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This has always been one of my favorite comfort foods, even though it comes out slightly different every time. It’s just no one of those dishes that you shouldn’t measure, you know? It’s easy and it should stay that way.

Shepherds Pie, or Cottage Pie because it has meat, in England, hasn’t been around as long as I thought would have been. I was thinking it was medieval,  but I didn’t even think about the late introduction of the potato to Europe. So this dish hasn’t really been around since the mid 18th century.

Supposedly the term “Shepherds Pie” was first coined in the 1870s.

This is what you need:

Butter or Margarine
Bacon (if you want)
1 lb of ground chuck
Carrots grated (and/or parsnips (if you want, or turnips or celery (if you want, or celeriac))
Peas (frozen)
Bottle or can of Guinness Stout
Rolled Oats (if you want)
Maybe some corn starch
Egg (scrambled)

Mashed Potatoes

Okay, this recipe is super easy if you have a good amount of leftover mashed potatoes, but if not…

Take whatever potatoes you have lying around. I like a mix of potatoes and I make it rustic, but you can totally go smooth if you want. But I don’t. So I steam a bunch of patotoes. This last time I steamed some fingerlings, reds and couple of Viking potatoes.

I mash them with butter/margarine and a little chicken stock. Add in a lot of salt, a lot of pepper, and some onion powder. The mashed potatoes must taste good. Otherwise why bother?


Brown the bacon, add some butter, then brown the onions.

Reserve onion mixture. Then in same pan brown the ground chuck, add back the onion mixture.

Add in some sage and thyme and salt to taste.

Add in the carrots and cook for a few minutes.

Add in a bottle of Guiness. I like to add in a whole bottle then thicken with corn starch.

Add in frozen peas and a handful or two of oats and cook for a couple of minutes.

The Pie

Pour the filling contents into a casserole dish.

Cover with the mashed potatoes and smooth out sealing the filling into the dish.

Pour the egg over the mashed potatoes and make sure all the potatoes are covered in egg.

Bake in 375º oven for 30 or so minutes.

This is one of my simple pleasures of Autumn. I hope you enjoy.

Friday Pie-Day: Bourbon Maple Pecan Pie

Okay, as most of you know Thanksgiving is coming up. Something that has always been a staple at my family TGs has been Pecan Pie. I love the stuff, but there is always something cloying about it. Some years it makes my teeth feel soft.

I just happened upon the phrase Bourbon Maple Pecan Pie in, I don’t know, I think it was Real Simple magazine. It seems silly that this is the first year that I read about this pie because it sort of seems like a no-brainer now.

I found a ton on recipe’s on line, most of them following Martha Stewart’s version word for word. That sort of made me want to steer clear of that one. Then I found a vegan version, but it used corn syrup, which I am definitely not into.

Finally, I happened upon on from a web site called Barbara Adams: Beyond Wonderful. Yes, the name of the web site makes me a little nauseous — in the same way that some Pecan Pies make my teeth feel soft. But liked her recipe: It had more maple syrup and more bourbon than the others. So her recipe is what I used for my base.

So, the critique: I really liked this pie. I think it is the best one yet. My wife and I disagree on this. She still dreams about the Chocolate Pie.

This pie is the most complicated flavor-wise, which I particularly liked. The first thing that hits is a bit of a citrussy bite. This comes from the orange zest, but also from the hit of orange blossom water that I’ve been adding to things lately.

There is a breathy smooth nose of bourbon to the chewing that is only placeable if you know about the bourbon. This is enhanced by a middle sweetness that is just right for me.

There is a soft grittiness to the internal custard that I quite like. I have always found the smooth, toothless, gelatinous middles of most Pecan Pies (especially the mass-marketed variety) to be almost repulsive.

My only real problem with this pie is the crust, which is totally my fault. I used Alton Brown’s Applejack crust —except with Bourbon as my liquid — which wasn’t the problem. The problem is that I overworked it in rolling it out and didn’t parbake it long enough.

