A Daube Is a Daube Is a Daube…Except When It’s Not

April 6, 2017 – A few days ago I put together the dramatically named G’s Spice Melange.  I made it up to season a stuffed meat loaf.  I was very pleased with it.  It added a delightful depth of flavor to the dish.  I was anxious to try the spice mixture on something slow-cooked to see how it would perform under a prolonged exposure to heat.

A daube, I thought.  Perfect.

A daube is a traditional beef stew from the Provencal region of France.  It is usually made from a cheap cut of beef, slow-cooked to tenderize it.

There’s even a special pot designed for making a daube.  A daubiere.  Traditionally made from clay, it looks much like a tea pot.  It has a concave lid.  The idea is to pour hot water into the depression in the lid.  That is supposed to increase the defense against evaporation, adding to the juicy tenderness of the meat.

If you don’t have a daubiere, and few of us do these days, a heavy braising pan will work just fine.  But I wouldn’t pour hot water over the top.  It’s really not necessary.  And the top of a braising pan isn’t concave.

What if you don’t have any beef?  I didn’t.

No beef.  No daubiere.  Where is this going, I thought?

Aha!  I did have a pork shoulder and a heavy braising pan.  At the risk of being thought mendacious, my traditional daube just became a slow-cooked pork stew.  A pork faux daube.

Not only did my spice mélange perform well with the faux daube, the slow-cooking style resulted in the most tender and moist pork I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.

I served my faux daube over polenta.  You could as easily use pasta or rice.  Or just serve slow-cooked pork stew.

Pork Faux Daube with G’s Spice Melange

3 tablespoons G’s Spice Melange (recipe follows), more or less to taste

6 cloves garlic, minced

3 pounds pork shoulder, cut into bite-sized pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, cut into chunks

1 potato, cut into bite size pieces

1 head fennel, cut into chunks

2 bay leaves

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup red wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

Salt & pepper to taste, if needed

Sprinkle G’s Spice Melange and the minced garlic over the pork.  Rub it well into the meat.  Let it stand for about half an hour to allow the meat to absorb the spices.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy braising pan (unless you’re one of the few who actually has a daubiere) over moderate heat.  Brown the pork.  When the meat has developed good color, take it from the pan and set it aside.

Add the third tablespoon of olive oil along with the onion and fennel.  When the vegetables are nicely browned, deglaze the plan with the vinegar.

Add the pork back to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover the braising pan.  Simmer the stew for about two hours.

Add the chopped potato.  Bring the liquid back to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for another half an hour, until the potato is cooked through.

Remove the meat and vegetables from the pot.  Combine the butter and flour well by kneading them together with your fingers.  Whisk the combined butter and flour into the liquid in the pan.  Bring it to a boil, whisking constantly.

When the sauce has thickened a bit, return the pork and vegetables to the pot.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

G’s Spice Melange

(all the spices are dried)

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon crushed rosemary

1 tablespoon parsley

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon basil

1 tablespoon sage

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne, to taste (optional)

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon salt

Put all the ingredients in a container with a tight lid.  Shake vigorously to mix thoroughly.

Bon temps!

BA’s Christmas Meat Pie

April 8, 2017 – There are many things to love about Christmas in Alaska.  After moving there from Louisiana 58 years ago, I have never grown tired of a white Christmas.  At least most of them have been white.

For many years, one of the best days of the Christmas season came when my friend Brandon Allen showed up with one of his meat pies, complete with a jar of chili sauce for accompaniment.  So perfectly prepared.  Redolent of sense-tingling spices.  Delivered in the true spirit of the Christmas season.

With my friend Brandon Allen at his cabin on the Kenai River.  Great food.  Great wine.  Great friend.

 

My friend left us this year.  He was far too young.  His family and circle of friends were not ready for him to go.  But it wasn’t up to us.  It was time.  His time.  We have our memories of a good man.  As I remember him, I decided to attempt to recreate BA’s Christmas meat pie.

