May 28, 2016

Impossible Cheeseburger Pie

This recipe (or rather, its "impossible" antecedent) dates back to at least as early as 1971, but really gained fame shortly thereafter when it was printed on the back of the box for Bisquick, a shelf-stable, pre-mixed baking blend of flour, leavener, salt, and fat, intended to make biscuit-making faster and easier. Bisquick itself has been around since the 1930s or so, and its parent company, General Mills, marketed the recipes for various "impossible pies" as a further use for the baking mix. It appears to have been at least loosely based on old Southern recipes for a type of coconut pie, but the addition of the baking mix and the switch from sweet to savoury gave the concept much bigger legs. Tragically, General Mills (via its Betty Crocker brand) now refers to the pies as "impossibly easy" -- presumably because people were put off by the assumed difficulty of an impossible pie.

There are a lot of impossible pie iterations out there: taco, enchilada, and lasagna versions (and many more) all have their fans. It is an easy dish to put together, and hits all the comfort food buttons from the first time you ever try it. It is potentially closer to being a quiche than a pie in terms of structure, but arguably a quiche is a kind of pie, too, so it becomes circular. The important thing is that you don't need to make a separate crust; the crust forms itself from the flour, creating both a thin upper and (usually also) lower crust while the pie bakes. This is the impossible bit. Or the amazing bit. Or at the very least, the easy bit.

I don't keep baking mix on hand, so this version is done without Bisquick or any of its competitors. Really, all you need to do is scale your own biscuit recipe to a half cup of flour, and you're good to go. But just in case, I've written it right into the recipe below.

Impossible Cheeseburger Pie

Serves 4 - 6

250 grams lean ground beef
250 grams lean ground pork
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon beef base (such as Better than Bouillon)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
150 grams aged cheddar, grated (divided)
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk

Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F, with a rack in the middle. Spray a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray, or lightly grease.

Sauté the ground meats over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned, and then stir in the diced onion, garlic, the beef base, pepper, ground mustard, Worcestershire sauce and powdered onion. Continue to stir until it is well-integrated, and the onion is soft. Spread the mixture in the prepared pie plate, and sprinkle with 3/4 of the cheese.

In small mixing bowl, stir together the flour, ground mustard seed, salt and baking powder, and cut in the butter with a fork or pastry blender. Combine the beaten eggs and milk, and stir into the flour mixture with a fork or whisk, beating vigorously. It will be alarmingly wet. Pour evenly over the meat and cheese in the pie plate. Hold onto the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, then top with the rest of the cheese and return to the oven for a minute (if necessary) to let it melt. Let the pie stand for five minutes before slicing and serving. It cuts and lifts quite neatly. Serve with pickles and sliced tomato to enhance the "cheeseburger" effect, and a green salad for some extra vegetables.

Leftovers, should you be so lucky (or have a small household), reheat very well, and a squiggle of Sriracha sauce (or ketchup, to fit the theme) on top freshens it nicely.

May 22, 2016

Porc Normandie


Despite the deliciousness of roasted asparagus, this post is actually about the lovely slices of pork tenderloin peeking out from behind the wall of green.

Technically, this should be Porc à la Normande, in the original French, or Pork Normandy, in English. Somewhere along the line, however, I started calling it Porc Normandie, and that's how it remains in our household. A linguistic abomination, but a delicious and somewhat unusual plat principal. Either way, it's pork tenderloin that has been simmered in wine and served in an apple cream sauce.

Because apples (and the products thereof) are an extremely important crop in Normandy, there are a lot of potential variations on the apple theme in this dish. The apples in the sauce are non-negotiable, but the braising liquid could be wine or apple cider, and many versions add Calvados as a finishing touch. There's a lot of room to customize for your personal preference.

There are two points of interest in the following recipe that fly in the face of most of our assumptions about European food: First, there is no onion or garlic in any form. Secondly, there is no added salt (although I do use salted butter for browning). Of course, you can either or both of those things to the side dishes - mashed potatoes certainly like a bit of salt and usually enjoy a bit of garlic or chive, too, and I always sprinkle a little salt on my roasted asparagus. But the main dish itself does not call for these things as an ingredient (although there are other versions of Porc à la Normade that do - it isn't necessarily a hallmark of the dish). In all the times that I have made this, I have never found it wanting for either.

This recipe has been minimally adapted from French Cooking Made Easy by the Australian Women's Weekly.

Feel free to double the quantities.

Porc Normandie

Serves 4

1 large pork tenderloin (about 700 grams)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup dry white wine (or dry apple cider)
1 apple
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon red currant jelly
1/2 cup cream
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Juice of half a lemon

Select an apple that holds its shape, unless you want the pieces to melt during cooking. I use a granny smith, but that might be a little too tart for some tastes. A Gala should also work nicely. Peel and core the apple, and cut it into thin slices. Place the apple slices in a small saucepan with the wine (or apple cider) and minced rosemary. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat and let cook for ten minutes. Strain, reserving both the apple slices and the liquid separately.

