Stinky Cheese and “Tom the Troll’s Panini”

How do you feel about stinky cheese?

I can handle Bleu types, Parmesan/Romano types, Swiss types, Feta types, whatever. I CANNOT handle any sort of cheese that comes from a goat. I know it’s all the rage, but I will always avoid any sort of goat cheese (and milk and even meat). Have I tried to acquire a taste for these goaty products? Half-heartedly in the past. Now I’m grown up enough to proclaim, “I AM DONE.” No more sampling. The smell is just not worth it to me, especially since there are so many other delicious products available. Maybe I haven’t found the right flavor to mask the goaty smell—perhaps I need a roasted garlic/chipotle/pesto chèvre.

Anyway, when I was developing my cookbook, I went ahead and utilized Limburger for this troll-inspired delicacy.

This is quite a pungent sandwich which is great on its own or as an accompaniment to soup. Limburger seems most fitting for trolls because of its smell (meaning no offense to trolls, of course…); however, I find it to have a rather mild flavor. You might disagree; in a casual sampling of Limburger cheese in my mother’s kitchen, six people had different opinions on its flavor though everyone did agree it was stinky. It is a cow-based cheese, but it really does smell like incredibly sour feet.

Bob likes this particular sandwich with Brie and sourdough. Callista dislikes raw onion, so I usually leave a slice off of her portion.

Now, all that being said, have I ever purchased Limburger cheese again? Nope.

You can certainly use a sandwich press if you like (hence my term, Panini), but a common griddle will cook both at once and a press might only accommodate one at a time. I stress the word carefully in the recipe below, since this is loaded with stuff and you don’t want it all to fall out.

The first sandwich is known as Pig and Curd on Bread (a.k.a. Brie & Bacon Panini) in my cookbook. The second is affectionately known as Want Stinkier Sandwich (a.k.a. Bleu & Bacon Panini). YUM (bellows the troll…).

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From “The Hobbit”—Troll Treats

Well, you can imagine that running into three trolls would be a terrifying encounter, but with the help of Gandalf’s cleverness, the trolls are vanquished mainly by their own argumentative behavior. Now rescued from the stewpot, our intrepid adventurers discover a cave in which the trolls had stored bread, cheese, ale, and bacon. It’s a good thing too, for Bilbo and his dwarf companions are starving for breakfast. Tolkien is not specific as to what kind of bread or cheese, so I am taking some latitude here—I believe these sandwiches would probably satisfy most trolls, at least as an amuse-bouche

“Tom the Troll’s Panini”

tomthetrollspanini

  • 2 tablespoons small capers, drained well
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 4 slices sourdough or multi-grain bread, about ½” thick, 4″ by 5″
  • 7-8 ounces Brie, Camembert, or Limburger cheese, cut into ¼” slices (use the rind as well)
  • A large red onion, cut 4 slices from the center, ¼” slices
  • 6 slices good quality bacon, cooked until crispy (precooked variety is okay)
  • 3-4 tablespoons soft salted butter, or spreadable margarine

Combine the first four ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Lay one slice of bread on a cutting board and layer it with half the cheese, two slices of onion, and three strips of bacon. Spread half of the mustard mixture on another slice of bread and place this side down on top of the bacon. Press down all over the sandwich. Spread the top with about a tablespoon of butter. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Heat a griddle to medium-hot.

Carefully place each sandwich on hot griddle, butter side down, and press down all over with your hands or a spatula. Now butter the tops of each. When golden brown (2-3 minutes should do), carefully flip each over. Press down all over again and fry the other side until it is golden brown, another 2-3 minutes. Cut in half and serve. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Serves 2-4.

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The trolls seem to have some rather bad-natured competition and grouchiness going on between themselves; Tolkien describes it as “a gorgeous row.” Bill would want his sandwich to be even more smelly than his companion’s sandwich, of course.

“Bill the Troll’s Stinkier Panini”

billthetrollsstinkierpanini

For this one, everything is the same with these exceptions:

  • Use any kind of rye or pumpernickel for the bread

For the cheese, use:

  • 2 ounces any sort of Bleu cheese—such as Gorgonzola (rather mild), Stilton, Bleu, or Roquefort (rather strong)—it just depends on your taste—crumbled
  • 3 ounces light cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened

Mash the two cheeses together and spread equally on two slices of bread. Proceed with the directions in the preceding recipe. If you use pumpernickel, you will have to pay close attention to it, since it’s already dark brown; you’ll want it toasted but not burned. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Serves 2-4.

