Boston Baked Beans

bakedbeans

Introduction

Knitting and crochet have slowed down quite a lot so Tuesday this week will also be “off topic.” I’m not in a slump or anything. I’ve been working a lot of hours. I’ll have nothing for WIP Wednesday. I might have something done for FO Friday if I get settled in with some cross stitch.

I usually share a recipe when I can’t discuss my crafting progress, so I decided, why not share my Boston Baked Beans recipe? I think this could be useful to some people, but especially my fellow bloggers who are uncertain about what exactly “American food” is. My English learners never fail to answer “hamburger” if I ask them to tell me an example of an American dish. After I say, “that’s not exactly a dish, it’s a sandwich,” well, nothing else crosses the learners’ minds. I’ve even been asked if we only eat hamburgers and hot dogs every day. I guess that person never saw an American TV show or a Hollywood film!

In Spain, people’s ignorance about America is completely understandable. My homeland seems to be only interested in selling Coke products as well as McDonald’s and Burger King to the entire world, helping the population to become generally unhealthier every day.

So, if you are unfamiliar with the USA and have no idea what American food is, you are just like an American, who also has no idea what constitutes American food! We Americans certainly seem to know, or act like we know, what it is, but the truth is it’s a hodgepodge of dishes from all around the world that often get hybridized or transformed, mixing together things native to the American continent with other ingredients from elsewhere. Take, for example, General Tso’s Chicken. We Americans more often consider this dish to be Chinese, but it was invented in the USA and as far as I know, you won’t find it in China anywhere. It’s American, but then again, it isn’t. It’s a mixture.

And, with all that said, why not pick a dish from New England, the region I am from in the northeastern United States? Nothing exemplifies the hybrid nature of American food more than these Boston Baked Beans. Some people say they are from Boston because of two ingredients: molasses and salt pork. Molasses, however, came to Boston from the Caribbean via trade ships, so maybe there were people cooking them this way in the islands and it traveled to America from there. The cooking method – baking – was learned from Native Americans. BBC Good Food actually published a version that is not at all even near to being what I consider to be Boston Baked Beans, but that’s OK. Make the dish any way you want.

Like most folk recipes, this dish does not require a lot of skill and the amounts can be altered to adapt it to your individual preferences. It adapts well to any old cooking method: Slow cooker, pressure cooker, oven. You don’t even have to bake them.

The Recipe

Ingredients:

1 package, usually 1 lb. or 15 oz, of navy beans (Br. Eng. “haricot beans,” Southern US English “pea beans”), soaked overnight or use the fast-soaking method (weight of beans given before soaking)

1 Tblsp. Worcestershire sauce (or more, if you want!)

1/4 cup molasses (or more, for sweeter beans)

1 Tblsp. prepared mustard (or dried mustard, if you wish)

1 onion, chopped

8 oz salt pork or a few slices of smoked bacon

Enough water to cover the beans in your cooking pot of choice

Directions:

Drain the beans and discard the soaking water. Dump all the ingredients into the pot. When you add water, just have the water go about 1 inch above the surface of the beans. You can check by placing a wooden spoon upright into the water, dipping it in until it touches the surface of the beans.

If you wish to bake them: Place them in a preheated 350 F oven and bake them, covered, for about 3 hours. It will be necessary to check on them to stir them and add more water if they dry out.

If you wish to slow cook them, set the slow cooker to high and cook for 8 hours. Again, you will need to check on them periodically to see if they need more water.

If you’re using a pressure cooker, cook the beans on high pressure for 50 minutes. Wait for the pressure to slowly go down instead of using a fast method of reducing pressure.

When your beans are done, add salt to taste. I do not recommend cooking them with any added salt. They may never get tender. The salt pork may be enough flavor enhancement, anyway.

Troubleshooting your beans:

  1. Are your beans too watery? This most often happens with the pressure cooker method. Easy solution: put them in a pot on the stove, bring them to a gentle boil, and then simmer them until the excess water evaporates and they are at the desired consistency. In fact, this is why I use a stove top pressure cooker to make mine. If they have too much water, I just cook them uncovered until the liquid is reduced.
  2. Are your beans still not done? You’ll have to cook them some more! Sometimes dried beans take longer than usual because of a variety of factors, including the age of the beans.