Lay the pork tenderloin out on the cutting board, and trim away any excess fat or silverskin (the shiny coating of connective tissue that often forms a partial sleeve on the outside of the thick end of the tenderloin). Here is a resource for how to remove the silverskin, if you're not sure.

Cut the tenderloin into two or three pieces, so that it can fit in your skillet.

In a medium or large skillet, heat the butter and the canola oil over medium-high heat until a drop of water will dance on the surface of the pan. Place the tenderloin halves in the pan, and lightly brown on all sides. Add the reserved liquid from simmering the apples, bring to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for ten minutes. The pork will still be slightly pink in the centre, but that's fine. Remove the pork to a plate and set aside.

Increase the temperature to a brisk simmer, stir the red currant jelly into the simmering liquid, whisking or stirring until it is fully dissolved. Add the cream, and stir through. Allow the sauce to bubble while you combine the lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. Stir the cornstarch/lemon mixture into the sauce, and continue to cook and stir until it thickens into a gravy.

Pour the juices that have collected on the plate under the resting pork into the sauce, and stir through. Reduce the heat to low, and leave uncovered. Slice the pork into thick medallions, and lay it into the sauce. Spoon some of the sauce over the pork, and then add the apples back into the sauce. Allow the pork about five minutes to finish cooking in the sauce, periodically spooning more sauce over the slices.



Serve with something that can take advantage of the beautiful apple-infused sauce - such as the rosemary mashed potatoes shown above, or buttered egg noodles, and a seasonal vegetable of your choice. And maybe a dry Sauterne, if you used wine, or more cider, as you like.

If you have leftovers, they reheat quite beautifully. Simply remove the pork slices, scrape the solidified sauce (with apples) into a small skillet and reheat until bubbling. Turn the heat to the lowest setting, slide the pork slices into the hot sauce, and cover, giving it five or ten minutes to heat through, stirring or turning the pork pieces over mid-way.




May 16, 2016

Smoked Tuna Melt


Tuna Melts show up on a lot of people's comfort food lists. They are a cultural phenomenon that I grew up hearing about, but not eating. My mother didn't buy canned fish (for a variety of reasons, including worries about mercury content), and the fresh fish that we had occasionally was never tuna. Plus, I couldn't really eat fish when I was a kid, so it wasn't served very often. But I heard people talking about them rather a lot. My classmates often had tunafish sandwiches (as an aside, I never understood why these sandwiches were always described as tunafish, rather than just tuna. Is there any non-fish kind of tuna?), which they evidently enjoyed a great deal.

So now that I can eat fish, all these years later, when I find myself in possession of a can of fish, I think about these classic dishes that are comfort food for so many people, but outside of my realm of experience. Today's can of smoked albacore tuna (like the hot-smoked salmon from my recent Kedgeree post) came as part of a care package of local products from my family on the west coast of Canada.

Tuna Melts evoke strong opinions on such points as amount and type of mayonnaise, presence of pickles in or on the sandwich, shredded or not shredded cheese, open- or closed-face, tomato or no tomato. I decided to go open face (to be eaten with cutlery), with tomato but no pickles (mostly because I was out of pickles, to be honest - add some if you like). These sandwiches are very substantial, and one piece would have been completely sufficient for each of us. We were both in a bit of a food coma after eating these.

Smoked Tuna Melt

Makes 4

4 slices bakery bread
4 slices tomato
4 bread-covering slices of cheese (or equivalent shredded)
Fresh ground black pepper
Smoked paprika

Filling
170 grams boneless smoked tuna, drained
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellmann's)
1 celery stalk
1 green onion
1/4 cup shredded Gouda or Edam or Jack cheese
splash Worcestershire sauce
splash Tabasco sauce
zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon
black pepper

Preheat your broiler.

In a medium mixing bowl, slice the celery stalk into quarters lengthwise, and finely chop. Finely slice the green onion, including the dark green part. Flake the tuna on top of the vegetables, and add the rest of the filling ingredients. Stir well with a fork until nicely combined. Taste, and add salt if you think it needs it (mine didn't, but it will depend on both your choice of mayonnaise and the tuna itself).

Toast the bread lightly in a toaster (or under the broiler, as you like). Lay out the toast slices on a baking sheet or pizza pan. Divide the filling mixture between the slices, spreading evenly to the edges. Add a generous amount of black pepper. Top with the sliced cheese, or some of the shredded, if you're going that route. Top with a tomato slice in the centre of each piece, and a final layer of cheese on top of the tomato. Sprinkle with a restrained amount of smoked paprika (not shown).



Broil until cheese is bubbling. Serve with potato chips (for tradition's sake), and a green salad, for balance.