So, make sure that you parbake your crust until it’s done (which I guess isn’t parbaking).

Okay, here is the recipe:

1 9-inch pie crust
2 cups pecan halves
4 large eggs
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup real maple syrup
3 tablespoons good quality bourbon (Maker’s Mark works well)
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange rind
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon orange blossom water
1/2+ teaspoon sea salt or fleur de sel
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Soak the pecans in enough bourbon to cover them for at least an hour. Then let them dry for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out the piecrust and place it in the pie pan. I used a tart pan because it looks cool.

Spread the pecans on a cookie sheet.

Place the piecrust and pecans on different racks in the preheated oven. Bake both for 10 minutes. The crust can take longer, so keep an eye on things. But make sure to remove the pecans before they burn. Remove and cool both completely.

Turn the oven down to 275 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, maple syrup, bourbon (I used the bourbon from the previous pecan soaking— orange rind, vanilla ½ teaspoon of orange blossom water, and ½ teaspoon salt.

Whisk in the cooled butter.

Roughly chop one cup of the toasted pecans and add them to the egg mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell.

Place the rest of the pecans decoratively on top of the pie, making sure to coat the pecans in the pie mixture.

Sprinkle with another pinch of sea salt. This is key.

Bake for 1 hour.

Cool completely.

Serve with freshly whipped cream flavored with a few teaspoons of bourbon and sugar to taste.

Let’s see what the wife says:

The filling is delectable, not too boozy. But the crust is eh…not flaky, just there.


Don’t know what pie is for next week, so email suggestions.

Also, hoping for a big announcement Monday. Stay tuned!

Friday Pie-Day: Blueberry Planning-Ahead Pie

Whoa Nelly! I can’t tell whether this pie decision is a positive test or some kind of culinary curse.

I truly had fun several years ago with the cookie thing (though time may have tempered that memory). I could find a cookie recipe, tweak it, and turn it around in about three hours.

This pie thing is complicated. Naïve? Sure! Why else would I have started this thing?

Okay, for today I chose another American classic: the blueberry pie. There are aspects of this recipe that take time. But those same aspects, I think that make this pie a kind of throw it in and bake it later kind of thing. Stay with me on this.

I am, of course, using an Alton Brown recipe as a base, and his is a whacky one.

For the Filling

20 ounces blueberries, approximately 4 cups
4 ounces sugar, approximately 1/2 cup
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 ounces tapioca flour, approximately 5 tablespoons
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
a drip of Orange Blossom Water *
Okay, take half of the blueberries and mash them. Add the orange juice, zest, and orange blossom water. Mix the sugar, salt, and tapioca flour together then add to the mashed blueberry mixture. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes then fold in the whole blueberries.
Line a 9-inch pie plate with aluminum foil. Place the blueberry mixture into the foil and place in the freezer until solid, approximately 6 to 8 hours.
Once the filling is frozen, remove from the aluminum foil and wrap in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.

This may seem like it’s crazy, but it is crazy genius. In fact, if you like it, you can make a double batch, and there you are: one for now, one for later.

Now Alton Brown uses a new (new to me at least) crust recipe. But I thought that it would work well with the apple crust we did earlier. I’ll print it below. Also, I put in the Applejack, but I think, next time I would use Lemoncello (I’ll add that to the below recipe).

Anyway, set your oven to 325º, put one crust into the pie pan and dock it by poking holes into it with a fork. Slide in the still frozen blueberry disc. Yes, it should still stay frozen.
Roll out the other crust and slice it into 1” strips. Brush the edge of the crust with an egg yolk ¼ cup water wash to create a kind of pastry glue. Lay the strips out into a lattice over the frozen disk and press the edges together. Cut off any overlay crust.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the lattice is golden brown.
Let cool for at least an hour and a half before eating.

I quite liked this pie. I generally enjoy blueberries, though. The filling was wonderfully flavorful and held up well when removing a piece from the whole pie. The crust was flaky and had just a hint of the apple.

