Tikka Meatballs

This recipe is one that I have used several times without posting (oops).  We both love Indian food, but to really get that fantastic flavor with the meat, it needs to be stewed with spices, or marinated, and we usually don’t plan well enough for that.  That’s where the meatball can be a meal saver.  Just dump in some spices, mix it up, and bake, and in less than an hour, you have wonderfully seasoned meat ready for the curry of your choice.  I have made these with turkey, chicken and with a lamb and beef mixture, and they’re all wonderful.  In the images shown, I was making turkey meatballs for a tikka masala.

Ingredients

  • 2 lb ground meat (turkey, chicken, lamb or beef)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup curry paste*
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2-1 cup breadcrumbs (as needed for texture)
  • Juice of 1 lime (when using poultry)

*The specific curry pastes used will depend on what meat your making, and what the final destination curry will be.  For poultry, I like tandoori pastes:

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We picked up both of these at the local Indian market, but the larger Kroger’s in our area also will carry some of the Patak’s products.  For red meat, I use a mixture of mild curry paste and a rogan josh paste, and omit the lime.

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients in a large bowl by hand, until well mixed, and the meat sticks to itself, rather than the sides of the bowl.

Portion into walnut sized balls, and place on greased sheet tray.

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Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the meatballs over around the 20 minute mark. Remove from oven, and try not to eat them all before they can get into the tikka masala.

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At this point, you can either toss them into your sauce, serve with grilled onion and pepper and naan for a lazy tikka or tandoori meal, or bag and freeze them for future curries.img_5405

Recently, we’ve been using recipes from The Curry Guy, and have been thoroughly pleased with the results (as can be seen in the tikka masala above).  The curry sauce base he recommends is a little time consuming initially, but absolutely worth making and freezing if you plan on making Indian at home regularly. Once you have the sauce base, assembling the curry is no more difficult than opening a jar of pre-made sauce and dumping that in the saucepan. I grabbed the e-book on Kindle, and it’s now our go-to curry cookbook.  It’s a particularly useful resource for folks like us, who have only really been exposed to restaurant style Indian, which is different than the regional Indian recipes and cookbooks we’ve tried.

Serve with rice, naan, chapati, or just a fork and a straw (we won’t judge).

Steak and Mushroom Pie

This dish has been one of those ideas that I have wanted to be able to make for years, but each time I attempted a version of it, it was horribly disappointing.  Raw crust, soupy filling, bland flavor, I experienced all of the problems trying to make this dish work. I made a treacle tart for the first time earlier this week, and that recipe used a crust ratio of 2:1 flour to butter, so I decided to try out that ratio and see what happened. They also blind baked their crust, and egg washed it, so I decided to give that a go too.  At long last, I have unlocked the meat pie achievement for a pie lives up to every one of my hopes, dreams and aspirations for this dish.  I mean, look at it!

No runny filling, the crust is sturdy, yet not cardboardy or tough.

 

 

Since this has been a ten year search for this method, I am going to be sure to save this for future pie purposes.  Most of this recipe will be focused on the construction methods-the specific filling and flavor profile is your call, but what makes this work is the crust method and the filling consistency.

 

Ingredients

For crust (it’s in metric, because that’s what I used for this.   Feel free to convert as needed):

  • 226g butter (two sticks, cold)
  • 50 g shortening
  • 550g AP flour
  • Big pinch salt
  • Ice water
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)

For filling (or use a very thick stew of your choice):

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2.5 lbs beef roast, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2/3 cup peas
  • 2 tbsp butter or bacon drippings
  • 4 tbsp flour (plus more, to thicken)
  • Herbs, salt, pepper and garlic, as needed
  • Stock, as needed

Method

Prepare the filling. Toss the beef in the flour, season as desired.  Melt butter in large skillet, and brown beef.  Add onions, saute until translucent. Add carrots and mushrooms.  Season again (this will be a theme).  You need enough liquid in here to cook the carrots, but you don’t want it runny.  The mushrooms and beef should give off enough so you don’t need to add stock, but if it’s really dry at this stage, add stock (or wine or beer).  Cover and simmer 1 hour.  Add peas, adjust seasoning.   Cook another 30 minutes. Remove lid, check thickness.  If you can’t make a pile of the filling on one side of the pan and have it stay there, it’s not thick enough.  Make a flour and cold water (or cold stock) slurry, and thicken up your stew until it’s as thick as possible.  You won’t get a ton of thickening while it bakes, so now is the time to hit this consistency.  Once the stew is thickened, and the flavors are as you like them, let the filling cool slightly.

