Double Decker Taco Cupcakes

August 20, 2012

I had to get your attention with that title huh? Double decker…Taco…cupcakes?!! How much more goodness could you pack into four little words? I’m happy to report that these little fellas didn’t only sound good, they really delivered on taste as well. Back in February, I had tried out a recipe for Lasagna Cupcakes  which I had seen on the Girl Who Ate Everything blog. They were a huge hit. A couple of months later, I noticed that she had posted a recipe for Double Decker Taco Cupcakes. I have just been itching to try these out since then and finally had an occasion to make up a batch. I’m glad I did ’cause let me tell ya…folks went wild for them!

These Taco Cupcakes are quite similar to the Lasagna version, baked in cupcake tins with wonton wrappers, but this time filled with all kinds of taco-y ingredients like seasoned ground beef, refried beans, crushed tortilla chips and cheese. Once they’re out of the oven, you can sprinkle your favourite taco fixin’s on top such as sour cream, onions, jalapeno peppers, cilantro and avocado over the tops. They come together very quickly and easily. I assembled them earlier in the day and then baked them right before my guests turned up. They were great for dinner and would serve wonderfully as “finger food” at a larger party (perhaps a Cinco de Mayo gathering…). But don’t wait until May! Find a reason to make these soon!

Double Decker Taco Cupcakes

recipe from: The Girl Who Ate Everything

yield: 18 Taco Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1b. ground beef
  • 1 package Old El Paso Taco seasoning mix
  • 36 Wonton Wrappers
  • 1 can (16 ounces) refried beans
  • 36 tortilla chips
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican Blend or Cheddar cheese
  • Optional Toppings: sour cream, diced tomatoes, diced onion, diced jalapeno peppers, cilantro, salsa, avocado

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. And spray 18 wells of muffin tins with cooking spray.

Brown beef in a skillet and drain the fat. Add the taco seasoning mix and water called for on the package and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Set aside.

Place one wonton wrapper in the bottom of each muffin cup. Layer about 1/2 Tbsp of refried beans on top of each wonton. Crush one tortilla chip on top of the beans. Top with 1 Tbsp of taco meat and 1 Tbsp of shredded cheese. Repeat the layers again with a wonton wrapper, refried beans, tortilla chips, taco meat, and cheese.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.

Gently remove from muffin tin and top with your favourite taco toppings.

Enjoy!


Moroccan Beef Bundles

February 21, 2012

You ever just get in the mood for food that is a bit different? You know, some different flavours than those you experience in the same old run of the mill dinners. I definitely felt that way recently and was quite intrigued to see this recipe for Moroccan Beef Bundles. Hmmm….let’s see….this recipe has that familiar old ground beef, but it is seasoned with cinnamon, ginger and mint. Well, that’s a bit different. And then there was that yogurt/harissa sauce to be served along with it. Harissa? Where would one find Harissa? It seems it is a spicy chile paste which comes from North Africa. The blog on which this recipe was found claimed that you would be able to find it in the International Aisle of your supermarket, or a Middle Eastern Market. So off I went to my local Giant and though I searched high and low, there was no Harissa to be found. Then I remembered that there was a Penzeys Spices store close by. I was sure they would have it, however once I arrived there (yup…should’ve called ahead) I was informed that they did not carry it. Luckily, the salesperson was quite helpful and suggested I head down the street to a store called The Lebanese Butcher. On a mission at this point, I set right out and with the assistance of a very helpful salesperson, was able to get my hands on some Harissa.

Elusive Harissa

Clutching my prized Harissa I was all set to make these little Moroccan Beef Bundles and rushed right home to get started. Everything went quite smoothly as I prepared the Moroccan Beef stuffing. The house smelled amazing…very exotic! Then came the time to work with the phyllo dough. Having never worked with this type of dough before, I didn’t know what to expect. All I can say is God Bless anyone who has to fool with this stuff on a daily basis! It was definitely challenging to get that phyllo into the muffin tins. In the end I won out, but came quite close to losing my religion several times while fiddling around with that stuff! I am happy to say though that in the end it was worth it!