Let’s see what the wife says:

Look, it’s blueberry pie. If there were an apple pie, a chocolate pie, pecan, peach and a blueberry pie, I will always take the blueberry last. ‘Cause it’s just blueberry, okay. Why are you looking at me like that? Yes, the crust is pretty awesome, but the pie is blueberry. Look, you asked, okay.

I think next week I will make a Bourbon Maple Pecan Pie. If you want any blueberry pie, email me or stop by. I’m sure there will be a couple extra pieces this week.

*I have really been turned onto this Orange Blossom Water since hearing about it on a Splendid Table Podcast. It really does add something interestingly unknowable to a consumer of the finished product.

Previous Applejack Crust Recipe

6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces*
2 ounces vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces*
5 to 7 tablespoons applejack, although I would use Lemoncello for the Blueberry Pie recipe #
12 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 2 3/4 cups, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
* After cutting the butter and vegetable shortening put them in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes or in the fridge for an hour to make them really cold
# Keep the applejack in the fridge to make sure it’s cold too
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar by pulsing 3 to 4 times. Add the butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until the texture looks mealy or sandy. Add the shortening and pulse another 3 to 4 times until incorporated. You don’t want to over process it as the larger bits of fat will help with the flakiness of the crust.
Remove the lid of the food processor and sprinkle in 5 tablespoons of the applejack. Replace the lid and pulse 5 times. Add more applejack as needed, and pulse again until the mixture holds together when squeezed. Weigh the dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
When your dough is done in the fridge, take one disk out and roll it out, floured, between two sheets of wax paper, or in a large freezer bag with the sides slit (as Alton does in “I Pie”).
When the disk is larger than your pie pan, set one of the pie pans onto the rolled out disk. Flip the pan and the dough over so that the uncooked crust drapes over the upside-down pie pan. Make sense?
Then put the second pie pan over that and flip it back over. Voila! You have set a perfect crust, when you remove the top pan of course. It’s kind of brilliant.

Friday Pie-Day: Chocolate Cream (Lactose Free)

In honor of my wife and her ongoing lactose intolerance, I worked this week on a dairy-free cream pie, of which there are few.

Cream pies are creamy usually because they contain, well, cream — or at least some creamy goodness, which usually means dairy, either in milky or buttered form.

I chose a chocolate pie because we both love chocolate, and I thought that the chocolate might be a bit more forgiving in the taste world.

First the critique: This pie isn’t bad. It isn’t great, either. It has some very nice components, but it doesn’t fill my chocolate silk fantasy.

The crust, for instance, is quite nice. There are a few things I would do differently with it, though. I might blind bake it for a few minutes so the bottom gets the chance to crust up. The sides are nice and crispy and the bottom turned out a little soggy.

Here is the crust recipe as I would rework it.

20 Oreo cookies crushed to the consistency of cement sand (this means with little pebbles in it)
½ stick of margarine, melted
1 tablespoon of Godiva Chocolate Liqueur or a coffee liqueur

Mix everything together and press it into the bottom and sides of a pie pan.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes then blind bake it in a 375º oven for 10 minutes.
Let cool before adding pie filling.

The pie filling was okay though it was particularly sweet. I added more sugar and cocoa than the original recipe called for, so it was my fault. I’d keep with the cocoa, but pull back on the sugar. It is chocolatey, but not as much as I had hoped for.

It also uses tofu, which concerned me, as it seemed rather lumpy when I was done blending it. But it turned out fine. I think next time I would add some nuts, some pecans or walnuts to the filling, but I’m a nut fan so that could just be me.

Also, I might dispense with the Cool Whip topping. It may have been the culprit that made the pie cloying.