How to serve your Boston Baked Beans

This can be a side dish or the main course. That’s how we eat them in Maine!

Popular meats to serve with them: sausages or hot dogs, a steak, a hamburger.

Breakfast (or “breakfast for dinner”): With hot buttered toast, fried eggs and potatoes, a blueberry muffin.

As a main course: By all means, try making some Boston Brown Bread and eat it with your beans. That’s what we do in Maine, as well. When they’re served this way, some people prefer to eat them with a spoon instead of a fork.

Popular garnishes: I, like a lot of people, add ketchup to my beans along with some pickle relish.

Baked Bean Trivia

The wonderful city of Boston has the nickname “Beantown” because it was believed that this dish comes from there and because people who live in Boston and Maine, as well as other parts of New England, eat this dish regularly. Some of us make them from scratch as my recipe teaches you to do. Others of us eat them from cans. Some of us do both. When I lived in the US, like a good Mainer, I always had some cans of baked beans in my cupboard, just in case I needed them.

Sadly, baked beans come from absolutely nowhere and everywhere, so the Boston thing is partially a myth. It is true that the Boston style is present in this recipe: salt pork and molasses make these the “Beantown” variety, but it seems that cooking them in a sauce similar to this one has been done in many different places. As a matter of fact, in eastern Canada and Northern Maine, some people prefer to use maple syrup instead of the Boston-style molasses ingredient.

As far as the baking goes, that method was no doubt invented by the Penobscot Native Americans in Maine. In Maine we have a cooking method especially for baked beans called “bean hole” cooking, where the pot is buried in the ground with hot coals. Not a lot of people cook their beans this way anymore, but sometimes you can still see it happen, especially at cookouts.

Advertisements

OT: Best recipes I’ve found and tried

I’ve decided that Mondays are going to be “off topic” (OT) days. Here we go with the first one:

I have been using the Internet now for about 20 years (maybe plus a year or two). After two decades of Internet activity I have found only ten recipes that are useful in my life. The rest of my cooking comes from recipes in cookbooks, from my mom, or my brain.

Just three weeks ago there were only nine recipes from the Internet that I would use frequently. Then, one day, I was browsing through the blog Tanglewood Knots by the awesome crocheter, Tami. She posted about a recipe for blueberry muffins. I’ve made a few batches of them and they are now going to be a new staple. Being a Mainer and formidable wild blueberry pickah – ayuh! –  I am very fussy about my blueberry muffins and I’d been using the same old recipe I got from my mom for years.

So, now that I’ve got a list of ten, why not share the most useful recipes I have ever found on the Internet? None of them are necessarily better than another. You’ll notice that they are jumbled up a little, alternating sweet with savory, chicken with beef, etc.  I did that to emphasize that there is no number 1. These are all equally excellent. By no means do I endorse any of the web sites these recipes link to, although I must confess that a couple of them are repeated. Still, I am indifferent to them. By chance they provided a recipe I think is helpful to me. That’s it.

New England Clam Chowder

I know my “chowdah.” This recipe has additional things that I like in my homemade clam chowder that is not possible to find in a restaurant in Maine. Restaurants that serve “typical” food tend to stick with the same old thing; mostly, I think, to fulfill tourist expectations. I appreciate the use of Tabasco sauce in this dish. In my opinion, it’s so much better that way. I probably don’t follow this recipe exactly as it’s written, but I always add Tabasco now. More than likely, I follow the traditional Mainah recipe in my head and dash in the Tabasco. Just so you know, having a recipe for chowder is like having a baby that comes with an instruction manual. It just doesn’t work that way. Everybody in New England does their chowder in a unique way, depending on family-specific traditions, etc. So, don’t think of this as a recipe. Think of it as a schematic. In the end, you should have a thick, white, creamy stew that tastes like clams, onion, and potato. The rest is up to your own taste.

Cinnamon-Almond Cookies

I found this one on line and later realized something stupid: I already had it in a cookbook I had never used! Apparently, it first appeared in Bon Appetite’s dessert cook book, a collection of what the editor of the magazine thinks are their best in their publishing history. I bought it and left it unused for a few years. I’ve made other things from the book since I discovered this cookie recipe was also in there. I have never been disappointed, so the cook book is sort of like the best-kept secret I hid from myself.  The other recipes aren’t my strong go-to’s, though. Anyway, these cookies are killer. They’re also convenient because the dough keeps well in the freezer. I bake off one frozen log at a time. I’m still miffed that a recipe I bought is now free on line, but if I hadn’t been googling for roll cookies, I wouldn’t have rediscovered my unused book.