The Moroccan Beef Bundles were delicious, and that Harissa/yougurt sauce was fantastic. It really spiced things up. Oh, and just a word of advice for those of you who think there is nothing too spicy for you and are tempted to stick your finger in the harissa to get a large dollop to pop right onto your unsuspecting taste buds….DON’T! That stuff is the real deal SPICY! You know… coughing, sputtering and sweating spicy. Consider yourself warned. That being said, combined with the yougurt which mellows it out significantly, it is gorgeous! I served the bundles for dinner with some spinach and chickpea couscous. Delicious!

But these little gems would also make great appetizers. So when you’re in the mood to try something a bit different, are prepared to go on the hunt for Harissa, and are not short on patience, try these amazing Moroccan Beef Bundles.

Moroccan Beef Bundles

recipe from: In the Kitchen with Stefano Faita

Yield: 12 bundles

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped ginger
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • ½ cup jarred tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 package phyllo pastry
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil or melted butter, for brushing phyllo pastry
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 tbsp. harissa sauce, store-bought or homemade

Directions:

In a large fry pan, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook ground beef until well browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add onions, garlic and ginger, cinnamon and cumin and continue to cook until onions have softened and mixture is fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes more. Add the tomato puree and continue to cook until moisture from the tomato puree has evaporated and mixture looks dry, about 10 minutes more. Stir in the parsley and mint. Remove mixture from heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut phyllo sheets into 4-inch squares and brush each square lightly with olive oil or melted butter. Place 6 squares of phyllo into each muffin cup, overlapping each layer. Spoon 2 ½ tbsp. the beef mixture into each of the phyllo cups and then carefully pleat the phyllo bundle closed. Brush tops with more olive oil or melted butter.

Bake bundles until pastry is golden brown and filling is hot, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir together yogurt and harissa sauce and serve with bundles.

Enjoy!


TexMex Chicken & Dumplings

January 10, 2012

Chicken & Dumplings. What better example of good old down-home, country-style cooking is there? My husband loves them! I’ve made the dish for him a few times, but was very excited to come across this adaptation of that classic comfort food. I’ve already confessed our weakness for spicy food. The Chicken & Dumplings I’ve had in the past have been very tasty, but I must say, they never had any kick to them at all and for all their “stick to your ribs”-ness, they were often quite bland. So, I was so happy to find that the good folks from the Lone Star State have really made quite an improvement to an already delicious dish by adding some chorizo sausage, cumin and cilantro into the mix. And oh no, they didn’t stop there, they went on to top it off with some big, fluffy, jalapeño, cilantro and cheddar cheese filled dumplings.

Mercy! Have I gone to heaven?!! The stew part of the dish definitely had overcome the somewhat boring flavours found with its Northern cousins. It delightfully had some heat to it.  And those dumplings….Oh, those Dumplings. They were simply out of this world! No floury, doughy, bland dumplings here. These fellows could really wake you up all on their own. This hearty TexMex Chicken & Dumpling dish is the best my husband and I have ever eaten! No contest whatsoever! Want something spicy to really warm you heart and soul on a cold winter’s evening? Look no further. Enjoy a bowl tonight!

TexMex Chicken & Dumplings

slightly adapted from: Today’s Nest

serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. chorizo sausage, 1-2 links
  • 2 1/2 lbs. chicken, I used boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 Cups water
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 medium onion – diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup diced celery, 2-3 ribs
  • 1 cup sliced carrots, 3-4 medium-sized
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons cornmeal

For the Dumplings:

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 beaten egg
  • milk enough to make up 2/3 cup liquid with the beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons diced jarred jalapeño peppers

Directions:

Put Chicken stock and water in large pot over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer.

Cook chorizo sausage in dutch oven over medium heat. Remove sausage from pan and set aside.

Place chicken breasts in pan with chicken stock for 20 minutes to poach.

Remove chicken breasts from pan and set aside to cool to touch. Once chicken and sausage have cooled, chop into 1″ pieces.

Bring sausage drippings in pan up to medium heat again and add onions, carrots and celery. Saute for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add salt, pepper and cumin. Stir well.

Sprinkle all-purpose flour over vegetables and stir to coat. Slowly  add chicken stock, stirring until flour is combined. Add remaining chicken stock to pan.

