Monday, August 31, 2009

Say Cheese!

Ever wonder where your favorite food got it’s start? How about macaroni and cheese? Many believe that Thomas Jefferson invented macaroni and cheese; however, he perhaps only introduced the dish to America. Although it is true that Jefferson served Macaroni Pie at Monticello, macaroni and cheese was already a popular dish in Europe where Jefferson first tasted it.

The first known written recipe for Mac & Cheese comes from Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper in 1769, (p.261). It's worth taking a look at if only to show your kids how people wrote weird back then, (Macaroni with Permafent Cheefe!). Actually, it's kind of neat to think that people back in the olden days liked the same foods we do today. Just think of Jane Austen with a big plate of Mac & Cheese. Maybe she thought about writing, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of macaroni, must be in want of cheese."

Today's recipe is an antique recipe from Mrs. Isabella Beeton. She wrote Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management which was Victorian England's Bible for all thing domestic. And just so you can appreciate what it took to make Macaroni back in the day, Mrs. Beeton states the time to boil the macaroni can be up to 1 3/4 hours. Talk about slaving over a stove all day...

Mrs. Beeton’s Macaroni, as usually served with the Cheese Course
Adapted for the modern kitchen
Serves 6-7 (In Victorian terms that is, this is part of a larger meal)

½ lb. Pipe macaroni
¼ lb butter
6 oz. Grated Parmesan or Cheshire cheese
pepper and salt to taste
1 pint milk (optional, see note below)
2 pints water
fine bread-crumbs (I think I’ll use Ritz cracker crumbs, yum!)

Put the milk and water in a saucepan with sufficient salt to flavor it. Bring water to a boil and cook macaroni as directed on package. Drain macaroni and put it into a deep dish. Sprinkle some of the cheese and butter cut into small pieces throughout the macaroni. Spread the remainder of the cheese over the top. Season with a little pepper and cover with bread-crumbs. Warm, without oiling, the remainder of the butter and gently pour over the bread-crumbs. Place it under the broiler to brown the crumbs.

(Mrs. Beeton says that the macaroni can be boiled in plain water instead of using milk, but should then be mixed with some butter.)
Click here for the Printable Recipe at Tasty Kitchen.

Cheshire Cheese (bought mine at The Fresh Market)

Even though Ritz crackers are not the breadcrumbs Mrs. Beeton would have used, I have to say they balanced with the tangy Cheshire perfectly.

Helpful links:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chicken Quesadillas with Roasted Red Peppers

This dish is a favorite in my house. The recipe serves six if part of a meal, but expect them to be greedily gobbled up if served alone.

Chicken Quesadillas with Roasted Red Peppers
serves 6

1 lb chicken breasts, boiled and shredded (boil for 20 minutes or leave all day in your crock-pot)
1 1.25 oz packet taco seasoning
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, diced
8 ounces shredded cheese, divided (cheddar or your favorite Mexican/Taco bled)
12 10 inch flour tortillas
2 tbsps melted butter

  • Follow the directions on your seasoning packet to season the chicken.
  • In a bowl, combine the seasoned chicken and peppers.
  • Warm tortillas in microwave for 20 seconds or until warm. This will make them soft enough to fold.
  • Brush melted butter onto one side of each tortilla and place buttered side down on wax paper.
  • Using half of the cheese, sprinkle onto 1/2 of each tortilla.
  • Top with chicken mixture and remaining cheese.
  • Fold tortillas in half to enclose filling.
  • Cook in skillet on medium heat 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until both sides are golden brown and cheese is melted.
  • Cut each quesadilla into wedges to serve.

Click here for the Printable Recipe at Tasty Kitchen!

Chicken and seasoning simmering happily away.

Beautiful roasted red bell peppers are one of my favorites!

A large electric skillet cuts cooking time!

Smaller wedges are perfect for kids. Sophie loves them!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Easy As Steak Pie

A few years ago, while I was in Scotland, I had my first taste of steak pie. With its flaky crust and rich gravy, I wondered where this dish had been all my life. It seems that when it comes to meat pies in America, we tend to stick with chicken pot pie. And that’s a shame, because steak pie is very satisfying and a perfect comfort food.

Traditional recipes for steak pie involve browning, flouring, and what not, but I can’t be bothered with that. I created this recipe to get the job done and dinner on the table without too much trouble. Serve this with mashed potatoes and green peas, and you’ve got dinner in no time!

This is all you need to buy!

Steak Pie
4 servings

2 lbs. Beef round steak
2 packets of Beef Gravy (enough to make 2 cups)
1 sheet Puff Pastry
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water

Cut the steak into ½ inch cubes. Add cubes to crock-pot along with water and pinch of salt and pepper. Cook in crock-pot on low for 5 hours. (Alternatively you could simmer on stovetop until cooked through.)

With a slotted spoon, remove steak cubes to casserole dish. Make the gravy following the instructions on the packet, substituting the water with the remaining crock-pot liquid. Add gravy to the casserole dish.

Thaw puff pastry according to package directions. (It may take up to 40 minutes, so plan ahead.) Unroll sheet and place over the casserole dish. Trim edges as needed, allowing for some to sit on the edge of the dish. With a knife, cut a slit or two in the middle of the crust to allow steam to escape. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

To make a more golden brown crust, brush the top of the pastry with an egg wash, (1 egg, scrambled and 1 tablespoon water,) before baking.

Other steak pie variations:

Steak and Kidney Pie: Add one beef kidney to recipe. Wash kidney and remove outer membrane and fatty tissue, halve and remove white tubes, cut into small cubes. Cover with salted water and let stand 1 hour. Drain and cover with cold water and bring to a boil, then drain. Add to the crock-pot with steak cubes and follow the recipe above.

Steak and Onion Pie: Add one sautéed diced onion to the filling.
Steak and Mushroom Pie: Add fried sliced mushroom to the filling.

Steak and Vegetable Pie: Add desired cooked vegetables to the filling. Suggestions: Potato slices, green peas, and diced carrots.

When multiplying recipe or adding ingredients for the variations, make sure to adjust the amount of gravy needed to fill the casserole dish.

Steak and Potato Pie