Presidential Pasties

Helicopters are cool.  I’m pretty sure that’s obvious.  And, well, the President’s helicopter is the shit.  Yah, that’s right, last week the Stat Man and I attended a Marine One ceremony on the south lawn of the white house and as you can tell I have every intention of bragging about it.  It’s the sort of thing you need to brag about; the President and large machinery1.

The ceremony itself is fairly simple.  The helicopter lands.  A marine opens the helicopter doors.  The President boards (in this case with Secretary Shinseki).  Reggie Love, his baseball bat, and other West wingers hop on.  The Marine seals it all up.  The helicopter takes off.  Over.  Done.  Andrew’s Air force base here they come.  So damn cool.

Anyhow before I go play with a Tonka truck, I have a suggestion for the President.  I know, I know, I have absolutely no business offering advice to the President.  He has professionals for that.  But here’s an amateur thought anyway.  Pasties:  The Official Meal of Marine One.

Okay.  I’ll admit it.  The short ride from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to Maryland is not meal-worthy.  But how else am I supposed to link the presidential helicopter with the Cornish pastries we made last week?  This is the best I could come up with.  So there you have it.  Reggie, leave the tide pen at home.  And UP’ers, be proud.  I nominate the self-contained pastry for official duty.

Pasties

Pastry Dough

3 Cups flour

½ tsp salt

1 Cup butter

7 Tbsp water

2 Tbsp extra liquid if dough is too dry

Mix together flour and salt, then add butter (cut in ½ in cubes).  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter (a fork works if you don’t have a cutter) until pieces of butter are no larger than hazelnuts but no smaller than peas.  Add water until there is no flour left to incorporate.  The dough should resemble gravel—yum.  If the dough is too dry and looks like fresh grated Parmesan cheese, add the extra liquid.  Knead the dough just enough so it all comes together, and shape it into a fat log.  There you have your dough.

Next, cut 1-2 inch thick slices of dough from the log and roll each into a large circle, perhaps 6-8 inches in diameter.  The size of the circle depends mostly on how large and full you would like your pasty.  Keep in mind the pasty will be approximately ½ the size of your circle.

Filling

1 Chuck Roast cubes

1 Potato cubed

2 Carrots chopped

As many peas as you think are fantastic

1/3 Cup red wine

Olive Oil

Salt

Pepper

Start by chopping the beef into small cubes, and combine with the other chopped vegetables and peas.  Pour just enough red wine over the mix to make it wet, and mix around.  Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and season the filling with salt and pepper.

Next, take one of your circles of pastry dough and place a good mound of filling on one half of the circle.  Fold the empty half over the filling and press shut.  Repeat until all of the pastries are filled.  If you would like a nice sheen on your pastries brush an egg wash on top of the filled pasties.

Place the filled pasties on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.


1 In other large machinery news, on our last trip to NH the Stat Man’s dad let us drive his New Holland tractor.  I officially graduated from flat ground to slight slope.  Um, watch out hillside grass.

Plank and Cheese

I’m alive.  It’s something that’s been brought to my attention during weekly plank exercises.  I hate planks.  My core shakes.  My wrists hurt.  I want to vomit.  All because of a silly exercise I feel like a stupid little wimpy pot.  Whatever that is.

Now of course there are other things that suggest I’m alive—blisters, Mac & Cheese, dancing with the Stat man (awwww—yah, that’s right, he’s pretty boss)[1].  However, ever since Inception, the third level dream layer has become worth consideration.[2] The one thing I know I would not be trained to do in layer 3 is a plank.  It’s just not dreamy.

So, moving deeper into reality, the Stat Man thinks my plank form is more “elbow macaroni” than “badass.”  Here is his best attempt of an impression:

However, the following evidence disproves his entire claim:

I’m just saying…badass.  Boo-ya.  Anyway, in honor of the Stat Man, here’s a how-to on his Mac & Cheese.  Eat your heart out.

Stat Man Mac & Cheese

1 medium box of elbow macaroni

4 Tbsp butter

4 Tbsp flour

1 ½ -2 C Milk

2 C shredded cheddar cheese

Paprika

Start putting a whole bunch of water on heat (enough water to boil your macaroni that is…).  While your big tub-o-water is working on vaporization, start on the béchamel.  All in all, a béchamel is just a roux + milk, and in our case, cheese.  Start with a roux.  Melt your butter.  Then the flour.  Stir this mixture over the heat until it’s incorporated and is a sandy yellow color.  Next add milk—the warmer the better (traditionally its scalded before added).  I’m guessing you want a comment on the amount of milk. This is really up to you, depending on the consistency you’re looking for.  Maybe start with 1 ½ – 2 Cups.  If it’s too thick, add more.  If it’s too runny, let it cook off.