Add in the chopped chicken breast and chorizo sausage. Stir. Add chopped cilantro. Stir again. Keep mixture at low simmer. If stew does not seem thick enough to you, place 2 tablespoons cornmeal into small bowl. Add some of the broth from the stew to the cornmeal until it is a pourable consistency. Add cornmeal mixture back to stew and stir to combine. Continue to simmer the stew and it should thicken after 4 minutes or so.

Make dumplings by sifting together cake flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Stir in the chopped cilantro and shredded cheddar cheese.

Place egg in measuring cup. Beat egg. Add milk until total liquid measures 2/3 cup. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture. Stir until just moistened. Add melted butter and stir until just combined. Fold in chopped jalapeño pepper.

Using a small cookie scoop, drop  scoops of dough onto the top of the simmering stew. Leave room between the dumplings for expansion!

Place lid on pot and continue to cook for 15 minutes without lifting the lid. (This was really hard for me…I soooo wanted to peek!)

At 15 minutes, remove lid and check for doneness.

Serve warm.

Enjoy!


Texas Beef Chili

December 8, 2011

On a rainy, damp, cold day what is better than a big, warm bowl of spicy chili? You may ask what makes this chili particularly Texan. I definitely did. Apparently folks from the Lone Star state absolutely do not use beans or tomatoes in their chili. Chili, for Texans, is all about the beef, (being big chunks of steak, not ground beef) and the chili spices. This chili definitely had some heat to it, but Ancho chiles are fairly mild, so I did add a bit of cayenne pepper into the mix, cause we like it hot! This hearty chili was perfect for us, spicy and chock full of incredibly tender and flavourful steak. It cooks for 1 1/2 – 2 hours to achieve its level of yumminess, so make sure you have plenty of time to let it simmer. Patience is a virtue, so I’m told. I served this Texas Beef Chili with some spicy cornbread ebelskivers, but warmed tortillas would also be great. Guess those Texans really do know their chili!

Texas Beef Chili

recipe slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma “Comfort Food” by Rick Rodgers

serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 Cup Ancho Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Spanish Paprika
  • 2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
  • 4 lbs. Boneless Beef Chuck Roast
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 Jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • 1 large Red Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 Cups Lager Beer
  • 1 Cup Beef Stock
  • 2 Tablespoons yellow Cornmeal

For Serving:

Shredded Cheddar Cheese, chopped red onion, sour cream, minced jalapeño peppers

Directions:

Place cumin powder, ancho chile powder, paprika, and oregano in bowl. Mix well and set aside.

Cut the beef into 1/2 inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. In batches to avoid crowding, add the beef cubes and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of oil to the pot. Add the onion, jalapeño, bell pepper, and garlic and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Uncover, add the spice mixture, and stir well for 30 seconds. Stir in the beer and stock. Return the beef to the pot, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the beef is fork-tender, 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Remove the chili from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Return the pot to medium heat and ring to a simmer. Transfer about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to a small bowl, add the cornmeal, and whisk well. Stir into the chili and cook until lightly thickened, about 1 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the chili into warmed bowls and serve hot, with bowls of Cheddar, onions, sour cream, and jalapeños on the side for sprinkling on top.

serves: 8


Spicy Chorizo & Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Cream

September 22, 2011

Let me just start off by saying “Dios Mio” these empanadas were fan-freakin-tastic! I am totally serious! I had never attempted to make empanadas before, but was definitely interested in them. They are essentially latino meat pies. I LOVE meat pies, no matter what country they spring from, be they Cornish pastys, bridies, peirogis, pot pies or calzones. All awesome and all grab my undivided attention the second they make their appearance! So it is no surprize that when I saw the recipe for Chorizo Empanadas over at Handle the Heat, I could not resist. I had always assumed that these delicious little pastries originated in Mexico/Central/South America. However, apparently empanadas trace their origins to Spain and Portugal. From there they were carried to Latin America and the Philippines by the Spanish and Portuguese colonists. Once introduced, each country added their own special regional flavours to the dish. Baked or fried, they are, ladies and gentlemen, the perfect comfort food. They are a bit time-consuming to prepare, however you can make the dough and filling up to two days ahead of time and leave the actual assembly of the empanadas for the day you plan to serve them. Then, while they are baking, you can just whip up the avocado cream sauce. Easy peasy!