He never gave me his recipe.  We discussed it in general terms.  It is essentially the classic French Canadian tourtiere.  The ingredients, depending in which part of northern Acadiana it is made, can be beef, pork, veal, or a combination.  Some include a bit of wild game to add depth of flavor.  In coastal areas, the tourtiere might be made with fish.  I decided to use pork.

BA also delivered his Christmas meat pies to long time Alaskans Don and Shari Cartee.  Don and I compared our taste memories.  Our mutual memories of some ingredients gave me a starting point.

Every recipe I found in my research called for onion.  I used a shallot for no reason other than I thought the slight flavor difference would work in the pie’s favor.

Ground cloves are traditionally included.  I didn’t have any.  Allspice can be used as an acceptable substitute.

I also discovered too late that I was out of eggs so was unable to apply the egg wash I describe in the recipe.  I include it because it really is the best way to bring a pie crust to that desirable golden color.  If you also find yourself eggless , you can do as I did.  Lightly brush a bit of heavy cream or even milk over the top crust.  It’s not as efficient as an egg wash but it will do.

So here’s my attempt at recreating your Christmas meat pie, BA.  It’s good.  Not as good as you would have made it.  But good enough to remind us of those days during the Christmas season when we found you at our front door, pie and chili sauce in hand.

Merry Christmas, my friend!

BA’s Christmas Meat Pie

2 pounds ground pork

1 large shallot, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 baked potato

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice

Salt & pepper to taste

2 1/2 cups flour

2 sticks butter, cut into small cubes and chilled

1 cup ice cold water

1 egg

Saute’ the shallot in the olive oil over moderate heat until it is softened and beginning to turn golden.  Add the pork and mix well with the shallot.  Let it cook for about ten minutes, stirring to break up any clumps of meat.

Cut the baked potato in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the  pulp and roughly mash it.  Reserve the potato skins for another purpose.

Add the potato, chicken broth, and spices to the pork.  Reduce the heat to moderately low.  Cover the pan and let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been reduced, about 25 minutes.  Taste to adjust seasoning.

Refrigerate the meat for two hours so that it is completely chilled.

To make the crust, use a food processor to combine the flour with the chilled cubes of butter.  Pulse until it reaches the consistency of small peas.  Pour in 1/2 cup of ice cold water and mix.  At this point, it will work better to remove the dough and work it with your hands.  Add water one tablespoon at a time until the dough forms easily into a ball.  It should be neither crumbly nor sticky.

Form the dough into two balls.  Flatten slightly into discs.  Wrap them separately in parchment or plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for an hour.

Let the discs rest for five minutes after removing them from the refrigerator.  Roll out each disc on a floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch.

Place one circle of dough in a nine inch pie pan.  Fill with all the pork mixture.  Dampen the edge with water before covering the meat with the top circle of dough.  Crimp the top and bottom together as primitively or fancy as you wish.

Make an egg wash by whisking the egg with one tablespoon of water.  Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash.

Use a small, sharp knife to puncture four or five steam vents in the top crust.

Place the rack in the bottom third of an oven preheated to 375.  Bake until the top crust is golden, about 50 minutes.

Serve with chili sauce.

Bon temps!

 

Leftovers Rule!

April 4, 2017 – In the 21st century, who has the time or energy to make big meals every day?  And yet we like to eat great food at our house.  That’s why we love leftovers!

Meatloaf sandwiches from dinner the night before.  Stews and soups and big chunks of roasted or braised meat that make for versatile additional meals.  We love’em all.

Potato patties ready for the oven.

I made a meatloaf a couple of days ago.  It was a French influenced dish.  Doesn’t matter.  It can be French, Costa Rican, or Mongolian.  I’m an American.  If there’s meatloaf, there will be mashed potatoes.

I’ve had a couple of really great leftover meatloaf sandwiches.  But what to do with the  mashed potatoes?

