Monday, February 27, 2012

Pork and Apple Pasta

Pork, Apple and Walnut Pasta with Sage-Mustard Cream

This is a really elegant recipe that's sooooo good on a cool Autumn evening (or in the early spring, when the seasonal produce isn't up yet and all that's still good are onions and apples). It's definitely a rustic dish, so make sure to rough chop all the ingredients in order to get some nice textural contrasts in each bite. Full of spicy-sweet-rich flavor, it's a great dish for company and it tastes even better the next day!

Use a compact twisty pasta like Fusili or Bow Ties that will mix well and hold the sauce. I used fun seasonal pasta shapes from World Market in the photo above.

Serves 4-6


Pasta Mix
1/2 lb Ground Italian Sausage
1/2 lb Ground Pork
4 Cloves Garlic, diced fine
1/2 Onion, chopped roughly
1 Apple, firm, unpeeled, chopped roughly (Galas work best)
1/4 C Walnuts, chopped roughly
1 Tbl Red Chili flakes (more if you like it spicy)
1/4 C Fresh Sage, chopped roughly (Sub 2 Tbl dried sage)
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a very large pot or skillet, saute the garlic, onion, sausage and pork for 2 minutes over medium heat, or until the onions start to soften. Add the sage and chili flakes and continue to saute until the meat is cooked through and the mixture is well combined. Remove from heat, stir in the apples and walnuts. Salt and Pepper to taste. Cover and set aside.

Sage-Mustard Cream Sauce
1/2 Small Shallot, diced fine
1 tsp Butter
1 C Cream
1/4 C Yellow Mustard (any mustard but dijon, really)
1/4 C Fresh Sage, chopped roughly (Sub 2 Tbl dried sage)
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, saute the shallot, butter and sage over medium heat until the shallot softens and turns transluscent. Turn down to medium-low, add the cream and stir occasionally until the cream warms through. Add the mustard and bring the mixture to a low simmer, stirring occasionally. It should thicken - add more mustard if it doesn't. Turn down to low to keep warm and cover.

Boil and drain the pasta, then add the pasta and sauce to the meat mixture and toss to combine.

Garnish With
Freshly Ground Pepper
Fried Sage Leaves

Monday, February 20, 2012

Red Dwarf Food: Beer Milkshakes

In case y'all hadn't noticed, Lexi and m'self are big geeks (Duh, it's totally in the blog name). Just in case the posts and recipes for the Triple Fried Egg Chili Chutney Sandwich and Drunken Fry-up didn't give it away and you need it spelled out in Alphabetti Spaghetti, we're both big fans of the BBC TV series, Red Dwarf.

Geeky BBC comedies are a surprising gold mine of possible recipes for the nerdly-minded. Red Dwarf especially, uses food constantly to explain character tastes and personalities. So given that beer is infinite, and also given that we're often drunken Red Dwarf geeks, would you like a Beer Milkshake?

Another great idea from the people who brought you BEEEEEEEEEER MILKSHAKES!!

These appear several times in the series. They're most memorably noted in episode 3 of the first series, entitled Confidence and Paranoia. In the episode, the main character, Dave Lister, contracts a highly mutated space flu, one of the symptoms of which is that his febrile hallucinations take shape in the real world. Lister's Confidence - the part of himself representing his self-esteem - and his Paranoia - the part of himself representing his self-doubt - pop into existence, and much hilarity and hijinks ensue. Beer milkshakes get an enthusiastic mention from Confidence.

Here are three recipes we've come up with, using different types of beer because there's no such thing as too many choices when it comes to beer:

Stout Milkshake
1/2 can Stout or Porter
8 oz vanilla Ice Cream
1/4 C Dark Chocolate Syrup

Lager Milkshake (via Gwen's Spouse)
1/2 Can Lager
8 oz Vanilla Ice Cream
1/2 C frozen peaches

Amber Ale Milkshake
1/2 can Amber
8 oz Caramel Ice Cream

Basically, these are just regular milkshakes with the milk replaced by beer. Because the alcohol in the beer has a lower freezing point than milk, the ice cream-to-liquid ratio should be adjusted for a little more ice cream. That way you don't end up with beer soup.

Using a narrow drink mixer or a milkshake mixer will give you a better result. Wide mixers (like mine) don't seem to mix as well and you're left with runny shakes that have big chunks of unmixed ice cream in.

The end result should be creamy, and delicious. These taste a lot like an old fashioned malted except for, well you know... beer.

Guiness, Ice Cream, and Chocolate Syrup in the blender

Porter or Stout work equally well, but be sure to find the darkest chocolate syrup possible. There's something about using bittersweet syrup and vanilla ice cream that comes out WAY better than using chocolate ice cream.

Lager, ice cream, and peaches.

Frozen peaches are best, since they're cold and help to keep the shake thick. I'm not sure that Dave would approve of peaches with his beer but... well, it's good like that. Taste trumps canon.

If Dave Lister was American, he'd drink Budweiser.

Without peaches.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Key Lime Pie

Real Key Lime Pie Isn't Green. Nor is it baked.

