Thursday, May 29, 2014

Risotto....what Italian rice is made for..............

WOW! Who knew there were 40,000 types of rice cultivated around the world!!! Yikes!

And don't go thinking that the manufacturers of Uncle Ben's ever had the corner on rice. Plain old white rice hardly begins to describes the variations of rice that are available.

Our topic today is rice. Actually, to be more specific, our topic is Risotto, which is an Italian dish made from Arborio rice. Risotto is all about the rice of Italy. But before we get to the recipe, we will take a look at rice and its place in the world.

Simply put, rice is the grain of an aquatic grass that is widely cultivated as a world food source. Rice, before it is stripped of the bran and germ, is a great source of fiber; it is high in complex carbohydrates, contains nearly no fat, is cholesterol free and low in sodium. Rice is a source of protein containing all eight essential amino acids. When paired with beans you have yourself a complete source of nutrition.

This is a great opportunity to distinguish between rice and wild rice.  While rice is an actual grain, wild rice is really a seed of an aquatic grass.  They both come from the grass family, but are not the same thing at all.  A special note about wild rice:  Not all wild rice is the natural and time honored seed that is ceremoniously harvested by the Native Americans of this country.  Commercial wild rice is far different and not nearly as nutritious as authentic wild rice.  So be mindful of what you purchase.  Make sure the wild rice you serve your family is the real thing.  Read the label or find an authentic source.

Wild Rice
And what about this whole long-grain/short grain thing?  Well, here's what you need to know about that:  Long-grain rice, as it's name implies, is longer.  It also tends not to stick and so remains fluffy when cooked.  Short-grain releases more starch and so it is stickier and is used when one is looking for a creamy texture.

Long and Short Grain Rice
Now that we know the long and the short of it, where does instant rice fit it?  In our humble opinion, it doesn't!  Instant rice is white rice that is cooked and then dehydrated. The process takes out literally all nutritional elements of the grain, not to mention flavor and texture.  It's rather like eating a plate of soggy issue paper.  And on top of it all, it is more expensive than uncooked rice.  Do yourself a favor and put the few extra minutes into making regular rice. If you don't like to cook rice, you can find a steamer that will take the guess work out of cooking it. The 2 Prickly Pears each own a rice steamer.

We are not going to talk about all 40,000 types of rice in this article, but if you are interested in knowing more about that, here's a site that might interest you. Rice Varieties.  With that much rice grown around the world, it is easy to see it as a main food staple like other grains, such as wheat and oats.

We all are probably aware that rice is often associated with Asia.  China and Thailand are major growers and exporters of rice.  But because we are thinking about our risotto recipe, we are focusing on the rice of Italy. Did you know that the Mediterranean has a climate perfect for growing rice?  We didn't either.  It turns out that this region of the world is perfect for growing short-grain rice, like Arborio, and other kinds as well.

There are many versions of rice grown in the Mediterranean. Here are a few:
  • Carnaroli Rice - considered to be the "King of Rice," it has a nutty flavor while holding its texture when in stock.
  • Vialone Nano Rice - is soft and less grainy than Carnaroli. It absorbs flavors of other ingredients and holds its shape well. 
  • Arborio Rice - named for a province in Vercelli. It is defined by its ability to absorb flavors and produce a creamy texture. This rice is Italy's most widely produced rice making it cheaper than others.
  • Baldo Rice - is derived from Arborio. The grains are long with good absorption effects. It is often used in risottos, pies, and baked rice dishes.
  • Roma Rice - has big, round, long grains. It has a high level of rice and is very versatile.
  • Balilla Rice - considered the original rice because it is derived from the first Italian rice. This rice if small, round and has great absorption in cooking.
  • Sant'Andrea Rice - this rice turns soft and slightly sticky when cooked. This is not a suitable rice for risotto.
Now for a little risotto history; in the 15 century the plains of northern Italy were cleared to create rice fields.  The reason was simple; the growing population needed food.  Although rice was introduced to Italy by the Arabs many centuries earlier, it was relatively new to northern Italy.  

