Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Enchilada Casserole

A dinner guest, upon finishing a serving of this stuff, let out a heavy breath and said. "It's a brick. Delicious brick". That sounded like the type of recipe to post in cold weater. We were feeding vegetarians, so be warned that this recipe uses ground "meet", although you could substitute diced dark meat chicken pretty easily. This recipe is the stripped-down version of enchilada pie, but it gets the job done.

1 chipotle, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 cup water
1 tbsp Tone's chicken base
14 oz can tomato sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound vegetarian ground meat product or carnivore equivalent.
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups or so of crushed corn chips
3 cups shredded Jack or cheddar
Nonstick cooking spray

In a big honkin' saucepan, combine the sauce ingredients and let them come to a simmer. Let it simmer while you work on the filling.

Heat the oil in another big honkin frypan, then brown the "meet" in the oil. Add the onion, garlic, oregano and cook until the veggies are soft and aromatic. There's your filling.

Spray down a 9x9 pan with the nonstick stuff. Put down half the sauce, then half of the crushed corn chips, then a layer of filling, then half the cheese. Repeat. Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, bake for 10 more minutes or until the cheese on top is all gooey and fantastic.

Serve with beans and rice and sour cream. Or just eat the damn thing out of the pan, it's pretty good.

Easy Turkey Chili

Do you ever wonder if you could burn out your pressure cooker? I hope I don't. I'm using the damn thing almost every day. Oh well. When summertime comes I'll probably pull it down like once a month.

2 slices bacon, diced fine
1 lb ground turkey tube or ground meat of some sort
1 chipotle chili, chopped
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
.5 cup crushed tortilla chips
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups water
2 tbsp Tone's beef base
1 cup dry kidney beans
1 tbsp brown sugar

In the pot of your pressure cooker, fry the bacon up until it has given up its fat.

If you are like me and never plan anything, dice the frozen ground turkey and put in the pot. It'll thaw then brown. Mash it around with your wooden spoon until it looks like fried ground meat and not fried ground meat cubes.

Once the turkey is browned, add the onion, bell pepper, and chipotle. Fry until the onion is translucent. Add the cumin and oregano. Stir stir stir. You might need to add some olive oil if the meat was particularly lean. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir until everything is dissolved and incorporated.

Lid the vessel and put on high pressure for 50 minutes.

If using a dutch oven, use an extra cup of broth, lid and put in a 350 degree oven for three hours or, alternatively, park it overnight in a 300 degree oven.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Soup season continues with winter weather, this time with Minestrone!

Take four slices bacon and put into the pot of your pressure cooker. Fry to render out the fat.

Slice three zucchini into rounds.

Remove the crisp bacon. Fry the zuchini rounds in the bacon fat until lightly browned. Work in batches, reserving the cooked zukes in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Chop .5 head of green cabbage, removing stalk bits. When the zukes are done frying, put in the cabbage and fry until mostly wilted, 2-5 minutes. If it starts stinking you've cooked it too long. Cabbage cells are tough and the cell walls are filled with all sorts of sulfates and things. Too-vigorous cooking breaks those walls down to the point where the sulfur compounds are released, the chlorophyll oxidizes, and what was once cabbage becomes stinky and brown.

Put the gently-cooked cabbage with the cooked zukes. We'll be adding those near the end. If we added them now, by the time the beans were done these veggies would be completely destroyed.

Unfortunately, you probably lost all your bacon fat. Add some olive oil to the pot, then add 2 chopped onions, 1 chopped carrot, 2 stalks chopped celery, and 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped. Fry until the onions are soft and translucent.

Now add 1 cup great northern beans, 6 cups water, 2 tbsp Tone's chicken base, 4 bay leaves, 1 tbsp red pepper flakes, and maybe- maybe- a pinch of oregano. Stir. Put in a 5 inch piece of parmesean rind, or a 2 inch chunk of parmesean. Lid the vessel and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. If using a dutch oven, you'll want to have soaked the beans with the water and Tone's chicken base (dissolved) the night before, then perform the step above and slap into a 350 degree oven for an hour and a half to two hours.

Unlid the vessel and add 1.5 cups of V-8 juice. Stir gently. Add the zukes and the cabbage, stir to incorporate. Serve with some chopped fresh basil on top.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Weapons of Mass Beefiness

My first subscription issue of Cook's Illustrated barely had time to rest on the counter before I used it to generate, first, a pot of minestrone, and then a pot of beef stew. You'll notice a "hot liquid" theme here, because the temperatures have plunged past the fifty degree mark, something known in other places as "autumn".


Now, I was missing a fair number of ingredients for the Cook's Illustrated "Best Beef Stew", but even with substitutions it made really darn tootin good stew.


I'm thinking of it right now, in fact, prompting me to consider writing a letter: "Dear Cook's Illustrated, Thank you for another wonderful issue. Absolutely delicious! I, however, would like to ask that your next issue include a training schedule to compete in the Boston Marathon, because, thanks to last issue, none of my clothes fit anymore, and the dog is physically unable to leave the apartment . ."


3-4 pounds beef chuck

2 thick slices bacon

1 onion

2-5 cloves garlic

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp fish sauce (standing in for 4 anchovies)

1 potato + 10 oz chopped up frozen sweet potato fries (standing in for 1 lb Russet potatoes and 2 medium carrots)

2 cups red wine

1 cup beef stock

1 cup water

3 bay leaves

4 thyme springs

.5 cup instant or "quick-cook" barley (wife's request)

.25 cup flour

1 packet unflavored gelatin


Take your chuck and cut into 1" chunks. Salt it and let rest for an hour. Heat 1 tbsp oil in the chamber of your pressure cooker, then brown the chunks in batches, reserving the browned meat as you go until you are out of raw beef.


Put the bacon in the pot and fry until crisp and rendered of its fat. Remove the bacon crispies. Fry the onions and garlic in the fat until softened. Add the tomato paste and the fish sauce. Faugh! Yes, it smells terrible. Yes, the smell goes away while cooking. CI had a really interesting little sciency sidebar about how various chemicals in bacon, fish, and tomato work together to augment the taste of beef, by a factor of fifteen. The recipe may well be regulated for fear of WMB proliferation. Weapons of Mass Beefiness.


Chop up the bacon.


Put the browned beef back into the pot along with any fluids that have dripped out while they sat, then add the flour, stirring until you see no lumpy bits of white flour. This takes a bit of stirring.


Add the red wine, the beef stock, and the water. Keep stirring. Add the herbage and the barley. Add the potatoes and cooked bacon crumblies. Lid the vessel and set to high pressure for 45 minutes. If you're using a dutch oven, that's an hour and a half in a 350 degree oven.


In a separate container, add the gelatin to .25 cup cold water. It'll turn into a floopy little disk. This floopsinating process is called "blooming".


Once the cooking time is up, unlid and stir. Gauge how much free liquid is in there. If it's too liquid, add some more barley.


Once everything is soft, finish by adding the bloomed gelatin disk to the liquid, stirring to dissolve. The unflavored gelatin plays the part of the calf ear or cow hoof in classic French cooking, but without the endless rolling boiling of carcass bits. I don't like boiling carcass bits, and thankfully neither do the editors of Cook's Illustrated.


Once the gelatin is dissolved you are ready to eat.