decided to use thighs instead of breasts.

De-boning chicken thighs is a bitch.  I said it, and I’ll repeat it: de-boning chicken thighs is a bitch.  Even with brand-new Henckels paring knives.  But I did it.  Next time, I’m using chicken breasts to save time and effort.  I started prepping the dish by de-boning four chicken thighs, removing the skin, cut the meat into cubes, reserving the bones and cartiledge for stock, skin to someday coat in seasoned flour and fry on its own.  Everyone likes the crispy fried chicken skin right?  Anyway, after the thighs were done, I sliced three andouille sausage links into quarter-inch slices while the meat was still a little frozen (I’d bought the sausages on Sunday and wanted them to be frozen for easier slicing), and peeled and deveined a pound of shrimp.  An hour after prepping meats, I had this:

Triumvirate of Meat: Shrimp, Andouille, Chicken

Then I prepped the veggies, which Emeril refers to as The Holy Trinity: green pepper, onion and celery.  I had half a leftover green pepper as well as a whole one, so I sliced them both and cut the slices into a medium dice.  I then cut one medium sweet onion (Mom gets the sweet onions, but I’m sure a white one would work just as well) into a medium dice, and three ribs of celery to a medium dice.  I used the author’s recipe as a guide as far as what ingredients and how much as far as the rice, tomatoes and stock were concerned, but I just went with the flow with pretty much everything else.  I thought one rib of celery wasn’t enough in ratio of the pepper and the onion, and I figured more celery wouldn’t hurt.  It sure didn’t.  After The Holy Trinity was prepped, I finely minced four cloves of garlic, measured my rice and stock, and opened the can of plain diced tomatoes.  My mise en place was set.

I love a recipe that starts with cooking pork in pork fat, this time being andouille cooked in bacon fat.  And yes, I am one of those southern cooks that reserves bacon fat and drippings after every batch cooked.  However, I don’t keep the can of fat on the stove like your MeeMa did*, I keep it in a plastic Gladware thing in the fridge, and I’d say it’s at least a pound of solid, delicious fat.  Makes awesome scrambled eggs.  Anyway, I melted bacon fat in my cast iron Dutch oven (stop giggling, kids, I get the double entendre), and cooked the sausage until brown, then removing and setting aside on a paper-lined plate to absorb some fat.  Then I added the chicken to the hot fat, browning it until done and then removed and set aside.  I added a little more fat to the pot and added the Trinity, and cooked the veggies until just soft, about five minutes, stirring every now and then to make sure everyone gets cooked.  When the veggies were done, I added the andouille and chicken back to the pot, along with a cup of rice, two cups of homemade chicken stock (which I’d made with crushed red pepper, so the stock already had a kick), the can of diced tomatoes with the juice, the garlic, a healthy pinch of Kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper, three bay leaves, a few sprigs’ worth of fresh thyme leaves, and the cayenne.  This, I eyeballed.  I didn’t measure, I added just enough that would bring the heat.  I stirred it all up, put the lid on it, let it come to a boil.  I turned the heat down to a simmer when the pot was at the boiling point, and stirred the pot every few minutes to prevent burning and sticking.   

It smelled amazing.  I mean it was smelling good before with the pork cooked in pork fat and all, but with the veggies and the meat and everything….just yum.  I was really psyched about how the jambalaya was turning out at this point, but still nervous about that fickle bitch known as rice.  I really just didn’t want this whole beautiful pot of food to be ruined by undercooked rice.  So I was really protective of the Dutch oven and its contents as the process was coming along. 

Almost-done Jambalaya

After the rice had cooked about 25 minutes, I added the shrimp, stirred them in, and covered the pot.  I let the shrimp cook for about 10 minutes while Matt & Dan took a smoke break.  When they came back in, the Jamabalaya was done. 

Beautiful, delicious Jambalaya

 Earlier in the day, I’d stopped by a local Brazilian bakery to get some French bread.  I know that sounds weird, but the bakery has little signs on the side of the road by the Walmart that I frequent, so I thought why not give them a try.  Three mini-loaves for $1.  Can’t beat the price, and the bread was crusty on the outside and nice and chewy in the middle.  I pray I never develop Celiac Disease.  We grabbed bowls and hepled ourselves to Jambalaya, and I put Tobasco and cayenne on the table just in case someone wanted it spicier.  We all dug in and it was amazing.  This Jambalaya was really effing good.  Hot, spicy, meaty, delicious.  The shrimp was plump and juicy, veggies were tender, the sausage and chicken were just divine.  Matt made several approving “Mmmm” sounds.  Dan added Tobasco for more heat, but said the jambalaya was really good on its own as well.  I have a pretty wimpy palate, so it was almost a little too hot, but delicious nonetheless.  Just meant I drank my sweet tea quicker.  Mom said that it was wonderful, and this is a woman that bought a bowl off the side of the street IN NEW ORLEANS.  But it was all agreed that this was my best dish yet.  The best part?  THE RICE WAS COOKED PERFECTLY!!!!  I have redeemed myself with the Rice Gods!  Woo hoo!