Rice was actually known in the Roman times, but it was used only for medicinal purposes. Northern Italians cooked their rice grains into a type of porridge, what we now call risotto. Due to the then high cost of rice, it was mainly a food for the rich.  But that didn't last long. As taxes were excised and rice crops increased, the costs went down.  Rice became a food of the people and nothing would stop it from reaching all corners of the globe.  Today Italy is Europe's largest producer of rice and most of it is concentrated in Northern Italy called the Po Valley.

Now, about that risotto.  There are many stories of the first culinary offering of risotto to the Italian pallet.  The one we came upon most frequently entails a young chef who loved saffron and used it in everything.  He was kidded by his mentor that one day he would find a way to include saffron in his rice.  For the mentor's daughter's wedding the young chef decided to play a trick on his mentor and created a rice dish that included saffron.  Thinking this a fine joke, he waited for a response from the guest.  To his surprise, the guest happily devoured the rice and so risotto was born! 

Mushroom Risotto
And how glad we are that the joke was played.  Because all that brings us to our recipe for risotto.  To get started, let's set the ground rules.  The 2 Prickly Pears have watched many a cooking shows.  Invariably risotto comes up either as a challenge or a test of culinary prowess.  And almost invariable, the chef makes a mess of the whole thing.  

Ground rules:
  • You cannot rush risotto.  It takes as long as it takes.  The process of cooking the rice in the broth on a medium heat is what brings out the trademark creamy texture.
  • Use the proper rice.  Risotto requires a short grain rice.
  • Make sure your stock is warm.  A cool stock will bring the temperature down in your pan and affect the texture of the rice.
  • Stirring the rice (agitating it) is necessary, but too much stirring will result in a mushy risotto.  Stir frequently, but not constantly.
Okay!  Let's get started on our Risotto.  We are making a basic dish with parmesan and peas.

Risotto with Parmesan and Peas
What you need:
6 cups hot chicken broth
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh cooked or frozen peas
salt and pepper

What you need to do:

Bring broth to a boil and keep hot.

Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter in skillet over medium-low heat and saute onions and garlic until tender.  Do not brown them.  Increase heat slightly and add the rice and stir for 1 minute.  Slowly add in 1 1/2 cup hot broth, boil gently in pan, stirring frequently until the broth is absorbed.  Add 1/2 cup more broth and stir until absorbed.  Continue this until all the broth is used.  Stir frequently, but do not stir constantly.  This will take between 25-30 minutes.  

Stir in 3 Tablespoons of butter, the cheese and the peas.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now, you've done it!  You've made risotto.  Remember the rules.  No risotto can be rushed!

We are so happy to eat our yummy risotto.  We hope you agree.

Now, go out and make something good.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Quesadillas, a quintessential Mexican food.

Traditional Quesadillas
There is absolutely no doubt that Mexican food plays a large part in the food American's buy and prepare. You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't enjoyed a taco or burrito or tortilla chips with salsa at some point in their life. And so today we are talking about a food from south of the border.  To put things into perspective, let's take a look at how our consumption of traditional Mexican fare fits into our culinary experience.

  • we consume 6,000,000,000 (that's right, billion) tacos per day in the US
  • we consume 368,260,000 burritos in a month
  • salsa sales are $700,000,000 annually (surpassing ketchup as a condiment)
  • we consume approximately 85,000,000,000 tortillas a year
  • while potato chips are the top-selling salty snack per pound sold in the U.S., tortilla chips show a robust growth that is challenging the spud in popularity.
It seems a whole lot of people are eating a whole lot of tortillas and we are going to talk about one very specific way tortillas can be enjoyed.

Quesadillas are a quintessential Mexican food.   But don't go thinking that the quesadilla you find in your local Tex-Mex restaurant is the whole story on this historical food. The history of quesadillas begins with tortillas.  Tortillas are a round, thin unleavened bread made from ground maize (corn). Maize was a basic food of Mesoamericans (Mexico and Central America) for many millenia. There is no way of knowing just how long ago corn was grown and ground into meal. It is known that when the Spanish Conquistadores arrived in the "New World," in the late 15th century, the people living there were eating flat corn breads (tortillas). The original native people known as Nahuati call these breads "tlaxcalli." The Spaniards renamed them "tortilla." It is speculated that tlaxcallis were made as early as 12,000 year ago.

