Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Irish Lamb Stew

I had big plans for St. Patrick's Day this year. After my first successful attempt at making corned beef and cabbage, I had a couple of new ideas that I was going to try out to make it even better. I was going to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work Friday night to buy my package of corned beef and some cabbage. I already had carrots and potatoes.

But Friday afternoon at work I was talking to my boss about my plans, and when I mentioned my plans she startled me by slapping her forehead. Well, a couple of weeks ago we were talking about St. Patrick's Day and corned beef and she was giving me her method of cooking it (which is where most of my new ideas have come from), and she told me that in Chicago especially, Vienna Corned Beef is the only way to go, and she always gets hers at Costco. I figured if my Jewel carried Vienna Corned Beef then I would get some of that to try.

When I told Patty my plans, it reminded her that she had bought me some corned beef when she was getting hers at Costco, but had forgotten to bring it to the office with her.

Now isn't that the nicest thing you've ever heard? I was really touched, not only that she bought it for me, but that she had remembered our conversation enough to think to do it. And that's the kind of person she is.

But what to do in the meantime? I did briefly consider buying one anyway so I could have it on St. Patrick's Day. But I had some lamb stew meat in the freezer and my thoughts turned toward that other Irish dish, Lamb Stew. I bought the lamb since I started Operation Freezer Burn so it doesn't officially count for that, but I'm still putting way too many new things in there for all of the old things I'm using up, so it's all good.

I have a couple of lamb stew recipes I've been playing with over the years, but I've had trouble getting them thick enough lately. Instead of tweaking any of those any more, I went back to my old standard, The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook's Beef Stew recipe. The most obvious substitution, of course, was the lamb. I also used chicken stock instead of water and bouillon. I think beef stock would work, but I wouldn't use bouillon, especially after reading Elizabeth David's opinion of it in Is There a Nutmeg in the House. I substituted Pickapeppa sauce for the Worcestershire, mainly because that's what I had on hand, although it's a nice substitute if you're vegetarian.

So I have two reasons to thank Patty. I had a rich, thick, delicious stew this weekend, and I have a beautiful slab of corned beef sitting in my refrigerator, waiting for next weekend.
Home Cookin Chapter: Beef and Lamb

Beef Stew
Serves 8 to 10

2-1/2 pounds beef for stew
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup salad oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups water
4 beef-bouillon cubes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Worcestershire
1/4 tsp pepper
5 medium potatoes, cut in chunks
1 16-ounce bag carrots, cut in chunks
1 10-ounce package frozen peas

Cut meat into 1-1/2 inch chunks. On waxed paper, coat stew meat with flour; reserve leftover flour. In 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat oil.

Brown meat all over in oil, a few pieces at a time; remove pieces as they brown. Reduce heat to medium.

To drippings in pan, add onion and garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring, until onion is almost tender. Stir in reserved flour.

Gradually add water, bouillon, salt, Worcestershire, pepper; cook, stirring, until mixture is slightly thickened.

Add meat; heat to boiling, stirring. Reduce heat to low; cover; simmer 2-1/2 hours until almost tender, stirring occasionally.

Add potato and carrot chunks; over medium heat, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir in frozen peas; cover and simmer 5 to 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Serve immediately.

from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, by Zoe Coulson (Hearst Books, 1980)

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (www.mountain-software.com)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Cannellini and Rosemary Stew

I've had a subscription to Vegetarian Times magazine for a few years now. Not because I'm a vegetarian, which I'm not, but because long before everybody and their brother jumped onto the whole food, non trans-fat, organic bandwagon, Vegetarian Times was one of the few places to go if you were looking for recipes that utilized legumes, grains and vegetables as the main event and not as a boring side dish. They've been championing those issues for years.

Although I have given up meat on a couple of occasions in the past, I always come back to it. So rather than giving it up entirely, I try to limit how often I have it. At the most, I only have it once a day. A lot of times I won't eat it for a while, but if I go too long without it I will eat way too much of it once I start back up again.