Finally dump in the cheese and keep it over the heat until it completely combines with your béchamel.

By this time your pasta should have cooked.  In a large oven safe pan combine the sauce and the macaroni.  Sprinkle paprika, salt and pepper on top, and pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until you get a nice crust on top.  Done.

Well almost.  You could also make a lemon curd tart for dessert.


[1]Fine.  I’ll admit that until today this blog was not one of those suggestions…

[2] Likewise, ever since Memento “I don’t feel drunk”

Double Fried

When you’re bussing home from work on the 96 bus and it gets pulled over at Union station for “passing w/o caution” I tend to agree with “he didn’t smush anything” is caution enough.  Thank you for your concern Mr. police officer, but me and the 40 other people on the bus want to get home.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually on the law enforcement side, but this time I shot the police dirty looks as our bus emptied and boarded the 20 minute later 96 bus that had caught up.  Sigh.  Tomorrow I suppose I’ll take the train.

Believe it or not, my night was not ruined by a sucky commute.  Stat Man French fries saved my mind.  I’ll be the first to admit that my mind, not being fantastically complex, is soothed (and easily bribed) by perfect French fries.  So, I was a happy little girl.

Stat Man Fries

2 potatoes

Water

Vegetable oil

Salt

Garlic (optional)

Wash your potatoes, then cut them into long sticks or whatever shape fry you would like.  We left the skin on, but peeling is also a delicious option.  Put all of your potato parts in a bowl and cover with water.  Let the potatoes soak in water for 15-25 minutes.

Fill a sauce pan with enough vegetable oil to fully submerge your potatoes, and heat the oil.  Strain the water and dry your potatoes.  Before actually frying the potatoes, set up a drying rack or baking sheet with paper towel.  In batches, place the potatoes in the hot oil until they are golden, then remove and cool on the paper towel.

Once all of the potatoes are fried once, start over and fry them all a second round.  The first fry job cooks the inside potato portion of the fry, the second fry crisps the outside.  Salt your fries soon after they are removed from the oil.  If you want a taste of garlic, rub the inside of a bowl with a clove or two of garlic and toss the fries in the bowl.  Then go bribe someone with them.

Faux

Pho.  The essence of pho is the broth.  Which is why I hesitate to even classify this as pho; I totally cheated.  Or so I thought until I read this article.  Let me explain.

Just when you thought that dumb beef tongue post was out of sight I bring it up.  Yep, consider this tongue part duex.  Okay, so traditional pho does not require you go buy a tongue—however, I surely advocate that you do.  Generally the broth is made from boiling cheap cuts of beef, bones, spices etc.  It just so happens tongue is a cheap cut of beef, and I saved the liquid (better known as “broth”) we simmered the tongue in to make tacos.

Perhaps the lack of marrow-y bones classifies this broth to faux.  I’m okay with that.  When fish sauce and ginger were added to the re-simmered broth, it transformed.  All I’m sayin’ is at least it sounds like the real thing.

Faux

1 beef tongue (or other cut of cheap beef and bones if you have them)

1 thinly sliced low fat content steak (sirloin or skirt would work)

1 yellow onion, quartered

Fresh ginger

½ C fish sauce

4 green onions, chopped

Cilantro

Chiles, halved (we used jalapeno, but thai or Serrano would work well)

A bunch of water (ie. However much broth you want to make)

1 tbsp per serving hoisin sauce (optional)

1 tbsp sriracha per serving (optional)

Okay.  Fill up a big ‘ol cauldron with water and toss in your tongue (or other cheap meat and bones—NOT your lean beef), chiles, yellow onion, fish sauce, ginger, and ¼ of the green onions.  Simmer every-thang for at least 3 hours.  Then strain and make tacos de lengua out of your tongue.  Place the strained broth back on medium heat.

Meanwhile, thinly slice your lean beef and soak your noodles in room temperature water for 15 minutes.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and toss the noodles in for not much longer than a minute.  Those suckers cook fast.  Strain the noodles, and rinse with water—you don’t want them sticky.  Divvy up noodles amongst the bowls you will serve your pho in.