The Mesoamerican people had perfected the skill of making tortillas. The thin, flatbread served as a portable pie. Its simplicity is a wonder. Make a tortilla, sprinkle some cheese on it and fold it over, fry it on a comal, and there you have it. Maybe these were the first turnovers ever made. Or maybe the first grilled cheese.  Who knows? After the Spanish named the flat bread, tortilla, they then named the turnover, quesadillas. This name literally means "little cheesy things."  What's not to like about that?!

Tortillas frying on a Comal
An authentic quesadilla is made from masa, which is made from maize blanco (white corn) that is dried and cured, then ground into a fine meal, then mixed with water to form a ball, flattened, filled and fried. This staple and tradition was passed down by the Mayans and Aztecs, who were considered advanced cultures in the Americas.

A purist would not consider two flour tortillas with cheese in between them a real quesadilla. Such a food is be called a sincronizada (Spanish for synchronized). Now, before we get too far into this, it seems that quesadillas and sincronizadas might be compared to like grinders and hoagies. They aren't really the same, but they aren't wholey different either.  While the quesadilla is made with one corn tortilla, filled, folded and fried, the sincronizadas are made with two flour tortillas, filled and fried.


On most every menu in any Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant in the U.S., you will find Quesadillas.  And this deliciousness has been transformed by everyone who has ever made one.  As we've said over and over, the 2 Prickly Pears respect and honor tradition.  We also encourage cooks to take what they know and make what they like.  These days you can find quesadillas made with chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, spices, and, of course, cheese.  Don't forget the cheese!  Otherwise it would just by a dilla....hmmm?

Today we are making our version of quesadillas (sincronizadas).  Keep in mind, when you are making your version, you can create everything from a basic, time-honored cheese quesadilla to more elaborate stuffed kind that has vegetables, meats, herbs and cheeses. The tortilla is a canvas that you can throw all sorts of things on and enjoy it your way.

Our version of quesadilla is Chipotle BBQ Chicken with Black Beans, Avocado, Green Chilies and Cheese. Here's the recipe:

Chicken Black Bean Quesadillas
Here's what you need:
Flour or Corn Tortillas
Asiago Cheese
Cooked Chicken, chopped up
BBQ Sauce
Chipotle Sauce (Adobe)
Black Beans
Green Chilies
Avocado chunks

Here's what you need to do:
Fry the chicken until done through and mix in the BBQ sauce and chipotle sauce (just enough sauce to coat the chicken).  In a large frying pan or flat grill heat just a bit of oil and place one tortilla in your pan.  Put on a layer of cheese, then some chicken, then the green chilies, then the black beans, then the avocado, and another layer of cheese.  Top with a second tortilla. When the bottom tortilla begins to brown, flip your quesadilla over and allow the other side to brown. Make sure the cheese is melted.  Transfer to a serving plate and using a pizza cutter, cut it into 6-8 wedges.  Serve with sour cream and salsa.

We are grateful to the people of Mexico and Central America for their contribution to the U.S. culinary experience.  Whether you like your quesadillas simple or complex, we hope you enjoy making and eating them.

Now, go out and make something good!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Easy As Pie!

Apple, cherry, mixed berry, peach, mulberry? Or perhaps French Silk, pecan, chocolate hazelnut, Boston Cream Pie...wait a minute. Boston Cream Pie is actually a cake. You guessed it; today we are talking about the sweetest of pies. It is our last day on pies and we thought we would leave the best for last. After all, who doesn't like pie!?!