So I am always on the lookout for good vegetarian recipes. Which is one of the reasons I decided to subscribe to Vegetarian Times. And I have found quite a few recipes in their pages over the years.

But I haven't tried very many of them. I think I got off to a bad start - the first couple of recipes I tried did not work out that well for me. They were either bland, didn't come out with the right consistency, or just plain didn't taste good. But still I looked, and clipped anything that looked like it might be good.

And I kept trying until I found a recipe that did work - Cannellini and Rosemary Stew. The roasted peppers go really well with the beans, and the rosemary brings it all together. Add a salad and some crusty crunchy whole wheat bread and you've got a great little lunch. If you used canned beans and jarred peppers, it also doesn't take very long to make. It's equally good with fresh or dried rosemary.

While the recipe calls for Cannellini beans, which are white kidney beans, I'm not a big fan of them ad they're not always easy to find. I use great northern beans instead.
Home Cookin Chapter: Soups and Stews

Cannellini and Rosemary Stew
Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-3/4 cup vegetable broth
3 cups (or 2 14.5-oz. Cans) canellini beans, rinsed and drained
1-1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2-3 roasted red and yellow peppers, julienned, or 1 jar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in broth and bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Stir in beans, rosemary and ground pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Stir in roasted peppers and vinegar and cook 3 minutes. Ladle stew into shallow bowls and serve.

Per serving: 307 cal; 14 g prot; 8 g total fat (1 sat.); 39 g carb; 0 mg chol; 88 mg sod; 12 g fiber

Slightly adapted from Vegetarian Times, 2/1/2001; p. 39

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (www.mountain-software.com)

Sheer Bliss Pomegranate Ice Cream

The people at Sheer Bliss Ice Cream saw me coming.

It was Friday night and I was tired from a long work week. I stopped at Treasure Island on my way home. I had no idea what I was looking for, and shouldn't have been looking for anything, yet there I was. I just happened to wander by the frozen section where they keep the ice cream (yeah, right).

It was the tin that first caught my eye. I'm a sucker for tins. If something comes in a tin, it doubles my desire to take it home with me. Usually, I can resist the urge because I really don't want or need what is in them. But this one had ice cream in it!

And not just any ice cream. This tin had pomegranate ice cream with dark chocolate chips inside it. And another thing for which I am a sucker is new ice cream flavors. I've never seen pomegranate ice cream before, but I've always loved pomegranates. They're a pain to eat but I love their flavor.

And it is a tasty treat, made with sugar cane and "all natural ingredients." Although I'm always suspicious when I see any label that says "all natural." The slight tartness of the pomegranate cuts the heavy richness of the cream, and the chocolate chips add a counter tone that brings it all together at the end. It's a lovely little indulgence.

Although at $6.50 a pint, it's more expensive of an indulgence than I'm likely to give in to again.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Turkey Pot Pie

My biggest goal in starting Operation Freezer Burn was to get rid of that big old turkey carcass that’s been hanging around since last Thanksgiving. Step 1 was to make crock pot turkey stock, which I did here.

There was a lot more meat on those bones than I had remembered, especially since I hadn’t taken anything off of the wings and very little off the drumsticks. In addition to the cubed dark meat I already had in the freezer, I now had another couple of pounds to take care of. I wasn’t ready to make more turkey soup (although more on that later), but what else could I use it for? I do have an old recipe for a hot turkey salad that is absolutely delicious, but with mayonnaise and potato chips high on the ingredients list it’s not the best thing to have around if you’re desperately trying to get back on a fitness track, which I’ve been trying to do since the holidays. (Which really starts to sound lame by March, don't you think?)

When I worked for the League of Women Voters in Austin back in the ‘80s, I got two really great recipes from the woman for whom I worked. One of the recipes was this sausage, corn and tomato casserole that is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. It has four ingredients and takes about 30 minutes to cook. Add a fresh green salad and it is heaven.

