Oatmeal Bread

More pandemic bread making.  I am using one of the last envelopes of yeast my neighbor was kind enough to share with me.  Yeast and flour are extremely hard to come by right now.  I’ve never before had trouble finding yeast on the grocery store shelves.  Apparently toilet paper isn’t the only thing people are hoarding. A friend messaged me a couple days ago after finding a jar of yeast in her freezer which had a 2013 expiration date on it.  She wanted to know if I thought it was still good.  I sent her a link with instructions for testing the yeast to see if it would still work.  Testing is really very simple.  You put a little yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar and it should start bubbling after a few minutes.  If it bubbles, you’re good to go.  Amazingly her yeast was still good.  Freezing or refrigerating dry yeast lengthens its shelf life as long as it is in an airtight container.  Cake yeast should not be frozen.  But truthfully, I haven’t seen cake yeast in years!!

Back to my oatmeal bread.  This recipe is one that I found years ago in the food section of a local newspaper.  It’s a hearty, dense bread.  Easy to make. The brown sugar and whole wheat flour give it a bit of a sweet molasses like flavor.  We toasted some this morning and enjoyed it with a cup of coffee.

Ingredients:

1 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 T salt

2 T butter

2 cups boiling water

2 1/4 tsp dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

4 cups AP flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl, pouring the boiling water over the butter and dry ingredients.  Stir and set aside until it cools to lukewarm.

Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup of lukewarm water.  Once the oatmeal mixture has cooled, add the yeast.  If it is too hot it will kill the yeast so make sure you’ve allowed it to cool sufficiently.  Start stirring in the 4 cups of AP flour and the 1/2 cup of wheat flour.  You’ll have a shaggy dough.

Empty the dough onto a clean work surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes.  Add a little additional flour if necessary.  After kneading you should have a smooth, slightly sticky dough.

Place the dough in a bowl that has been lightly greased with butter.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel.  This bowl belonged to my grandmother who regularly made pulla (a Finnish braided bread with cardamom) and limpu (a Finnish rye bread).  Over the years I watched lots of bread dough rise in that bowl making it extra special to me.

Put the bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise until it is double in size.  Many new ovens have a proof setting that you can use to speed the rise process a bit.

Punch the dough down and divide into two loaves.  You can shape them into standard loaves and put them in greased pans or shape them in rounds on a parchment covered sheet pan.  Whatever your shape preference.  Cover with a towel and allow the dough to once again double.  While your dough is rising preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the pans and allow the loaves to cool on a wire rack.  Slice and enjoy. There’s nothing like homemade bread.  The ultimate comfort food.

NOTE:  This dough can be made using the dough hook on your KitchenAid.  But I think hand kneading is much more satisfying.  As my daughter says, sometimes you just have the need to knead.  If you keep making bread during this pandemic, it becomes important and necessary to share it with someone.

Babka

During this Coronavirus pandemic many of us have been busy cooking and baking. The stores, at least temporarily, are out of yeast and flour. Fortunately we had a small stockpile. Last week my friend Jane and I were on voluntary quarantine with my daughter in Chicago. We decided baking bread was a good project to pass the time. Our first loaf of bread was an herb loaf that we apparently allowed to rise too long. It fell during baking and, while it tasted okay hot out of the oven, it was too dense and it later became croutons. A second batch of dough didn’t want to rise at all. We tried deep frying dough balls to simulate donut holes on the theory that anything tastes good deep fried. Wrong. Everything does not taste good deep fried. Our “donut holes” were overcooked on the outside and raw in the center. Even liberal dosing with cinnamon sugar didn’t help. Then we decided to make a Babka. Babka is a traditional Polish Jewish bread. In Polish Babka means old lady or grandmother. If I was a grandmother I wouldn’t mind being called Babka. Soft and sweet and smelling of cinnamon and vanilla. Babka is thought to have originated in the early 1800s when extra challah dough would be spread with cinnamon or jelly and rolled up before baking. The recipe we used is a King Arthur Cinnamon Babka recipe with golden raisins and pecans. Last week we made an initial babka run. I failed at reading the instructions correctly and we cut the dough wrong. It still tasted great! Once I got back home I made another loaf of babka. This time I knew how to properly cut the dough.

