Steak and Mushroom Pie

It’s time to get in the festive mood! It’s the fun month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Though I’m already over the cheesy modern Christmas music. Just not the same as the standards. My husband and I had a quiet Thanksgiving as our kids were in South Carolina. My aunt very kindly invited us to her place for Thanksgiving dinner. We had a lovely meal and a lovely time. She is an awesome aunt and she’s very good to us.

Even though the weather can’t decide to be warm or cold this season there has been been opportunity for comfort food. And you can’t go wrong with steak and mushroom pie.

In a small bowl, add about 3 oz of flour and season with sea salt and pepper. Mix well. Take a half pound/8oz of stewing steak and cut it into small cubes. Toss in the flour until well coated.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and start browning the steak.

Coarsely chop a shallot and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add to the pan.

Cut up enough mushrooms to make half a cup/3-4oz. Sauté in the pan then add about 2 1/2 cups/20oz of vegetable bouillon. Bring to a simmer. For seasoning and flavour I added a half cup of dry sherry and a small handful of fresh oregano, chopped. Slow cook on low for a few hours until the steak is tender and falling apart. To thicken the broth, add either a couple of teaspoons of flour or corn starch(flour) to a couple of tablespoons of water to make a slurry. Add this to the saucepan and bring up to a boil to cook the flour and thicken the broth. Adjust the seasoning as needed as sometimes the flour can dull the flavours.

Split the stew between ramekins. I made enough for two. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush individual layers of phyllo dough to top the ramekins. Broil/grill til the top is nice and golden.

Perfect with a nice deep red wine on a chilly night!

Parsnip and Roasted Mushroom Soup

I have to hand it to our son, he had his wisdom teeth removed yesterday and he did really well. Me?  Didn’t sleep the night before.  It’s so much easier when stuff is done to you rather than your kids.  Now he gets to hear his parents telling him to eat his ice cream.  Think he’ll be ok.  😊

Woke up being very happy for fuzzy socks with freezing temperatures and gusting winds.  Definitely soup season!  On one of our date nights, my husband ordered an amazing mushroom soup and it sparked an idea for a mushroom and parsnip soup.  Their soup just had mushrooms in it with Gorgonzola cheese.  Well I shouldn’t say just as it was delicious.  But I went off on a tangent.  


As luck would have it, the co-op had a great selection of mushrooms.  Including a Japanese mushroom called maitake.  Slice up the mushrooms and toss them in olive oil.


Roast them at 350F/175C until they are nicely browned.  In the meantime, peel and dice 1 to 2 parsnips depending on the size.  Finely chop a couple of garlic cloves.  Sauté the parsnips and garlic with olive oil in a saucepan.


Add a amall handful of fresh thyme, sauté for another minute or so.  Add about three cups of chicken stock and half a cup of dry sherry.  Bring to a medium simmer.  Once the mushrooms are roasted, add them to the soup.


Season with sea salt and pepper.  Cook until the parsnips are soft and the broth has reduced about a quarter.  Remove from the heat and purée until reasonably smooth.


Top with a dollop of sour cream and a bit of chive.  This could easily be made vegan with a veg broth.  The parsnip makes it very creamy so I didn’t have to add any cream.  

Making a Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Mac and Cheese 

We’ve all done it.  Opened the door, peered in, shut it again.  Left to wonder what exactly is in that freezer.  Despite best laid plans it’s easy to lose the plot.  Our freezer is nearly 6 feet tall so it’s really not a good idea to lose the plot!  It got to the point where we couldn’t fit anything in and I was wondering how much money we were wasting by not using what we had.  

Off I went to get clear containers to organise the meats, leaving the baskets for all our fruits and veg we had harvested.  I did have to get rid of some things but overall getting it organised and knowing what the heck was in there was a success.  

One of my finds was a vacuumed bag of leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  So this post is either well overdue or too early for Thanksgiving.  😄.  Even though we seem to be stuck back in with the sticky heat of summer we did enjoy autumn weather for a few weeks.  It was wonderful and perfect for some comfort food.  Mac and cheese would do the trick.