The other recipe she gave me is for a biscuit-topped chicken pot pie, which is also fairly simple to make. I used to make both of these dishes on a regular basis, but as such things often do they fall out of rotation and I forget about them for a while. The sausage, corn and tomato dish returns more regularly because all it takes is for Eckrich Smoked Sausage to be on sale at the grocery store to resurrect it and I usually already have the other three ingredients on hand. As a matter of fact, in full-out defiance of Operation Freezer Burn, there are two packages of 2-for-the-price-of-1 sausage in my freezer at this very minute.

But the chicken pot pie requires a deeper probe into my brain to access. Last Saturday Bob and I walked again, and he mentioned to me that our brains catalog and file every single thing with which they come into contact, and we assign the level at which each item should be filed. Our brain’s storage capacity is humongous (not his word but I can’t remember all the details) enough to retain everything. So we decide if something belongs in a short-term file, a long-term file, something we want to be able to access frequently or never expect to use again. I suppose it’s why at one time the police used hypnosis on witnesses – to help access those pieces of data where the brain doesn’t remember into which file they went. And because we assign different levels of importance to each item, sometimes it takes longer to access or remember some things than it does others.

I think the last time I made this chicken pot pie recipe was over ten years ago. That’s a real shame because it’s a wonderful little recipe. Again, add a fresh green salad and you’re good to go. And while I was staring at the bowl of turkey meat gleaned off of the stock bones, it occurred to me that turkey might make a tasty pot pie. I dug out the recipe and got to work.

The real beauty of this recipe is the biscuit topping. You just mix up the batter, dot it all around the top, and it rises and covers the whole thing. I never quite trust that it will work because it looks like such a small amount of dough to cover such a large dish. But every time it does, and that crust is warm and dough-y and really makes the cake, so to speak.

Here it is all ready to go into the oven, with the little blobs of dough dotted across the top. Doesn't look like it could rise enough to cover the whole thing, does it?
And as I was dropping little spoonsful across the turkey and vegetables, I smiled to myself at how it never seems like there will be enough dough to cover the pie. It wasn’t until the pie had been in the oven for about 20 minutes and I was washing up the dishes that I went over the ingredients in my head and wondered just how that dough was going to rise without any kind of leavening ingredient in it. I took a second look at the recipe. I had completely missed the baking powder and it was too late to do anything about it.

And alas, the topping doesn't cover any more of the pie than it did before it went into the oven.

What I ended up with was the same sized little dots that had originally graced the top. And while I was supremely disappointed, I have to admit that it didn’t taste all that bad. What the dough balls lacked in size they more than made up for in dense tastiness. But next time I will be sure to remember the baking powder.

About the turkey soup - I have since made another batch of turkey soup with the turkey stock and it was phenomenally spectacularly deliciously good. I do not exaggerate. I will never go back to simple broth again. My freezer is already filling up with chicken bones and I can’t wait to make a batch of crock pot chicken stock. I’m telling you, you have to make some and see for yourself.
Home Cookin Chapter: Poultry

Chicken Pot Pie

Notes: I substituted turkey and turkey stock for the chicken and chicken broth. This recipe serves 2; I usually double (at least) the pie ingredients except for the flour and butter. These days I substitute olive oil for butter. I do not increase the topping mixture - it's not necessary.

For Pie:

2 Chicken breast halves
1-3/4 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp flour
1/3 tsp thyme
salt and pepper
1/2 cup peas

For Biscuit topping:

1/2 c. flour
dash salt
dash sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. butter, cut in thin slices
5 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Simmer chicken in broth one hour. Melt butter in saucepan. Saute
carrots 5 minutes, add celery and onion, saute 5 more minutes. Add flour
and stir to make roux. Gradually stir in broth, add seasonings, peas
and chicken. Pour into 1-1/2 qt. casserole; set aside.

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter, add milk. Toss briefly but
thoroughly until sticky dough is formed. Drop by heaping
tablespoonsful onto chicken mixture. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of dough.

Bake in preheated 350 deg. oven for 30 mins.

Servings: 2

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (www.mountain-software.com)

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