In our humble opinion, a pie, any pie, is only as good as its crust. This has not always been the case, however. Historically, the purpose of a pastry shell was mainly to serve as a baking dish and was often too hard to actually eat. In the beginning of pie making, the first pies were called coffins. The word coffin means basket or box. These first pies were meat pies baked in crusts that formed a box, having a lid of dough. Pies with no lid were known as traps. These pies were kind of like our version of a casseroles only without a pan. The crust on the coffins or traps was usually inches thick which would hold up in long baking periods.

Of course, record keeping and documentation is quite sketchy, but it seems the roots of pie making can be traced to the ancient Egyptians during the Neolithic period, 9500 B.C. This is a time when tools were fastioned, animals were domesticated, and permanent communities were established. Pies during this era were called galettes.  Galettes could be called a more free form pie. These early pies were made of oats, wheat, rye and barley for a crust and filled with honey, then baked over coals.

Strawberry Galette
Around 1304 B.C. nuts and fruits were added to crusts.  This is likely the first form of pastry. The pharaoh of the day was King Ramses II. Drawings of such pastries are found on the walls of his tomb.  An offering to the Gods, no doubt.

Once the Roman's became acquainted with pies, after winning battles with the Greeks, pies spread throughout Europe. Along the way, states and countries adapted their own version and customs when making pie.

We best not neglect literature when we talk about pie. Most of us have heard the rhyme, "Sing a Song of Sixpence....four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie." That is more than a rhyme.  These pies are referred to as animated pies.  They would often include rabbits, frogs, turtles, along with birds. When the pie was opened all the creatures would emerge to entertain royalty.  We're not clear how this was managed, obviously no creature was actually baked.  More likely the crust was constructed with a lid or sometimes a whole in the bottom, and once baked and cooled, the creatures were put inside.  Turns out that if you had a large enough crust and a small enough person....well, this was done as a gift for a recognized king and queen of the day.

4 and 20 Black Birds Bake in a Pie
English women were baking pies long before their arrival to America.  No food of English fame compared to the making of pie. In fact shepherd's pie and cottage pie are the earliest pies made in an English kitchen. Shepherd's pie is made with lamb and vegetables. Cottage pie is made with beef and vegetables.   Both pies are topped with potatoes.

Shepherd's Pie
Upon coming to America the Pilgrims brought with them their love for pies. Thanks to the Native Americans, the new arrivals learned about local fruits and berries. Quickly these became a part of pie making.  Women began to use round pans to "cut corners" and make due with available ingredients. The pies became more shallow than the ones previously described.

As humans moved across North America, pies were a convenient way to feed families.  Pie was served at every meal. And from there pie was established as a permanent food in American culture.   If you don't think so, consider the fact that there isn't a county or state fair that doesn't have some contest including pie. Not only that, there is an American Pie Council. The Council sponsors National Pie Day, National Pie Championships, and the Great American Pie Festival.

Did you ever wonder where the colloquium "easy as pie" comes from? Once again, who really knows? But in 1886 in "Sporting Life" "like eating pie" was first recorded.   It doesn't refer to the ease of making pie, but rather the ease of eating pie.  It literally refers to something that is easy and pleasurable.

And we ask you, can eating pie be anything but easy and a pleasure to enjoy? Certainly not!

Pie is so much a part of American culture that it shows up all over the place in our general conversation. Here are some examples:

In apple pie order, meaning very well organized
Cut the pie up, dividing something up
Everyone gets a piece of the pie, there's some for everyone
Eating humble pie, being humble when wrong
Having a finger in the pie, being involved in something
Having a finger in too many pies, being involved in too many things
As American as apple pie, the typical American
Motherhood and apple pie, the essential elements of an American home
Pie in the sky, having to do with a special reward
Shut your pie hole, shut your mouth
A piece of the pie, sharing a part of the money with everyone, moving up in status (see the Jefferson' theme song, "we finally got a piece of the pie")
Nice as pie, someone being friendly when you don't expect them to be
Pie chart, an illustration of divisions of something
Pie-eyed, to be drunk

So you see, pie is in our culture, not to mention on our dining room table.