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A Little Lamb and “Bert the Troll’s Kabobs (a.k.a. Mutton and Gravy)”

So, when does a tender little lamb become a tough bit of mutton? After it passes its first innocent year, a sheep becomes a teenager, or hogget. Then comes the dreaded toughness of adulthood, and the rather unattractive term mutton, which only refers to the meat derived from the sheep. Though you never call a sheep a mutton, outside of North America, you can call a sheep a hogget. The farmer in the movie Babe is named Arthur Hoggett…

It’s a fairly traditional treatment to serve mint jelly with lamb, though I’ve never cared for it. It was one of those things my English grandmother would serve on special occasions. The best lamb I ever had was at a Himalayan restaurant in Evergreen, Colorado. My sister, her husband, and I had lamb prepared as a beautifully tender vindaloo. 

Let’s face it, however—mutton is smelly and tough. I’ve never had hogget. In America, you’ll hardly ever hear those terms; you’ll only hear lamb. We Americans can certainly be particular about our protein sources and we can also be sensitive about marketing terms. Sure, we’ll eat our adorable Easter lamb, but once that creature reaches that 12-month-mark, forget it. The rest of the world is much more practical about mutton preparation.

Actually, around our house, we’re not too keen on lamb, let alone mutton (especially Bob). Happily this recipe completely lends itself to the optional protein choices mentioned below. You can serve this over a rice pilaf or with crusty bread. Any sort of salad or vegetables goes well with this dish, though I doubt that trolls care much for green stuff.

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From “The Hobbit”—Troll Treats

The ultimate enemy in The Hobbit is a vicious and clever dragon named Smaug, who eats ponies, dwarves, and men. I am assuming he would eat these delicacies raw or he might singe them with a puff of his own fire. Rather than trying to invent dishes that would mimic raw, bloody flesh, I decided not to include any strange recipes for Smaug in my cookbook. There are also goblins (orcs) and large spiders in The Hobbit. However, the spiders just want to eat Bilbo and the dwarves. One day, I’ll treat you to all my goblin/orc recipes; nomnomnom.

Earlier in Tolkien’s text, however, Bilbo and company unfortunately encounter three trolls and they are captured. The trolls had been toasting some mutton over a fire and there is a “fine toothsome smell.” Apparently, trolls prefer to eat manflesh. When they capture the dwarves, the trolls discuss at length just how they should prepare this unexpected, yet welcome, culinary windfall. They conclude that Bilbo would hardly make more than an appetizer. The following recipes raise troll cuisine up a few notches, but they are still fairly rough and ready.

One of the trolls laments their lack of gastronomic variety: “Mutton yesterday, mutton today, and blimey, if it don’t look like mutton again tomorrer.” I can easily understand how one can tire of mutton, but what if a lovely bit of lamb came their way? This would call for pearl onions and a tasty marinade. This might even satisfy the Top Chef trolls in the recent Peter Jackson films; they certainly are more pretentious than Tolkien’s original trolls, don’t you think?

“Bert the Troll’s Kabobs (a.k.a. Mutton and Gravy)”

bertthetrollskabobs

  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon crushed ginger, fresh or from a jar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cream sherry
  • About 3 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 – 1¼ pounds lamb (stew meat or from a roast), cut into 20 pieces, each about 2″ or so *
  • 3 cups water
  • 16 pearl onions, any color (small boiler onions would also work)

Combine the first ten ingredients in a covered jar and shake well. Place lamb in a medium-sized bowl and pour the marinade over all. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or even overnight); stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart saucepan, combine 3 cups water and the onions. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut off the ends and pull off the peel. On 4 metal skewers coated with cooking spray, alternately thread 5 chunks of lamb and 4 onions on each, beginning and ending with lamb; reserve marinade for basting. Place on a medium baking sheet. Coat grill with cooking spray and preheat to medium. Place kabobs on grill and liberally brush with half of the marinade. Cook 3-5 minutes. Turn the kabobs over and brush again with remaining marinade. Cook another 3-5 minutes or until meat is cooked to the desired temperature. ** Let the kabobs rest for a couple of minutes on a clean baking sheet, then remove from skewers and serve. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Serves 4.

* Other good protein choices are beef, pork (cuts such as tenderloin and sirloin are best), and chicken (preferably breast meat), and even large peeled shrimp (3″; tail on or not).