These particular empanadas are baked. The crust is just a buttery perfection, the filling spicy and cheesy and loaded with good, old spuds! (Another big favourite of mine – no matter how they’re prepared.) They were unbelievably yummy right out of the oven and were also just as good – if not better – reheated a couple of days later. Though to be honest, I don’t know how they made it that long around here because they really were stunning. And if they weren’t good enough on their own (and they were) the avocado cream will put you right over the moon! Your really have to make this dish!

Oh and the other simply wonderful thing about this recipe is that I had quite a bit of that mouth-watering filling left over. You might think, “Hmmm. Well I’ll just cut the amounts in half.” No! Don’t do it!!! Make every bit of the filling as the recipe calls for, because it tastes great and you will be able to feast on it in other dishes you’ll prepare later that week. For instance, we made a Spicy Chorizo & Cheese Frittata:

Spicy Chorizo Frittata

As well as a very adventurous Cilantro Pesto Pizza topped with the Spicy Chorizo & Cheese filling.

Spicy Cilantro & Chorizo Pizza

I really must say, that pizza was really delightful. And yes….spuds do go great on a pizza! Who’d of thunk it? So don’t delay, get to making some empanadas today!

Spicy Chorizo & Cheese Empanadas with Avocado Cream

recipe very slightly adapted (I merely added some cheese) from Handle the Heat

yields: 20 empanadas

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • pinch paprika

Filling:

  • 1 pound Mexican chorizo, casings removed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2-3 medium Yukon gold potatoes (or other waxy potatoes), peeled, finely diced, and boiled
  • 1 cup mexican blend shredded cheese

Avocado cream:

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 avocados
  • kosher salt

Directions:

For the dough:
Heat water and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter has melted. Let cool slightly. Mix flour, salt, and paprika in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Pour melted butter mixture into flour mixture and mix with your hands until you get a wet, oily dough. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
For the filling:
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add chorizo, breaking apart into small pieces, then add onion. Saute until chorizo is cooked through. Turn off heat, add diced and boiled potatoes, and let cool completely.
To assemble:
While the filling is cooling, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray or line with parchment. Tear off pieces of dough to roll about 20 golf-sized balls. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough balls on a lightly floured surface into 5″ circles. Place 2-3 tablespoons of cooled filling into the center of each dough circle. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the filling. Fold dough over filling and cheese to make a half-moon shape and press edges firmly to seal. Crimp with the back of a fork. Place empanadas on baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Let cool.
For avocado cream:
While the empanadas cool, place sour cream, half and half, lemon juice, and jalapeno in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Peel, pit, and dice the avocado and add to blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Season with salt. If not serving immediately, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, pressing plastic onto the surface of avocado cream to prevent browning.
Enjoy!

Chicken Potpie

April 15, 2011

My husband LOVES Chicken Potpie. I don’t know many folks that don’t. This nostalgic dish can truly warm body and soul on a damp, rainy day. A hearty, delicious, tried and true comfort food. With the dreaded “tax day” coming up (not today, April 15th, but Monday April 18th this year due to the extension) there are probably more than a few out there who might need some comfort! This recipe is mouth-watering, very easy to make and will go a long way towards soothing your frayed and frazzled nerves. You begin by preparing the buttery, flaky pastry dough, guaranteed to bake to a beautiful golden brown. You saute the veggies.

veggies cooking

Once done, you add them, along with the shredded chicken to a savory, thick gravy. After the potpie filling has cooled for about an hour, you simply assemble the pies and pop them into the oven. I made several different portion sizes. The version pictured above was baked in a large popover pan and is a good lunch sized portion. I baked some in 7 oz. ramekins for the petite appetites,

Petite Pies

as well as some in large 22 oz.-”hungry man” sized ramekins.

The Hungry Man!

Believe me, once you bite into one of these deliciously gratifying pies, you will feel your mood lift and will swear the skies actually brighten! Get creative and make some of these today. Your family will go wild!

Mmmmm! How can you resist?!