While your filling cooks, make your crust.  Cut butter into flour until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add salt, and slowly add water until the mixture holds together.  Wrap in plastic and stash in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (this can be done up to 24 hours ahead of time).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray 9″ deep dish pie pan with cooking spray and set aside.  Take crust out of fridge, and use 2/3rds of it for the bottom crust.   Roll crust out to at least 1/4″ thick (thicker is better-you need the structural support).  Place crust into pan, dock bottom and sides.  Line crust bottom with parchment and use pie weights.  Blind bake crust for 15-20 minutes.  Scramble egg with 1 tbsp water. Remove from oven, remove weights and parchment, and brush with egg wash. Bake another 5 minutes.  Roll remaining 1/3rd of the crust out for the top crust.

Fill blind baked crust with your stew until it’s level with the top of the dish.  Brush edges with egg wash, and place top crust on pie, gently pressing the edge closed.  Brush top crust with egg wash, and make vent slits.  Bake 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.  Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

 

At this point, I am now planning all of the different kinds of pies I can make with this method.  It would make a fantastic crust for chicken pot pie, so long as the filling is thick enough.

 

Spoon bread (healthy, easy version)

For those of you who haven’t gotten to experience spoon bread yet, I highly recommend it.  It’s basically corn and sour cream baked into a corn bread.  The fancier versions treat it like a soufflé, with whipped egg whites and everything, but for weeknights, that’s just a little intense for me.  This can be made as complicated or as simply as you want.  For this variant, I’m going with a super easy, pantry friendly version, but feel free to make this as indulgent as you want.  

Ingredients*

  • 1 box (8.5oz) Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 (15oz) can corn kernels (we used the corn off of 3 cooked cobs, and it was just right)
  • 1 (15oz) can creamed corn
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (most recipes call for 1 stick, but we didn’t miss it with only half that)
  • 5 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 oz sour cream (could omit the Greek yogurt and just use 1 cup of sour cream, but the yogurt does save some calories, and gives you a lighter texture without whipping eggs)
  • 3 eggs

 

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix ingredients in a large bowl.  Dump into greased baking dish (I used 8″x8″).  Bake until set, 40-45 minutes.  If desired, brown the top under the broiler. Cool, and serve.

*Note on additions-you can add pretty much any additional flavoring agent you could want to this.  Bacon? Go for it.  Jalapeños? Absolutely.  Cheese? Go nuts. Green onions? Why not?  Think of it as a blank corn-based canvas.

This is a really nice side dish with baked barbecue sauce chicken (as seen here), or anywhere you might otherwise serve corn.  This will probably make it into the rotation for side dishes for those days we’re running the smoker.

 

 

 

Venison Meatballs

Here in Kansas, deer season can result in some pretty tasty venison, if you happen to know someone who hunts.  Luckily, we do.  While Chris grew up eating venison (although mostly in summer sausage or chili form), I came to venison eating later in life and quite enjoy it.  As with any game meat, it can vary in flavor and intensity depending on the specific animal, but the meat we used for this recipe was quite mild.  If you’re sensitive to gamy flavors, you have a couple of options.  You can either try to cover up the meat flavor with spices, at which point you might as well just skip the venison and use beef, or you can use intensely savory flavors for the sauce (as we did here) that actually pair well with a slightly gamy flavor.  The seasoning options presented here are only a guideline-take this any direction that suits you. They would play equally well as a Swedish meatball, or as a standard red-checkered tablecloth spaghetti and meatball.

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Ingredients

2 lbs ground venison

1 lb ground pork (80% lean)

3/4-1 cup breadcrumbs

2 eggs

2/3 cup parmesan (in the can, yes I know. Shameful, but it’s the best for meatballs. I’ve tried putting the good stuff in there instead, but it just doesn’t work as well.  Must be the cellulose).

1 tbsp Italian seasoning (use your favorite-we used a bread dipping mix I grabbed at a local spice shop)

1 tbsp steak seasoning or season salt

1 tsp ground pepper

1 tsp salt

Dash Worcestershire sauce

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients by hand until well mixed.  If the mixture is too sticky, add more breadcrumbs until the meat mixture sticks to itself, not to you.  On an oiled baking sheet, roll out your desired size of meatball.  I like the 2-3 tbsp size range, so I ended up with about 50 meatballs from this mixture.  Bake for 25 minutes. At this point you can either use them in a dish, or cool, then stash in a freezer safe bag until you have a hankering for more venison.