** Cooking times will vary depending on your grill, your choice of meats, and your own taste.

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Second Breakfast? Just “Bilbo’s Special Ham and Eggs for Thorin”

You might assume I eat a hearty breakfast, but I can’t handle food very early in the morning. When I was around 10 years old, I gave up drinking milk, but I don’t think I’m lactose-intolerant per se. When my daughters were in school, I bought into the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” crap, so I generally provided them with a modest morning meal right up through high school. I also ate this breakfast, but skipping the meal was never too much of a problem, however.

Then came the “Night of the Gallbladder.” This traumatic event radically changed my morning routine in a good way. Now, all I eat is a serving of fruit, 20 ounces of cold water, exactly 2 ounces of (usually) orange juice, and my medications. If I’m really in the mood for an eggy-type of meal, I have it at lunch or dinner.

SECOND breakfast? You’ve got to be kidding…

This is an excellent breakfast, brunch, or even casual supper dish, so give it a try! When you prepare these eggs, I think you will agree that there are an awful lot of eggs for one person, even if he is a dwarf. You could easily use a combination of fresh eggs and egg substitute, if desired.

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From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry

Finally, after much discussion of what the dwarves have planned and why they need the assistance of this burglar (I mean, hobbit, sorry…), Thorin Oakenshield imperiously states that he likes “six eggs with my ham, when starting on a journey: fried not poached, and mind you don’t break ’em.” Well, he is a king, after all. Bilbo has become so annoyed after this long evening that he decided “not to bother to get up very early and cook everybody else’s wretched breakfast.” If he did, however, he would have made this recipe instead. I certainly don’t blame him for not doing this; these dwarves have been rather rude the whole time.

And now we will leave Bag-End, and Mr. Bilbo Baggins may close the door on his well-stocked pantries. At least nothing went to waste! Next up on the agenda: Troll Treats.

“Bilbo’s Special Ham and Eggs for Thorin”

bilbosspecialhamandeggsforthorin

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon packed golden brown sugar
  • ¾ pound cooked ham slices *
  • 6 extra large eggs
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon Savory Seasoning
  • ½ cup minced fresh chives
  • 5-6 ounces spreadable herb/garlic cheese (2/3 cup) **

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter and brown sugar over medium/high heat. Add the meat and fry until a golden brown on both sides. Turn heat to very low and cover.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, and Savory Seasoning until well combined. In another large skillet coated with cooking spray, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium/high heat. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and cook over medium/high heat until just beginning to scramble, stirring occasionally and gently with a spatula. Sprinkle with the chives and add the cheese, breaking it into smaller pieces or mashing it as you mix it in. Continue scrambling until the eggs are fully cooked and fluffy. Don’t brown them (though if you do, they’re still quite edible). Adjust seasonings, if desired. Serve alongside the ham and accompany with items such as toast, biscuits, scones, or English muffins. Keep leftovers covered in refrigerator. Serves 3-4, or perhaps just one terribly hungry dwarf…

* You may use a few slices of Canadian Bacon or even thin pork chops here, instead of the ham. Allow a few minutes extra cooking time for pork chops.

** Boursin cheese is great here; just use a 5.2 ounce package, any flavor.

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Doomsday Approacheth and “Bombur’s Pork-Pie”

Recently, I had a dream/nightmare wherein our new president was named Donald Trump. For some reason, he was in bed, eating some meat loaf.

Why meat loaf? I think somewhere along the line, I had heard a report that his son-in-law had wondered why his father-in-law would even want to be president because of all the work involved. He pictured dad usually sitting on the couch in the evening, eating something pedestrian like meat loaf. Sort of… low-energy…

Well, who knows how this year will turn out. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it’s difficult, given his mercurial personality.

I woke up severely troubled…

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From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry

Poor Bombur. All he gets is abuse for his physical condition. It’s downright tragic that he is a victim of body-shaming.

I suppose I would say he is one of my favorite dwarves merely because of his appetite and his oh-so-apparent love for food and drink. He is described as “immensely fat and heavy” and he suffers throughout the entire story of The Hobbit. In the film versions, he is definitely a portly fellow, but he sure can move. He is sort of reminiscent of Peter Griffin or Homer Simpson, you know, fat but incredibly fit and mostly able to keep up with all the other spryer dwarves. In this YouTube clip, you can see he actually is the fastest runner (and don’t ask me why the folks who posted this went with Chariots of Fire music at the end instead of just keeping the original soundtrack):

