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Steak and Guinness Pie

Done

I’m cold. It’s cold. There is no end in sight to this frigid weather. There really isn’t anything to do to keep warm. Once you come in from the cold you don’t want to go out again … EVER! Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s winter, but this is a particularly brutal one!

I don’t know about you, but this is the time of year I hibernate. Well, cook and hibernate. And all I want to eat are comforting, warming meals. I was searching through the recipes I’ve collected that I have had every intention of making, looking for something not too complicated, pure comfort food, and packed with flavor. That’s when I came across my foodie friend Amber’s recipe, she’s the wonderful gal behind Bluebonnets & Brownies, for Steak & Guinness Pie.

I must have been mumbling slightly as I scrolled through the recipes. As the words ‘steak and guinness pie’ came out of my mouth there were shouts of joy and a wee bit of begging … please, please make this! And so I did. And she helped. And we ate HALF of it for dinner! And the other half was gone by the morning!

Amber, I am eternally in your debt for this one! I didn’t feel the need to change this much at all. I added a carrot in lieu of a parsnip and used crimini mushrooms instead of porcini.

  • 1 1/2 lb. chuck (stew meat), cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 vidalia or yellow onion, diced finely
  • 8-10 crimini mushrooms, diced finely
  • 3 carrots, diced finely
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 T of oil
  • 1 12 oz bottle of Guinness
  • 1/2 C of beef stock
  • Double pie crust

NOTE: Now you know what I’m going to say here … you can make your own, which I couldn’t do today (even if I wanted to) because I don’t have any kitchen tools, gadgets or machinery at my disposal at the moment … or you can use ready made pie crust (which I did).  Also, as you can see from my photos, I didn’t chop everything REALLY finely – especially the carrots – but there’s no harm there, except it’s a little chunkier and they take a little longer to soften and begin to brown.

Preheat oven to 400

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet.

Browning

When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions and mushrooms. Once they’ve started to brown add salt and pepper to taste.  Next add the diced carrots and cook until soft and beginning to lightly brown. Once done, put this vegetable mixture in a bowl on the side.

Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet. Add diced stew meat, allowing to brown while stirring often. You may need to do this in two batches. while the meat is browning, add the minced garlic, and again, salt, and pepper to taste.

Bubbling

When the meat is browned, add vegetable mixture back to the skillet, add the stock and Guinness. Bring to a bubble and lower the heat a little and let the liquid cook down, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes until you have just a small amount of gravy with meat.

Putting pie together

Place one pie crust in the bottom of a pie dish, add filling, and cover with second pie crust. Cut a few slits in the top of the crust for steam.

NOTE: I used a deep dish pie dish.

Pie Slice

Bake  for roughly 45-60 minutes until the pie crust is golden brown.

DIVE IN!

Mini Peach Pies

Baked

Ah, New Year’s Eve … the time to renew one’s self, make virtuous resolutions to ourselves regarding health and wealth and family, look forward to a bright shiny year with hope, promise and anticipation.

I am fortunate enough to have had the one thing I wanted to accomplish this past year come into being … but for the most part, let’s face it, all our good intentions on New Year’s Eve, while giddy with champagne, fall by the wayside before that little cherub comes along with his bow and arrow.

So, for this year, I plan to love more, live better, be kinder to those around me, and take it easier on myself. I can accomplish any goal I set my mind to, but I do need to learn to take it easier on myself when that goal doesn’t come to fruition instantly.

I learned that the hard way this past year. Moving to Maine was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I cried and screamed and fell to pieces, but with the help and support of friends I made it through the long dark tunnel to a bright future waiting on the other side.

As I sit here on New Year’s Day, freezing, looking out the window at our beautiful snow covered landscape, I realize I am much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for … and with love anything can be accomplished.

Perhaps that should be the resolution first and foremost on everyone’s list. LOVE. Love your friends and family, love those who may not always deserve it (they need it the most), but most importantly love yourself, take it easy on yourself, with that small word, everything is possible.

Enough mush.

It’s cold and blustery and the snow is still here (as if a fairy were going to come along and make it 40 and melt the stuff HA!), but it’s New Year’s Eve and sinner should be special. I’m not quite sure why. It would seem that dinner on New Year’s Day, that first meal on the first day of a new year should be the special one. A special meal on the last day of the year is sort of like a man’s last meal before the gas chamber.