Would you believe this onion was supposed to be a scallion?  We planted half a raised bed of bunching onions so you imagine our surprise to find proper onions growing.

While making the cheese sauce for this dish, cook up the pasta.  Preheat the oven to 375F/200C. In a separate saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of butter.   Coarsely chop half of a large onion and add it to the butter.


Sauté on low until the onions soften.  Then add a couple of cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add about a cup and a half of chopped turkey.  Season with a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme and sage.  If you don’t have fresh sage use about a teaspoon of ground sage.  Continue to season with sea salt and pepper.  Then add a half cup/4oz of dry white wine.


To make it a roux add 2 tablespoons of flour.


Stir continuously until the flour is incorporated and cooked, about three minutes.


Next add 1 1/4 cup of milk and heat through.  Don’t boil!  Once the cheese is warm enough to melt cheese add a cup of grated cheddar and half a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted,


Put the cooked pasta into a baking dish and add the cheese sauce.  Mix well. Top with more grated cheese.


Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and brown the top of the dish.


Serve while hot.  Now we try to eat small portions in our house but with this dish we all had seconds and there weren’t any leftovers!  Guess we needed a break from salads.  😊

Getting My Husband to Like Aubergine 

We all have a veg we’re not a fan of but the rest of the family likes.  I hate Brussel sprouts, our son isn’t a fan of asparagus and mushroom, and our daughter finds celery particularly weird.  Aubergine is what my husband would be happy to avoid.  I have made the Moroccan Lamb Stew that he likes but as we like to grow the veg I need to come up with more recipes to use up the harvest.


When we were in Little Italy our daughter ordered a starter that layered aubergine, tomato, prosciutto, and basil.  She loved it so this was the inspiration for dinner.  I wanted to use the strong flavours of sun dried tomatoes and garlic for this dish.  I wanted it to pop!  I also used chicken thighs as it is a less expensive cut of meat to use.  

For this dish I used a little more than half a pound/10 oz of chicken.  Cut the chicken into small cubes and finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic. Slice a large handful of sun dried tomatoes while heating up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Toss in the three ingredients and sauté on medium low to pull the flavours of the garlic and sun dried tomatoes into the oil.  


Once the chicken is halfway cooked add the aubergine.  We grew small Italian finger aubergine which get to about 5in/12.5cm long.  For this dish I used four of the veg, sliced.


Cook for a few minutes then add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.  Because we ran out of our chicken stock (gasp!) I used veg bouillon instead.  It worked really well with the strong flavours.  Use about a cup/8oz of the bouillon and simmer to reduce slightly.  For once we did really well growing basil this year.  Let’s face it, gardening can be a bit of a crapshoot.  But I tossed in a handful of the fresh basil.  Once the dish is nearly finished cooking add a handful of chopped prosciutto.  You don’t want this ingredient cooking too long as it can get tough and overpowering.


While all this was going on I oven roasted potatoes that I sliced about a 1/4 in/.625cm thick, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.  Lay out the potatoes and top with the aubergine dish.  Grate fontina cheese over the dish and garnish with fresh basil.


Our daughter said it wasn’t exactly like the dish she had, which was fine as I wasn’t reproducing it, but that she loved it.  My husband’s response? “Congratulations on making aubergine edible!”  😄.  I do love cooking for my family.

Tomatillo Steak Salad

Autumn may be flowing in, thank goodness, but I’m not above having a nice salad.  Even though it wasn’t intended.  How would a salad happen accidentally?  It’s easy when you are having a flighty moment.