But let's get back to the idea that a pie is only as good as its crust.   Prickly Pear 1 has spent a great amount of time learning and practicing the skill of pie crust making.  We all know that person who barely has to try and can make a brilliant pie crust.  And then there's the rest of us.  But with a little support and confidence, and knowing a few tricks of the trade, we all can make a good crust for a good pie experience. Here's how:
  • Make sure that all your ingredients for your crust are COLD. This includes the butter or lard, the water, and some bakers even freeze their flour. This cannot be overstated. Cold ingredients are a must. 
  • Make sure you DO NOT overwork the dough. While kneading and working dough for bread is a given and much needed, overworking pastry dough will make it tough. You never want tough dough. It will make people sad to have pie with a tough crust. 
  • A real old world recipe included a bit of vinegar in the recipe for pie crust. Just a bit of vinegar will aid in making tender dough. This also works in cakes, as well.  Don't worry, the vinegar smell bakes away. 
There you have it. Not really complicated, but not following these essential rules will make for a bad pie crust.

Today's pie recipe is an easy-breezy Custard Pie with a flaky crust. The crust recipe can be used for any pie you like, even savory pies.

Custard Pie

What you need:
For the crust:
1 1/4 Cup Flour
1 T Sugar
1/4 t Salt
8 Tablespoons Cold Butter, cubed
3 Tablespoons Cold Water

For the custard:
2 Cups Milk
1/2 Cup Sugar **
6 Large Eggs
dash of Salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

What you need to do:

For the crust, place the flour, sugar and salt in your food processor.  Pulse for a moment to mix.  Add COLD butter and combine until your get a corn meal like texture.  Gradually add COLD water, mixing until dough forms a ball.  If more water is needed, only add a very little until dough comes together.  Shape dough in a round disc and wrap.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes or over night.  Bring dough to room temperature before rolling out your pie crust for a 9 inch pie pan.  

For the custard, mix milk and sugar together to dissolve the sugar thoroughly.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt.  Using a hand mixer, beat the custard for 30-45 seconds, making sure the eggs are fully incorporated.  The custard will be a bit foamy.  Allow it to rest for a few minutes so the bubbles go away.  Pour the custard in your prepared pie crust.

**if you like a sweeter custard, increase the sugar to 3/4 cup.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until center of pie is set.  Cool complete before serving.

We know everyone enjoys pie.  And there are so many kinds just waiting to be enjoyed.  So feel free to make your own.  It really isn't that fact, it's as easy as pie!  :)

Now, go out and make something good.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Order UP! One Pizza Pie!

What we know as pizza today is not how pizza started.  History shows us that flatbread is where pizza really started.  Flatbread pizza has made a comeback these past few years.  but to the early Romans, panis focacius, or focaccia, was a flat, cooked bread that had toppings added to it.  These toppings often consisted of oils and herbs.

Flat Bread Pizza
French and Italian archaeologists found bread baked over 7,000 years ago. And ancient Greeks had a flat bread called plakous which was flavored with garlic, herbs, and onions.

Other parts of the world had their own versions of flat bread. For example, South Asia has Naan, a leavened bread; and Roti, which is unleavened.

The actually word "pizza" appeared in Gaeta, in Southern Italy in 997 AD. The reference was that a tenant renting property was to give the bishop duodecim pizze (twelve pizzas) every Christmas Day.

Over hundreds of years the complexion of pizza has changed. It moved from a simple baked crust with oils and herbs to including tomatoes and cheese. To include tomatoes was actually quite innovative because when tomatoes were brought to Europe from the Americas, Europeans believe they were poisonous. By the late 1700's it became popular, especially for the poor to add tomatoes. It is believed that this is the true beginning of pizza as we know it today. As pizza in Naples, Italy gained popularity, tourists began to seek out the tasty pies in poor areas of the city.

Pizza began to be sold at open-air stands or out of pizza bakeries. This tradition has not been lost over the years. You can still go to Naples and enjoy a slice wrapped in paper as you walk along.