The good news is that one pot could easily feed six, maybe seven people.  I figure if I triple the recipe, there will be enough for a team of 17.  Also, with the success of this dish, I pretty much have every night’s dinner planned for the trip.  I’m just really relieved this dish turned out well, and it actually exceeded my expectations. 

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

*Doesn’t every southerner have a MeeMa that reserved bacon drippings?  A friend of mine once asked me if my grandmother (mine was called MaMa [pronounced “maw-maw”]) kept a can of fat on the stove for cooking purposes.  Mine kept her can of fat in the fridge, my mom kept the can of bacon fat in the fridge, and I keep my Gladware thingy of bacon fat in the fridge.  I don’t think I could trust room-temp bacon fat that’d been left out for an extended period of time.

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Graduation Dinner

Posted on 05/20/2010. Filed under: Baking, Dinner, Grilling |

This last week was my friend Matt’s turn.  He was graduating from college the day after we made this dinner, and this was what he wanted.  He went to the store and picked up four ribeyes, a navel orange, scalloped potatoes and a couple of cans of Bush’s Grilling Beans in Bourbon & Brown Sugar. 

Meat. Orange. Syrup. Ready to roll!

I dug out a casserole dish for Matt to marinade the steaks in.  He wedged the steaks together in the dish, cut and squeezed the orange out over top of the steaks, like so:

Preview of The Gun Show

After squeezing out all the pulp from the orange onto the steaks…

Pulpy goodness & fatty meat

The meat was drizzled with plenty of syrup…

I get the same intense look when I'm chopping things. Although Matt's form is impeccable.

And let them sit for about an hour while we chilled out and caught up on the week.

Marinating meat

After about an hour, and when our friend Dan arrived, the boys went outside to grill whilst I worked on the sides that Matt brought (boxed scalloped potatoes that we goosed up with extra cheese and the beans).

Meat. Fire.

When the steaks were done, they rested while the potatoes finished and the beans were heated through.  And here’s Matt’s final plate:

A manly meal of meat and beans. Potatoes were added soon after.

The steaks were delicious.  The syrup had caramelized on the meat, and along with the fire it was a unique combination of that sweet yet grilled flavor.  Matt cooked the steaks perfectly.  The beans complimented the steaks really well and the cheesy potatoes were a nice diversion from the sweetness of the other dishes. 

After dinner I whipped up some dessert.  There are conflicting opinions on what to call this dessert.  One person calls it “Fudge Pudding.”  I’ve also heard it called “Chocolate Pudding Cake,” which is really a more accurate description.  Matt dubbed it “Chocolate Crack.”  I got the recipe several years ago from a book I recently mentioned, The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, by Jill Connor Browne.  It’s addictive, really easy to make, but the bitch is waiting 40 minutes while it bakes and you’re smelling chocolate baking.  Torture followed by heaven.

I preheated the oven to 350, and began the batter by dumping a cup of granulated sugar, half a cup of a.p. flour and two eggs in a large glass bowl and mixed them on medium speed with the hand mixer until it was all moist.  Then I melted a WHOLE STICK of salted butter together with two HEAPING tablespoons of Hershey’s Cocoa together in the microwave, then added it to the egg/sugar stuff and mixed again with my beaters.  Then I added a quarter teaspoon of salt and one running-over tablespoon of vanilla (pure extract or flavoring is fine), and mixed the batter again.  Here’s where one can get creative: I’ve added cinnamon for a Mexican Chocolate flavor; I’ve added mint extract as well.  I think next time I may melt some strawberry jam or just add fresh strawberries to the batter and bake it off.  The boys were hovering the bowl at this point when I was done mixing and Matt went to town on his beater.  It was strange, yet fascinating watching two dudes that are like my brothers work the hell out of these beaters with their tongues, trying to get every last bit of chocolate.  Ahem…where was I?

Right.  Then I poured the batter into a greased loaf pan (scraping sides with my rubber spatula), put the loaf pan in a larger casserole dish, filled the larger dish with hot water until the water was about halfway up the smaller loaf pan.  Then I baked it off for about 40 minutes.  Then Matt helped by cleaning off the spatula and bowl….with his tongue.