I definitely knew I wanted to do grilled skirt steak with a tomatillo sauce.  I was thinking a rustic type of sauce to act as the veg portion of the dinner.  That didn’t work out as you will see.

tomatillo-dressing-1-2016

We didn’t have much luck with growing tomatillos the past few years so we didn’t attempt it this year but luckily the farmer’s market had some.  Our garden has produced a bumper crop of hot peppers.  I just wish tomatillos weren’t so sticky once you peel the papery covering off.  Cut the tomatillos in half and keep the pepper whole.  Fire up the grill and roast the tomatillos and pepper until they start to char.  You don’t want charcoal veg as a result so keep an eye on this as it will cook quickly.

tomatillo-dressing-2-2016

As I said my plan was to have a rustic meal but I realised a grilled potato and a bit of steak wouldn’t cut it.  When I did up the sauce it became more of a dressing rather than a veg side.  So salad it was!  Using a food processor add the tomatillos and pepper.  I kept the seeds to give it a kick.  Throw in a couple of cloves of garlic, a teaspoon or so of cilantro, and a few splashes of lime juice and olive oil.  Blend.

tomatillo-dressing-3-2016

I kept the steak simple seasoned with sea salt, pepper, and worcestershire sauce.  Because it is grass fed be careful on how hot you cook it.  Sear then lower the heat.  Keeps it tender. Slice the steak and top with the tomatillo sauce. Any leftover sauce can be frozen for later.

Chili Mushroom Bowls

And just like that summer is over, at least for the kids.  Off to school they went yesterday.  Summer seemed like a blur for all of us.  I am ready for autumn to arrive.  I am ready to say goodbye to the humidity and heat, which has been pretty bad this year.  Bring on the crisp days!

When I was food shopping with my daughter we found large portobello caps that looked like bowls.  Which gave me a fun idea.  Instead of bread bowls, why not mushroom bowls?

Chili bowl 1 2016

To fill the bowls I made a quick chili.  Normally you cook chili over a few hours but as this doesn’t have beans, this can be made in less than a half hour.  In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil and begin to saute a half pound of ground beef.

Chili bowl 2 2016

Chop about half a cup of red onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add that to the skillet.

Chili bowl 3 2016

After the onion starts to soften add a can of diced tomatoes (14oz) and bring to a simmer.  Begin to season with chili powder, cumin, and sea salt and pepper.  The beauty of this dish is you decide how much seasoning to put in.  Some like it hot and some don’t.  I would say the ratio of the chili powder to the cumin should be about 4:1.  As we like it hot I added a dollop of hot sauce that I made along with chopped bell pepper.

Chili bowl 4 2016

Mix well and cook the peppers for a few minutes.  Pre heat the oven to 400F/200C.  Fill the mushrooms with the chili mixture.

Chili bowl 5 2016

Top with shredded cheese and bake until the mushrooms are cooked.  You don’t want to cook the mushrooms so much that they collapse.

Chili bowl 6 2016

Top with sour cream and enjoy!  This is a very easy meal to through together on a weeknight.  And it’s a fun twist on the whole food for a bowl thing.

 

Grilled Pork, Quinoa, and Eddie Izzard

Sometimes it’s good to be lucky.  I was scrolling through Facebook, as you do, and saw something about Eddie Izzard coming to New Hampshire.  I thought I wasn’t reading that right as why would someone who did Wembley do a small theatre?  But lo and behold, it was true!  And it was brilliant.

He has always done really funny stuff but he has definitely progressed into a much more thoughtful dialog while using history to illustrate his point.  In a hilarious way of course but he got his view across.  And he did Q & A afterwards.  It was a fabulous evening.  My favourite quote was “I believe in human beings”.  What a lovely sentiment.

I did find time to cook this weekend.  When I went food shopping I found some quinoa on sale (who doesn’t like a sale?) and bok choi.  I also found some pork ribs which would go great with homemade mustard.  I recently made some without the chili so it would go well with this dish.

Quinoa 1 2016

The quinoa itself is really easy to make, only takes about 15 minutes.  Make it according to the package.  Thinly spread mustard on both sides of the pork ribs.  You don’t want it too thick otherwise it can overwhelm the dish.  If you think it will you can always mix the mustard with some olive oil and white wine vinegar. Set the pork aside. In a skillet, heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and add a few mushrooms that have been chopped and a couple of garlic cloves that have been finely chopped.  Add some fresh thyme and season with sea salt and pepper.

