November 30, 2009

Vegetable Potpies with Sweet Potato Biscuits

The night before Thanksgiving my brother made delicious vegetable potpies from a recipe in Food & Wine. They were a great way to fill up on veggies before feasting on turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes the following day, and they'd make a good meal for any cold winter night. I'm a big fan of traditional potpies (like the chicken potpie I made a year ago), but this one comes with far less guilt since it's stuffed with vegetables and topped with a sweet potato biscuit.

The original recipe called for parsnips, brussels sprouts, pearl onions, cauliflower, and celery root, but it takes well to substitutions. Instead of brussels sprouts ours had beets. My mom was really excited about purple pearl onions, so those went in instead of white ones. Being easily excitable runs in the family.

Bobby did most of the work on the filling.

And I got to make the biscuits.

These biscuits are delicious and would be great eaten on their own.

My mom kindly spiked some eggnog with whiskey for us to enjoy while we cooked. My dad doesn't drink, and I'm pretty sure he thinks that one drink makes you drunk. While this is generally not the case unless you're maybe a small child or my friend Sarah, it was certainly the case with these suckers. You could get drunk on the fumes alone. I'm not sure if it was the fact that I don't really like eggnog or that I'm still not over the last time I drank large quantities of whiskey and chased it with karaoke, but I simply could not handle this stuff.

After being tossed with olive oil and seasoned, the vegetables are roasted for 30 minutes.

Then a milk/cream/flour/butter/spice mixture gets combined with them. I guess what I said before about this being a healthy alternative to chicken potpies is not entirely true.

The mixture is divided among 8 4-inch ramekins. It should be fine in a larger dish, too, if you don't want to mess with individual servings.

Each dish is topped with a biscuit and a sage leaf or two.

Bake for about 15 minutes.

These go really well with a side of tart cranberry sauce.

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Thanksgiving Week in Photos

This is a recipe-free post (except for a few links to recipes) filled with pictures of my Thanksgiving weekend in Iowa. The first few photos are from Thanksgiving day, and the rest are from a few days hanging out on our farm. Cooking posts should be up shortly. Enjoy!

As my cousin Nora so eloquently put it, Happy (belated) Thanksgiving, Buttheads.

Liz & Kyle.

The upright bonfire.

Here are a few gravy-making women I may resemble, a.k.a. my aunts.

Caryn and Mom.

Dad and me.


DINNER. I highly recommend the Brussels Sprout Slaw in the foreground and the Savory Bread Pudding just above and to the right of the slaw.

Post feasting we headed back to the farm and did a lot of walking around. Lest you get the wrong impression, Caryn does not typically dress in all purple, nor does she wear giant BHS tennis sweatshirts.

A walk in the woods. Just like the book. No bears, though.

Oops. I spoke too soon. There was a bear in the woods, and Caryn kissed it.

Bobby unintentionally blending into the background.

Holy tree roots!

B & K from above.


Bobby in the cougar den.

Brothers & me.

Mouse friend who narrowly escaped capture.

Dad and brothers.

I thought my dad was taking a picture of me eating the moon. I was wrong.

Family shot on hike #2.

Tall prairie grass.

Kyle and Squinty.

November 22, 2009

Miss me?

Hello, hello. I wanted to reassure everyone that I am indeed alive. I am still cooking and eating. Sadly, the cooking that I have been doing lately has been very rushed and not really worthy of talking about on here. While I have been consuming the so-so meals, law school has been consuming me. The majority of last week was occupied with a visit from my mom, which means cooking gets replaced by eating out at fun restaurants. Since she left on Friday I have been staring at my computer screen and writing and writing and writing. Unfortunately none of that writing has been related to food, and I highly doubt you'd like me to post the dozens of pages I've written on reforming political advertisements or analyzing land use. As much as I would rather be talking about my favorite Thanksgiving dishes than writing about the crazy things that Alaskan politicians say, I will be stuck doing the latter for the next 36 hours or so. In a mere 48 hours, though, I will be relaxing in Iowa, free to think about food all I want and free to cook delicious things. Hopefully I will be telling you about it shortly thereafter.

In honor of my brother's birthday (Happy Birthday, Kyle!), I thought I would post a picture of what we were doing one year ago today. In case November 22, 2008 does not ring a bell I'll give you a little help. It was the 45th anniversary of JFK's assassination, the 28th anniversary of my mom giving birth to my adopted brother Kyle, and (get ready for it) the day Iowa shut out Minnesota 55-0 in Minnesota's final game at the Metrodome! Three historical events sharing a single day. It's hard to believe, right? For Kyle's early birthday present, the Hawks shut out the Gophers again yesterday, albeit by a much smaller margin. And oddly enough Matt and I found ourselves back at the Dome today, exactly a year after the above picture was taken. I was wearing the exact same shirt as last year, but this time we were watching the Vikings take down the Seahawks. Although I'm more of a Colts and Bears fan than a Vikings fan, I thought I would wear a little gold to support the home team and at the same time rub in yesterday's loss to all the Gopher fans present. Two birds, one stone. Speaking of oddities (unrelated to space), Herky was at the game! He was part of the halftime show, playing football with a bunch of Minnesota mascots. I'm still a little confused about his presence, but it was an exciting surprise nonetheless.