Dough Ingredients:

3 cups (361g) AP flour

2 tsp instant yeast

1/4 tsp cinnamo

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 large egg

5 T unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all of your dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl, starting with the lesser amount of water. With a wooden spoon mix all of the ingredients together until everything is moistened. If necessary add more of the water until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Remove the dough to a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and smooth. Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover, and allow the dough to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the dough is quite puffy.

While your dough is rising make your filling.

Filling Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tsp cinnamon

1 T AP flour

1/4 cup melted butter

1/2 cup diced pecans

1/2 cup golden raisins


Just before you’re ready to shape the dough combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon and stir in the water and melted butter. Set aside.

Once the dough has risen place it on a clean, lightly floured surface and shape into a 9” by 18” rectangle that should be about 1/4 inch thick. If the dough is fighting you let it rest about 10 minutes, then stretch some more. I used my hands to shape the dough.

Smear the dough with the filling coming to within an inch of the edges. Sprinkle with the nuts and raisins.

Starting with the short end roll the dough gently into a log sealing the seam and ends.

Using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise, not crosswise.  You should have two pieces of dough, each about 10” long.  Take care to prevent too much filling from spilling out.  With the filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath.  Place the twisted loaf into a lightly greased 9×5 loaf pan.

Whisk an egg with a pinch of salt and brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash.  Cover the loaf and let it rise until very puffy and crowned a good inch over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Toward the end of the rise time preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Now the bread is ready for the oven.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil during the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.  The loaf should be a deep golden brown and the internal temperature should be about 195.

Remove the babka from the oven and immediately loosen the edges with a spatula or kitchen knife.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Slice and enjoy.

NOTE:  King Arthur suggests a topping (also known as supreming) consisting of:

2 T AP flour

1 T brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 T cold butter

Mix the topping ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle over the loaf before rising.  

I used the topping on one loaf but not on the other.  We also omitted the raisins in the first loaf.  As with so many recipes, it’s all a matter of personal preference.  

It seems like it would make excellent French toast but I haven’t tried that.  It is excellent briefly warmed in the microwave or oven.

 

Meatballs

Meatballs are a classic comfort food and they are so versatile.  You’ll find countless recipes in cookbooks and online.  Spaghetti and meatballs, Swedish meatballs, meatball subs, teeny tiny meatballs in Italian wedding soup.  They can be adapted to different ethnic cuisines by altering the meat you use, the seasonings and the sauces.   Jewish meatballs made with ground lamb, veal or chicken.  Middle Eastern are made with bulgur (cracked wheat) and ground lamb, beef, goat or camel. Traditional German meatballs are made with beef liver or pork.  In Austria spleen is mixed in with the liver.  And, of course, Finnish meatballs, which are made with ground beef, fried in butter, and finished in a milk gravy.  I just made a very large batch of meatballs to take to a funeral dinner.  The ingredients below are for a small batch…about 15-20 medium size meatballs.  I multiplied the recipe by eight.  Use the ground meat of your choosing.  I used half ground round and half bulk Italian sausage.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground meat

1 egg

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1/2 cup milk or half n half

1 cup bread crumbs

2 tsp garlic salt

1 T Worcestershire

2 T fresh flat leaf parsley chopped

1/2 c finely diced onio

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

I save ends of bread and grind them up in my food processor for bread crumbs.  I added my parsley near the end of the grind.

Once your bread is in the bowl stir in your milk or half n half and add the eggs.

Add the ground meat, onions, Worcestershire, garlic and herbs.

Add the fresh grated cheese.

Now comes the fun part.  Take off your rings, roll up your sleeves and dig in with both hands.  Mix all of the ingredients together well.  Once everything is incorporated you’re ready to start making balls.

I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper (easier clean up) and used a scoop to make my meatballs a consistent size.

I baked these at 375 for approximately 20 minutes.  Baking time will vary based on the size and number of meatballs.  Internal temperature should ideally be 160 degrees.  Meatballs can also be fried on top of the stove in butter or olive oil.  I almost always bake my meatballs unless I’m making a small batch in which case I may do them over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet.

Once the meatballs are done it is time to sauce them.  You can add them to your pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or gravy depending on what you’re serving.  I used what I call a sweet and sour and it’s been a standby for years.  One bottle of Brooks Tangy catsup and one can of Ocean Spray Whole Cranberry Sauce.  Stir the two together and ladle over the meatballs.

Because I made 8X the recipe, I layered the meatballs and sauce in the roaster.  By doing that you ensure that the sauce reaches all of the meatballs for best results.