Quinoa 2 2016

Once the mushrooms start browning add a quarter cup of dry sherry and half a cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer.

Quinoa 3 2016

Chop up the stems of the bok choi and add it to the skillet.  Add the quinoa.  Allow the stems to cook for a minute or so.  Then add the leaves.

Quinoa 5 2016

Top with the grilled pork and enjoy.  There were enough leftovers that I changed it up with bacon, sausage, and white wine.  Quinoa can be surprisingly versatile.

Peach Bourbon Grilled Pork

I’ve been trying this week to figure out video editing and the open source software.  No success yet. I’m trying not to get frustrated but it drives me batty when my love of technology runs into the wall of not knowing how to make it work for me.  So it may be awhile before I get this up and running.  Annoying since I have a few ideas and I can see it in my head.  Just need to get it through the keyboard onto the screen.

Peaches are in season and they have been showing up at the co-op, yay!  And they had pork on sale. I know, I know, meat on sale?  Can’t be a good idea.  Usually I would agree but I’ve had success with the sales at the co-op.

Peach bourbon pork 2 2016

In a small bowl mix up a dry rub.  I used a tablespoon of brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper,  1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon of ground cumin and dried cilantro, and sea salt and pepper.

Peach bourbon pork 1 2016

Mix well and rub on both sides of the pork.  Set aside to “marinade”.  For the peach bourbon sauce chop up an onion to make about 1/2 a cup and finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and start cooking the onion and garlic.

Peach bourbon pork 3 2016

Peel and dice one peach.  Add to the skillet. Simmer until the peach starts to soften.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of bourbon.  I used Gentleman Jack but use whatever one you enjoy.  Then add brown sugar.  I started with a tablespoon but added more as it cooked to balance it with the bourbon.  I also seasoned it with a teaspoon of cayenne, sea salt, and pepper.

Peach bourbon pork 4 2016

Continue to simmer until the peaches soften and the sauce reduces a bit.  Grill the pork and a peach cut in half.

Peach bourbon pork 5 2016

I could do without the stifling heat of summer but boy do I love the flavours.

Rabbit and the Need to Strangle a Cock….

4am.  Still dead of night as far as I am concerned.  Cock-a-doodle-doo!  My husband then rolls out of bed to close the ceiling window because I’m too short to reach it.  Every morning the bloody thing would go off.  And it would go all day.  There is another one down the road that answers but that is more muted.  Ours was about 10 feet from our window. I say was as this morning it’s been quiet.  I’m wondering if coq a vin is on the menu next door.  If I never hear another cock-a-doodle-doo I’ll be a happy camper.

On my list of ingredients to cook while here in France was rabbit.  So off to the market we went in search of one.  

 
We were successful.  Good thing I asked the head be removed.  An unfortunate thing about the kitchen we’re using, aside from a very anemic oven, is the knives are very dull.  We’ve tried sharpening them without a whole lot of success.  Which made butchering this rabbit quite the chore!  My MIL helped as I had to wrestle it to submission.  I ended up removing the legs and then took what I could of the remaining meat to add to the sauce.  I didn’t want to waste the rest of the rabbit so when my MIL suggested making a quick stock I went in that direction.  In a saucepan I covered the rabbit in water, added a shallot, salt and pepper, and thyme.


Bring it to a boil then let it simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Once that is done heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and brown the legs of the rabbit.

  

While that is happening, prep a small onion, a few cloves of garlic, and some fresh rosemary.

  
Remove the rabbit legs and set aside.  Sauté the onions and garlic until they soften.  Add some of the rabbit stock to simmer with the onion and garlic.

 
Add the rabbit bits and rosemary and sauté for a few more minutes.  I bought some local mushrooms at the market which were really nice.  I sliced a few and added them the the skillet.  Again add some stock.  About half a cup or 4 ounces each time.