Potatoes.  Eggs.  It’s obvious.  Potatoes and Eggs.  Potato patties topped with fried eggs.  Yet another meal that takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen.

Browned potato patties fresh out of the oven.

Each of us has a preference for how we like our eggs cooked.  I can never get eggs the way I like them in a restaurant so I just give the standard “over easy” order.  It’s close.

I really like eggs the way my grandmother and my dad made them.  Basted.  Crack the egg into a non stick skillet containing oil that’s hot but not smoking.  Let it cook until the bottom of the white part begins to set.  Use a spatula to gently splash hot oil onto the tops of the white until that has set.  If it gets a little crispy around the edges, that’s even better.

Use the same gentle touch to splash oil onto the yolk just until the “sunny side” has gone white.  The whole process happens very quickly.  You should be able to easily lift the finished egg with the spatula, holding it over the skillet for a few seconds to let excess oil drip off before plating it.  And if you have left over mashed potatoes, you can plate the egg on top of a potato patty.

Here’s the way we make our potato patties.

Leftover Mashed Potato Patties

Left over mashed potatoes

Salt & pepper

Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Smoked paprika

Bread crumbs

Melted butter

Chopped green onions (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, & smoked paprika.  Careful with the salt.  Remember these are leftovers so they have already been seasoned.  The crushed red pepper flakes will add a little heat if you like that.  The smoked paprika provides another depth of flavor.

Form the potatoes into flat patties.  Gently dredge in bread crumbs.

Place the patties on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet that has been covered with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  That will help avoid sticking.

Drizzle with melted butter to encourage browning.  Top with a few of the chopped green onions.  They will add a nice touch of charred sweetness.  Save a few for garnish.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the patties are browned.  If necessary, put them under the broiler for two or three minutes to finish off the browning process.

Top with eggs, garnished with the reserved chopped green onions, or serve as accompaniment to an entrée.

Bon temps!

 

Uncle Gene’s Mushrooms

March 30, 2017 – From my earliest memory, I had three heroes.  My dad (Gordon, Sr.), my grandfather, who we called Papaw Rube, and Uncle Gene, Dad’s younger brother.  It was always fun when Uncle Gene came home on leave.  Years later when he had retired and I was the one coming home from time to time, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with him.  He was still fun.

Uncle Gene was a career Navy man.  Seabees.  The famed construction unit known to build runways while under enemy fire.  He was stationed at various bases in the Pacific, all of them tropical.  That explains why my cousins grew up on the beaches of Hawaii while I was shoveling the snow from our driveway in Anchorage.  But that’s a story for another time.

Recently my cousin Genelle asked me if I ever had Uncle Gene’s mushrooms.  I had not.  They were wonderful, she told me.  So rich and creamy.  His mushrooms, she said, raised a steak to a whole new level.  And sometimes he made them for breakfast.  Eggs with Uncle Gene’s mushrooms on the side.  Uncle Gene’s mushrooms on most anything.  Dad would have said, “Those would be good on ice cream.”

Genelle told me his secrets.  First, saute’ the mushrooms in butter.  Second swirl in a little cream cheese.  That’s all.  Simple.

My wife loves mushrooms.  Mushrooms sautéed with green onions are one of our favorite accompaniments to a steak.  Until I served her steak with Uncle Gene’s mushrooms.

“This is my new favorite way to eat mushrooms,” she said.

And you just can’t get higher praise than that.

Uncle Gene’s Mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter

1 pound mushrooms, sliced (I used baby portobello)

6 green onions, sliced

2 tablespoons cream cheese

Melt the butter in a skillet over moderate heat.

Add the mushrooms and green onions.  Saute’ the vegetables (or as my dad would say, “Cook’em down.”) until they are beginning to soften.  The mushrooms should still be slightly firm.

Swirl in the cream cheese, stirring gently until it has melted and emulsified with the butter and the juices released by the mushrooms.

Serve with a steak or, as my cousin tells me, with your eggs for breakfast.

Bon temps!