Here are the ingredients for the filling:

1 pound silken tofu
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup white sugar (here I used vanilla sugar instead)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (here I used a tablespoon of liqueur instead)
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tub Cool Whip
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Blend tofu with an electric mixer or in a food processor until smooth. Blend in cocoa, sugar, vanilla (liqueur) and vinegar.
Pour into prepared crust.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.
Refrigerate at least for 1 hour.
Whisk 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar into Cool Whip to thicken it up.
Place Cool Whip mixture on top of pie and mold it into a dome.

Eat with a large coffee.

Again, I wanted this thing to hit the fence, but it really didn’t.

Let’s see what the wife says:

The crust is both crunchy and chewy. Yum! The richness of the chocolate is nicely tempered by the whipped topping. I will dream about this pie tonight. Get it out of my house.

Okay, perhaps it was better than I thought. I did make it for her, though, so I guess that was good.

Think I’m going to try a blueberry next week.

Inaugural Friday Pie-Day: Apple Pie (or at least the crust)

Okay, so during my last year of teaching things were pretty gray for me. It was tough motivating me to get there. The only things bringing into the building were the kids — most of them — and a handful of colleagues. It was a bleak year.

To counteract my outlook, I pledged — and succeeded — to bake and bring a different recipe of cookie for each week of the school year. I’m afraid that I have since lost the list of cookies and their corresponding names, but there were Chocolocos, Bronx Cheers Bars, Raisin Rum Runners, Maya Golds, and Holy Shit What’s-In-Heres, just to show show you the top of that dough-filled iceberg.

I got pretty good at baking cookies.

This year … I’m taking on pies. I’m going to make each Friday of the Blah Blah Blog Friday Pie-Day.

Let me first say that my wife is already concerned. I am not a svelte man, and I think she is concerned about the amount of pie that will be sitting around the house.

So…I am inviting my friends out there to come over for a piece of pie, if you are so inclined. You can also email me to set aside a piece if you like. I can only guarantee four pieces per pie (say that ten time fast: pieces per pie pieces per pie pieces per pie — I only got to three times) as I am sure the wife and I will most likely consume two pieces each. I mean it, now.

Okay, so I decided to start with the American classic: Apple Pie.

I used Alton Brown’s recipe from his Good Eats show entitle “Apple of My Pie.”

Let me confess that I adore Good Eats. This show is one of the most informative innovative cooking shows out there.

Having said that, Alton usually includes some pretty funky stuff. For instance, for his apple pie, he uses a spice called Grains of Paradise (alternately called Melegueta pepper, alligator pepper, Guinea grains, and Guinea pepper) which is ridiculously expensive and nearly impossible to find — except on the internet where often the shipping costs double the cost of the spice itself.

However he also has some wonderfully innovative suggestions, such as his replacement of Apple Jack brandy for water and the use of two pie pans (which I’ll explain later) from his show “I Pie.”

Having said that, I’m just going to give you his recipe for the crust. The whole recipe for his Apple Pie is available at this link, but it didn’t really send me over the moon. It was a lot of work for a little bang.

But his crust? Yeah, that was super tasty. Here it is. It makes two layers of crust, so you can halve it for a single crust or make the second and freeze it.

6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces*
2 ounces vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces*
5 to 7 tablespoons applejack #
12 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 2 3/4 cups, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
*After cutting the butter and vegetable shortening put them in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes or in the fridge for an hour to make them really cold
#Keep the applejack in the fridge to make sure it’s cold too

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar by pulsing 3 to 4 times. Add the butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until the texture looks mealy or sandy. Add the shortening and pulse another 3 to 4 times until incorporated. You don’t want to over process it as the larger bits of fat will help with the flakiness of the crust.

Remove the lid of the food processor and sprinkle in 5 tablespoons of the applejack. Replace the lid and pulse 5 times. Add more applejack as needed, and pulse again until the mixture holds together when squeezed. Weigh the dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

When your dough is done in the fridge, take one disk out and roll it out, floured, between two sheets of wax paper, or in a large freezer bag with the sides slit (as Alton does in “I Pie”).