  

Chop up a few tomatoes.  I also had a can of diced tomatoes that needed to be used.  Toss these in and add 4-8 ounces of red wine.  Bring to a simmer and add the rabbit legs to finish off cooking.

  
The tricky bit is not to over cook and toughen the meat.  In fact after simmering awhile there was still a bit of rabbit on the larger leg that wasn’t cooked through.  We still had plenty of meat to go round.  

 
The sauce with the stock was really nice.  Not sure if I’d cook a lot of rabbit going forward.  It was nice but not something I would crave.  But I can cross this off the bucket list so to speak.  

Today is packing day as we have a long journey home.  I’ll miss this place.  I’ve loved the food, the sightseeing, working on the language, and the leisurely meals.  No one rushes you and it’s perfectly fine to have a glass of wine or two with lunch.  And I could eat bread here with minimal side effects.  It’s been fabulous!  But back to reality I’m afraid. 

Asian Meatballs and the Education System

Mind boggling.  That is how I felt last night when we were talking about school.  Both kids had tests yesterday.  Both mentioned how they had to finish them today.  I asked what they meant finishing it a day later.  Apparently that is the norm in our school system.  If you don’t finish it in time that is ok.  This just blew my mind.  Growing up if I didn’t finish a test in the set amount of time that was on me.

This really concerns me because as a parent I want the best education for our kids.  I don’t want education to be a limiting factor to whatever progress our kids make.  Last year the US was ranked 14th in the world when it came to education.  The past couple of years think tanks have mucked about with different ways the kids should be taught without really vetting the programs.  Common core has been a nightmare.  I’m sorry 2+2 does not equal 5!  I get that kids should learn to think through the process and understand how they got to the answer but it is not ok if the answer is wrong.

It is hard for me to understand the overall disconnect between what I see our teachers doing locally and how our students stand vs other countries.  The teachers our kids have, bar one, have been amazing.  They are dedicated to our kids, they work long hours, they work to try to tailor lessons for each student, and communicate with us.  So I have to think our system is held back at the higher level.  For example there is an OK senator who wants to cut funding to the AP History classes because it “teaches students what is bad about America”  It doesn’t promote “exceptionalism”.   Constantly chanting “We’re #1” isn’t leadership, it’s insecurity.

To rise back up the ranks, kids need to have positive learning experiences while being prepared for the real world.  They need to stop being let down by those who forget separation of church and state actually exists, to be allowed to actually learn science and the truth about history, and to know that 2 + 2 doesn’t equal 5.

We are fortunate that our kids love to learn and seek out ways to learn new things.  But not all kids have that support.

We did have a nice meal to go along with the enlightening conversation.  I was in the mood for meatballs and wanted an Asian flair.  And guess what my husband found at the co-op?

Asian meatballs 1 2015

Galangal!  How cool is that?  In a bowl I mixed up a half pound of beef with a few tablespoons of freshly grated galangal.  I found it to be very dry and flaky.  I also added chopped chives and couple of teaspoons of amino acids.  Otherwise known as gluten free soy sauce.  Then roll the meat into meatballs about an inch to an inch in a half in diameter.  In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of peanut oil.

Asian meatballs 3 2015

Brown the sides of the meatballs then finish off in an oven heated to 350F/175C.  Meanwhile, saute chopped veg of your choice.  I did up peppers, scallions, garlic, carrots, and mushrooms.

Asian meatballs 4 2015

I messed up on the portion of sauce vs the portion of rice noodle.  I made enough sauce for two people but enough noodles for 4.  So I would double what I’m putting here.  Otherwise the dish ends up bland and trust me, the sauce wasn’t bland!  I added 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, a couple of teaspoons of amino acids, a few splashes of fresh lime juice, and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer and add a cup of homemade chicken stock.  Reduce down a bit then add the meatballs.

Asian meatballs 5 2015

Cook the rice noodles per the directions then serve with the meatball sauce.

Asian meatballs 6 2015

Next time I make this I will definitely increase the sauce because the flavour was amazing.  Just wish the rice noodles hadn’t dulled it down.