Archive for April, 2009

Mary’s Bluegrass Pie

dscf76471I haven’t slept well for the past several nights for two reasons. First, my 84-year-old aunt Mary, and the author of this recipe, is in the hospital. She is pretty sick with a bout of pneumonia and could potentially be in the hospital during what was always one of her favorite days to celebrate, The Kentucky Derby. It’s sad to see someone I care about weaken and grow sick, especially someone who gave of herself tirelessly for her family and in her work as an RN. Let’s hope she recovers and can return home.

I also haven’t slept because in my previous post I told you I was going to bake some pies to take to a Derby party and then I carelessly left you hanging – no recipe for the pies. So, in Mary’s honor, and in order that you have a recipe for pie, I give you this family recipe for “Mary’s Bluegrass Pie”. (I could get into a legal battle if I called this by it’s real name.) My sister in Baltimore swears by this recipe when she hosts her Derby parties.

If you want to get a little more fussy you can make small tartlets (or as Mary would say – piettes.) Press a small ball of unbaked pie dough into the cups of mini-muffin pans to form a crust. Then spoon a small amount of the filling into the mini-crusts. By that method the yield is about 48 piettes. Or you can make two 9-inch pies as described below.

Makes two 9-inch pies 

Two 9-inch pie crusts, unbaked
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup light corn syrup
pinch of salt
1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup chocolate morsels (gotta love the old recipes and their wording. This means chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 9-inch pie pans with the prepared pie dough. Mix all remaining ingredients in a large bowl, stirring to blend well. Be sure your butter is sufficiently cooled so it doesn’t melt the chocolate morsels. Pour into the crusts. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the pies are set in the middle and the crust is golden brown. (The smaller piettes bake for about 20 minutes.)


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Kentucky Derby Recipes

mint-julepIf you don’t live in Kentucky you may wonder why I’m even writing this post. The second Saturday in May is the equivalent of a Kentucky state holiday. It’s the day when the greatest 2 minutes in sports takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. It’s also the reason for weeks of events leading up to the big race. We’re going to a Derby party and I’m going to bake some pies. I can’t call them by their real, trademarked name, but let’s just call them “Run For The Roses” Pies. (note: or Mary’s Bluegrass Pies – see above.)

At post time  on Saturday, May 2nd- 6:04 p.m. EST – tune in and watch the Kentucky Derby on your big screen.  All around Kentucky parties celebrate this grand race. Women wear fancy hats with abandon. Mint Juleps are mixed with a flourish.  Here are a few recipes you might like to try on this grand day:

Oven Baked Chex Mix (this isn’t traditional for a Kentucky Derby party, but a bowl of this on bar would sure be good!)

Kentucky Burgoo

Kentucky-style Slow-Cooker Pork Barbecue

One Pan Blondies (I suggest substituting Kentucky Bourbon whisky for the vanilla extract if you have Bourbon on hand. If you don’t have any Kentucky Bourbon on hand, go buy some and make a Mint Julep too.)

One Pan Brownies (These are pretty darn good. Make a stunning platter of bar cookies by baking both the blondies AND  the brownies. After cooling and cutting the bars, combine them on a large platter or tray.)

Mary’s Bluegrass Pies (or make piettes!)

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Monday – Spaghetti with Quick White Clam Sauce, Lemon Broccoli

Tuesday – Baked Cod with Tomatoes and Lemon, Collard Greens, Macaroni and Cheese

Wednesday – Grilled Chicken Tenders, Mixed Greens with Tomatoes and Poppy Seed Dressing, Green Beans

Thursday – Sloppy Joes, Spicy Cream of Carrot Soup

Friday – Dinner out and about

Saturday – Grilled Salmon, Asparagus, Bread

Sunday – Brats, Potato Salad, Sauerkraut (at the request of the best male cook I know. Oh my.), Strawberries

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The best male cook I know is, bar none, the finest barbecue chef in Kentucky. (I know these are probably fightin’ words, but I stand by what I say.) Give him a few slabs of ribs, a beef brisket, or a pork shoulder, and in about 12 smoky, albeit labor-intensive hours, we’re eating fall-off-the-bone-tender barbecued meat. The secret is his patience and willingness to coax the meat into a moist, succulent state. I love him for this skill and have his late father Henry to thank for the many smoker-side cooking lessons. I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again, any lesson in a life skill, such as barbecuing (or how to iron a shirt), is a gift that keeps on giving.