Forty agonizing minutes of smelling heaven finally came to an end and what came out was gooey, fudgey, chocolatey heaven.  Crunchy on the top and warm and gooey on the bottom.  Much like some humans.  (Figuratively, of course.)  I added a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and we all dug in.

Chocolate Crack with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

So good, so rich, so bad for you.  A STICK of butter for every batch, as well as a cup of sugar.  Worth it though.

Next week is my turn, and I’ll be making a dish in preparation for our New Orleans trip.  It’ll be put off until Sunday though, as this Friday we will be enjoying the sights and sounds that are a Dark Star Orchestra show!  Woo hoo!

Many congratulations to my good friend, Matt, upon graduating! 

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

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Grilled Pizza

Posted on 05/14/2010. Filed under: Baking, Dinner |

If you haven’t already guessed, I love to grill.  And here’s the weird thing, aside from using a grill pan (which doesn’t really count, sorry), I never grilled a thing in my life until the spring of 2007.  My dad did all the grilling at our house, letting steaks and burgers get crispy while b.s.-ing around with me, friends or neighbors.  But when he passed, the grilling was then my duty (hee hee, I said “duty”).  For the last few years, people have been going bananas with grilling and there’s some great reasons why: minimal clean up and healthier.  And the taste of something being grilled doesn’t hurt either.

So I decided to try grilled pizza with homemade dough and homemade sauce.  Mark Bittman and I have a love/hate relationship apparently.  The Bolognese was a let down, but his recipe for pizza dough worked and produced a tasty dough.  However, his recipe for sauce was kinda bland, and I like herbs/seasonings so I used his recipe as a base and added my own touches.

The dough was super easy and actually kinda fun to make.  In a large glass mixing bowl, I dumped a cup and a half of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt and a teaspoon of rapid-rise yeast.  I made a little well in the middle and then added the wet ingredients: 2 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin’s fine) and a cup of room-temp water.  Bittman didn’t say what temp the water needs to be at, so I guessed.  I figured too cold and it would do something bad to the dough; too hot and it would do something bad to the dough.  I don’t know much about breads and doughs, but I know you don’t f*@% around with the ingredients and temps.  Another reason why baking is so frustrating to me–dough is too damn fickle.  Anyhoodles, I stirred all that with a wooden spoon until it started getting sticky.  I kneaded it a bit in the bowl to bring it together, then sprinkled some flour on my clean counter and kneaded the dough for about ten minutes (that was the fun part).  I put the dough in another clean glass bowl, covered with plastic and set it on my table to rest & rise for an hour.

While the dough was hanging out, I began the sauce.  Bittman’s recipe is 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic (lightly smashed), a 28-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes (which I actually DID find at Kroger, kinda hidden behind a display and off to the side, but dammit they’re there!), S&P to taste.  No herbs?  WTF, Mark Bittman?  Yes I can see how this is a great basic sauce but to me, there’s no flavor besides a little bit of garlic and tomato.  So I added my spin.  I crushed four cloves of garlic in my press (which I really don’t use much but should more often), and sauteed a bit in the olive oil.  Then I added the drained can of tomatoes, salt & pepper.  And then I went to town.  I love a garlicky sauce, so I added a little garlic powder as well.  Then I eyeballed dried Italian Seasoning, dried Basil & dried Oregano.  It worked.  It was awesome, and Matt and Mom loved it.  So take that, Mark Bittman.  You can have your bland-ass sauce whereas mine is DELICIOUS.

Homemade sauce on the back burner, garlicky spinach in front.

Mom and Matt wanted a red sauce pizza with similar ingredients, I wanted to try a white pizza for myself.  The dough was definitely large enough for two pizzas.  For my white, I sauteed spinach with garlic and olive oil & added sliced fresh mushrooms.  Matt wanted pepperoni, green peppers & onions.  Mom wanted pepperoni, mushrooms & onions.  When Matt arrived, he and I shaped our doughs.  He made his a little thin, I left mine a little thick.  I preheated the grill and I assembled toppings by the grill.  I knew this was how it was going to go down: brush the side touching the grill first with olive oil, lay dough on grill, let bake a bit, flip dough, quickly add topppings and let pizza finish off.  Problem is I forgot to take the stupid top shelf that I never use out of the grill before heating.  So poor Matt was burning his hands laying down dough and flipping dough.  And for that I’m sorry.  His future children will ask how daddy got weird burn marks on his hands and he can tell them about the dangers of grilling pizza and how evil Shannon made him burn his hands.