I get sidetracked so easily!

Steak and baked potatoes, salad … pretty simple. So dessert had to be something special.

There are still peaches in the freezer … hmmm … I saw Mini Peach Pies one day over at Dessert for Two and have had it bookmarked for quite some time. With temperatures hovering at 0 and only expected to get colder, what was better than a little bite of summer?

Happy New Year, my friends! I hope 2014 brings you happiness and health.

Makes 4 small pies in regular muffin cups, or 2 pies in Texas-sized muffin cups

For the pie crust:

  • 2 1/2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 T fresh lard (or solid vegetable shortening)
  • 1/2 C + 2 T flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1/4 t sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2-3 T cold water

NOTE: I cheated. I just couldn’t face making pie crust. Pillsbury pie crust, you are my savior! I used a biscuit cutter a bit bigger than the cupcake mold.

For the filling:

  • 1 medium ripe peach
  • 1/4 t apple pie spice
  • 2 t sugar
  • 1 t cornstarch
  • milk for brushing on top
  • coarse sugar for dusting on top (optional)

NOTE: And this is where my having prepped a bunch of our peaches for the freezer comes in handy! I took a handful of slices (I figured about 10 for a medium peach) out of the freezer, let them thaw, and carried on with this recipe.

Peaches

First, make the crust: place the butter and fresh lard onto a plate, dice it into small pieces, then place it in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together all remaining pie crust ingredients (except the water). Once 10 minutes has elapsed, add the slightly frozen butter and lard to the flour mixture and cut it in until it is the size of grains of rice. Use a pastry cutter or two butter knives.

Next, add 2 tablespoons of the water and press it into the dough with a spatula, turning and smashing it in to the dough. Add extra water if it’s not coming together or appears too crumbly. Dump the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a disc, then store it in the fridge for 20 minutes to let it rest.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 375° and peel and dice the peach. In a small bowl, stir together the peach with the apple pie spice, sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.

After the dough has rested, flour a clean counter and roll it out to 1/4″ thickness.

If you’re using a standard muffin pan: use a 3″ round biscuit cutter to cut out 4 circles of dough, placing each one in the bottom of 4 muffin cups. Divide the peach mixture between all 4 cups. Then, use a 2″ round biscuit cutter to cut out 4 more circles of dough and place them on top of the peaches. Pinch together the bottom and top pieces of dough, then cut a slit in the top of each pie before brushing with milk and sprinkling with coarse sugar.

If you’re using Texas-sized muffin cups: use a 4″ round biscuit cutter for the bottom crusts and a 3″ cutter for the top crusts.

Crust

Bake for 30-33 minutes, or until the peach filling is bubbling and the bottom crust is golden brown (use the tip of a knife to peak). Let cool slightly before serving.

Apple Pie Filling … For the Freezer

Ready to freeze

Seriously, it don’t get much easier than this!

After making it through freezing peach pie filling, how hard could apple pie filling be? Certainly apples are easier to peel and core and slice. I honestly don’t remember where I found this recipe, but the gal whose blog it’s from doesn’t freeze it in pie shape, but flat in freezer bags and makes 10 or so at a time right in their own freezer bags.  All the dry, add apples, shake and freeze.

I wanted to be as lazy as humanly possible on t his venture and decided to freeze the apples the same way I did the peach pie filling, all ready to plunk into a pie shell and bake.

  • 2/3 C white flour
  • 1 1/2 C  sugar
  • 2 t cinnamon, or to taste
  • 6 to 6 1/2 C apples, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 gallon freezer bag

Place first first three ingredients into a bowl and stir.

Mixed

Add apples and toss until well mixed.

Line a pie plate with tin foil and saran wrap. Add the apple mixture. Place in freezer until sold.  Remove from tin. Wrap tightly and store in freezer.

TO BAKE:

Put frozen pie filling into crust lined pie dish.

Using 5 tablespoons of cut up cold butter, dot the filling.

Put top crust on, flute edges, and sprinkle top with cinnamon and sugar, if you like.

Line edges with foil to prevent burning.

Bake at pie 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Until inside is just hot and bubbly. I would put it on a baking sheet to avoid a big mess in your oven.

NOTE: Take foil off for the last 25 minutes to brown the crust.