Blueberry Muffins (I left the smarm off the title)

The title indicates that these blueberry muffins are “to die for.” Personally, I wouldn’t die for them, but this is the best blueberry muffin recipe I have ever tried. It has an excellent crumb. I leave out the sugary topping because I like my blueberry muffins on the tart side, as they should be, in my humble, lobster-killing opinion. In Maine we sometimes use these at cookouts in place of bread or dinner rolls. They sort of live in this gray area between sweet and savory. Warning: the batter is extremely thick. Depending on factors like egg size and weather, the batter can seem too thick and dry. Just add a little more milk (don’t overdo it) and you’re good to go. The batter should be very thick but moist enough to incorporate all the flour. Typically, a couple of tablespoons more of milk saves the day for me. For best results, stir as little as possible, even fold (totally not necessary) the ingredients together if you have the patience. That exploits the perfect crumb this recipe is uncannily able to produce. Tip: if you have a convection oven (an oven with a fan) you might need to reduce the temperature to 375 or 350 F (190 or 180 C). I have had to adjust to 180 C.

Potato Chowder

The link above doesn’t go directly to a recipe. It’s a list of 50 soup recipes. By all means, try the other soups on the list. I have and I like them. You can find the one for potato chowder at number 14 or so. I make this one a lot in autumn and winter. It’s so easy to make it only occupies four lines or so on the page. It’s my favorite in this index. According to the title, all these soups are healthy. Take that with a grain of salt. Cream and bacon, anyone?

Shredded Beef Enchiladas with Three-Chile Sauce

I make these enchiladas frequently. They are by far the best. I have even replaced the beef with chicken with a lot of success. They are not always the enchiladas I can make, however. In Spain the ingredients disappear from the local shops and supermarkets I have to deal with. The biggest challenge is finding the chilies that the recipe calls for. Currently, I’m out of stock and just need to find some chipotles again. As soon as I do, I’m making these exact enchiladas again.

Lemon Bundt Cake

I don’t like Martha Stewart, but damn does she know how to make a lemon bundt cake. It’s a lot of work (not surprising, it’s a Martha Stewart anal retentive invention) but it’s totally worth it.

Chicken Stew with Biscuits

One morning after a night out, a friend of mine and I were having breakfast and channel surfing at my house. Mid-click, the Barefoot Contessa was demonstrating how to make this dish. I got the recipe and ever since then I make this often. I don’t bother with the rolled and cut biscuits, though. I just make a drop biscuit dough. Call me lazy, go right ahead! I know. I just don’t see the reasoning behind rolling out and cutting biscuits when you can get the same effect – lower in fat no less – with drop biscuit dough. When I make chicken pot pies this is my filling of choice, too.

Pressure Cooker Chicken (I left the smarm off the title)

As the smarmy title indicates, this chicken falls off the bone. That’s supposed to be a positive characteristic to be all smug about. Beware! It is not. If it’s falling off the bone, it’s on the verge of drying out and becoming a chicken Slim Jim from a very seedy gas station convenience store. If you try this, cook for the exact time indicated in the recipe and when the pressure valve is all the way down get the chicken the heck out of the pot so it stops cooking as quickly as possible. It’s worth paying attention to the pressure cooker a little (mine beeps a lot so I know when the lid can be removed). If you are precise with the cooking time and get it out of the pot efficiently you will have a tender, juicy, and flavorful chicken. The meat will be falling off the bone, but not dry as sandpaper, and the breast won’t be falling off the bone, which is essential to be certain it’s juicy. The best part: you can have a full chicken dinner ready in less than an hour, which for me has saved the day as far as balancing work with dinner and not having to order take out, which is far less healthy than this main attraction. When I’m overwhelmed with work I serve this with quick basmati rice seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil along with a salad, as I do with my garlic baby sea bass. The seasoning combination in this recipe is also delicious, so I do not advise leaving this or that thing out. They all go together (including the paprika, garlic, and fresh lemon) to create a harmonious flavor. Note: this is one of those annoying  “gushing” recipes often found on Pinterest (UG). Just scroll through all the marketing language and skip over the pointless photos and you’ll eventually get to the recipe. The nuisance of visiting this page actually tempts me to put the recipe right here in a no-nonsense way, but I don’t think it’s good to do that since it isn’t my idea. By the way, of all the “gushing” recipes I have ever tried, this is the only one that has ever worked for me.