There are two ways to do your lean beef—it depends done-ness preference.  I would recommend the raw version, but I like tender almost under done meat.  1.  Done.  Toss the meat into the broth and let simmer until it is done to your liking.  2.  Place the raw meet on top of the noodles in your bowl.  (when you pour the broth in the bowl it will warm and cook the meet).

Place the remaining green onions in bowls and pour broth over everything.  Add cilantro, and stir in a dallop of hoisin and sriracha to your taste.  Beef-noodle-faux.

FROM THE LAND OF SKY BLUE WATERS

I’m going to try something different in this post.  I’m going to let someone else do the talking.  Let me introduce MY FIRST GUEST BLOGGER!!  This guy is one cool cat, and just happens to be my dad (Awwww).  Give it up for Joe Maassen!
For those too young to remember or otherwise unfamiliar with Hamms Beer, the  Hamm’s Bear and the “Land of Sky Blue Waters,” four of us spent this Memorial day weekend beneath the clear blue, sun filled skies, and along the crystal clear waters of the Turtle – Flambeau Flowage in far northern Wisconsin.
Occasionally, more like rarely, the stars actually do align and this “Land of Sky Blue Waters”  comes to life for a  few days in late May.  You cannot plan for a Memorial Day weekend like this, you just stumble onto it.  And like this setting, our Memorial Day Breakfast would never have occurred if planning had interfered with chance.
Sunday evening my friend Lee and I spent a couple hours fishing.   Reports, from trusted neighbors and the people in town were similar. The Walleye were just not biting.  With that in mind we set out with low expectations. Somewhat surprisingly, er, actually because of our extraordinary fishing skills,  we were able to net three perfect eating size walleye.  Of course, an equal number, or more, dined on our minnows and swam away.  Yet those three Walleye were sufficient to set the stage for Monday’s breakfast of fresh pan fried walleye, scrambled eggs and toast.
The fish produced six very nice filets which were promptly sealed in a glad bag containing  water and small bits of ice, and placed in the refrigerator to await the morning meal.  Ah, but what about the eggs?  Nope, no eggs in the refer, and no local chicken coop nearby. Instead, a trip into town for dinner required a detour to the local Quik Trip.
What happened Monday morning is, perhaps, more surprising than a “Land of Sky Blue Waters” weekend in May, and fresh caught fish in the refrigerator.   The males, with only a smidgen of female prodding, did the cooking.  For some, perhaps many, a “so what” moment will accompany this revelation.  However, the chefs, while progressive and free thinking in many ways, have long clung to the notion that cooking is someone else’s responsibility.  For instance, it is not necessarily a rarity for either of us to settle for a glass of Jameson and a cheap cigar rather than go through the hassle of cooking.
That morning, fresh, golden brown, pan fried Walleye filets, and fluffy scrambled eggs, with or without onions, awaited our wives when they returned from a short morning walk. The meal put a large exclamation point on this “Land of Sky Blue Waters” weekend.  Oh, just in case your wondering, we also toasted all the men and women,  who in so many ways, military service, Peace Corps, American Red Cross, Americorp and on and on who serve and have served.
Preparation is largely self explanatory.  Finding the fish is why such meals are best left to chance.

Good Enough for Summer

So, I kind of wish this was my blog post today.  I mean, baseball holidays are best.  There are no two ways about it.  Now don’t get me wrong, the weekend’s constant supply of tacos, fried chicken, and cake meant something was going right.  But, I didn’t get to spend Sunday with the Brewers.   I’m just sayin’…I think Craig Counsel is cool.  Kapeesh?

On Monday the Stat Man and I decided running 8 miles in 90 degree weather would be a good idea.  It turns out, it wasn’t terrible thanks to Rock Creek Park.  By the time we made our way around the tidal basin and up to Constitution, we had Gatorade in hand and caught the end of the Memorial Day parade.  I really like floats.  And marching bands.  And Veterans.

Instead of the Brewers we got sweaty, hung out with some good folks, ate their food, and baked a few cakes.  Two of the exact same cakes actually.  That’s right.  It was that good, we made it twice.  (toot toot).  What it really boils down to is I would make this cake for my home-dogs, Craig Counsel or Grandpa Maassen.  It tastes like summer.