I'm a total snob when it comes to this pie. It's got to be one of the easiest desserts ever, and whenever I go out and find some day-glo green whipped chiffon monstrosity masquerading as this pie, a little bit of me dies inside. There's just no excuse for ruining something so simple and so delicious. A good test for whether the pie is worthy of ordering at a restaurant is to ask how many ingredients are used in it. If the answer is more than four, then skip the pie - it's probably no good.

Key lime filling is really a very rich, uncooked pudding. Traditionally, this pie is done with a graham cracker crust but frankly, I think it's all wrong. The spices in the graham overwhelm and conflict with the fresh citrusy taste of the limes so here it's been replaced with a light shortbread crust that lets the tart, floral taste of the limes shine through.


Shortbread Crust (adaped from the Joy of Cooking, 1975)
1 C Butter
2 C Sifted All-Purpose Flour
1/2 C Sifted Powdered Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
Fluted Tart Pan

Key Lime Filling
2 Cans Sweetened, Condensed Milk
6 Full Size Limes, or 8-12 key limes - enough to make a full Cup of lime juice.

Start with the crust. This is a VERY RICH PIE, so a thin little slice is about right - use a shallow tart pan instead of a full size pie tin for this one.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Cream the butter (to soften it and make it easier to work with).
Add the creamed butter to the dry ingredients.
Mix together.

Depending on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen, the dough could look crumbly or come together in a smooth ball. Either is fine.

Press the dough into the tart pan, starting with the sides. Use your fingers to press it in, and keep it fairly thin - about 1/8 inch thick. Work it all the way around, then spread the rest of the dough to the same thickness on the bottom, using your fingers to press and seal it with the sides. Trim any excess from the top edge.

Shortbread Crust, full of little pricks and ready to get baked

Prick holes in the pie bottom to let the steam escape, and bake at 325 for 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Set aside to cool - you don't want cold pudding going into a hot crust or you'll get Key Lime Glop.

Once the crust is cooled, make the pudding. It only takes a few minutes, so don't start early. Tiny Key Limes are traditional for this pie, but they're a pain in the ass to work with and frankly, regular limes just taste better. I consider the "Key Lime" name to indicate where the pie hails from, not the ingredients.

The flavor is in the oils, and the oils are in the zest

Zest and juice the limes into a small ceramic, glass or plastic bowl. Making extra is a good idea, and don't skimp on the zest, it's the most important part.
Open the cans of milk and empty them into a large bowl.
Start by mixing half of the lime juice into the milk.
Taste it as you go and add more juice slowly.

As you stir, the lime juice and milk will react and thicken into a pudding before your very eyes! It's limey magic! As it thickens, add the rest of the lime juice and stir it in. If the pudding thickens and then starts to get runny, there's too much lime but you can add a little more canned milk to thicken it back up.

Pour the pudding into the crust, and voila! Done. It's really that easy.

Garnish with whipped cream if you like.
(As a side note, if you're having problems getting the pudding to set correctly, try adding 2 egg yolks to the mix and baking the pie at 350 for 15-20 minutes.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cherry Bounce 26 Weeks Later

Household Private Reserve

Last August, our first sojourn was made into the land of Cherry Bounce. The backstory is that we took 50+ pounds of pie cherries and made gallons upon gallons of cordial.

The trick to a good cordial is to not make it too sweet, and let it sit for months and months while the flavors magically develop. Made in July, we popped it open just before Christmas and were happy to find it to be incredible. It doesn't taste like cherry candy - instead it tastes just like fresh cherries. You can't buy this stuff in stores, and it goes down waaaaay to easily.

Brave Little Soldiers, Ready to Fight on the side of Alcoholism!
We were working over a steaming stove until midnight on Christmas Eve to get it all bottled and sealed in time for the family get together the next day, as everyone was getting Bounce for presents. Cute 4oz bottles - Check. Corks - Check. Labels - Check. Ribbon - Check. Sealing Wax - Check (after a long and arduous treck to every beer shop in the area!). Of course, we were bolstered along by generous libations from our own private reserve.

Left to Right: Bourbon, Brandy, Rum, Vodka

Here's the verdict on the different flavors:

Spices: The spiced versions came out too strong, and definitely tasted better as boozy cherries than in the cordials proper. I've gone back to revise the original recipe and cut way down on the amount of spices.

Vodka: The clear winner. The bounce is a gorgeous bright cherry red and has that fresh-picked cherry taste. This produced the least interesting boozy cherries. All the color and flavor ended up in the cordial and these bland little pale gobs of fruit were left over.

Rum: Lots of folks liked the rum, but it remided me of cherry cough syrup. If I do it again, I'll use spiced rum and half the amount of sugar. The Boozy cherries are good but pretty tart, so don't work as well in mixed drinks. They're great over ice cream.

Brandy: Lovely, complex and a bit spicy. This was my second favorite as it had a good spice-sweet-tart balance. It's a very dark red cordial, and works well with just a drop of spice in it. It's very a very Christmasey taste. These boozy cherries were definitely the best; rich and flavorful.

Bourbon: I thought I would love this more but it really just tastes like cherry flavored whiskey. It's okay, and the boozey cherries are okay, but at the end of the day it was kinda meh unless you're crazy for cherry flavored bourbon.

Next year we're going to make MASSIVE AMOUNTS of bounce and try other flavors too: peach, blackberry, blueberry, the list goes on. Tart fruits taste best, so we have high hopes for the plum and blackberry versions.