Very Chocolate Ice Cream

Anyone with an ice cream machine needs to try this. It’s the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever made. I make this all summer long with my handy-dandy ice cream mixer. The secret trick, as you can see from the ingredients list, is the use of cocoa powder and a small dab of whole chocolate. Usually, it’s hard to make ice cream with whole chocolate because of all the fat it contains, which messes the whole thing up because cream has even more fat. If you try to make chocolate ice cream with bar chocolate only you actually create a frozen butter that is inedible.  A little dab of bar chocolate with more fat-free cocoa powder makes it just right. If you have made homemade custard before, you can do this with ease. If you haven’t, don’t be surprised if you wind up trashing your very first batch ever. Low heat, constant stirring, and patience are required.

Homemade Sloppy Joes

I now live in a country where the sauce in the can for making sloppy Joe sandwiches is unheard of. It does not exist here. I was happy to find this recipe, which cures my occasional craving for one of these messy sandwiches. I use 3/4 cup of tomato sauce and a tsp of tomato paste instead of the ketchup. It’s healthier that way and jives with the canned sauce I remember from my childhood. When I was a kid, we had sloppy Joe’s for dinner at least twice a month. The sauce always came from the can with the particular sexist brand name I shall not mention. I think it was my mom’s go-to for when time was not to be had. She kept the cans in the kitchen as part of her busy person’s arsenal. I think even in the 1980s this was a retro-style dinner. I guess now we could consider it ancient! Looking back, this was as responsible a mom could get for prepping a hurried meal for her kids. Tomato and protein between two slices of carbs. That’s pretty balanced.

Pressure cooker flan

This recipe is the product of a lot of experimentation. I found some recipes for flan to make in the pressure cooker and they were not what I wanted. First of all, I live in Spain and speak Spanish at home, so for me a flan is a flan and everything else is pudding or custard. Second of all, I know what a real flan is supposed to taste like because of “first of all.” I certainly do not protest against this free, open, global world that reinterprets things and reshapes them. I just want a good old flan the way I think it’s supposed to be, as do most of the people who live in my neighborhood. I want the kind you can get in Spain at a cafeteria. I also want it to be convenient to make at home. Making flan the slow way with a hot water bath is a bit tedious.

Photo Aug 17, 22 10 09

Making flan in the pressure cooker takes about 40 minutes total, from start to finish, or an hour if you’re multitasking in the kitchen or are especially slow at doing things. It’s totally not rocket science.

For equipment you need: a pressure cooker and a steaming rack that can support ramekins. Also, six 3-inch ramekins will also be necessary. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

3 eggs, medium or large are fine

1 cup whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup white sugar

zest of one lemon (or half a lemon if you don’t want too much lemon flavor)

1 tsp vanilla

liquid caramel (get the store-bought kind in a squeeze bottle unless you want this to take an hour and 40 minutes)

Directions:

Squeeze a layer of caramel in the bottom of the ramekins, enough to coat the bottom. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Gradually whisk in the sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla. Over the mixture, grate the lemon zest and whisk that in. Ladle mixture into six ramekins that have the bottoms covered with caramel. Cover each ramekin tightly with aluminum foil. Add two cups of water to the pressure cooker. Insert rack. Place as many ramekins on the rack that will fit into the pressure cooker. Cover the pressure cooker with its lid and cook on high pressure for 9 minutes. When finished, allow the pressure to reduce on its own until no more pressure remains in the cooker. Repeat for remaining ramekins. Allow the flans to cool completely. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. To serve: with a knife, separate the edges of the flan from the wall of the ramekin all the way around; cover with a saucer and turn upside-down; if necessary, give the flan a few whacks and it should plop onto the plate.

Note: It is especially convenient to do this in an electric pressure cooker because it times itself, beeps when it’s finished, etc. However, if you have a traditional one to use on the stove, you can still do this, you just have to use a timer.