Str-lue-Berry Buckle Cake

Adapted from Closet Cooking

Caveat(s):  If you only have an hour this cake is do-able, as long as your friend has an oven.  Jubs and Jon-o have an oven; they get cake #1’s baking credit.  And if you ran the Madison ½ marathon this weekend (ahem, Maren) might I suggest you eat the entire cake.  ½ marathon=you earned it.  Oh, and if you happen to be fixing the world from Hawaii—McArdle  (I’ve never called you that in my life…somehow it seemed appropriate)—toss in some vine ripened exotic something that the rest of us only know thanks to refrigeration and 18 wheelers.

2 C flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

¼ C butter

½ C sugar

¼ C brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

½ C milk (if you don’t have milk, water works–at least it did for us)

1 pint blueberries

1 lbs strawberries

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set it aside.  In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  Add an egg.  Then the vanilla.  Mix together the flour mixture, milk, and butter mixture.  This won’t look like a typical cake batter, it should be much thicker in order to support the fruit.  Cause that’s what goes in next.  Fold in the berries.

Grease a 10 inch pan, and pour it in.  Then make the strudel topping.

Strudel Topping

½ C flour

¾ C brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ C butter (melted or softened)

There are two options depending on what type of crumb you prefer on your cake.  Option 1:  Chewy-caramel-like.  If you’re going chewy top, melt the butter before adding.  Option 2:  Crumble.  If you’re going crumble top, simply soften the butter before adding.

Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter together in a bowl until crumbs form.  Sprinkle the crumbs on top of the cake and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is light brown and it smells like put-me-in-your-belly.

Dharma Lickin’ Good

I had a clever plan to pay homage to LOST.  Éclairs.  Like I said, clever.  Well, lets just say you aren’t going to get the official run down until I do them right.  Based on attempt #1, I don’t know, that might be never.  Off the record, here’s the deal.  Taste=good.  Recognizable as a popular French pastry=No way, no how.  Stay tuned to see if I ever come close.

Luckily, my botched éclairs came after dinner—a meal I’m actually willing to talk about.  Tacos de lengua.  While we passed up Sheppard’s pie, Sun dried anything, and smoked-whatever for beef tongue (of all things), stick with me.  It matches LOST in brilliance.  Stop gagging.  It’s true.

Okay, beef tongue.  Where do you find beef tongue?  I would suggest a Hispanic market.  No Hispanic market in your hood?  Well, shit, I don’t know.  Try a farm.  Or google it.  We bought about one pound of tongue, which spanned roughly six inches from the tip of the tongue back and cost between $2-$3.  I’m just saying, if you’re a to-be-graduate-student trying to save money, tongue aint a bad deal.  And that’s not even to mention its deep beefy flavor and tenderness.  Seriously, go buy a tongue.

Tacos de Lengua

1 pound of beef tongue

1 onion

2-4 jalapeno peppers

1 avocado

Garlic

1 lime

Soft corn tortillas

Cilantro

Water

Start by filling a large pot about ¾ full with water.  Next cut an onion in fourths, and toss three of four sections into the water.  Save the fourth section for garnish.  Add peeled garlic (as much as you like—we used about 5 cloves).  Slice a few jalapeno peppers in half and add to the water (keep the seeds and membranes intact for more heat).  Finally, drop in your tongue and boil it all for 3 to 4 hours.  Your kitchen (and bedroom if it happens to be in the kitchen like us) will smell delicious.

Remove the tongue from the liquid and let it cool.  Nobody wants to eat the bristly taste buds, so remove the outer layer of the tongue.  After 3 hours in simmering water it is easy to slide right off.  The mystery leather layer/backside of the taste buds is soft.  I thought it was neat-o.  Once you’ve effectively peeled the tongue, cut it up into chunks or slices—whichever you prefer.

Chop and sauté the left over onion section, and slice the avocado.  Put the tongue, onion, and avocado in a tortilla and top with cilantro, and salsa (below is the tomatillo salsa we made).  Squeeze lime on the taco and nomnomnomnom.

Tomatillo Salsa

6-8 tomatillos

2-4 jalapeno peppers

½ onion

Garlic

Cilantro

First remove the tomatillo husks.  Roast the tomatillos, jalapenos, and garlic and onion until wrinkled and slightly charred.  Take your roasted stuff and mash it up (be sure to remove steams and coarse skin).  Add cilantro and lime.  Done.