For the red wine mushroom sauce in the picture, I’m afraid I don’t have an exact recipe for it, but I can provide some general guidelines.  We used our standard roux based sauce method, where we make a roux, when it starts to darken, add the veggies (onion and mushrooms here).  Sauté off for a few minutes, then deglaze with some booze (we started with marsala, but ran out.  oops).  2-3 cups of mixed meat broth then goes in, along with garlic, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  We let it simmer covered for a few minutes to let the mushrooms give up their juice, and then added some Shiraz we had open (along with a shot of brandy, because at this point, why not?).  Meatballs went in, and we simmered it for another few minutes to warm the meatballs up again, and to let that flavor mix with the sauce a bit.  I wasn’t really keeping track of the amounts of anything we used, but that’s the joy of cooking for fun.

Weeknight dinner rolls

I am going to start this post with an entirely banal statement.  Homemade bread is amazing.  I know I’m not staking out a highly contentious position with this, but I feel like I need to make my position on this topic clear from the beginning.  Unfortunately, good yeast breads tend to take longer than I want to devote to cooking on a week night, so I’ve been relying on the take and bake loaves of bread from the local Kroger.  These are all well and good for the crusty bread fix, but there’s nothing quite like a fresh pan of rolls.  On a whim, I looked around on Pinterest and found a one hour buttermilk dinner rolls recipe and decided to try it out last week.  The results were promising, but a little dense and pale in our oven. I made the recipe again yesterday with a few tweaks, and we have a winner.

Buttermilk dinner rolls

Buttermilk dinner rolls

 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups AP flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp rapid rise dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup water

Method

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all of the dry ingredients (including yeast), and stir briefly to combine.  In a microwave-safe container, mix the buttermilk, butter (sliced into smaller pieces) and water.  Heat until butter is melted.  With the dough hook attached and mixer running, slowly add in the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients.  When combined, turn speed up to medium low until dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If it’s too dry after a couple of minutes, add another tablespoon of buttermilk, and if it’s too wet, add some flour.  It is better to err on the side of sticky.  When the dough has had about 5 minutes on the mixer, remove the hook, cover the bowl and stash in a warm place for 10 minutes.  This allows the dough to relax a little bit before you shape the rolls.  While you’re rising the dough, preheat the oven to 170 degrees F, or as low as it will go.  After your 10 minutes are up, turn the dough out onto an oiled board, and shape into rolls (I like breaking it into twelve rolls).  Place rolls in a greased 9″x13″ pan, turn OFF the oven, cover the tray and allow the rolls to rise in the oven for 20-25 minutes. When the rolls have risen, remove them from the oven (VERY IMPORTANT) and preheat to 400 degrees F.   Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, covering them loosely with aluminum foil if they start to brown too much.  Remove from the oven and allow them to cool as long as you can before consuming in a frenzy of butter and crumbs.

 

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While they do take a little longer than an hour with these modifications (about 75 minutes), the results are worth it.  These are light, fluffy rolls that are great with dinner, or as rolls for sandwiches.  This is definitely going to be entering our bread rotation in a big way.   It’s also a short enough process that I can make the dough, and let them rise and bake while we’re working on the rest of dinner, which makes these absolutely manageable as a weeknight bread option.

 

Mushrooms on Toast

Several years ago, Chris and I would trawl youtube for the British episodes of Kitchen Nightmares (this was before the American version existed).  One of the restaurants featured was a cute little vegetarian cafe in Paris that had some major issues (obviously), but what really stuck out to us was the gorgeous mushrooms on toast that Gordon Ramsay (or his helper chef, I can’t remember at the moment) made.  It had huge, beautiful mushrooms on a generous piece of toasted brioche.  It looked like mushroomy joy on a plate. Since then, every once in a while we’ll remember that mushrooms on toast exist, and make some.   Because this was for dinner, I cooked a couple of eggs over medium (because runny yolk makes everything better), and added a little bit of Swiss cheese to the toasts.

Mushrooms on toast.