Potato pancakes

Photo Aug 08, 22 56 07

I think it’s been a while since I last shared a recipe. Tonight I had some leftover mashed potatoes and I decided to make potato pancakes. Usually my default is bubble and squeak, but I didn’t have any leftover cooked vegetables. Really, there isn’t much skill required to make these little savory cakes. I make these every once and a while, especially if I have cheese that needs using up. Here’s my recipe. Please feel free to alter it any old way you wish.

Ingredients

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes, cold

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or whatever you have on hand)

1 tsp onion powder or 2 tbsp fresh chopped chives

oil for shallow pan frying

all-purpose flour for dusting and handling raw pancakes

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the last two in the list. Mix well. The consistency should be rather stiff, enough to handle without too much stickiness. If the dough is too sticky or wet, add a little more flour. With floured hands form 3-inch patties, about 1/4 inch thick. If frying later, line a plate with floured parchment paper and keep them in the fridge on that. To fry: over medium heat in a nonstick frying pan, heat oil. When the oil is hot enough, begin frying the pancakes in batches. If making many pancakes they can be kept warm in an oven. Serve with ketchup and / or sour cream. Makes approximately 5 3-inch potato pancakes.

Notes

This recipe is not for people who wish to lose weight or need to avoid fattening foods. Just imagine: mashed potatoes have butter and if you’re the type of person who prefers to use cream instead of milk for mashing potatoes, well, there’s all that fat. Then, we’ve just added cheese and fried this lovely mix. Generally speaking, we’re frying some carbohydrate-rich mass of fat in more fat. If eaten with sour cream, well, there’s more. I usually only eat one and have a salad on the side. Any remaining pancakes heat up well in a 350 F oven.

 

 

 

Chicken chili (soup)

This week I have no new WIP photos to share. I am still knitting a blue lace scarf, neon self-striping socks, red cabled socks, and a sweater. Remember my “one pattern repeat a day” commitment to my blue lace scarf? It’s working! Last week I missed a couple of days so I got myself caught up on Thursday. Last Friday I proceeded to knit another two repeats and on Saturday I knitted four pattern repeats. And, to add to the happiness, today I squeezed in my one pattern repeat. This commitment has helped me a lot because I am making fewer mistakes and can knit more repeats in one sitting. I’ll have this scarf done sooner than later, which makes me very satisfied. It’s a cold month so maybe I’ll even get a chance to wear it this year before the warmer days of Spring come around. If not, I can look forward to using it.

Instead of giving you my usual WIP Wednesday I am offering you a recipe Monday. It’s for a chicken soup (or maybe chili?). It has Mexican flavors and I invented it a few weeks ago. I’ve made it about four times now so I think I’m addicted to it and I’m ready to share the recipe. I’ve been eating it for supper quite a lot. My favorite soup, in fact, is chili, but I try to keep my ground beef consumption down to once a week (or never) if I can for health reasons, which means I shouldn’t be eating a bowl of classic chili con carne every other day. I decided to make a healthier version with chicken. I’m not a big fan of chicken, typically I only really like the breast part of this animal, and only when it’s seasoned well, so it was a challenge for me to invent something I would like. Evidently, I was successful, because I have turned myself into an addict to this soup. Below, please find the recipe. After the recipe I’ll talk a little more about different things you can do to it to make it more soup and less chili or more chili and less soup. Also, I’ll provide some ways to hack it to turn it into something else. In the ingredients list I’ve given amounts of seasonings in a range of numbers to accommodate people who like more or less heat. I like my food spicy, so you know which end of the numbers I prefer. Anyway, it’s soup (or chili) for crying out loud. No need to be super OCD about the amounts unless you have dietary restrictions or some other need or desire to be super careful with measurements. I am not a nutritionist so I have no guidance to offer on that end. For me and my health, this soup works great for me.

Photo Mar 09, 7 27 30 PM

Chicken chili (soup)

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, uncooked (raw!), cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 large can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

1 jar (the kind for dipping tortilla chips) Mexican salsa (use what you have or like, but nothing exotic like “with mangoes” or “with black beans,” etc.)