I suppose I would also say he is one of my favorites because I can completely relate to his physical issues (which means I’m moderately fat but also relatively fit, though this is limited to regular types of working out—I don’t foresee jumping around barrels and killing orcs in my future…). Yes, he asks for a pork-pie, but he also requests a salad (which will be my next post), so he must be trying to eat relatively well…

“Bombur’s Pork-Pie”

bombursporkpie

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme (or 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced)
  • ¼ cup cold salted butter, cut into ¼” bits
  • 3 ounces cold lard, cut into ¼” bits
  • 7-9 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into ½” cubes
  • ½ cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay
  • ½ teaspoon Savory Seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon dry thyme
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen corn
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen lima beans (or peas)
  • 14-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or Wondra
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 teaspoon water

In a large bowl, combine 2¼ cups flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon each of salt and dry (or fresh) thyme. Add the ¼ cup butter and lard and combine. Add ice water by tablespoons and combine well. Divide into a ⅓ and ⅔ portions and flatten into round disks. Put in covered containers or cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, coat a medium deep skillet with cooking spray, then sauté the 1 tablespoon butter, onion, and the pork over medium/high heat just until there is no longer any pink color. Add the wine and cook over high heat until it is almost dry. Add all the remaining ingredients down to the flour or Wondra. Bring to a boil, then cook uncovered over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Let stand; it should still be moist and saucy. Adjust seasonings, if desired.

Preheat oven to 375°. On a floured surface, roll out the large disk to a 13″ circle and place in a 9½” glass pie dish. Pour in the stew. Roll out the smaller disk to about 12″ and place on top. Trim edges, fold over and crimp decoratively, reserving scraps. Cut a small X in the center. With pie crust scraps, cut small decorations. Whisk together the egg and 1 teaspoon water. Brush top of pie with egg wash and apply decorations—egg wash these as well. Bake 30 minutes. Brush top of pie with egg wash and bake another 16-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting. Serve hot, warm, or even at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate leftovers; reheats well. Serves 6-8.

Vegetarian OptionReplace the lard in the pie crust with vegetable shortening. Keep everything the same, except replace the meat with 3 cups of assorted diced vegetables and add an extra tablespoon of flour to thicken the sauce. Good choices would be summer squashes, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, or just additional onion, corn, lima beans, and/or peas. Green chile? Yes, please!

porkpieslice

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And now for my other daughter’s favorite recipe…

…at least, the recipe that was assigned to her in my Middle-earth cookbook. Callista originally wanted a particular lemon cake assigned as her favorite, but my late mother ended up with it. These rich little salmon treats are a close second, however. I’m sharing these in honor of her birthday month, the merry month of May.

Before I revised my cookbook, I had a chapter called “Tea-Time.” In The Hobbit, the dwarves invade Bilbo Baggins‘s home and they insist he feed them all the treats in his multiple pantries, both sweet and savory. After the revision, these recipes were assigned to different chapters. I was also making a sort of parody in the chapter, implying that these rather coarse dwarves would be happy to sit down and eat diminutive delicacies and drink tea out of good china cups with lovely floral decorations. If you’ve seen the current film versions of The Hobbit, you’ll see that mugs of beer and large haunches of roasted meats are more up their alley.

In Albuquerque, we have a fabulous restaurant that serves a high tea, the St. James Tearoom. It is the sort of place where you dress up (even in Albuquerque!) and drink so much tea with lump sugar, you feel you’ll float away. You receive a three-tiered dish filled with tiny goodies that are more substantial than you might think. For two hours, you can sit in one of their quaint parlors, sipping and eating, chatting about all sorts of topics. Cellphones are discouraged, and really, if you make the effort to go to high tea, why are you gazing at a screen?

Callista loves this place and I don’t blame her. Her boyfriend also appreciates it, but I doubt my husband would—ideally, it should be a leisurely dining experience filled with conversation. They change their theme and menu monthly. Last month, they ran a Titanic theme; in the past, they’ve featured Jane Austen, Dickens, Pirates (!?), Narnia, and yes, even Middle-earth. They have a small shop in the front, where you can purchase beautiful tea sets, teas, books, and some lovely pieces of jewelry.

Callista and I highly recommend a visit for any special occasion. Or simply visit their website above; it’s rather idyllic.

But let’s say you’d like to have a tea party at home. You can serve these as a savory option for a substantial tea; make your life simple and just buy some cookies to go with them. Or serve these with some salad or soup as an entrée. If you haven’t already made up some Savory Seasoning, I have supplied a link to the page in the ingredient list below.