When the disk is larger than your pie pan, set one of the pie pans onto the rolled out disk. Flip the pan and the dough over so that the uncooked crust drapes over the upside-down pie pan. Make sense?

Then put the second pie pan over that and flip it back over. Voila! You have set a perfect crust, when you remove the top pan of course. It’s kind of brilliant.

Then you can fill the crust with whatever filling and bake it for the requisite time, or you can blind-bake. If you are blind-baking, make sure to dock it with a fork, slip on a piece of parchment paper and put in some dry beans to weigh it down. Then you can bake it at 425˚ for 20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans then give it another 5 minutes or so.

This apple crust is a tasty crust. It has just a hint of apple flavor from the brandy. I actually think it would enhance virtually any other fruit pie, and I am planning on using it for just such a thing.

Okay, okay! I’ve been hit up over the last few days for a soup recipe that my wife has been talking up. I think that’s a good thing, right?

It is a tasty soup, though a bit work intensive, I’ll tell you that up front.

I got it from a Guy Fieri recipe, which, if you know my Food Network proclivities might surprise you. It’s true, I have said that Guy Fieri is the collar-popping, backward sunglass wearing, Jersey Shore wannabe, showerbag of the Food Network. Which is nicer that what Anthony Bourdain says about him.

Nonetheless, I was looking for a squash soup recipe and his had some funky stuff going on in it: specifically cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce (you should check out this link). Well, that perked me up a bit.

I, as usual, made a few changes. I added the sweet potatoes, because we got a huge one from our CSA. I also traded out the cayenne with Aleppo pepper, which is a less heat and much tastier. The heavy cream went — the wife is lactose intolerant — and I used Tofutti Sour Cream instead. This made it a little thicker, but I fixed that by adding a little more stock.

It was good enough that my fifteen month old devoured his bowl of it. High praise.

Squash Sweet Potato Soup

2 whole acorn squash, or three if they are small
3 sweet potatoes, or two if they are large, peeled
2 onions, 1 diced, 1 quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled, 4 whole, 2 minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, in all
4 cups chicken stock, low-sodium
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (cayenne is fine, too)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sage, dry
1 cup sour cream, I use Tofutti
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2   Cut the squash in half on the equator and remove the seeds with a spoon. Cut a flat spot on each end so the squash will sit flat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the squash, cut side up, leaving room for your potatoes. Put two quarters of the onions each in two of the acorn halves. Put two whole garlic cloves each in the other two.

3   Cut the peeled sweet potatoes into 1” thick coins. Arrange them in the space available between the squash.

4   Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with 1 tablespoon each of the salt and freshly cracked pepper.

5   Roast in the hot oven until very tender and starting to caramelize and collapse, approximately 1 hour. You will need to turn the

6   Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, remove the squash from the skin, and cut the sweet potatoes into 1” cubes. Reserve the roasted onions and garlic with the squash and potatoes. This can be done well ahead of time.

7   In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat and when the butter is starting to foam, add the raw diced onions and cook until they start to caramelize, about 5 to 6 minutes.

8   Add 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and scrape the bottom of your Dutch oven.

9   Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the reserved squash, sweet potatoes, onion and garlic and then the remaining chicken stock.

10   Stir to combine, then puree with a stick blender or transfer to your stand blender. The mixture will be very thick. transfer back to Dutch oven. See Note.

11   Add in the Aleppo pepper, white pepper and the sage.

12   Stir in the sour cream and Worcestershire sauce and heat slowly over medium-low heat.

13   If it is seems too thick for you add more chicken stock to get it to the thickness that you want.

14   When the mixture comes to a slow simmer, stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and turn heat to low.

15   This stuff is über-good with some homemade croutons. Just throw some large diced bread into a 450˚ oven for five to ten minutes, turning once.

NOTE: I like a little chunk in my soup, even pureed soups, so sometimes I don’t transfer the whole batch. It’s up to you, of course.