Chicken Potpie

Ingredients:

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 pound, quartered Button Mushrooms

1 Cup chopped Leeks, white and pale green parts

1/2 Cup Carrots, finely diced

1/3 Cup fresh or thawed frozen peas

1/3 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon All-purpose flour

4 1/2 Cups Chicken stock or broth

1/3 Cup Dry Sherry

2 teaspoons fresh Tarragon, minced

4 Cups cooked, shredded Chicken (rotisserie chicken works great!?

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Double-Crust flaky pastry dough (see below for recipe)

1 Large egg

Ingredients for Double-Crust Pastry Dough:

2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup plus 5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, chilled

1/2 Cup Ice Water

Directions for the Pastry Dough:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Cut the butter into chucks and scatter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture just until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas. ( I actually do this in the food processor. It takes about 5-6 pulses to get the flour butter mixture to have that coarse meal appearance.)

Drizzle the ice water over the flour mixture 1 tablespoon at a time and either mix with a fork or pulse your food processor after each addition. The dough should be crumbly and will not hold together on its own but will when gathered into a ball and compressed with your hands. If it is too dry, add a bit more ice water. Again 1 Tablespoon at a time.

Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Can be made ahead and frozen for up to 2 months.

Now you are ready to begin making the Chicken Potpie filling.

Directions for Chicken Potpie:

In a large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in the leeks and carrots, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the peas.

In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and let bubble gently for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the stock and sherry and then the tarragon. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Stir in the shredded chicken and the mushroom-leek mixture and season with salt and pepper. Let cool until lukewarm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spoon the chicken mixture into six 1 1/2 cup ovenproof soup crocks or ramekins. Or if you’d like to make the smaller popover shaped chicken potpies as pictured above, lightly grease the individual wells of a large popover pan. Line each well with pastry dough making sure there are no holes in the pastry lining and that it is snug against the walls of the well. Work the pastry so that it comes up just over the edge of the well so that you can easily attach a lid. Cut your lids out to be slightly larger than the diameter of the popover well. Poke a couple of holes is the lid so that steam can escape during baking. Fill the pastry lined wells with the Chicken Potpie mixture. Brush the underside of the lid with the egg wash. Place lid on the top of the individual pie and crimp around the edges. Brush the top of each pie with the egg wash.

If you are using ramekins, after you have filled them, place the pastry dough on a lightly floured work surface and dust the top with flour. (If the dough is chilled hard, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes until it begins to soften before rolling it out.) Roll it out into a rectangle about 20 x 13 inches and 1/8 inch thick. Using a 6-inch saucer as a template, use a knife to cup out 6 rounds. Beat the egg with a pinch of salt. Lightly brush each round with the egg. Place 1 round, egg side down, over each ramekin, keeping the pastry taut and pressing it around the ramekin edges to adhere. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Lightly brush the tops with the egg. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 25 minutes. If you are making the popover sized pies, you will likely be able to reduce your cooking time to 15 minutes. Transfer each ramekin or popover to a dinner plate and serve.

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food by Rick Rodgers


Jay’s Pizza Nights

April 12, 2011

I generally do most of the cooking around here. However that is not because my husband can’t cook. He definitely can, but tends to specialize in a few things. He does an awesome breakfast. He always cooks the bacon to a crispy perfection, whereas I tend to burn it more often than not. He also really loves to make home-made pizza. So on Jay Pizza Nights, I get to be sous chef and let him take over the kitchen. I love it! It’s not simply because he is doing the cooking, it’s because Jay’s Pizza Nights are always bunches of fun! There’s great tunes playing, wonderful company, cocktails served all around so that the actual experience of making the dinner only barely takes a back seat to the delight of scarfing it down. And let me just say right now, these pizzas are delicious!  He usually prepares two pies, rectangular shaped, about 5″x10″. On this night he made a sausage pepperoni pizza with and arrabiata sauce and a chicken, spinach pizza with an alfredo sauce.