November 15, 2009

Kyle's D.I.M. Lengua - A Bright Idea.

Kirsten graciously gave me the opportunity to guest host her blog for the day. I hope I live up to the expectations of her many fans.

About a month ago, my lovely wife and I moved to Evanston Illinois, where I'm now employed as a post-doctoral fellow at Northwestern. We're both crazy about the area. Chicago obviously rules. The town of Evanston is nice, if sleepy compared to my traditional view of college towns. It is also relatively "upscale." As a result, I have zero access to the vast array of tacos that I had become accustomed to in Carrboro, NC at any of the 5 or 6 taco trucks that set up shop in random parking lots around town each afternoon. That wouldn't fly here.

Now let me tell you - I'm crazy about "organ meats," i.e. those edible organs other than traditionally-consumed muscles (liver, kidney, etc.). Mexican taquerias are an easy way to fulfill my organic needs, another is a Chinese restaurant that caters to real Chinese people, who love eating weird shit even more than I do. While not an organ as I defined above (it's a muscle), beef tongue is one thing I always get if a mexican restaurant cooks it.

To finally get to the point of this post, I decided that since I can't buy lengua tacos without driving deep into Chicago, I will have to Do It Myself (D.I.M.). To document this journey, I have co-opted the methods of my sister, who traditionally begins with a personal anecdote (check) leading up to a certain food being mentioned (check), cooked, and consumed with pictures taken throughout (see below).

On to the cooking. I had already decided that I would use my trusted slow-cooker in this endeavor. I typically eschew recipes in favor of intuition but, nevertheless, here is a rough ingredients list.

For the meat:
  • 1 beef tongue - mine was a shade shy of 3 lbs and purchased at an eastern European specialty store/deli. It ran about $8.50.
  • 1 onion - I had an additional half onion in my fridge so I threw that in also
  • 2 bottles of Guinnes Extra Stout
  • 1 cup of coffee
  • a few nuggets of garlic
  • a few guajillo chiles that were lying around
  • almost a tablespoon of sea salt - I remember seeing people online cooking their tongues with a lot of salt so I followed suit
  • a few teaspoons of Ground cayenne pepper
  • a light sprinkling of ground cloves (seriously, easy easy those cloves!)
I think that the tongue should be an ideal meat for standing up to these powerful flavors. We'll see...

Other stuff
  • small corn tortillas
  • cilantro, a bit more onion, and a lime to make the garnish to put on the tacos
Here are the assembled components:

I had to cut the tongue in half to fit it into my slow cooker - That baby is as big as my arm from the elbow down:

I threw that in the pot...

...and added the contents of one of the bottles of beer and a cup of coffee.

As for preparation of the rest of the stuff, let's face it, using a slow cooker is not rocket science. Chop it up and throw it in. Having said that, I tend to very coarsely chop onions when using my slow cooker because it makes it easier to remove them after everything is cooked and I don't like mushy onions. Because I'm proud of my big blue chopping block, here's some crushed/chopped garlic!:

Once all the chopped stuff, salt and spices were added, I bathed the beast in the second beer and set it on low.

For the record, cooking began at 11:30 A.M.

Whenever I cook with my slow cooker, even on a lazy Sunday like today when I might be tempted to sit around playing Xbox for 12 hours, I make a point of leaving the house for a while so that I can come back, walk in the door, and smell the goodness. I also think it's good luck, like not changing your underwear during the NHL playoffs.

At 6:30, I removed the meat from the pot and sliced it cross-wise into half-inch "steaks."

Then I trimmed the skin off, as one would do with a section of a pineapple. I sliced the tongue into half-inch strips, then half-inch cubes and, to finish it off, I browned it in a frying pan.

While frying the cubes, I heated the oven to 200 and put some corn tortillas in there to warm up. I also chopped some cilantro and onions and mixed it together with some lime juice to put on the tacos.

Final step - make tacos.

They came out very good. Excellent. I won't try to speak too eloquently about the flavors and texture and all that, but I'll say that they're as good or better than the ones I was eating at the Mexican taco stands. I recommend them without reservation.

If I did the whole batch as tacos today, I think it would serve 4-5 people, but I only ended up slicing half of the tongue. I'll cut the rest and then I can fry some up whenever I want. Maybe with eggs in the morning?

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