Matt gets his dough down on the grill and he stretched it out a wee too thin, but we made it work.  Flipped the dough, added toppings, let it finish off.  Getting the pizza off the grill is a hell of a task without a pizza peel.  I held the cutting board while Spatula Master Matt slid the pie onto the board.  And here’s where my grill sucks.  It’s a two-burner gas grill that is at least five years old.  It’s a hand-me-down off brand my Dad bought several years ago and re-built it at least twice prior to his passing, and again, that was three years ago.  My point is, the outer parts of the grill are HOT (even on low flame), the middle is cool.  Burned crispy pizza edges, kinda undercooked in the middle.  Still edible though.

Then came my pizza’s turn.  Laid the thicker dough down and Matt commented then that my dough may actually work a bit better than his (which turned into crispy, burned dough that couldn’t hold the toppings well).  We flipped the dough, and I topped my white with olive oil, spinach, mozzarella and mushrooms.  Matt helped me slide the pie off the grill and we cut the pies and ate.  For some reason, Matt and I both ended up shaping both pies into squares.  I have no idea why, it just turned out that way. 

The pizza was really freaking good.  The dough was cripsy yet chewy (mine was anyway), the sauce I made was SO good.  Toppings were decent, nothing beats fresh veggies* or garlicky spinach.  Since making the pizzas, I read a great tip somewhere (I think it was June’s Rachel Ray ) where someone said to take a large terra cotta plant saucer, pre-heat it in a 400-degree oven, then put it on a grill inverted, spray the inverted saucer (bottom side up) with water and use it as a pizza stone on your grill.  I think it’s a great idea worth trying.  Cheap too. 

But now that I know how easy it is to make dough, and I have a package of Hormel pepperoni left, I might try making pepperoni rolls soon with the tomato sauce for dipping.  With tons of cheese.  Yeah, man. 

This coming week is Matt’s turn and I have no idea what’s in store.  He tells me it’s from one of his mom’s older cookbooks.  I’ve seen one of these cookbooks and it scared me.  It was a weird one from the 70’s with really odd combinations.  I can’t remember details (I’ve blocked them), but it was enough.  We’ll see…

Bon appetit, y’all!

The finished, half-eaten products. Matt & Mom's on the left, mine on the right.

 

*The thing about fresh vs. pre-cooked veggies on a pizza is this: when I made pizza for a living at Whole Foods, they insisted on pre-cooking all the veggies.  Spinach, I can understand, because raw spinach on a pizza in a 550 degree oven and it just dries out and burns, it doesn’t wilt nicely.  But by pre-cooking peppers, onions & mushrooms can kinda take the taste out of the veg, but they also lose texture.  By the time you’re eating the pizza, the veggies will have cooked twice.  And it saves time and clean up by just topping pizza with raw vegetables.  Obviously cook vegetables that NEED to be cooked to be eaten (potatoes, for example, but who puts potatoes on pizza?  anyone?).

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Bacon Cheeseburger with a Krispy Kreme Bun

Posted on 05/08/2010. Filed under: Dinner |

I love the show, Man vs. Food.  I love Adam Richman, I love watching whatever wacky food battles he gets in to (15 dozen oysters in an hour!  six of the hottest chicken wings on the planet in 20 minutes!), I love when he visits Mom & Pop places with awesome food.  Why?  Because I go to the same types of places.  I wouldn’t take on a food challenge like him, but I know a couple dudes who would. 

A month or so ago, Adam was doing kind of a “Best Of” episode and featured a restaurant (or was it ballpark?  I can’t remember) that served bacon cheeseburgers with Krispy Kreme Original Glazed donuts as the bun.  I posted about this on Facebook and got tons of responses from friends about this, ranging from the approvals to the disapprovals.  When it came time for Matt to choose his Friday Night dish, he chose these burgers.  And following our fattening dinner?  The latest Freddy Kreuger movie (Jackie Earle Haley’s just damn creepy). 

I bought all the ingredients and Matt and I “strategerized” how to go about cooking.  We decided to help with the fat content and grill the burgers and the bacon.  We tried the bacon and it just took way too long, so we nuked it.  I cooked a whole pound, just in case the boys wanted to clog their arteries more.  I bought 2 1/4 lbs. of lean ground beef, which Matt split into four patties.  HUGE, thick patties.  Matt put them on the grill where I brushed each side down with clarified butter.  When the burgers were done to everyone’s liking (for example, Dan prefers medium-rare, and by God it better be medium-rare), Matt brought them in to the house.  I had cut the donuts in the kitchen, cut side brushed with the clarified butter, and was grilling them on the griddle pan that’s been in our family for a good 70 years. (I love having functioning cookware that’s decades old.  I intend on passing my by-then-well-seasoned cast iron skillet to my kids or grandkids someday.) 

