Comfort Food……

Braised chuck sitting on top of mascarpone whipped potatoes and garnished with lemon zest and parsley

We were in Denver a few weeks back and happened to be there for their first snow fall of the year, and a really awful game 3 of the 2018 NLDS (and not because it was cold and rainy but because it was just a really bad one-sided baseball game). Having lived in Southern California for the past few years, my body has forgotten what actual weather and cold feels like. So I spent the entire time there shivering (I literally had to buy a blanket and hand-warmers during the game) and craving hot chocolate (spiked of course), soup and hearty rib stickin’ comfort food.

My wife travels to Denver quite a lot for business and she has been talking about  taking me to Steuben’s for years (Steuben’s your Steubie Snacks are pure culinary genius but I’m sure you already know this). They’ve got a great menu and take on American Cuisine (and cocktails). I opted for their pot roast which looked like it was actually braised beef shank versus a roast. It was so good that I will go out on a limb and say that it is one of the best pot roasts I’ve ever had. I’ll go further still and say that it topped a lot of ossobucos and braised short ribs as well. It was so good that even though our hotel room didn’t have a microwave I still took the leftovers and attempted to re-heat them using the iron in the hotel room (unsuccessfully mind you so I ate them cold and they were still good).

I’m now back in perpetually sunny Southern California (we actually had a thunderstorm the night I got back into town.) it’s still warm  and I still have a craving for some comfort food. So I’m going to make pot roast with mashed potatoes. This is going to be scheduled to publish on Election Day so some comfort may be needed (Don’t forget to vote!).

I have a lot of co-workers that are partial to their slow-cookers and Insta-pots and as my wife will surely attest I need more kitchen appliances and gadgets like a hole in the head, I prefer to make things like pot roasts and such in a dutch oven. I like that I can sear and brown all in the same pot. This method works for short ribs, shanks and roasts. I’m going to use a 2 lbs boneless chuck steak today because there’s only going to be 2 of us to eat it and it will cook fairly fast.

Recipe

2 carrots peeled and diced

1 medium union diced

2 stalks of celery diced

2 cloves of garlic crushed

1 15oz can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes

2 cups beef stock

1 2-3 lbs beef or pork roast

2 TBS bacon fat or oil

salt and pepper

bouquet garni of rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley

parsley and lemon zest for garnish

½ cup red wine (optional)

Dry beef with a paper towel then season both sides with salt and pepper. In a large oven proof pot or roasting pan over medium heat, heat 1 TBS fat or oil until shimmering. Place the beef in the pan and brown both sides.

Remove the beef from the pan and set aside. Drain and retain the liquids from the pan and set aside. Return the pan to the stove-top and add in the remaining 1 TBS of oil. Add onion, celery, garlic and carrots and sautée until vegetables start to soften and brown.

Add the beef back into the pan along with the juices. Add the can of tomatoes and enough beef stock (or water) to so that the roast is completely covered.

Toss in the bouquet garni, cover the dutch oven with its lid and place in a pre-heated 325F oven. Check for tenderness periodically and add liquid as needed. Roast should be easily shredded. Taste for seasoning and serve over mashed potatoes or grits or along side roasted vegetables.

 

Empanadas, pastel, hand pies, pasties or patties……..

Empanadas with picadillo and Jamaican Patties with curried beef.

Empanadas with picadillo and Jamaican Patties with curried beef.

It doesn’t matter what you call them, whether its empanadas, pasties, patties, hand pies or pastel. The various names for empanadas really depend on where you’re eating them. But essentially they’re all the same thing, packets of dough filled with either sweet or savory fillings that are baked or fried. Empanadas are designed for portability, they’re popular street food throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.

I find that just about any pie crust recipe can be used to make empanada dough. The key is to roll the chilled dough to ¼” thick. You can find empanada presses at kitchen supply stores. You can also use discos. They’re pre-made pre-rolled rounds of dough and come in two varieties, plain wheat and annato flavored. The annato variety are orange in color. The recipes below will easily fill 10 discos with 1TBS of filling each. They come frozen, so you’ll need to thaw them in the fridge for at least 24 hours before using them.

Recipes

Jamaican Style Curried Beef
½ LB ground beef
1 finely minced scotch bonnet pepper (or whatever type of chili pepper you like)
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 bunch of green onions finely chopped
cilantro
3 TBS Jamaican Curry
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of thawed discos or pie dough of your choice.

