Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pasties, Bronze Turkeys, and old school spirit

Tonight, I fixed supper again for the old fogeys... mostly because I had nothing better to do, as well as that Mom is still nursing a bruised rib & pulled muscles around it, and that Pop is a health hazard as it applies to food prep.

So, of course, I decided to experiment.  I'm always up for the basic Upper Peninsula variation on Cornish Pasties, & have found a dozen or so recipes in the Bat's collection of regional church cookbooks and such (although, the recipes online always seem to use ground meats, and I'd never heretofore eaten anything but chuck steak chopped into 1/2 centimeter or so cubes, in any of the places I'd been up in the UP).  This past month, though, I'd been wondering if I could create my own, in honor of my alma mater and its long-held rivalry with the nearest neighbor college (not a link to their site... that might be considered disloyal to the Fighting Scots).

Considering that Monmouth's big annual fair is the Prime Beef Festival, and Warren County (of which Monmouth is the county seat) had, a century ago or so, proclaimed itself the Prime Beef Capital of the World, I opted initially for a straight-beef-no-meat-blend approach.  And, taking into consideration Knox College is in the heart of Galesburg, IL, the home of Carl Sandburg, and they have an annual celebration of the man, each year, in Rootabaga Days, the traditional blend of beef, taters, and "beggies" (or, as rutabagas are called in other parts of the world "Swedish turnips", or, more simply, "Swedes") seemed a natural way to go.

And, being as I'm notoriously lazy -- or, rather, I was visualizing somebody mass-producing these things to serve at the athletic events when Monmouth and Knox face off -- I was looking for a few short cuts.  Therefore, I accept that coarsely chopped meat might end up the best option.  I didn't follow that, for tonight's beefy handfuls, though.  I like my cubed beeves.

What it boiled down to was this:  I cheated on one thing.  I bought pie crusts from the refrigerator section of the supermarket.  I even used a house brand.  Don't stand (or sit) there with your mouth agape.  These things are too thick and unwieldy for making good pies, but they hold up quite nicely around a meat pocket.

So, other than that cheat, my beef pasties were pretty traditional.   I didn't make a whole mess of them, but, having two pie crusts in the box, I cut each in half and made four pasties.    And then I made another four -- a variation -- in honor of the trophy our two schools have battled over for, lo, these many years, even after the guy who later became a spy for the Soviets stole the trophy and hid it for more than a decade....  but that's another story.  Suffice to say, the Bronze Turkey inspired me, too.

I really would love to see somebody at the Monmouth College food service put some of these together during game days, at the concessions stand...

What you'd get is this:

Monmouth-Knox Pasties, or Beefy-Beggie pockets (with a Bronze Turkey optional substitution)

1/2 cup (about 3/4 lb) chuck steak, diced (cut into cubes approx. 1 centimeter or less), or coarsely       ground (or chopped) turkey
1/2 cup diced peeled potatoes (about the same size as the meat cubes)
1/4 cup minced (finely chopped) peeled rutabaga
1/4 cup coarsely grated carrot
1/2 cup finely minced sweet onion, divided
1 tsp (or so) butter, cut into small bits
salt and pepper to taste
2 prepared pie crusts, cut in halves
2 Tablespoons milk
1 egg white, lightly beaten, with a little bit of water (less than a teaspoon)

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Mix potatoes, rutabaga, carrot, and 1/3 cup onion in bowl.   Divide into 4 equal parts.

Unroll pie crusts (if they are stiff, pop them in microwave oven for about 10 seconds, until they are soft and pliable) onto cookie sheet. Cut in half.  Brush edges of crust with milk.

Spread 1/4 of vegetable mixture on one end of pie crust half, sprinkle 1/4 of the meat on top of that, top with a few small chunks of butter, salt and pepper.

Fold crust over, making a 90º-angled wedge (a quarter-pie), completely sealing edges (it doesn't have to be pretty, but it ought to be sturdy and leak-proof).  Make a small vent in top of crust.

Brush top of crust with egg mixture, sprinkle with remaining onion (one can substitute sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, or leave top plain).  The egg white will make the crust a little more flaky.  If you want a firmer, crustier top, use whole egg, some water, and then sprinkle your choice of topping.

Bake 45 minutes or until top is rich golden brown (yes, bronze-ish). Remove from oven, allow to cool about 5-10 minutes.

Serve hot or cold, with gravy, catsup, mustard, or salsa.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What the egg lady left behind

Long years ago, when the milkman still drove through the neighborhood delivering dairy products, there was also an egg lady.  At least, there was in our neighborhood.  In fact, the egg lady continued to deliver eggs to us long after we fetched our milk from the supermarket.  Mrs. Bennett always gathered the freshest, largest, best eggs one could ever hope to have, and she delivered right to the side door of our house.

Better than the eggs, though, Mrs. Bennett left a handful of dangerously decadent dessert recipes with the Bat.  The aforeposted Illini Bars, for example, came from her recipe files.  And, now, more of her chocolate treats must be made known to the general populace.

Today, we have brownie drops, aka, "those awesome little chocolate cookies with the chocolate mini-chips and the frosting that's probably going to kill me..." (this is the double recipe she recommends).

Brownie Drops

1 cup butter or oleo
3  1-oz. squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon NaCl (salt)
1 12-oz bag of chocolate mini-chips

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate squares.

Add sugar, buttermilk, egg and vanilla.  Mix thoroughly.

Sift together dry ingredients.  Add to chocolate mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  While still warm, frost with chocolate glaze (recipe below).

Makes 10 dozen.

Chocolate glaze:

Melt 1 square of unsweetened chocolate  and 4 Tablespoons butter or oleo.  Blend in 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 Tablespoons hot water, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

I'm not sure Chief Illiniwek would be able to refuse

I've seen variations on this recipe online a bit, recently, & had to ask the Bat for her copy, because, no matter how good the others look, Mom's brownies are always the best.  And, these are perfect for spoiling friends around the holidays.

(I will try to add pix later, after I've finished making a batch or two, but, for now, I'm just copying the Bat's recipe card into a format I can read without the smudges.)

Illini Bars


(for the brownies)
2 heaping Tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup butter
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon NaCl (salt)
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3-5 cups all-purpose flour

(for the gooey middle part)
1 full (1 lb.) bag of Kraft (or equal quality brand) caramels, unwrapped
1/3 cup evaporated milk
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Unwrap caramels from bag.  Melt with milk in microwave (it should take about 2 minutes maximum), or, in double-boiler on stovetop.   Set aside.

Melt butter, mix in cocoa powder.  Add sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla, then add enough flour that the dough is very thick, yet not crumbly.  Spread half of dough into bottom of jelly roll pan, bake for 6 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle chocolate chips over half-cooked dough, then spread caramel mixture over that.  Finally, crumble remaining dough over the caramel, return this to oven, bake another 20 minutes, until done.  For best results, serve warm.