Matt topped the donut bun with the burger, we put a slice of cheddar on top, bacon on top of the cheese and then other half of the donut on top, cut side up.  Like so… 

On the griddle. The plain bun is for Mom

 

With the bun on top...

 

And then we plated… 

ready to be devoured

 

The side that I chose to ease up on adding more calories & fat was simply a salad of mixed greens, from a bag.  No need to get all fancy, most of the attention was going to the burgers anyway.  The boys dug in with their hands, I ate mine with a fork and knife.  And you’ll see why I decided to be a lady and eat with utensils in a second.  But look at it!  It’s fat and dairy and pork and beef and sugar.  All in one bite.  Amazing. 

It was delicious.  I wish I could say it was disgusting, but it really wasn’t.  We used Sargento Sharp Cheddar, Oscar Mayer Hickory Smoked bacon, the leanest ground beef, and Krispy Kremes that were made the day before (I wanted them a little stale so they wouldn’t fall completely apart).  It was sweet and salty.  The taste it reminded me of immediately was that of Pig Candy*, which is basically brown-sugar coated bacon.  The donut with the burger was a really unusual combination but it simply worked.  Even writing about this a week later my heart still pounds from the onslaught of fat my system endured that evening.  Tasty, yes.  Unhealthy, definitely.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely.  But  this is something to have on special occasions, like Matt’s birthday (June 9, and apparently we’ll be celebrating with Dropkick Murphys at The National!), or Dan’s birthday (November 26th!), or some other Dude Holiday

The boys enjoyed the burger very much.  So much so that Matt ended up with a grease stain on his GAP khakis.  He swears it looks like the face of Jesus.  I now have dubbed these pants the Khakis of Turin. 

The Face of The Lord....does this mean Matt's crotch is holy?

 

Bon Appetit, y’all! 

*Pig Candy is a recipe from The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, by Jill Connor Browne.  The book has a great message of basically having as much fun out of life as possible and making your own fun in a not-so-hot situation.  Also has tons of recipes, one of which I make often, called Chocolate Stuff.  Anyway, the first couple books are great and hilarious, worth the read.

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Lemon & Asparagus Risotto

Posted on 04/30/2010. Filed under: Dinner, Grains |

Yeah, so I love risotto.  I first had it several years ago when I was a receptionist at an archetectural firm (God what an awful job, toxic environment and worse egos than a kitchen full of chefs).  Next to the office was a little lunch spot and one of their specials one day was a chicken and mushroom risotto.  Amazing I remember this dish nine years after I had it.  It was creamy and filling, simple comfort food on what was probably a crap day at the office.

I’ve been wanting to make a risotto dish since I started the blog (as first mentioned in the very first post).  I decided to finally tackle it.  I knew Matt didn’t like mushrooms, and I figured he’d be joining us, so I found this recipe for Lemon & Asparagus Risotto.  I love lemons, love asparagus, love parmesan, love rice, why not?  The labor-intensive process was not something I was worried about, I knew it’d be about 20-30 minutes of stirring.  I was determined.

I went to Kroger and got all my ingredients, but the wine.  The damned wine.  I had an already open bottle of a white in my fridge from Easter (yes, amazingly, an open bottle of wine was in my fridge for a couple of weeks) and thought I could use it.  I didn’t remember it being particularly sweet, but then we also had a roasted pork tenderloin on Easter too.  Well, the Gewurztaminer (yes, I had to look up the spelling in my Wine Bible) was simply too sweet.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until it was too late.

I first began by zesting a lemon, and juicing it, separating the two, discarding seeds.  Then I washed a pound of asparagus, cut off the woody ends, and trimmed them down to about half-inch pieces cut on the bias.  After that, I medium diced a smallish white onion.  I measured out the wine & rice, and began simmering the chicken stock in a separate pan.  I put a tablespoon of butter in a pot and turned the heat on.  When the butter was melted, I added the onion and cooked until soft and transluscent.  Then I added the cup and a half of rice and stirred to coat.  I let the rice cook until it was beginning to get transluscent.  (And here’s mistake number one.  I should have cooked the rice longer and added more butter to the pot.  The rice didn’t cook long enough at this stage and I’ll get to the result later.)  I then added wine & lemon juice, and stirred until it had absorbed.  Then I added the zest.  At this point, things were smelling pretty good.