He begins a couple of days before our Pizza Night by preparing Peter Reinhart’s Napoletana Pizza Dough. This recipe makes dough for six- 6 oz. pizza crusts. We freeze the extras for future Pizza Nights. We love thin, crispy crust pizzas and this recipe will give you just that. Don’t be intimidated by all the steps. Believe me it is so worth it. As I mentioned, you do need to plan ahead and make the dough at least day before you plan to prepare your pizzas. It needs to be in the refrigerator overnight at a minimum. Once the dough has finished fermenting, he removes it from the refrigerator, re-shapes it into two discs, about 5″ in diameter and lets it then rest for 2 hours at room temperature. Finally, he stretches it out to form two rectangular pizza crusts, though you could do round pies, 9″ to 12″ in diameter, if you prefer. He places these crusts on a pizza paddle or peel which has been dusted with yellow cornmeal. The cornmeal will allow the pizza doughs, once prepared and ready for baking, to slide more easily onto the pizza stone, which has been preheated in the oven for 45 minutes. The pizza stone is important. If you don’t have one, seriously consider investing in one. Your pizza crust will thank you.

Fresh Toppings

Now we’re ready to add the toppings. It is very important to show some self-restraint here and this is always difficult to do so! The temptation is to load that pizza dough up with every kind of goodness you can imagine. The more the merrier right? Unfortunately this will not result in the dream pizza you were hoping for. More likely you will end up with something soggy and unwieldy. Remember, less is more! Jay uses store-bought sauces, as previously mentioned, an arrabiata and an alfredo. He add just a bit of sauce, no more than 3 Tablespoons, spreading it over the dough though stopping about 1″ or so from the edge. This will allow the crust there to puff-up and crisp. Then he tops it with just the right amount of toppings like pepperoni, hot italian sausage, freshly picked basil and fresh mozzarella for the red pizza and fresh spinach, sautéed garlic, roasted chicken breast and fresh mozzarella for the alfredo pizza. One of the great things about pizza though is that it is easy to customize it to your taste. So let your imagination run wild here, but always remember-less is more!

Pepperoni & Sausage Arrabiata Pizza ready to bake

Spinach, Chicken Alfredo Pizza not far behind

He brushes the edges of the crust with a flavoured olive oil and sprinkles it with a bit of flaky Maldon sea salt. We transfer these pizzas, one at a time from the pizza paddle on which they were prepared, onto the hot pizza stone in the oven.

On the Pizza Stone and into the oven!

Then we simply bake them at 475°F until the cheese is melted and the crust has turned a beautiful, crispy golden brown.

Finished Pies!

YUM! Who needs pizza delivery? You’ll be ruined for it after this! Get started on your own Pizza Night today!

And don't forget the wine!

Peter Reinhart’s Napoletana Pizza Dough Recipe

Recipe originally from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

The pared down version of the recipe shown here is from 101 Cookbooks.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 (.44 ounce) teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice-cold (40°F)
Semolina flour OR cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed (or mix on low-speed with the paddle attachment), If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn’t come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50° to 55°F.

2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with baking parchment and misting the parchment with spray oil (or lightly oil the parchment). Using a metal dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you are comfortable shaping large pizzas), You can dip the scraper into the water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking to it, Sprinkle flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan, Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag.

3. Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days. (Note: If you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag. Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. You can place the bags into the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.)

4. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Before letting the dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours, dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil. Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil, and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag. Now let rest for 2 hours.

5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven as hot as possible, up to 800°F (most home ovens will go only to 500 to 550°F, but some will go higher). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.

6. Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift 1 piece of dough by getting under it with a pastry scraper. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue shaping it. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss as shown on page 208. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. You can also resort to using a rolling-pin, though this isn’t as effective as the toss method.

7. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter for a 6-ounce piece of dough), lay it on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other toppings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy. The American “kitchen sink” approach is counterproductive, as it makes the crust more difficult to bake. A few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including sauce and cheese is sufficient.

8. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, then take a peek. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower self before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.

9. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.

Makes six 6-ounce pizza crusts.



Beef & Guinness Pie

March 15, 2011

Beef and Guinness…need I say more. My idea of comfort food. This pie is not only so simple to make but also so incredibly delicious. The filling for this pie is cooked slowly for 1 1/2 hours to allow the flavour of the Guinness to thoroughly permeate it.You won’t believe the fantastic, mouth-watering aroma that will fill your house while you’re preparing it. You can even prepare the filling a day in advance should you desire. Make it on St. Patrick’s Day and watch your guests melt at the first bite! This is another Chef Gordon Ramsay recipe and it will not disappoint! The Chef recommended baking the Beef & Guinness in an 8″ pie dish. I have done this and it is not only very easy, but presents very well. However, I was feeling creative the other night and thought I’d try some variations, so I baked a couple servings in French soup bowls and covered them with a shortcrust pastry.