Freezer Peach Pie Filling

Peaches

Peaches, peaches EVERYWHERE! Baskets of peaches! I love peaches, but there are only so many peaches 4 humans can consume, and heaven forbid a single one of these beauties goes to waste. It is an absolute joy to pick them (in my pajamas and wellies – oh, yes, quite the visual) from just outside the house.

But, seriously, you can only eat so many, make so much jam, make so many smoothies, and find you’re still left staring at a mound of peaches (you know, resembling the RCA dog – oh, too young for that reference, Google is a wonderful thing), scratching your head and wondering what to do with them all.

I gave it some thought, did a little research, wanting to freeze a couple of pies to have in the middle of the winter when the snow will be up to our tushies.  What’s better than a summery peach pie during the gloom of short, dark days?

This recipe is perfect. You freeze the pie filling in a pie tin so when once you’re ready to bake, all you have to do is plop it in pie dough and bake away!

Great to have had many hands on deck to help with this one!

  • 9 lbs fresh peaches
  • 2 t Fruit Fresh (fruit preservative)
  • 3 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C quick-cooking tapioca, plus
  • 2 T quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1/4 C fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t salt
  • 4 aluminum foil, pie plates

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Scoring

Using a paring knife score the peaches with an X into the skins only.

Into boil

Carefully drop the peaches into the boiling water for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. I would tend to say, at least for this batch, it was over a minute. They may not have been quite ripe enough.

Into ice

Using a slotted spoon remove the peaches to a large bowl of ice water for 1 minute (the skins should slip off easily, if not place them back into the boiling water for 30 seconds).

Slice the peaches then put them into a large bowl; sprinkle with Fruit Fresh and sugar; toss to combine.

NOTE: Could not, could not, could not find any Fruit Fresh! And didn’t think of trying Wal-Mart until the pies were safely tucked away in the freezer. I added a little lemon juice with the sugar to keep them from turning color.

Filling

Stir in the tapioca, lemon juice and salt and mix well to combine.

Ready to freeze

Line 4 foil pie plates with heavy foil or freezer paper, placing a piece of plastic wrap over the foil.

Put 4-5 cups of peach filling into each pan, then loosely fold wrapping around the pie; freeze until firm.

When the filling is frozen solid remove from pans and wrap tightly, then return to freezer until ready to use.

NOTE: This seemed to take a ridiculous time to freeze. Be patient. You really want the filling frozen solid. I also wrapped the filling in a few layers of plastic wrap and then slipped them into a 1 gallon freezer bag.

NOTE NOTE: I’ll post on baking day to let you know how this turned out. Perhaps even a photo of the happy people munching on the pie. But in case you need to know NOW what the next step is, see below!

FOR BAKING DAY

2 (9 inch) pie crusts
4 T cold butter, cut into pieces
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg

For each pie, place one frozen pie filling in an unbaked 9-inch pie shell. Top with butter pieces (1/4-cup) and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Top the pie with second pie crust; seal well, then flute as desired.

Bake for about 50-60 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

Key Lime Pie

Many moons ago, while having dinner at my brother-in-law’s restaurant, I was treated to his Key Lime Pie. I was instantly in love. Smooth, frozen, not too sweet, limey puckering goodness.

I begged for this recipe. It was one of those things that you just had to re-create at home … and I have, many, many times over the years, mostly at my son Tommy’s request.

I made this for him the night before he moved to New Zealand … sigh, that child is sorely missed … and had most of the blog post written, but was very dissatisfied with the resulting photos of the finished pie. Not my fault. Sometimes it’s very hard to make something you are about to put on the table … NO. I WANT TO CUT IT NOW. I CAN’T WAIT! Such was the case with the Key Lime Pie.

Communications with my chickadee is difficult … busy schedules, massive time difference, and boy children are uncommunicative under the best of circumstances.

Suddenly on Facebook a note pops up … ‘Mom, I want to make your Key Lime Pie. Would you send me the recipe and walk me through it.’ I was quite chuffed. Asking for MY help, wanting to recreate something that brings him fond (and missed) memories of home, a chance to spend some (although virtual) time with my boy, his curiosity and desire to be in the kitchen, take your pick. They were all good and plucked at my heartstrings.