1 small can of sliced jalapeños, drained, or 3 fresh jalapeños, sliced, optional

1-2 cups chicken broth, homemade, from bouillon cubes, powder, a carton, or a can, not important how it’s made

1 cup frozen corn or a small can of corn, drained

1 can (14 ounces) red kidney beans, drained, optional

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 Spanish onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 Tablespoons hot paprika (or more if you like lots of heat)

2-3 teaspoons ground cumin

2-3 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 bay leaf

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Directions

  1. Blend together: paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes), garlic powder, and onion powder. Season chicken breast cubes with the blend.
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the seasoned chicken in the oil for about five minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
  3. Add to the dutch oven: red bell pepper, minced garlic, diced onion, corn, jalapeños (if desired), and bay leaf. Sauté ten minutes more, or until pepper is soft and onion is translucent. If you want to help the vegetables cook faster, add a pinch of salt if you wish.
  4. Add to the dutch oven: crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, Mexican salsa, and beans (if desired).
  5. Simmer over very low heat for two or three hours (the longer you can slowly simmer it the better). Season to taste, remove bay leaf, and serve.

Serving suggestions

Good for reheating. I serve this dish to myself, freshly made and reheated. It gets me through quite a few meals and for some reason, since I made a batch over the weekend, I feel all cozy knowing my soup is waiting for me in the fridge to reheat whenever I want. When you reheat it, don’t microwave it unless you’re totally in a hurry or at work having lunch in the break room. It ruins the chicken breast meat slightly — but it’s OK, just not as good as reheated slowly. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I had it for supper and this week so far I’ve eaten it for lunch once (today, Monday). Remember: I live in Spain and lunch is our big meal and supper is lightish unless we’re super hungry. Last month I also ate this soup-chili frequently.

Garnishes and sides. As far as I remember I have had this dish: topped with grated cheddar cheese, plain (nothing on top), garnished with grated cheddar cheese and sour cream on top, with and without toppings with a cheese quesadilla on the side, with and without toppings with saltines on the side, and without toppings with a roasted red pepper  hummus sandwich on the side (today for lunch). On Wednesday I’ll have it for lunch again and I think I’ll eat a ham and cheese on whole wheat on the side. I have to say I have enjoyed this soup each and every way I have served it to myself. So much so that each time I eat it, I have two bowls of it, I just can’t resist.

Results with and without options.  I’ve eaten it with beans and without beans as well as with jalapeños and without jalapeños. I thought all the versions were delicious. In Spain in my city it’s impossible to buy fresh jalapeños so I’ve always had to use the canned type. I haven’t used any other type of broth but from bouillon cubes but I’ve left the source of the broth up to you because I don’t think it’s critical to use one type or another. A low-sodium chicken broth might require you to consider the “season to taste” instruction a bit more seriously, though.

If you do not enjoy this soup, I am very sorry. But, as they say, everybody’s taste is different.

Hacks

  1. Consistency: You could leave out the chicken broth to have a chunkier stew (or more chili-like chili) and just add some chicken bouillon powder to the pot as a seasoning.
  2. Italianize: You could also completely alter the soup by removing its tex-mex flavor and replacing it with an Italian flavor: replace the cumin with dried basil, the red kidney beans with white beans, use zucchini instead of corn, and leave out the Mexican salsa and jalapeños. As an Italian soup, you could serve it topped with an Italian cheese, mozzarella or Parmesan-reggiano. I haven’t tried this out yet, but I plan to do this in the future. First I have to get this tex-mex addiction out of my system.
  3. Slow cooker: I don’t have a slow cooker but in the USA I had one and used it often, so I know you could adapt this recipe for the crock pot if you wanted. If you have a slow cooker, consult the manual that came with it to figure out how to adapt the recipe.
  4. Other chicken parts: If you don’t like the texture of chicken breast meat when it’s been simmered for hours (it can get stringy) by all means use other parts of the chicken, such as thigh meat. I don’t care for chicken thighs, but maybe you love them. If you do, you should definitely try it out.

 

 

 

 

 

Any pot pie you like

I have been knitting a lot. Unfortunately, I’ve been knitting the same old things: A shawl for Mom, a pair of socks, and a cabled sweater. I think it would be rather boring to show you pictures of my WIPs because I’ve already done that and all you’ll see are more of the same  that aren’t finished yet. This week I have also turned left over pot roast into beef pot pies. So, just in case I didn’t have much knitting to write about I took some photos and decided to write about making them. If you read on you will get: a pretty darn good all-purpose pie crust recipe, a way to make pot pies with any savory filling you like, and my own personal recipe for individual beef pot pies made with leftover pot roast. Also, remember: you can easily double or triple everything indicated below.