Beef & Guinness Pie in soup bowls

Not to be stopped there, I made smaller individual pies by lining the wells of a large popover pan with pastry dough, filling it with the Beef and Guinness and then cutting a bit more of the pastry for a lid.

Stand-alone Beef & Guinness Pie

Yummy Guinnessy Goodness inside!

Adorable huh? No matter how you package it, you just can’t go wrong with this recipe!

Beef & Guinness Pie

Recipe by Chef Gordon Ramsay

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb. (750g) lean braising steak, eg. skirt of beef, beef chuck

4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Freshly ground salt and pepper

4 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon tomato purée

16 oz. (500ml) Guinness

3/4 lb. (350g) shallots, peeled and chopped

a few sprigs of thyme

2 Bay leaves

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 Tablespoon water

Pastry Dough-either shortcrust or puff pastry-enough for 8″ pie dish minimum

Directions:

Dice the beef into  1″ (2.5 cm) cubes. Place the flour in a medium-sized bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Roll the beef in the flour to coat.

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the beef until golden brown in colour. Add the tomato purée and cook for 1 minute, stirring well. Then pour in the Guinness and add the shallot, thyme, bay leaves and garlic. Season with the salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the bay leaves.

Preheat oven to 390° F (200°C/Gas 6)

Transfer the meat to a 8″ (20 cm) pie dish-2″ (5-7 cm) deep

Roll out the pastry and cover the pie. Scrunch the pastry to the edge of the dish and trim around the edge, leaving 1-2 cm overhanging. Brush the top with the egg. *for the baking dish variations shown above, read below*

Transfer to a baking tray and place in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

*For French Soup Bowls or Individual Ramekins:

Place Beef & Guinness filling in baking dish of choice. Roll out pastry. Cut pastry lid 1-2″ larger than dish. Brush the underside of the lid with the egg wash. Fit to top of dish and scrunch the pastry to the edge. Brush the top of the pastry dough with the egg wash.

*For Popover Stand-alone Pies:

Lightly grease the individual wells of a large popover pan. Line each well with pastry dough making sure there are no holes in the pastry lining and that it is snug against the walls of the well. Work the pastry so that it comes up just over the edge of the well so that you can easily attach a lid. Cut your lids out to be slightly larger than the diameter of the popover well. Poke a couple of holes is the lid so that steam can escape during baking. Fill the pastry lined wells with the Beef & Guinness mixture. Brush the underside of the lid with the egg wash. Place lid on the top of the individual pie and crimp around the edges. Brush the top of each pie with the egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let pies cool in pan for 5 minutes. Gently slide them out of the pan. Do not grab the top and pull or risk the top of the pie breaking off.


Celtic Pork Tart

March 14, 2011

Celtic Pork Tart is another incredibly easy dish to prepare, but tastes like you worked all day on it!  I like to make my own tart dough, and have included the recipe I use. But if you are pressed for time, a store-bought 9″ pie crust works just fine. Basically you just mix all the ingredients together, spoon it into your baking dish and 45 minutes later you have a fantastic dinner. Although the recipe indicates that either dates or apples are fine, I must say that I have tried both and think that dates give it that extra sweetness that makes it unique. When you think of a meat pie, generally sweet is not what you are expecting. But let me tell you the sweet and savory combination works! And its great straight out of the oven as well as straight out of the fridge. If you want to try something different than the ole Corned Beef and Cabbage for your St. Patrick’s Day feast, give this dish a try!

Pork Tart

Ingredients:

For the Tart Dough:

1 large egg yolk

2 Tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 Cups (6 1/2 oz./200g) all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 Cup (4 oz/125g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 ” cubes

For the Pork Filling:

1 1/2 pounds ground pork

1/2 cup chopped dates (or apples as you prefer)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

4 eggs, beaten

Pinch of salt and black pepper

1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. cardamom

Zest of 1 lemon

Directions:

Pre heat oven to 375° F

In a small bowl, stir together the egg yolk, 2 Tablespoons water, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, and salt and pulse to blend.

Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with butter pieces no larger than small peas.

Add the egg mixture and pulse just until the dough pulls together. If the dough is dry, mix in more water 1 Tablespoon at a time.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. The dough can be used right away or wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated until well chilled, about 30 minutes.

Lightly flour the work surface, then flatten the disk and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness 2-3 inches larger than your pan.

Fit dough to your 9 1/2 ” tart pan.

Mix together pork, dates, parmesan, eggs, seasonings and lemon zest.

Spoon mixture into uncooked 9″ pie shell or into 9 1/2″ tart pan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 155° F

The tart may be served either hot or cold.

Tart Dough Recipe from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

Celtic Pork Tart Recipe from Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala


Shepherd’s Pie

March 11, 2011

What would St. Patrick’s Day be without some tasty Shepherd’s Pie? Somewhat lacking I’d wager. I’ve always considered this an Irish dish. However, some folks have recently questioned whether it didn’t originate in England. I looked around online to see if I could find a definitive answer and really couldn’t, though there seems to be plenty of debate. I certainly ate more than my share of Shepherd’s Pie in Ireland. You can find it everywhere, its a pub grub staple, so I’ve decided to include it. There are literally zillions of ways to make this dish. Chef Gordon Ramsay makes a fantastic Shepherd’s Pie, so I’ve used his recipe (which he claims is English-just ignore that) with some slight modifications. He uses lamb mince (ground lamb) in his dish. I chose to use ground beef, which is much more widely available in this neck of the woods, and my husband doesn’t really care for lamb. I guess that makes mine a Cottage Pie technically, since I think Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb, whereas Cottage Pie is done with beef. The only other thing I changed is that I like peas in my Shepherd’s Pie. Chef Ramsay didn’t include any, but I threw some in. You will love this incarnation of the dish. The mince, or ground meat, is incredibly flavourful and the mashed potatoes on top give it a satisfying crunch followed with a lovely creamy finish. Fantastic!

Mmmmm! Shepherd’s Pie….

Shepherd’s Pie

Original recipe by Gordon Ramsay, modifications by me (don’t tell the Chef-I’m a bit scared of him!)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/4 pound (500g) minced lean lamb-or ground beef

1 large onion, finely grated

1 large carrot, finely grated

2 cloves garlic

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tablespoon tomato puree

Handful of thyme sprigs, leaves picked

1 sprig of Rosemary, needles chopped

1 small can of le sueur very young small early peas

1 cup + 1 Tablespoon (250ml) red wine-or some might say “a healthy glug”

1 1/4 Cup (300ml) chicken stock

2 1/4 lbs.(1kg) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

3 1/2 Tablespoons (50g) butter

2 egg yolks

1/4 heavy cream-you could use milk if you are being virtuous

Parmesan cheese, for grating

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C/gas 4)

Watch Chef Ramsay prepare his Shepherd’s Pie and become inspired.

Easy right? Now you’re ready to go!

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan until hot. Season the meat and fry in the oil over moderate to high heat for 2-3 minutes. If the meat has released a lot of grease, drain off at this point. Return pan to heat. Stir the onions and carrot into the meat and then grate the garlic in as well. Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree, herbs and peas. Cook for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly. Pour in the red wine and reduce until almost completely evaporated. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce has thickened.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain then return to the hot pan over low heat to dry out briefly. Pass them through a potato ricer or use a good old-fashioned potato masher/ stand mixer combo as I did. Beat in the butter, egg yolks and cream followed by about 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the meat into the bottom of a large ovenproof dish. I used a 8 1/2″ by 8 1/2 ” square dish. Individual ramekins would likely work as well. Make sure the dish is deep enough to accommodate both a healthy layer or minced beef as well as the potato topping. Once you’ve place the meat into your dish or dishes of choice, using a large spoon, layer the mashed potato generously on top, starting from the outside and working your way into the middle. Grate some extra Parmesan over the top. Fluff up the mashed potato with a fork to make rough peaks. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.

Enjoy!


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