Mushrooms on toast. So much mushroom.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 lb mushrooms, sliced (a mixture is good-we used some oyster, cremini and button mushrooms)

1 tbsp butter

2 shallots, diced

1 clove of garlic (or roasted garlic paste, if you have it)

1/2 cup white wine

1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme and chives, but parsley would be a nice addition as well)

1-2 tbsp heavy cream

4 slices of french bread, no more than 1″ thick (if you’re using a baguette, you’ll want 6 slices of bread)

2-3 slices of Swiss cheese (or gouda) (optional)

3-4 eggs, cooked as desired (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat and when it starts to brown, add your shallots. Sauté for a couple of minutes until those start to brown, then add your garlic and herbs.  Sauté another 30 seconds or so and dump in your mushrooms.  I recommend adding some salt at this point, and sauté until the mushrooms start to brown slightly and soften, another couple of minutes.  Add your white wine, stir, then lower the heat and cover for another 5-10 minutes.  When the mushrooms are cooked through, remove the lid and add your cream.  Bring back to a gentle simmer to reduce the sauce.  Adjust your seasoning, and if you want to, refresh your herbs.

For the toast, I recommend preparing them in the oven with the broiler. I lightly brushed one side with butter, toasted it, then flipped the bread over and put just enough Swiss cheese to cover the toast.  I put it back under the broiler until melted.

To serve, put the toasts on the plate, dump half of the mushroom mixture over it, then top with your eggs (if desired).  It makes a ridiculously quick and filling weeknight meal, and can be scaled very easily if you’re serving more people. It is also very flexible on the liquid used.  If you don’t have a bottle of white wine open, you could use your favorite stock (especially with a tablespoon or so of brandy).

Cherry Pie

Chris’ favorite pie is pumpkin.  Without question, if I offer to make a pumpkin pie, he is on board with that idea.  His second favorite is cherry pie.   I always had reservations making a cherry pie, because most of the time, cherries weren’t in season, pitting cherries is a pain anyway, and the only other available option was the bright red canned cherry pie filling.  Also, most of the other fruit pies I have made end up being fruit soups.  Not anymore. We have started going to Sam’s Club regularly for some basics, and while browsing their freezer section one time, I saw huge bags of frozen sweet cherries.  Thinking in terms of smoothies, I grabbed a bag, and then promptly forgot about it in the freezer for 4 months.  Oops. Eventually, I found the cherry pie recipe here.  I decided to make it for Pi day, and wow.  We both loved the results. It has a very straightforward cherry fruit flavor, and is not nearly as cloyingly sweet as most of the canned fillings.  You also get more fruit, which is always nice in a fruit pie.  Unfortunately, the first time I made it I didn’t remember to get a photo of it for the blog.  So I made it again today.  Now, I cheated and used store-bought pie crust, but if you have a fantastic pie crust recipe, feel free to use that.

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Ingredients

Pie crust (enough for 1 double crust pie)

48 oz frozen dark sweet cherries (if you can find tart cherries, that would be better, but those are hard to find here)

3/4 cup sugar (a little less if you want a less sweet pie, down to 1/2 cup, or more if you’re using tart cherries-up to 1 cup)

5 tbsp corn starch (may need a little more, depending on how juicy your cherries are) (tapioca can be used as well, just use 1 tbsp less than the corn starch)

Pinch of salt

Splash of vanilla (optional)

1 tbsp butter

1 egg, for egg wash

Method

Prepare your pie crusts according to your recipe, or buy them.  Set them aside while you mix the cherries (still frozen is fine) with the sugar, salt, vanilla and cornstarch.  It will look something like this.

Mmm...crunchy.

Mmm…crunchy.

Set the bowl out for an hour and let the cherries thaw and soak into the starch.  If you’re impatient (like I am), then pull out a medium saucepan, pour the whole kit and caboodle into that and bring to a simmer.  It will start out looking cloudy

Foggy liquid

Foggy liquid

Once is comes up to a simmer, let it simmer gently for 5 minutes or so.  It should thicken and clear, looking something like this.

Steamy, but clearer.

Steamy, but clearer.

Let it cool while you deal with the crust.  Preheat your oven to 425 and roll out your bottom crust.  This is enough filling for a deep dish 9″ pie pan, so plan accordingly.  Once you have your bottom crust in place, pour in the filling and dot the top of the filling with the broken apart butter.   Top the pie with your second crust (I like lattice, but you can use a full crust if you like, just remember to leave some vent holes).  Brush the entire crust with egg wash, and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Remember to put a tray under the pie pan-it may drip a little bit.  After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 375 and bake another half hour.  The filling should be bubbling gently.  Remove and let cool for several hours, until fully set and at room temperature.

Mmmmmmm. Pie.

Mmmmmmm. Pie.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, if you must, or just enjoy a piece unadorned.   At some point, I am going to try this same method with a blueberry pie, or a peach and blueberry pie. When I do that, I will report any positive results here.