Today is one of my favorite days. It is the opening day of the Chili/Crock-pot Season. It’s not a set day more than it is a feeling. There is football in the air, our sugar maple is darkening, and I’ve performed at least one raking.

Chili is my king-comfort food. It nearly always makes me happy.

Now, I know there are chili purists out there. I know that for you chili does not have beans. But for me, chili is all about the beans. Sacrilege!

Even more sacrilege, the recipe for today has no meat in it.

I know, I know, sorry. But the wife and I are trying to cut down on our meat intake. And seriously, my enjoyment of chili is the flavor, not the meat. But I sure do love the beans.

My Chili Bean Stew

2 tbs oil
2 tbs butter/margarine
4 large onions roughly chopped
2 jalapenos
1 green pepper chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed and minced
2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
2 cans black beans with juice
2 cans pintos
2 cans kidney beans
1 tbs chili powder
1 tbs ancho chili powder
1 tbs cumin powder
salt and pepper to taste
2-4 tbs white vinegar

some shakes of Cholula, my favorite hot sauce.

Warm skillet over medium-low heat with 2tbs oil and 2tbs butter/margarine. Cook onions until translucent then add sliced jalapenos and green pepper. Continue until onions are caramelized. Toss in garlic and let it heat up a bit.

While the onion mixture is caramelizing throw everything else into your crock-pot and set it on low. I might reserve a couple of tbs of the vinegar and the Cholula until it’s nearly done. I like to add two tbs of vinegar at the top of cooking and then a couple more closer to the end.

Once the onion mixture has fully caramelized, add it to the pot. Let this thing bubble for five to eight hours. It’s all cooked, so all you really need to do is heat it up, but the longer you go the more complex it gets.

Once it’s done, you can, of course eat it as it, but, whoa Nelly, just add a few things and it really perks up. I love this with a big ol’ dollop of garlic chevre, or some sour cream. It’s also great a dip for some chips when you add some cheddar cheese.

Or, my all time fave, add it to some Mac & Cheese. That is comfort.

My mother is turning 70 this year. While that’s not really old these days, everything is relative. And I’m relatively sure she’s forgetting the flavors of my youth.

My mother used to be a good cook. Not a great Barefoot Contessa mother — we didn’t get duck and bacon wrapped asparagus. But she had five or six dishes that she absolutely owned: Indonesian sauté, nasi goring (an Indonesian fried rice), tacos, spekkoek (a Dutch cake), rum cake, and enchiladas. Of these, her enchiladas were the best.

But over the years something has happened. It was gradual, like some insidious disease. Her enchiladas stopped tasting as good as I remember.

Sure, you can chalk it up to nostalgia. But, honestly, I hate nostalgia. I have never been one to enjoy the past. The past just usually wasn’t that good. But her enchiladas?

While I was in college I would only be able to get home about four times in a nine month period. What would I ask to eat? Enchiladas.

I don’t really know what they are; they’re not like any enchiladas I’ve seen anywhere else. They are more like a Mexican savory torte: layers of corn tortillas and beans and meat and cheese and sauce and love.

But the taste? Gone. They are now a bland mess.

I first took this change head on and asked what she changed in her recipe. My mother likes to respond with as much martyr-filled defensive negativity as possible. I guess it keeps things interesting. Needless to say, that question did not go over well. But something had changed. And I don’t think it was my taste buds.

After all her Rum Cake is still to die for. Then again, it’s the only cake that gets me drunk so maybe the flavor has changed and I just can’t tell.

Anyway, about the enchiladas, I’ve been working on recreating it. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job. But here is the problem. It takes forever and it is kind of a complicated dish. It is the kind of thing that I want someone else to make. But alas. I think the generation has shifted on this one, and it makes me a little sad.

Here is the recipe, as well as I can figure it out. Stay with me on it. There aren’t many specifics here. Dashes and pinches and stuff.