The Crust

We judge a good pie crust according to how it flakes. To make a really flaky, puffy pie crust, in my opinion, it is essential to use butter. Also, it’s important to make sure the pie is nice and cold when you put it in the hot oven. The pie crust will puff up and acquire that flaky and tender texture we all want. In my recipe I use lots of butter. This is not for dieters or people with diet restrictions. So, here it goes:

Recipe for all-purpose pie crust (for the top and bottom of a 9-inch pie):

Ingredients:

1 cup of butter (4 sticks), cold

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/4 cup or less of cold water

extra flour for dusting and rolling

(note: if this is for a dessert pie, also add 1/4 cup of white sugar)

Directions:

Cut the butter into little cubes. To a large mixing bowl (or large capacity food processor with chopping blade) add flour, salt, butter (and sugar if this is for dessert). Cut the butter into the flour or pulse a few times if using a food processor. When your mixture has a course texture and can form little pea-shaped balls you are done combining the flour with the butter.

Stir with a spoon (or run the food processor) while adding the cold water little by little. When the mixture forms a ball all on its own stop adding water and stop mixing. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it a little bit with floured hands on a floured surface. If the dough is really sticky or pasty you can add some more flour to it as you knead it to get the consistency you desire.

At this stage, you can wrap the large ball in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator or you can roll it out the way you want with a rolling pin and flour. When you’re handling the dough just make sure you keep your surface, hands, and rolling pin floured. If you keep it in the fridge for a long time (more than 30 minutes) you will need to leave the dough on the counter for a while to take the extreme chill off before working with it. An all-butter pie dough gets really stiff and impossible to work with when it’s really cold. I actually prefer to refrigerate the dough for 15 to 20 minutes after mixing it and before working with it.

Any pot pie you like

To make pot pie filling all you need to remember is the following: you typically need 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup of butter, and 2 1/2 cups of liquid (usually broth or stock). This will be enough to fill a 9-inch pie or 4 individual pot pies. If you need more filling, double or triple these proportions. I prefer to make individual pot pies, actually. They store nicely and you can bake them as you need them.

Phase 1: You start cooking your filling by melting the butter in the pan, adding minced or chopped onion to the hot fat and sautéing it until the onion gets translucent.

Phase 2: Add the flour and cook the flour for 1 to 2 minutes.

Phase 3: Gradually add your liquid as you stir or whisk the hot mixture. To do it right, add the liquid in very tiny amounts at the beginning and do not add more liquid until you see a smooth, congealed mixture in your pan. So the procedure is: add a tiny amount of liquid, stir aggressively until it all looks homogeneous and smooth, add a tiny amount of liquid, stir aggressively until it all looks homogeneous and smooth, etc. etc. Eventually, your mixture will be able to handle larger additions of liquid. Keep going until you’ve added all the liquid. Cook for five minutes more (make sure your mixture is bubbling) before moving on to Phase 4.

Phase 4: Add the rest of your ingredients and cook until the mixture has the consistency you’re looking for. If you’re using cooked chicken breast or another type of cooked meat that does not improve with extensive simmering, add it when you’ve finished cooking the other ingredients.

Phase 5: Allow the filling to cool completely. I like to cook my filling hours in advance of assembling my pot pies so it’s nice and cold.

Phase 6: Make your pie dough as indicated above. Roll out your pie dough as you like and start assembling the pie or pies. Line your containers with pie dough, add your filling, and top it off with the top of the crust. When they’re assembled, refrigerate them for at least an hour before baking them. You can also freeze them.

Phase 7: Brush the pot pies with whole milk or cream and poke a hole in their centers.

Phase 8: Bake the pot pies (individual 4-inch round or square pies) at 375 degrees F (190 C) for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool for ten minutes before serving them. If the pies are frozen, bake them for 60 to 70 minutes.

Leftover individual pot roast pot pies (serves 4)

Filling:

1/2 cup of onion, minced

1/2 cup of Cremini mushrooms, minced

1/3 cup of flour

1/3 cup of butter

2 1/2 cups of beef stock (it does not have to be homemade)

1/2 cup of sliced carrots (make sure you peel them!)