When I thought it was time, I began adding chicken stock to the pot, a ladle at a time.  (Here’s mistake number 2.  The stock was not simmering at this point, just warm enough for steam to rise.  Stock not hot enough to at this point pretty much raw rice.)  I’d add a ladle and stir, stir, stir until the rice had absorbed most of the stock, and then I’d add a ladle and stir, stir, stir some more, repeating until I ran out of stock.  Somewhere, about 10 minutes after first adding stock, I added the asparagus as the recipe suggests.  And then I ran out of stock.  I ran out of liquid and I still had crunchy rice.

So I cooked it some more and added the rest of the wine from the bottle, and some water.  I cooked and stirred until I thought the rice was done enough.  And then I added parmesan like the recipe said.  By the time Matt got here and the rice was done, I had a pot of nasty, gummy, unappealing rice with now-overcooked asparagus.  Blech.

Matt hadn’t eaten all day so he wolfed down his bowl saying it was at least edible.  I took one bite and it was a struggle to get it down.  Ok, so here’s what happened: wrong wine for this dish, the rice should have cooked more before adding the stock, I should have had twice the amount of stock the recipe called for (or at least half the rice), and don’t add the asparagus until the rice is nearly done so it remains bright green and crunchy.  I threw the pot out and made grilled cheese.  Which was delicious.

Would I try risotto again?  Probably, but only with chicken stock and rice to start until I get the hang of it. 

Up next…the most fattening and artery-clogging meal of my life.

Bon appetit, y’all!

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Shrimp Scampi with Pasta

Posted on 04/01/2010. Filed under: Dinner, Seafood |

So sorry for the delay, y’all.  Life just got the better of me.  Last week, I went to another funeral service (the grandfather of a friend of mine), and then entertained a friend who was passing through Richmond on his way from New York to Florida.  And yeah, I can be a slacker.  I made General Tso’s chicken on Sunday the 28th, but it was just blah.  Wasn’t very Tso-y, no heat, just blah.  The good thing that came out of the Tso’s was my first trip to Tan-A Supermarket on Broad & Horsepen in Richmond.  I HIGHLY recommend checking out local Asian markets and here’s why: a TON of stuff for CHEAP.  Seriously, y’all, ALL the stuff below cost me $12.  No shit.

From left: Sesame oil, Sriracha hot chili sauce, Hoisin sauce, rice vingegar, miso dressing. Front: fresh ginger

Many thanks to my friend Frank on what ingredients to get.  I was frantically texting him after I’d been to Tan-A, asking the difference between rice vinegar, rice wine, and rice wine vinegar as the recipe I’d picked called for “rice wine vinegar.”  Guess what kids?  Just go for the rice vinegar because you ain’t gonna find “rice wine vinegar.”   And if you live in Richmond and haven’t been to Tan-A, GO!  And bring cash or check, no plastic. 

So I made the General Tso’s and it just was a plate of blah.  Meh.  Mediocre.  Big plate of hum-drum.  Almost as anti-climatic as the last episode of Seinfeld.  Without the cameo appearances of everyone the gang had screwed over. 

Tonight, instead of writing about Crap Tso’s, I’m writing about something I made on the fly.  Mom had been mentioning getting more seafood in our diets, which is tough to do in this economy.  We’re po’, yo.  Most of the seafood we eat is tuna fish and that’s canned and in “salad” form.  (In this house, it’s made with Duke’s, sweet relish, chopped hard-boiled egg & diced celery.  Anyone doesn’t like it that way can make their own damn tuna fish salad.  I’m just sayin’.)  And we both love shrimp scampi, so what the hell?

I poked around on the internets looking for a recipe, as I’m wont to do, and got a few ideas.  Basic recipe right?  Butter, garlic, dry white wine, lemon juice, shrimp, pasta.  So easy!  I didn’t even bother printing out a recipe, I just rolled with it, baby, like Steve Winwood (I gotcha singing that song now, didn’t I?  ‘Cause I’m eeee-ville like that.  Like the Dev-ille).  I went to Kroger and got a bag of frozen tiger shrimp, de-veined; bottled lemon juice; bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  I had the butter and pasta at home.

I thawed the shrimp under cool running water in a colander and peeled them, reserving the shells to freeze for a shrimp stock for another attempt in the future at Shrimp & Grits.  See?

Shrimp, yo.

While I waited for the pot of salted water to boil, I minced…oh…I’d say about…four or five cloves of garlic.  I love garlic.  I love garlicky foods.  And it’s healthy.  I have no idea what garlic does for your body health-wise, but it does something.  When the water was at a rolling boil, I drizzled olive oil in the pot to keep it from boiling over.  Then I put a skillet on the stove and let a whole stick of butter melt.  I used salted because that’s what we have, but unsalted works fine too I’m sure.  When the butter was melted and bubbling a bit, I added the garlic.  I let the garlic cook a little on medium low heat until fragrant, then I added white wine and lemon juice.  No, I didn’t use fresh lemon because I just didn’t want to buy them.  I cheated.  Sue me.