Once they’ve been sauced I put them in the oven at 325 degrees for about an hour to meld the flavors.  And that’s that.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  If you’re making meatballs they freeze well.  You’re already making a mess and getting your hands dirty so you might as well double or triple the recipe.  Allow them to cool completely, put them in freezer bags and they’ll be ready for a quick dinner or appetizer.  One of my Dad’s favorite foods was meatloaf.  I used to make up enough for several miniature loaf pans and freeze them for easy dinners.

Change up the ground meat…chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, beef or a combination.  Change up the spices depending on the dish you’re serving and the flavor profile you’re looking for.

Focaccia Garden

 

About a week ago a friend posted a picture of a beautiful pan of focaccia bread.  And I had to make it.  There are lots and lots of recipes for focaccia bread on line.  The recipes almost all have lots of olive oil and herbs.  Some have olives, cheeses, tomato, bits of bacon or vegetables…the possibilities are endless.  Focaccia bakes up a little crispy on the outside (I’m sure due to all the olive oil) and soft on the inside.  It is a yeasted flat bread that I believe originated in Italy.  Originally focaccia was cooked in wood fired ovens which would obviously be wonderful…adding that smoky flavor to all of the garlic and herbs.  My fascination with this particular loaf was the flower garden of vegetables.  Focaccia is a really easy bread to make and creating the garden was just a bonus!  And who doesn’t like some warm bread fresh from the oven??

Bread Ingredients:

1/2 cup olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

1 tsp dried thyme (or 1 T fresh)

1 tsp dried rosemary (or 1 T fresh)

fresh ground black pepper

1 cup warm water

2 1/4 tsp yeast

1/4 tsp honey

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

In a small cold skillet, combine the olive oil, rosemary and thyme, black pepper and garlic.  I combined the rosemary, thyme and black pepper in my mortar to bring out the flavors before adding them to the oil.

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes until oil is aromatic being careful not to brown the garlic.  If the garlic is browned it can give off a bitter, off-putting taste.  Set the oil aside and allow to cool.  You don’t want to add it into the flour and yeast mixture when it is too hot or you will kill the yeast.

Combine warm water, yeast and honey in a large bowl.  Stir to combine and let sit for 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup of garlic and herb infused oil and 1 cup of flour to the yeast and stir until flour has been moistened.  Allow it to rest another 5 minutes.

Stir in the remaining flour and salt until the dough comes together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a half dozen times until the dough is smooth.

Put the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel, set in a warm place, and allow to rise for about an hour.

Preheat  the oven to 450.

Spread 2 T of the garlic and herb oil in a 9×13 baking sheet.  Take the dough and press it down onto the baking sheet.  Use your fingers to dimple the dough and then drizzle 2 T of the garlic and herb oil on top of the dough.

Let rise for about 20 minutes until slightly puffed.  When the 20 minutes starts we have the fun part!  Get out your flower making produce.

Use your imagination.  Anything goes.

Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.  As you can see, the bread looked a little prettier before it was baked.  But pretty cool nonetheless.

The house still smells wonderful from the herb and garlic infused oil and the bread was delicious. I used a partial clove of garlic in my rasping bowl, added a little olive oil, and we dipped the bread.  Had some for lunch and will be enjoying some tonight with eggplant Parmesan.

 

This beautiful rasping bowl was purchased from LaTulip Pottery and Tile Works in Garden, MI.  LaTulip Pottery is on facebook if you want to look them up.  I originally purchased a rasping bowl at a little gift shop in Munising, MI and subsequently ordered more for gifts directly from LaTulip.

NOTE:  If you’d like you can switch up the herbs, add more or less garlic.  I’m thinking that this recipe (minus the vegetable garden) would be very good with pizza toppings and cheese.  I’m not a fan of thick pizza crust but I think I might like it on the focaccia.

Pound Cake

Eating Well was not the source for the pound cake recipe, but it’s one of my favorite foodie magazines and it seemed like a perfect placemat for enjoying a piece of cake with ice cream.  I’m sure there are literally hundreds of pound cake recipes on the internet and in cookbooks.  Some call for sour cream, fruit juice and zest, extracts, even a shot or two of rum.  The one I made today is one of the very basic of recipes that consists of a pound of this, a pound of that.  According to the internets, pound cake apparently dates back to the early 18th century and originated in Europe.  A pound cake recipe was published in the first American cookbook, “American Cookery”, published in 1796.  In France the pound cake is called “quatre-quarts” which means four quarters.  In Mexico it’s called “panque’” with the most common variant being the addition of raisins or walnuts.  This recipe makes two loaf pans, two pounds each.  It’s a lot of cake, but it’s the perfect vehicle for berries and whipped cream or a scoop or two of ice cream.  It’s also a very simple cake to make and most of us have all of the ingredients on hand.