Callista’s Salmon Tartlets

Callista's Salmon    Tartlets

  • ¼ cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon plus ¼ teaspoon Savory Seasoning
  • 6 ounces boneless, skinless salmon fillet
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dry dill or 1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
  • ½ cup soft salted butter
  • ¼ cup 1% milk
  • 3 ounces light cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Dill Mayonnaise, recipe below

In a small skillet, combine the wine, lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon Savory Seasoning.  Place salmon in pan.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Turn salmon over, and simmer another 5 minutes, or until the fish is fully cooked yet still moist in the center.  Turn off heat and leave the salmon in the pan.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Liberally coat 2 miniature muffin pans with cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, dill, butter, and milk with a hand mixer on low speed until fully combined.  Knead a few times on a lightly floured surface.  Divide dough into 24 balls and place one in each cup.  Use floured fingers to press dough all the way up the sides.  Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.  Remove and maintain oven temperature.  Use a shot glass or a rounded spoon to press the dough down.

Meanwhile, in the same bowl (you don’t have to wash the bowl or the beaters) beat the cream cheese until smooth then beat in the egg, cream, and ¼ teaspoon Savory Seasoning until fully mixed.  Fill each cup equally with cream cheese mixture (approximately 1½ teaspoons in each cup).  Using a fork, flake the salmon into 24 mostly equal portions and place one in each cup on top of the cheese.  Bake 20 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes.  Use a sharp knife around the edges to ease removal from pans.  Top each with a scant teaspoon of Dill Mayonnaise.  Cover and refrigerate leftovers.  Makes 24.

Dill Mayonnaise:

  • ½ cup good-quality mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon dry dill or 1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon Savory Seasoning

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate leftovers.  Makes ½ cup.

Vegetarian Option—Replace the salmon with 1½ cups of fresh asparagus, sliced into ¼” bits.  Simmer asparagus for only 3 minutes.  Set aside to drain well as you prepare everything else and follow all other directions, placing about a teaspoon of asparagus in each cup.

green chile icon A tablespoon of well drained green chile in the egg mixture would be good—either with the salmon or with the vegetarian option.

 

PS: I have a new grandson!!!WN newborn

 

 

 

Check out their Blog: The St. James Tearoom

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The Quintessential Comfort Food?

In honor of my older daughter’s birthday month, and to honor the fact that she is about to give birth to her second child ANY MOMENT NOW, I thought it would be a good time to write about what many might consider the quintessential comfort food. In both of my daughter’s cases, that would refer to (drumroll, please): Macaroni and Cheese.

I’ve made myriad versions of Mac & Cheese in my life and have developed many recipes; simple, a bit complicated; vegetarian, meaty. As girls, however, my daughters usually just wanted me to mix up a box of Kraft (or Amy’s, or even whatever store brand I could find). As they got older, they grew to appreciate more nuance and more interesting ingredients (and certainly less artificial ones) in their Mac & Cheese.

When I was developing recipes for my Middle-earth cookbook, I read a lot about medieval cooking. J. R. R. Tolkien certainly never mentions pasta as an ingredient, but I came up with this particular recipe after reading about early European pasta development. “Macrows” makes an appearance in Great Britain in the 14th Century, served with butter and grated cheese on the side. By the 18th Century, macaroni would be cooked and mixed with cream; cheese would be sprinkled on top, then the whole dish would be broiled. You must end up with a golden-brown dish at the end, of course.

When I came up with this recipe, Chloë and Callista had strangely philosophical arguments about the nature of Mac & Cheese. Should the cheese be incorporated into the pasta? Callista believed it should be integrated within the sauce; therefore, she felt this dish did not qualify as traditional Mac & Cheese. Chloë (the tired mom-to-be) came to the defense of this recipe’s honor, which explains why it is named for her. That’s not to say that Callista doesn’t enjoy this dish—she does, indeed.

It’s amazing to me how many variations on the Mac & Cheese theme there are, and so many of them are wonderfully soothing to one’s soul. But if you want to make a dish that hearkens back to English history, try this one out. It’s definitely guaranteed to make a vastly pregnant person happy, as well.

The recipe’s title would be a rather Middle-English way of spelling Mac & Cheese. Please participate in my survey below!

Chloe's Macaroni and Cheese

Chloë’s Macrows ond Chese (a.k.a. Chloë’s Macaroni and Cheese)

  • 2 quarts water
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni (or other small pasta)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup salted butter
  • ½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 4 ounces shredded Gouda cheese
  • 2 ounces finely shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.  Coat a 2″ deep, 7″ by 11″ serving dish with cooking spray or grease lightly.  Bring the water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan.  Add the macaroni and cook as directed on the package.  Drain and put back in the saucepan.  Add the salt and cream and combine.  Pour this into the prepared dish (it will be soupy).