Knowing this background you can then understand why a slow-cooker pork barbecue recipe was met with a bit of resistance.  The best male cook I know couldn’t imagine eating pork shoulder that hadn’t spent the latter part of its adult life simmering above hot coals. Despite his protests I persisted with my recipe. The resulting meat was tender, but admittedly not full of smoky flavor. It’s desirable, none the less, for feeding a crowd, or a hungry family, when you’re not able to hang out by the grill or in the dead of winter when it’s just too darn cold to tend the smoke-box. And, trust me, it beats in flavor, cost, and texture the tubs of pork barbecue you buy at the supermarket. So, if for no reason other than these, tuck this recipe in your recipe box.

Just like a true, wood-fired smoking process, low and slow is still the rule. For best results, start either early in the morning or let the pork slow-cook overnight. In my (oblong) slow-cooker, set on low, the pork takes about 11 hours to reach a fork-tender state. The first time you try this recipe I suggest checking the tenderness of the meat after about 10 hours to gauge how quickly, or slowly, your slow cooker cooks the pork. If needed, cover the pork and continue to cook for up to 2 more hours.

The jury’s out on how to eat pulled pork: We’re a sauce-it-when-we-eat-it family. Some like to mix sauce into the whole batch of pork before serving. Some like to sauce the whole batch, and then add more sauce on the top. Because of this, I try to offer a few options on when to sauce the meat.

Summer’s on its way. When you can’t take the time to tend a fire, but want tender, homemade pork barbecue, give your slow-cooker a try. Nothing holds a candle to home-smoked meat, but this works in a pinch, a large pinch of meat piled high on a bun that is.

Kentucky-style Slow-Cooker Pork Barbecue
Makes about 12 servings

Here I use Kentucky’s own soft drink – Ale-8 One®. This spicy soda, unique to Kentucky and bottled in Winchester since 1926, is available in supermarkets and convenience stores around the state of Kentucky. If you don’t have access to Ale-8 One®, or the tasty Ale-8 One® barbecue sauce, substitute any ginger ale, and barbecue sauce, of your choice.

1 large sweet onion
One 4- to 4-1/2 pound pork shoulder or Boston butt
1 cup Ale-8 One ®
2 tablespoons Basic Barbecue Dry Rub, see below
2 cups Ale-8-One ® barbecue sauce

Peel and thinly slice the onion. Place half of the onion slices in the bottom of a slow-cooker. Lay the pork shoulder on top of the onion slices. Pour the Ale-8 One over the pork and then sprinkle the pork with the dry rub and the rest of the sliced onion. Cover and cook on low for 11 hours. After 11 hours the meat should be fork-tender, meaning when you poke a fork in the meat and twist the fork, the meat is not tight and tough but falls apart. If it’s not fork-tender, turn the piece of pork over, cover and cook for 1 to 2 more hours. When it is fork-tender, drain and discard the juice. Shred and chop the meat discarding any remaining fat. Keep the meat warm and serve plain, with warm sauce on the side, or place the meat back in the slow-cooker and mix in the barbecue sauce and reheat before serving.

Basic Barbecue Dry Rub
Makes about 1/4 cup dry rub

2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1  1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight jar or container.

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Monday – out of town

Tuesday – Barbecue Lamb Sandwiches, leftover Roasted Potato Salad

Wednesday – Black Bean Burritos, Cinnamon Applesauce

Thursday – Vegetable Tortellini Soup, Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Friday – Slow-Cooker Pork Barbecue, Broccoli Salad

Saturday – Grilled Hamburgers, Baked Beans, Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese, Broccoli Salad

Sunday – White Chicken Chili, Cornbread Sticks

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Five Arbitrary Thoughts

cup of tea** My Kroger store is discontinuing the sale of Celestial Seasonings Fast Lane Black Tea – a caffeinated black tea with added spices. This is what I normally drink to transition from coffee in the morning, to decaf green tea in the afternoon. Now what am I supposed to do? I’m sure I’ll figure something out, probably just good old- fashioned black tea. Don’t forget the soy milk.