My Mother’s Enchiladas

3 Corn Tacos per person
1lb ground beef
Onion, chopped
Cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper (to taste — sorry)
Can of pinto beans
Can of enchilada sauce
Bottle of Ortega Taco Sauce
Grated cheddar cheese

1. Put the beans and their juice in a sauce pan and heat to bubbling.

2. Saute onion in skillet, the brown the beef, then add the spices to desired flavor.

3. In another saucepan (this recipe will use all four of your stove burners) heat the enchilada sauce with the jar of Ortego Taco sauce added — just the sauce, not the actual jar.

4. Put about an inch of oil in another skillet. The skillet needs to be large enough for a tortilla to fit into it. Heat the oil over medium heat.

5. Heat corn tortilla in oil until it becomes soft, remove and drain on paper towel.

6. Place cooked tortilla onto plate, then add cooked meat, beans, sauce, and cheese.

7. Repeat two more times for a stack of three.

8. Eat

Now, my suggestion is to add the beans and meat together, even the sauces to make the interior. You can keep this is fridge for a couple of days. They can make a burrito later with the addition of some tomatoes and lettuce.

Because of the way it’s made, people will not be eating at the same time (bummer #1). Also, it’s really a lot work to go through for just one serving (bummer #2). And clean-up is epic (bummer #3).

But sometimes I have to eschew my dislike for nostalgia and bite into it with this piece of my childhood.

Okay, a little late today, but had second night of auditions last night so was up late cogitating.

What is todays blog about? Last night’s dinner.

Roasted Carrot Soup.

Oh, my goodness was this a tasty Oompaloompa.

I’ve discovered that one of the easiest things you can do to ramp up the flavor of veggies to give them a good roasting. It adds about 30 minutes to the prep time, but you can do it ahead of time and store them in the fridge. Also, if you are going to cut up the veggies, the only other part of the process is simply sliding them into the oven.

Here is how it works: Put a rectangular casserole dish in your oven — you can use an oven skillet too, but I’m really liking my Pyrex lasagna pan. Crank your oven to 500˚. You heard me right, we’re not playing around here. You must wait until the oven is up to heat, you can’t go early. In the mean while cut up your veg (works really well with roots and floret veg, especially brocolli, which gets crispy and mmmmmmm nummy nummmy).

When the oven is at temp, pull the pan out and drizzle some oil in the bottom. Toss in the veg — it will sizzle and pop — then drizzle the veg with oil and salt. Shake the veg around a bit to coat, then stick it back in the pan.

Give it 15 minutes, stir the veg around, and give it 10 more, then stir veg, 5 more and take it out.

You can eat it as is, toss it into a casserole or on pizza, puree it into a soup or a sauce. It is so good.

Okay, so to the Carrot Soup.

You know, we have the Dutch to thank for many things, Rembrandt, hash-bars, large windows lit with red lights, ice skating and carrots, among other things. Well, orange carrots. You should see original carrots. Crazy looking alien veg.

None-the-less, we had some carrots sitting in the fridge and had just gotten our new batch of veggies from the Grinnell CSA. I needed to clear out some room. I remembered that the real meal I ever made was a dinner with carrot soup for my parents when I was twelve or so. I thought, since I am feeling supremely old, that I would revisit my youth.

Here is the recipe. I got the base from Cooks Illustrated, one of my favorite foodporn sites. I dinked with it a bit, of course.


1 ½ pounds carrots (about 8 medium), peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium onion , halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
5 garlic cloves
½ cup ginger ale
1 bay leaf
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (they suggest half chicken half veggie, but I’m not a big veggie broth fan)
½ cup Tofu sour cream
Some dashes hot sauce
Ground black pepper


1. Roast your carrots, onion and three cloves of crushed garlic (you can add other roasted veg to your own tasets).
2. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large saucepan. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, cover, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the carrots soften further, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the rest of garlic (minced) and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the ginger ale and bay leaf; cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the broths. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the soup is flavorful, about 5 minutes.
3. Puree the mixture in a blender (or food processor) until smooth, and return to saucepan. Add the sour cream and warm over low heat until hot. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste.

