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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beef and Stout (Guinness) "Casserole"

This is from a casserole cookbook called Bake Until Bubbly by Clifford A. Wright, but it's really more of an Irish stew that's baked in the oven. I like to double the recipe because it's time-consuming (3 1/2 hours start to finish), and freeze half or give half away, as I did recently to a couple with a newborn.

It's worth every minute and all the knife work.
Be sure to have some crusty bread for sopping up the savory sauce.

Beef and Stout
(not doubled)

1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 lb. lean Irish bacon or Canadian bacon (which I use), cubed 
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
One 12-oz. bottle stout beer (such as Guinness)
1 pound small white onions, about 14, peeled OR 2 medium onions cut into eighths
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
Bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs marjoram, 6 sprigs parsley tied in cheesecloth. . . or just thrown into the pot as I do)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat, then brown the beef and bacon on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the meats with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Discard any accumulated fat and juices in the skillet.

Melt butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the stout, stirring until gravy is smooth.

Place beef, bacon and onions in a 12-by-9-by-2 baking casserole or 10-inch round baking casserole (for a doubled recipe, I used a large dutch oven). Sprinkle with the parsley and marjoram, season with salt and pepper, and add garlic and bouquet garni/herbs. Mix well. Sprinkle the top with the sugar and pour the gravy over the beef. Stir again to mix well. Cover and bake until the meat if very tender, about 3 hours. Removed from the oven and stir in the vinegar. Let rest for 5 minutes and serve.

Note: For some reason I was worried about how much sauce there would be this time, and stirred in a jar of "beef gravy" before putting the pot into the oven. I wondered if this lame addition (why did I even have that in my pantry?) would affect the flavor, but it seemed no harm was done.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Orange Rosemary Mini-muffins

The original recipe comes from Elizabeth Alston's Muffins but I borrow the orange juice glaze from a similar recipe in Sarah Leah Chase's Nantucket Open House Cookbook. You can eat these as is, as a nice option for a bread basket, or make little appetizers: I have used a small scallop-edged cookie cutter to cut pieces of ham to sandwich between muffin halves with a little mustard. Yum. Chase's recipe calls for appetizer sandwiches made with duck breast.

I most recently baked these as an Easter bread option.

Orange Rosemary Mini-muffins

3/4 cup milk (I used skim)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves (I used crushed)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut in pieces
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
Grated zest from 1 orange, reserving juice

Simmer milk, raisins and rosemary for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add butter and stir till melted. Let cool (placing pan in small bowl of cold water or ice will cool contents in minutes). Stir in orange zest.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray muffin tins or use foil baking cups.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk egg into cooled milk mixture. Pour over dry ingredients and fold in with rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Scoop batter into muffin cups. Bake mini-muffins 10-12 minutes (regular size about 20) or until golden and springy in the middle. Brush muffins with orange juice while hot. Turn out of pan and serve hot or cool on rack.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stilton Parmesan Bread

The smell of this bread baking truly makes you want to just rip the loaf in half and start gnawing, especially if you've been carb-deprived. Something happens to the Stilton. It somehow achieves a mellow flavor in this bread, so that even those who don't like the blue cheese family should like this savory loaf.

The recipe is from the excellent cookbook Bread Machine Baking by Lora Brody and Millie Apter. The bread bakes fine in the machine. But I prefer to just mix the dough in the machine, saving my wrists some wear and tear, and form it into two loaves to bake in the oven. You can tuck one loaf in the freezer or give it away, as I did recently to friends with a newborn.

Stilton Parmesan Bread

1/3 cup warm water
5 tbsp. butter, softened
2 extra-large eggs (2 large eggs and a few tablespoons of egg substitute works)
5 oz. Stilton (or Gorgonzola or other blue cheese), crumbled
1 cup shredded Parmesan (not the powdery stuff)

1/3 cup chopped red onion
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 1/2 tsp. yeast

Place all ingredients into the bread machine pan in the order ingredients are listed.

Program machine for Dough to form it into two free-form loaves later and bake in the oven, or, to bake in the machine: Program for Bread, Basic Bread, White, Basic Wheat or Basic, and press Start. (Since it contains eggs and dairy products, don't program it with a delay function.) Either way, if the dough looks sticky after it has been mixing a while, sprinkle in one or two tablespoons of additional flour.

To bake in the oven: Remove dough from machine pan when the cycle ends and form it into two round loaves on a baking sheet that has cornmeal scattered on it (helps prevent sticking). Cover with a towel and let rise till doubled, 30 to 60 minutes. Bake at 400 for 8 minutes; lower heat to 350 and bake till golden brown, up to 10 more minutes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Breakfast Bars

When I get up in the morning, I tend to run into a few walls or trip over slippers, wondering what day it is. When I wake up enough, I peer into the mirror to see how much work I need to do for a public appearance. Then I run errands.

Sometimes I actually forget to eat breakfast. Not smart, since I am hypoglycemic and need to eat every three hours or so. Most often I am in a hurry to get out the door, so I look for something to grab on the way. It could be a yogurt smoothie (there's often a pitcher in the fridge) or I might make a quick peanut butter sandwich (no jelly; it drips). I always have Luna or similar bars on hand for such occasions but they get boring. And really, these taste better and have a nice, chewy texture. If you follow Weight Watchers points, these are about 4 each if you follow my lower-fat variation and cut 16 bars.

This is Nigella Lawson's recipe for Breakfast Bars, from her cookbook Nigella Express. My variations are in parentheses.

Breakfast Bars

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (I use fat-free)
2 1/2 cups rolled/old-fashioned oats(I use 4 cups and cut back on nuts/seeds etc.)
1 cup shredded coconut (good, but I skip it to cut calories and fat)
1 cup dried cranberries (I used a mix of dried cherries, blueberries and mango this time)
1 cup mixed seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame (I used 3/4 c. mixed pumpkin and sunflower)
1 cup natural unsalted peanuts (I used about 2/3 c. shelled pistachios)
(1/2 tsp. cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 250 and oil a 9x13 pan or use a disposable aluminum foil pan.

Warm the condensed milk in a large pan (large enough to eventually accommodate all ingredients. You can stir in cinnamon at this point or add it in next step).

Meanwhile, mix rest of ingredients together and add the warmed milk, using a rubber spatula to fold and distribute. (I just dump everything into the pan once the milk is warm and then stir thoroughly).

Spread mixture into oiled or foil pan and spread with the spatula, or wear disposable plastic gloves and press down with hands to make the surface even. (I just get my hands damp and press; works very well).

Bake for 1 hour. (I check at 50 minutes and pull them out if getting brown around edges). Let cool in pan for 15 minutes and cut into 16 chunky bars. Let cool completely (and wrap individually in plastic wrap or foil, freezing what you aren't likely to eat within a few days. Be sure to thaw before taking a bite).