** A bouquet of Easter flowers, from my sister Frances, have given it their all, but today it’s probably time for them to go. They’ve been a lovely addition to my kitchen chop and chat. Thanks Frances.

** I’m testing a recipe for slow-cooker pulled pork with 4 ingredients. It cooks for 8 hours, is pulled from the bone, shredded, and then slow-cooks another 2 hours with some barbecue sauce stirred in. Intrigued? So am I. I’ll report back on this one. It’s a good day to test this recipe. My oldest son has lacrosse practice this afternoon, during the time I would normally be cooking some dinner. Barbecue will be waiting for us when we get home. Tonight is also my movie night: on deck  – Il Postino.

** Over the past few weeks I found myself resisting my Thursday morning grocery store run. In case you’re tuning in late, it’s part of my routine to go grocery shopping early on Thursday mornings. That’s one of the freedoms doing freelance work affords me and I love it. I’m not sure why, but for the last month or so I’ve put off the shopping trip on Thursday, on Friday, and have even waited until Saturday morning, which I don’t care for too much. My favorite thing to do on Saturday morning is some baking or drive my daughter to her horseback riding lesson. Well yesterday I pushed through the resistance and went to the grocery. Now, we’re all stocked up for the weekend and I remember why I like taking the time to go during the week.

** Last night I posted a recipe for Kentucky Burgoo. It’s delicious made ahead and reheated. Here are some tips for freezing the burgoo: Let the burgoo cool and ladle it into heavy-duty zip-top freezer bags. Remove all the air from the bags and zip them up. Lay the filled bags flat on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. After they are frozen, remove the cookie sheet, and you can easily stack the flat bags of burgoo in the freezer. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator, and reheat over low heat. Get the temperature of the burgoo up to 165 degrees F and serve piping hot. It’s best not to reheat the burgoo a second time, so if any is left in the pot, discard it, or better yet, eat it all up so there’s none to discard. Call in the neighbors – we’re having burgoo!

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Kentucky Burgoo Recipe

kentucky-burgoo-2Makes about 12 servings

It’s that time of year. It’s Burgoo time. What I mean is: Keeneland is open. Keeneland serves Burgoo. It’s almost Derby Week. Everyone who celebrates Kentucky’s national holiday (the Kentucky Derby, the first Saturday in May) think s Burgoo. (And mint juleps, but that’s another story.) I created this recipe on a snowy day in March. It’s not a quick recipe, but one where you first make a broth using beef, lamb, and dark-meat chicken pieces. Then you cook the vegetables in the broth and add the cooked meat. The two-step process ensures tender meat and nicely cooked vegetables. It’s even better reheated, so feel free to make this recipe ahead, and reheat before serving. Incidentally, if you’ve ever wanted to attend a Burgoo Festival, make plans for September 2009.

1 pound beef shank
1 pound boneless leg of lamb
3 to 3 1/2 pounds chicken legs or thighs
1 tablespoon salt
3 quarts water
2 cups finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables, or 2 (15-ounce) cans mixed vegetables, drained
One 15-ounce can butter beans, drained
8 ounces frozen sliced okra
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Generous pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh parsley 

Trim excess fat from beef shank and lamb. Place the beef, lamb, and chicken pieces in a 6-quart Dutch oven. Add salt and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate. Partially cover again, and contine to cook over low heat until the beef and lamb are fork-tender, about 1  1/2 more hours. Remove the beef and lamb to the plate with the chicken. Let the broth cool slightly. Strain and measure the broth. Add water if necessary to make 6 cups. Wipe the sides of the oven with a paper towel to remove any remaining skum or foam reside. It’s not pretty to get this stuff in your stew. So wipe it off and save yourself from having to use another pot, or wash this one.

Pour the 6 cups of broth (and perhaps the broth/water mixture) back into the Dutch oven. Stir in the onion, garlic, mixed vegetables, butter beans, okra, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, remove the chicken meat from the bones and set aside. Cut the beef and lamb into 1-inch pieces and set aside with the chicken, and if necessary refrigerating the meat until the vegetables have cooked for 1  hour. After 1 hour of cooking the vegetables,  stir the chicken and meat pieces into the cooked vegetables. Simmer until heated through. Stir in the parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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