NOTE: Now it might be too thick. If so, thin it with more chicken stock. I love it thick and velvety though. Also, you might think about topping it with fresh croutons. Just take a couple of slices of bread, cut them into ½” squares and bake them in a 450˚ oven until crispy. Keep your eye on them or you will unleash a smoky hell upon your kitchen. Top the soup with the croutons and a hand full of fresh cilantro, unless you are my lovely wife (See previous post).

I love my wife more than anything. And we have a pretty stable marriage. Sure there is the occasional bickering and snide comment, but things are pretty good. I think we got most of the crazy stuff out of the way during the long, dark tea-time of the courtship, which could have, admittedly, made a pretty successful MTV reality show.

None-the-less, there are a couple of things that make this union a challenge.

Side-note: I listen to Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table on our local NPR station (yes, Dad, I am one of those). Now I have a couple of friends who can’t stand listening to her, my wife included. Admittedly, there is an odd disingenuousness to her — the continual laughing at the end of an interview or phone call — and she does remind me of an old colleague of mine with which I have had professional differences — that’s another post. But there is so much good about her show that I just can’t not listen.

Anyway, the other day I was listening to it and some guy called in. He loved to cook and experiment with flavors. His partner essentially liked hamburgers with no condiments and fries, dry. She was first befuddled that there could be a relationship between these two, finally asking him if he really loved his partner.

I was incredulous. Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I mean look at me. But if it was between my taste palate or my wife, Blandcity, here I come.

But there are things, two really, which make our relationship a little culinarily dicey.

I love dairy. It’s a bit of an addiction. Cheese: from fresh farmer to stinky feet, I love it. Cream, butter, whole milk. I am utterly smitten by the lacteal juice.

My wife: lactose intolerant. It’s a bad sort of doubled over kind of intolerance.

The second issue involves a handful of spices. Anise, fennel, dill, sage, and —god help me —cilantro. I love cilantro. I eat chicken soup with a heaping handful of cilantro piled right on top. Giggity!

Actually, there is a third. Salt. She loves it. She will lick potato chips just so that when she sprinkles more salt onto it, it sticks. I like salt, but I don’t luuuuuuuuuuv salt.

So, dinner around the house can get a bit tricky. Chili is a tough one. I’ve tried to add the smallest amount of cilantro. She can taste it.

Italian sausage? Too much fennel.

You get the idea.

Every once in a while I go off on a jag about how flavors meld, so just adding everything into my bowl at the table doesn’t always yada yada blah.

But, you know what? We manage. I try to cook to her tastes, she tries to eat to mine. And we each try to pack our favorite foods into our son’s baby-bird mouth, subtly hoping that he will be able to walk the line between our two culinary worlds.

Bellow is a recipe for an all goat mac and cheese that I fixed her tonight. She ate it. She added salt. And I love her for it.

Baked Macaroni and Goat Cheese

reworked from an Alton Brown recipe


1 head broccoli
olive oil
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons margarine
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups Lactaid Milk
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
8 ounces goat cheese gouda
4 ounces goat cheese: something with a little kick (I use something older and harder)
2 ounces chevre of some sort (a peppered chevre would be great here)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs


Put a sturdy pan in the oven and set oven to 500 degrees.

Wash and trip up the broccoli head b removing the leaves and stripping the harder outside layer from the stalk. I like to leave it as a full head for this. It makes it easier later.

When the oven has reached 500 degrees, pull the pan out an drizzle in olive oil. Coat the florets of the broccoli head with oil and set in the pan. Drizzle more oil over the broccoli. Salt. Put back into the oven for 15 minutes. After fifteen minutes, flip broccoli and cook for ten more. Remove broccoli from oven and let rest until cool. When cool chop coarsely and reserve.

Turn down oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the margarine. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the Lactaid milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the grated cheese plus all the chevre. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the chopped roasted broccoli then the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.


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