So, off the recipe went through the internet. It’s a pretty simple recipe, but as a newcomer to the kitchen, the task was a bit daunting. Many emails went back and forth with questions. Three Skype sessions for further clarification.

Truthfully, when I began to cook, after I had left home, I had NO CLUE whatsoever about recipes, pots and pans, spices, herbs. I had ONE cookbook, the Joy of Cooking. But, I had my Mom. I spent years in the kitchen, listening to her cook, smelling how things came together, occasionally watching her cook. I really had no interest in jumping in to cook. When I was first on my own and staring at ingredients with no clue of where to go with them or how to begin, I would call her and ask … “How do I make a pot roast?”, “How do I make beef stew?”, “What about tomato sauce?” And these questions came repeatedly. She must have felt much the same way I do now … I did something right, sparked an interest, traditions of flavor passed on to another generation.

Most of my cooking came straight from my childhood dinner table. My mother is a wonderful cook (though she chronically does not read a new recipe through, and some fabulous recipes have come from those booboos) Her mother was a wonderful cook. My, have I come a long way. Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Grandma.

So off Tommy went into the terrifying place known as the kitchen, armed with this recipe, lots of advice, and the support of three generations of women who have lovingly fed him.

After what seemed like many joyful hours of back and forth … Ta-da! Pie done. Great feelings of accomplishment from his end … and mine. The culinary torch is being passed on. The pie was great. Gone in a sitting.

Thanks for the lend of the great pie photo, little one. I’m proud of your success and applaud your adventurous spirit!

Crust:

  • 1 section of graham crackers, crushed
  • 2 oz butter, melted

Filling:

  • Juice of 6 limes, plus zest
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk

NOTE: I use regular limes, so I don’t have an exact liquid amount for subbing in key limes. They’re very difficult to come by in my neck of the woods, and using bottled is OUT.OF.THE.QUESTION!

Mix butter and crushed graham crackers. Use just enough butter so the crumbs hold together. Press crumb mixture into a 9″ pie plate to form crust. Freeze.

NOTE: You may need a little extra melted butter.

In a mixing bowl beat egg yolks until pale yellow.

While beating, slowly add condensed milk so eggs become smooth. Stir in lime juice and zest.

Fill crust with filling and freeze until firm.

NOTE: You can add a piping of whipped cream around the edge or plop dollops of whipped cream in top. In my house, the key lime pie stands alone, naked.

And this is what the pie looked like within MOMENTS!!

And this was gone before morning!

Vidalia Onion & Bacon Pie

One of my favorite features of the Sunday New York Daily News is Relish Magazine. The cooking sections in the New York area papers have become seriously lacking, so when Relish came along a number of years ago, it was a welcome addition.

I don’t remember if I saw this recipe on their website or in the magazine, but I knew instantly that this was something that needed to be made.

It’s a little preparation bogged down, but the end result is certainly worth the time. A friend of mine made this as well, but the bacon on only half as there is a vegetarian in the house. Though my non-red meat eating sister will tell you bacon doesn’t count. It is its own food group.

I have already been thinking of different twists on this and know I will come back to it again and again.

Crust:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2  C cornmeal
  • 1/2  C all-purpose flour
  • 1  t baking powder
  • 1/2  t salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2  T butter
  • 2 to 4  T ice water

NOTE: The crust needed something more. Maybe a little more salt. Maybe a little sugar. Oh, maybe a kick of cayenne. But the cornmeal crust was wonderful. Perfect for filling with tomatoes and mozzarella and basil.

Filling:

  • 1  T butter
  • 3  medium Vidalia or sweet onions, slivered
  • 2  eggs
  • 1/2  C half-and-half
  • 1/2  t salt
  • 1/4  t freshly ground black pepper, plus more for top
  • 1  C (4-ounces) shredded white Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2  C corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 4  slices thick, smoky-style bacon, cooked and chopped

NOTE: FOUR? Only FOUR? Now, you know that would never do! I cheated, I used a a couple more.  I silvered the onions by cutting each in half and the thinly slicing them. Cutting through the pie, the slivers are too long and difficult to cut while slicing and eating. Next time maybe the slivers need to be cut a bit – most likely AFTER caramelizing them.

To prepare crust, coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with cooking spray

Place cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a pastry cutter blade; pulse to combine. Add egg and butter; pulse until mixed. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a dough ball forms. This will form a sticky mass of dough. Press into pan. If the dough is too sticky, add a little cornmeal.