1/4 cup of frozen peas

1 teaspoon of dried thyme (or more if you like)

1 or 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

1 cup (or some more!) of leftover pot roast, chopped into small pieces or shredded

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large frying pan or medium-sized pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for one or two minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the mushrooms. Add the beef stock little by little and stirring, as described in “Any pot pie you like,” above. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the mixture has the desired consistency. Remove from heat. Cool, and then chill in the fridge until ready to assemble the pot pies.

Assembly:

After making the pie dough as instructed above, divide it into eight pieces. Four pieces should be of equal size but larger than the other four pieces. The slightly larger pieces are for the bottom of the individual pot pies and the slightly smaller ones are for the tops. Grease four 4-inch round or square baking dishes (you can get away with using 5-inch ones, too). Roll out each of the four larger pieces to fit the baking dishes. Line the dishes with the dough. Add the filling. Roll out the four smaller pieces and top the individual pot pies with them. Cut off the excess dough and press down on the edges to make sure the top edges and bottom edges are sealed. Refrigerate or freeze the pot pies until ready to bake them. Bake refrigerated pot pies in 375 F (190 C) oven 30-40 minutes or frozen pies in 375 F (190 C) oven for 60 minutes. Let the pies cool for 10 minutes and serve.

Enjoying pot pies

An individual, homemade pot pie is just something I love to eat. When you make them for dinner guests it’s also quite the delight for them. There’s just something cool about getting a little delicious savory pie just for you.

Garlic baby sea bass

I don’t have much to say about my knitting. Actually, I haven’t been knitting much for the past couple of days. So, why not share a recipe?

In Spain we have some delicious baby sea bass native to our coasts and it goes on sale this time of year. A dish that is popular here is called lubina a la bilbaína which is just a fancy way to say “garlic baby sea bass.” It is not difficult to prepare.

This fish recipe is so flexible that you can double it, triple, or halve it. As a matter of fact I’m not going to say how many sea bass you should buy. Figuring out a serving size is easy: one whole fish per person.

So, go to your fish monger and buy as many baby sea bass as you need. Have the fish monger cut their heads off and splay them open. The fish should be cut open so that they lay like an open book. There’s no need to de-bone the fish and the scales should not be removed.

So, here’s what you do:

  1. preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (or 200 Celsius)
  2. chop a lot of garlic – for each fish you need about three or or four cloves
  3. place your fish on a baking sheet or other type of baking pan
  4. season the fish with salt
  5. cover them with bits of garlic
  6. drizzle olive oil over them
  7. roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes depending on their size

Now, the meat of the fish will get a nice crispy texture on the outside and be soft and juicy on the inside. The garlic will brown a little bit and as it bakes it imparts its flavor to the fish thanks to the olive oil.

I like to eat my garlic baby sea bass with some plain white rice (seasoned with salt and pepper, of course) and a salad. Sometimes I season my fish with fresh lemon juice. Today I didn’t. Of course, I snapped a pic of my plate so you can see how it looks:

Photo Aug 06, 5 20 50 PM

I allowed my fish to stay in the oven perhaps 5 minutes longer than I usually do because these little “babies” were a bit meatier than I’m used to seeing.

How to eat your baby sea bass: just pick at the fish with a fork. You can use the tines of your fork to scrape the meat from the spines or you can simply lift the entire spinal column out of the meat. It will separate cleanly and easily.

When you make your first batch you’ll understand why I said it’s essential to leave the bones in and the skin on the fish because you’ll notice that, once cooked, the fish is a bit fragile. The skin and the bones hold it all together.

I’m pretty sure you can adapt this recipe to using a grill outside. The only thing you might need to do is put the fish on some aluminum foil.

The trick to pulling this dish off is to buy fresh baby sea bass. You can’t really use frozen fish because the bass’s flavor is the main feature. This, of course, is typical of Spanish cuisine. Most age-old, tried-and-true Spanish recipes use very few ingredients because the whole concept of enjoying food in Spain is to make the flavor of the main ingredient come through and truly shine. A lot of dishes that we consider “Spanish”aren’t really too terribly unique. Take, for example, the way lamb chops are traditionally prepared here: lightly salted and cooked on a grill or in a grill pan with some olive oil.