There are purists in the world. They will tell you there are only two true pizzas. These are the Marinara and the Margherita. The Marinara is the oldest and is topped with tomato, oregano, garlic and olive oil. It is so named for the seaman's wife (la marinara) who made this pizza for husband upon his return from fishing trip.
Marinara Pizza
The Margherita is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. Queen Margherita of Savoy, in 1889, was presented with three different pizzas. The Queen's favorite was the pizza that had the colors of the Italian flag, green, red, and white. Today, there are pizzerias in Italy that only prepare these two types of pizzas.

Margherita Pizza
In 1984, the Associazion Verace Pizza Napoletana, set the rules that must be followed for an authentic Neapolan pizza. The rules are, the pizza must be baked in a wood-fired, domed oven; that the crust must be hand-kneaded and must not be rolled with a pin or mechanical means, and the pizza must not exceed 35 centimeters in diameter (that's 14 inches, in case you were wondering) or be more than one-third of a centimeter thick at the center. Now, that for being precise! No rule breaking here. As a matter of fact the Association selects pizzerias all over the world to promote this pizza philosophy.

It's no surprise that pizza showed up in the United States when immigrants from Italy arrived in the late 19th century. Pizza peddlers walked up and down the streets of New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia selling their wares. Due to the popularity of pizza, soon small cafes opened offering pizzas to the Italian-American communities.

The first recognized American pizzeria was opened by Gennaro Lombardi in New York in 1905. The price of a pizza was five cents. However, many people could not afford the price of a whole pie, and so the slice was born. Customers would say how much they could afford and a slice was made to fit that amount.

Even though pizza was popular among the immigrants, it wasn't until the 1940's that the rest of the world discovered it's importance. During WWII, GI's became weary of their army rations and looked for better possibilities. While overseas they discovered Italian pizzerias. They brought back home with them the taste for pizza. From this came all sorts of pizzas and pizza styles. Today each of us can name several pizza delivery stores, and are acquainted with everything from thin-crust to deep-dish pizza.

Just in case you were wondering just how popular pizza is in today's society, here's a chart giving some details:

Pizza Eating StatisticsData
Pounds of pepperoni consumed every year from pizza252 million pounds
Annual pizza sale revenue$32 billion
Slices of pizza that are eaten each second350 slices
Total number of pizzerias in the U.S.70,000
Percent of independent pizzerias that make up all pizzerias65%
Average number of slices of pieces of pizza eaten by a person every year46 slices
Total number of pizza’s sold in the U.S. each year3 billion
Total number of pizza’s sold worldwide each year5 billion
Percent of all pizzerias that offer delivery83%
Percent of Americans who prefer thin crust pizza61%
Total number of pizzerias in the state of New York alone9,000
Percent of Americans who eat at least one piece of pizza per month93 %

statistics on pizza eating industry ? how much pizza does the average american consume?, what percentage of restaurants are pizzerias?, how many pizzerias are in new york?, what percentage of pizzas have pepperoni?, what percentage of pizzerias offer delivery?, what is the total revenue for all pizza consumption every year?, how many pizzas are consumed in the u.s. every year?, how many pizzas are consumed worldwide every year?, how many slices of pizza are eaten each minute?, how many slices of pizza are eaten each second?

The 2 Prickly Pears hope you are not thinking that making your own pizza is difficult.  We are here to let you know that you, too, can make a yummy crust and a flavorful pizza in your very own kitchen.

Keep in mind, that the true beauty of pizza is that you can make it your way.  You can put on the toppings you like.  We respect the old ways, but encourage you to step out and create the pizza pie that best represents you.

We offer you a recipe for Pizza with a fresh, homemade crust, Italian sausage, pepperoni, fresh mozzarella, and black olives.