Meanwhile, microwave the butter in a medium glass bowl in 30-second intervals until melted.  Add the remaining ingredients and combine.  Sprinkle this evenly over the macaroni.  Bake for 16-18 minutes, until golden brown on top.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Cover and refrigerate leftovers (the macaroni will completely absorb the cream and you will be left with buttery, bready, cheesy noodles—if you have any leftovers; don’t count on it…).  Serves 4-6.   

Meat Lover’s Option—Add between 1-2 cups of any kind of diced, cooked meat to the pasta—this is a good place to use up some leftovers (you can cut up 2 or 3 hot dogs and watch this disappear extra fast…).

green chile iconDrain 4 ounces of roasted, chopped green chile and mix right in with the cooked pasta and cream.

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Just in case you’ve ended up with a collection of hard-boiled eggs…

When my girls were little, we’d do the obligatory dying of the dozen eggs, then Bob would hide them all in the yard for Easter. One child found her six eggs quickly; the other found the event extremely frustrating. She was usually relieved when the other took charge and found them all. Both loved eating the eggs once they were deviled, of course. Each one got a relatively small Easter basket filled with fun miniature chocolates. Then mid-school came along and there went the egg tradition, though I kept up the chocolate tradition through high school; you know, the truly important part…

Instead of an easy deviled egg recipe, however, I figured I’d share something from my cookbook that will really impress your family/meal companions. It’s a rich dish that is great for a Sunday dinner, but also reheats well. When I was doing research for my Middle-earth cookbook, I saw a few British recipes that incorporated whole hard-boiled eggs in meat terrines or pies. So, I came up with this springy recipe, since Easter is sometimes the only time I cook up a whole bunch of eggs at one time.

Have a lovely Easter weekend—and remember not to hide your eggs too well, or you might end up with cranky children…

Troy’s Springtime Pie

  • 8 extra large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled in advanceTroy's Springtime Pie
  • 2½ cups plus 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt, divided
  • 5 ounces cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into ¼” bits
  • ½ – ¾ cup ice water
  • ¼ cup salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2½ cups 1% milk
  • ½ pound shredded Gouda cheese
  • 2 cups fresh asparagus, cut the heads at 1″ and the stems at ½” pieces
  • 3 ounces cooked ham, cut into ½” dice
  • ½ pound cooked chicken, cut into ½” dice
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 teaspoon water

Combine the 2½ cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.  Cut in the lard or shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Mix in the water, starting with ½ cup, then add more water, a tablespoon at a time.  Mix until the dough comes together well and is still moist.  Divide dough into a 2/3 and a 1/3 portion.  Flatten into discs and wrap each with plastic wrap or put each into covered containers.  Refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium/high heat.  Add the 1/3 cup flour, Herbes de Provence, pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt and combine with a whisk until smooth.  Add the milk and cook over medium/high heat until sauce is smooth and thicker.  Stir in the cheese until melted.  Place the asparagus in a medium bowl.  Mix in the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon flour, and ¼ cup cheese sauce.  Place the ham and chicken in another medium bowl and combine with ½ cup sauce.  Cover sauce and let stand.

Preheat oven to 375°.  On a floured surface, roll out the 2/3 portion of dough to approximately 13″ and lay in a 9½” glass pie dish.  Spread the asparagus mixture all over the bottom.  Top with the ham mixture.  Arrange the 8 hard-boiled eggs equally over the meat, pressing down slightly.  Spread a tablespoon of cheese sauce over each egg.  Roll out the 1/3 portion of the crust to about 12″ and cover the eggs.  Trim and fold the edges over and crimp decoratively.  Cut small decorations from the scraps.  Cut ½” slits between the eggs.  Whisk together the egg and water and brush all over the pie.  Place the decorations over the top and brush with more egg wash.  Bake 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and brush with the egg wash again.  Bake another 21-25 minutes until golden brown.  Meanwhile, reheat cheese sauce over a low heat, stirring frequently.  Let pie stand 10 minutes before cutting and serve with cheese sauce.  Cover and refrigerate leftover pie and sauce separately; reheat sauce slowly.  Serves 8.   

troy's sliceIf you end up with extra sauce, cook some pasta and combine for an impromptu macaroni and cheese.

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