I then added a couple of pinches of crushed red pepper to the sauce for some heat and lemme tell you…this butter/wine/garlic/lemon sauce smelled incredible.  It reminded me of the cheese course at the Melting Pot, the cheese with the dry white wine…just heavenly.  I love the smell of good wine cooking.  I don’t know what it is, but I just love it.  Weird, I know.  I added some spaghetti to the boiling salty water and let it cook for 9 minutes while I poached the shrimp in the heavenly buttery sauce.

Buttery, shrimpy goodness

When the shrimp had cooked through and the pasta was done, I drained the water off the spaghetti, put some on a plate, topped it with shrimp and sauce and dug in.  Lemon hit me first and then it melted into the butter and the wine, the shrimp cooked perfectly.  No words were uttered, just yummy sounds.

So quick, so easy, and relatively cheap.  A bag of frozen, de-veined tiger shrimp was $12, a box of pasta is a $1, the wine was $5 (woo hoo, big spender!), and the stick of butter came out to something like $.75?  And there were leftovers!  I didn’t follow a recipe, just general knowledge and gut instincts, which I think is really the basics of how to become a cook. 

Bon appetit, y’all!

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Shepherd’s Pie & Soda Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce

Posted on 03/20/2010. Filed under: Baking, Dinner |

Hello, my name is Shannon, and I only have a few drops of Irish blood in me. I am of mostly English & Dutch heritage, but that doesn’t stop me from drinking Guinness and singing along loudly to drinking songs in my favorite Irish bar, Mo & O’Malley’s in Norfolk, VA. Yes, I love McGuire’s in Pensacola, but Mo’s is very dear to me: it was there that I met my best friend in the whole world, Schmoopie; spent massive amounts of money at Mo’s; became so much a regular that my friend and favorite then-waiter Mike knew what I wanted when I walked in; and I have donated a bra to the wall at Mo’s. (And got it back…I’m not leaving a $40 Victoria’s Secret bra behind!)

About a month ago, I got the idea to make an Irish feast for St. Patrick’s Day and blog about it. I invited friends over, and wondered what the entree should be: corned beef & cabbage, Shepherd’s Pie, Lamb Boxty, Colcannon…what to make?! Then my friend Matt settled it the night of the Mushroom & Toasted Pasta dish by saying this, “Dude, you should make Shepherd’s Pie so I can come over and eat it.” Okay.

I’d known what dessert was going to be–soda bread pudding with Irish whiskey sauce. I made the soda bread the day before so all I had to do today for the dessert was just cut up the bread and assemble it. No biggie.

Yes, I intended on having this feast on St. Patrick’s Day, but a dear friend of mine from high school passed away suddenly, and the funeral was on March 17 in Charlottesville. I reunited with good friends I hadn’t seen in at least a decade. After the service, we went to West Main Bar & Grille, where we told stories about our missed friend and spent the afternoon and evening drinking pitchers of Guinness & green Pabst. We miss you, Scott Houchens.

Anyway, on Friday I started the pie early, as guests were arriving at 7 p.m. and I didn’t want to be in the kitchen the whole time cooking, a lesson learned the hard way. I knew I could assemble both pie & pudding and just stick ’em in the oven when needed (both to be baked at 350*–I love it when a plan comes together). I began the process by first peeling & slicing four small russet potatoes and three parsnips, put them in a pot and covered with water and put them on the stove to boil. I let them cook for about 25 minutes, until fork tender. While the root veggies were cooking, I diced my loaf of soda bread and put it in a large bowl and poured four cups of whole milk over the bread to soak. As I said in the previous post, both of these recipes for the pie & pudding came from the same source, the McGuire’s Irish Pub Cookbook.

When the roots were done, I drained them well and mashed them with my potato masher as finely as I could. I added salt, pepper, a Tablespoon of butter, a teaspoon of dried parsley flakes and a quarter of a cup of heavy cream, stirred it all together & set it aside to cool. Mmmm, mashed potatoes & parsnips. Verah nice.