Homemade Pizza
What you need:

The crust:
3 1/2 cups flour *
1 teaspoon sugar
1 envelope dry yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons


Italian Sausage
Chopped black olives
Mozzarella cheese
Pizza Sauce

What you need to do:

To make crust, add all dry ingredients together.  Mix the water and 2 Tablespoons olive oil into the dry ingredients until a dough forms.  If you have a stand mixer with a bread hook, it can do the kneading for you.  If kneading by hand, knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth.  Coat a medium size glass bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil.  Place the pizza dough in the bowl, turning it over to coat with olive oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm area for approximately 1 hour.  It will double in size.  Punch the dough down and divide into two balls.  Let the dough rest about 10 minutes.  Roll out one ball into a 14 inch round and top it first with pizza sauce, then cheese and then the rest of your toppings.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

* If you use bread flour, your crust will be crispier.  If you use all purpose flour, your crust will be chewier.

*** These are classic toppings.  Go ahead and be bold and choose toppings that you like.  The pizza dough is your canvas.  Paint it as you see fit.  And just enjoy!!

Now, go out and make something good.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Pasties, how do you pronounce that anyway?

Classic Cornish Pasty
It was difficult to decide which "P" word to discuss today. We will be doing Pie.  But what kind of pie? There are lots and lots of possibilities.  We will take today and the next two weeks and talk about three different kinds of pie.

Today's Pie?   We will start with a Pasty.  Pasty is pronounced pass-tee.  (Not to be confused with tassles found on a stripper's chest.) It turns out these lovely hand-held pockets of yummy have a history that isn't really clear.  However, there are very strong feelings around the notion that Pasties were invented in Cornwall, England; hence the name Cornish Pasties. 
Cornwall, England
Like many foods we hear and read about, the pasty, too, started as a food the wealthy indulged in.   In Cornwall tin and copper mining were the common trade. The miners and their families adopted the pasty as a means of having a meal that was easy to heat up and eat without leaving the mine. At lunch break, the miner would take the pasty and put it on a shovel and set it over the fire in the mine. No fork or knife needed! 

There is even a ceremony around how to eat a pasty. It's more like a superstition for the miners. One is to eat the pasties from one end to the other, but the first corner was saved for the mine, itself.  This bite was left for the spirit of the mine so the mine would gladly give up its metal and not cave in on the miners.

It's difficult to find definitive information, but that's okay. What we do know is that the Cornish eventually came to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan after the metal crisis happened in England.  With them they brought their pasties, along with considerable mining knowledge.  This knowledge was adopted by the local inhabitants.  The new culinary experience of pasties has become a source of regional pride in Michigan.   

As you might guess, there was some controversy as different ethnic groups chimed in as to how to make an appropriate pasty. Pasty rivalries developed between the Finns, Swedes, Irish, Poles, Germans, Scots, Italians and French. Each group contributed something to the pasties we know today. One thing everyone could agree on was that a pasty mucst have potatoes and onions as part of the filling. And so it is! 

The simplicity of pasties is also the genius of it. A pasty is a crust filled with beef and vegetables.

We offer you a traditional Cornish Pasties recipe today.  Not to worry, we are including potatoes and onions in keeping with the general consensus.

Pasties the 2 Prickly Pear way!

Here's what you need:

1 1/4 cup flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
8 Tablespoon cold butter cut in 8 cubes
1/4 - 1/2 cup cold water

Crust wash:
1 egg
2 Tablespoon milk

1 lb ground chuck or chuck steak diced in 1/3 inch pieces
2 medium size red potatoes diced
1 medium size carrot diced
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Here's what you need to do:

For crust:

In food processor, combine flour, sugar,  and salt.  Add cold butter and pulse until flour mixture has the appearance of corn meal.  Gradually add water and process just until mixture turns to a ball.  Do not over process.  Divide dough into four pieces and shape into discs.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:

Combine all ingredients.  You can cook all the ingredients separately if you like and combine. If not then make sure when you bake your pasties that everything is cooked through.  

Remove dough from refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.  Roll out each disc of dough into a round.  Place approximately 1/2 cup of filling in the center.  Pull one side of the dough over the filling and fold the edges over each other to seal in the filling.  

Combine the egg and milk and beat thoroughly.  Brush the entire surface and edges of your pastie.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  

Serve to your happy eaters.

Next we will be talking about the 2nd "P" word.....Pie...Pizza Pie, that is.

Now, go out and make something good.