In a food processor, blend all the ingredients together except the beef and set aside. In a large skillet, on mediam high, brown the ground beef. Once the beef has browned pour off the excess fat and add the veggie mix. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put meat mixture into a bowl and let cool for about 30 minutes.

Place a tablespoon of meat into the center of the discos, brush the edge lightly with water. Fold the discos closed and crimp the edges with a fork. Turn over and crimp the edges with the fork. Bake at 350º for 15 minutes or until golden brown. I’ll usually flip these over about halfway through the cooking time. You can also fry them.

If you’re using an empanada press, place the dough into the press, there’s usually a depressed section in the center, fill that with meat, brush the edges with water or egg wash and press closed. Press the handles together firmly to seal the edges. Make sure that you don’t overfill them, or else they will not stay sealed during baking/frying.

Picadillo
½ LB ground beef
1 small sweet potato or yam diced into ¼” pieces
¼ cup raisins soaked in warm water
3 TBS Recaito (see note)
¼ cup green olives chopped
1 TBS capers (brine drained)
1 TBS cumin
1 envelope of sazon
2 tsp tomato paste
1 TBS Adobo or you can use ¼ tsp each, salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and ground oregano
1 10ct package of Goya Discos (thawed)

Soak the raisins in warm water for about 15 minutes, drain and set aside. Boil sweet potatoes in salted water until tender drain, rinse with cold water and set aside. Brown the beef in a large skillet until browned and drain off the excess fat. Add the sofrito and all the other ingredients, cook together for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Follow the steps listed above for filling the empanadas and cooking.

*Note
Recaito
2 medium green bell or Cubanelle peppers, seeds removed
2 medium onions, peeled
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 bunch culantro or cilantro (if available) leaves
6 ajies dulces (small sweet chile peppers)
Preparation:

Chop and blend all the ingredients in a food processor or blender.

(Sazon, Adobo, and Recaito are available on the ethnic/international aisle of most grocery stores. Discos can be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Here in the NE I know that Wegman’s, Stop ‘n Shop and Shoprite all carry discos, sazon, adobo and recaito. Elsewhere, Safeway, HEB, Publix, Albertson’s and the commissaries on US Military bases carry them.)

Pita chips, fava purée and meatloaf, oh my….

Its the end of a long week and I have quite a bit of leftover bread and some produce that needs to be used up. I came up with a couple of different things.

First, I made pita chips. This is pretty simple, preheat the oven to 350º,
cut the pitas in half lenthwise, stack them and then cut them into triangles. I typically get 4 triangles out of each pita half. Split the triangles in half and separate them so each triangle now becomes 2 individual pieces. Lay the pieces out on a foil or parchment lined cookie sheet. Spray with a light coating of cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn the pieces over spray with cooking spray an dust them with salt and pepper. Place the tray into the pre-heated oven and cook for about 7 minutes, turn the pieces over and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve with your favorite dip like humus or the fava bean dip that was posted a few days back.

Next up, meatloaf. Its a kinda dreary fall day. Its chilly and rainy and I think something hearty like meatloaf and mashed potatoes would be a great mood lifter. I’m kind of tired of traditional meatloaf and mashed potatoes, I’m leaning toward a meatloaf with Middle Eastern inspired spices. Instead of mashed potatoes, I’m going to serve it on a Fava Bean Puree.


It may not be pretty but it tastes good, and ultimately that’s what matters.

1 1/2 LBS ground beef or chicken or turkey
3 Slices stale bread
1 Medium Onion chopped
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Small Carrot chopped
2 Celary stocks chopped
6-12 pitted black and green olives (not the stuff from the can or jar)
Chilis (optional)
1 LG Egg (add an extra egg if you use chicken or turkey)
1 Cup heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2

Seasoning blend
1/2 tsp each ground cumin, ground sumac, cinnamon, oregano, paprika, black pepper
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. In a large mixing bowl, blend the egg, heavy cream and seasoning blend. Grind up the bread and 1 garlic clove in the food process, pour into the large mixing bowl with the egg and cream mixture and set aside. In the same food processor bowl, blend the carrot, celary, olives, onion, chilies, and garlic until well blended and small pieces. Pour the mixture into the large mixing bowl with the bread and cream. Stir together until combined. Add the ground meat and blend until the meat and bread, veggies and spices are well combined. Put the mixture into a loaf pan or form into a loaf on a foil lined cookie sheet. Cook in a 325ºF for an 90 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160ºF.

I’ve never been a fan of that sweet ketchupy tomato sauce that many people like on their meatloaf. I serve my meatloaf with beef or chicken gravy that I season with the the same spices I use in the meatloaf.