I then began working on the filling for the pie. I diced half a large white onion and cooked them in a bit of olive oil until translucent, then added two pounds of ground beef to the pot with the onions to cook, breaking it up with my wooden spoon. When the beef was done, I drained off the fat, and added two cans of drained plain diced tomatoes. The cookbook calls for 2 cups of peeled chopped tomatoes, but I don’t have time and patience for a pot of water to boil just to help slip some tomato skin off. Nuts to that. Drained and rinsed cans of diced tomatoes worked just as well, thank you very much. And I’m sure I’m not the only home cook that would do the same thing. It’s enough I baked bread for this feast rather than cheating and buying it. (ok, off the soapbox now)

Anyway, I returned the meat to the large pot I was working in and added flour to thicken things up, then stirred in salt, pepper, dried thyme & sage, a cup of beef stock, and a tablespoon of fresh parsley. (I used dried in the potatoes because a. I have it; b. it’s going to be cooked again anyway; and c. I also used another tablespoon of fresh as a garnish for when the pie was done.) The mixture seemed a little runny still so I kept adding flour until the gravy thickened up nicely. I can’t give you an exact measurement but I eyeballed it. I knew this thing wouldn’t fit in a 9″ pie pan and I wasn’t about to go out and buy a deep-dish pie pan for this, so I put the meaty filling in a 2 quart round casserole dish. Same diff. McGuire’s also mentions using a pastry bag to pipe the potatoes & parsnips, but again, nuts to that, a gallon plastic bag with a corner cut out worked perfectly fine. I spiraled the potatoes & parsnips on top of the meat and used the back of a spoon to even it out. I covered the dish with plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge to hang out until ready to bake off.

It’d been an hour or so since the milk was poured over the bread, giving it plenty of time to soak in. I mixed three large, lightly beaten eggs together with a cup and a half of granulated sugar and two tablespoons of pure vanilla extract. If you think the pudding is rich at this point, just wait until I get to the sauce. I took my biggest rectangular casserole dish and greased it up with three tablespoons of melted unsalted butter. In the dish, I put the milky bread in, then added the eggy-sugar mixture, and folded it all together. I then folded in a cup of raisins, dotted a few more on top, covered it all in plastic wrap & stuck it in the fridge to await baking off while we ate Shepherd’s Pie.

A little before friends arrived, I melted three tablespoons of butter (I swear I have used nearly a full pound of unsalted butter for this entire meal, Paula Deen doesn’t have anything on the Irish) and drizzled it on top of the pie. I put the pie in the oven and baked it for about 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, I noticed the potatoes weren’t very puffy and the top wasn’t brown at all, so I turned the broiler on for a couple minutes. When the pie came out of the oven, I sprinkled the remaining minced fresh parsley on top.

When the pie was on the table to eat, I put the pudding in the already hot 350* oven while we ate. I knew the sauce for the pudding wouldn’t take long at all, so I left it until we were done eating. We dug into the Shepherd’s Pie and it was soooo good. Hearty and delicious. I was reluctant about a “pie” of ground beef, gravy and mashed potatoes but it was so freakin’ good! The herbs complimented the onion, the gravy was nice and thick, the potatoes were well-seasoned….mmmmm just good. Buttery potatoes and hearty, meaty gravy. Almost a shame to be eating it for dinner on a day when the high was 74, but it wasn’t heavy. It’s not a dish to eat (or want to cook) in the middle of August, but it was a good meal on an early spring night.

Now, the sauce for the bread pudding just makes it. The pudding itself is good, but it’s the sauce that truly makes the dish. And here’s why: it’s a whole stick of butter with a cup of sugar and a quarter of a cup of heavy cream. I brought those three lovely gifts from the gods to a boil in a saucepan, reduced the heat and simmered for five minutes. Then the best part–Irish whiskey. I use Jamison, for two reasons: 1. Schmoopie left a huge bottle here the last time he visited and 2. it reminds me of many drunken nights at Mo’s. McGuire’s calls for a quarter cup….I add a heavy third. A third of a cup leaning towards half. That’s just how I roll. I stirred in the whiskey and by the time a little of the alcohol had cooked off, the pudding was ready. I spooned hot bread pudding into bowls and drizzled sauce on top. Adjectives that describe this bread pudding: rich, delicious, filling, buttery, creamy, sweet….yum. Just yummy. Lip-smacking yummy. Slap your mama yummy. I often want to just make the sauce and not bother with the pudding.

So my first Irish Feast was a success and I would totally make the Shepherd’s Pie again. And it seems like I will have to, as my friend Matt that suggested I make it, didn’t make it to the feast. And the bread pudding, well that’s just an annual thing now, especially since I can make the bread myself.

Bon Appetit, y’all!

Bread Pudding, before the oven

The Shepherd's Pie, befire baking. Meaty goodness

The half-devoured pie

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