NOTE:  I used nearly 2 tablespoons of water to form a ball. But when I took it out of the food processor it was really sticky. Instead of putting the blade back in and getting the sticky mess back into the bowl, I sprinkled cornmeal over the top and that kept the dough from sticking to my hands.

Preheat oven to 350F.

To prepare filling, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Drain if necessary.

NOTE: And – purely with an eye toward waste not want not  – I cooked the onions in the bacon fat.  I did still add the butter in – can you have enough butter or bacon? I don’t think so either!

Combine eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk well. On bottom of pie, sprinkle half the shredded cheese. Top with corn kernels,  onions and bacon.

Pour egg mixture over top. Top with remaining cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake 40 minutes, until top is set and browned.

NOTES: Before baking, I sprinkled the top with chopped scallions. Be careful not to over bake. The cheese gets a little too dense if it gets too brown. I think this would be nice with leeks as well.

This is great as a side dish for grilled chicken, alone with a big salad … or just by itself because you cannot stop eating it and are VERY impressed with your own creation!

Shepherd’s Pie

When I was a kid, as we drove up through Brewster, we would get to a certain point and my father would point to the top of the hill and say, “I have a friend who lives up there. Blankety Blank lives up there.” (Names omitted to protect the innocent). It came to the point that as those words came out of his mouth, my sister and I sighed, rolled our eyes in that way only little girls can, and finished the statement. And this went on for years, decades even.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. One of the people nearest and dearest to me in this life has my father’s habit of repeating the same story when certain touchstones are passed or smelled or said. Such is the case with this little hole in the wall restaurant that I keep being told makes the BEST Shepherd’s Pie any place. HA! My answer to this ridiculous statement – and you would agree if you ever saw this place! – always is the same “I make the best Shepherd’s Pie any place.”

Truth be told, I had NEVER made Shepherd’s Pie. I have always wanted to, have been in search for a great recipe for ages, but just never quite gotten there. The last pass by this “restaurant” and that silly statement being uttered, yet again, was juts the push I needed to get moving on this challenge!

And then I watched Lucinda Scala Quinn make Shepherd’s Pie on Mad Hungry, I knew this was the had-to-make recipe. This wasn’t just any old Shepherd’s Pie, but Keith Richards’ Shepherd Pie. I printed it and forgot it.

Desperately looking for something to read, I picked a book from Tom’s unending ‘to be read’ pile. Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, caught my eye. If nothing else, it should be wildly entertaining. And while reading, I came across the fact that Shepherd’s Pie is Keith’s favorite thing to eat. And then the light bulb went off and I remembered that Lucinda Scala Quinn had adapted this recipe from his autobiography.

It was a sign from above – no, not God, Julia Child.

  • 8 T butter (1 stick), divided
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 3 T milk, plus more if needed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped, divided in half
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/4 C Worcestershire
  • 1/2 C chicken or beef stock
  • 2 t cornstarch dissolved in 4 t water
  • coarse salt
  • 1/4 t white pepper
  • 1 C frozen peas, thawed and drained

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large saute pan on medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and saute 1/2 of chopped onion, carrots and celery until softened. Add the meat and salt and cook on high, stirring occasionally until the moisture is evaporated and the meat is browning in fat, about 15 minutes.

When meat is browned, stir in Worcestershire and cook 1 minute. Stir in chicken stock and cornstarch-water mixture and simmer for additional minute to thicken.

Peel and halve potatoes. Place in pot and cover with cold water to 2 inches above potatoes. Add generous amount of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot (or transfer to bowl). Mash the potatoes with 4 tablespoons butter, white pepper and a few tablespoons of milk until smooth. Add more milk if needed to make potatoes creamy.

In a 2-quart casserole dish, evenly distribute the cooked meat, top with peas and remaining chopped onion and dollop mashed potatoes on top.

Dot top of potatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, until warmed through and potatoes are golden on top, and pie is bubbling.

This was so good! The entire thing was gone. Take that little hole in the wall restaurant! I shake my fist in your general direction. No way YOUR Shepherd’s Pie is better than mine! And dear friend, come over any time and I’ll school ya on great Shepherd’s Pie! Thanks Keith and Lucinda!