Ingredients:

1 pound of sugar (approximately 2 1/4 cups)

1 pound of butter (4 sticks at room temperature)

1 pound of flour (approximately 4 cups)

1 doz eggs

Preheat your oven to 325.  Grease two loaf pans and line with parchment paper.

Cream together the sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until they are light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  With the mixer running, slowly add the flour and mix just until incorporated.

Divide the batter, as evenly as possible, into the two prepared loaf pans.

Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Loosen edges, remove cakes from the pans, peel off parchment, and allow to cool completely on wire racks.

Dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar or drizzle with a glaze.  I whisked together 2 cups of powdered sugar and 3-4 T of fresh squeezed lemon juice.  A little sweet, a little tart.

Slice and enjoy.

NOTE:  This cake freezes well.  I froze individual slices in zip lock bags.  While this time I did not add any flavorings, this recipe is excellent with some vanilla paste, or a little rum, or juiced citrus and zest.  Toasted nuts, raisins, dried cherries, or chocolate chips would also make great additions.  It’s pretty much a blank slate.

 

Empanadas

 

It occurred to me, as I was making the empanadas today, the last couple of weeks have been an ethnic diversity palooza in my kitchen.  I made a Moroccan chicken tagine with apricots and olives, Asian inspired sticky ginger sesame chicken meatballs, Mexican tostadas with my friend’s pickled pigs feet sauce, a Vietnamese shrimp spring roll bowl with sweet chili mango sauce, Italian chicken parmesan with linguine and marinara, Polish pierogis with polish sausage and cabbage, and Jewish penicillin, chicken soup with matzo balls.  It’s all been good.  A couple recipes were better than others.  But good just the same.  It makes cooking and mealtime much more interesting when you experiment and try new dishes.  A couple weeks ago I got new kitchen gadgets that made pierogis and empanadas more fun to make…a crimper and a roller that cuts the dough into perfectly sized discs to fit the crimper.  The gadgets are the real reason I was inspired to make the empanadas today.  I have a few packages of pierogis in my freezer.  Now I will have a few bags of empanadas in my freezer.  The recipe for the empanadas comes from America’s Test Kitchen, special collector’s edition, The Best Mexican Recipes.  There are a lot of great recipes in that magazine.

Dough ingredients:

3 3/4 cups AP flour (18 3/4 oz.)

1 T sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

12 T unsalted, chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 1/4 cups ice water

2 T olive oil

Process the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined.  Scatter the butter in the processor over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.  Add 1/4 cup of water at a time, stirring after each addition.  You may not need to use all of the water.  Once the dough sticks together, turn out onto a clean, dry work surface and gently press into a cohesive ball.  Divide the dough into two discs, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.  Let the chilled dough sit out on the counter for a few minutes before rolling.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling.  I made a vegetarian filling with corn, peppers, and cheese.

Filling Ingredients:

2 T unsalted butter

1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped fine

3 whole canned mild green chilis chopped fine

3 green onions, whites minced and greens sliced thin

1 small mild orange pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped fine

2 cloves of garlic minced

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

salt and pepper

3/4 cup frozen corn thawed

1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped

6 oz shredded Jack cheese

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook the peppers and scallion whites until softened and lightly browned.

Stir in the garlic and the spices and cook another 30 seconds until fragrant.

Stir in the corn and remove from the heat.  Put the corn, pepper mixture in a bowl and refrigerate until completely cool.

While that’s chilling, slice the scallion greens, cilantro, and grate the Jack cheese.  Once cool, mix all of the ingredients together and now you’re ready to start rolling your dough.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut discs with a biscuit cutter, a glass, or, if you’re fortunate enough to have one of these rollers, roll on.

Fill each circle with 1 T of filling.  Brush the edges of the dough with water to help ensure a good seal.  Fold the dough over and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.  Or, if you’re fortunate enough to have a crimper, crimp on.

Transfer the empanadas to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush each with olive oil.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Allow to cool and enjoy!

NOTE:  The filling options are endless.  There is a beef and cheese filling in the magazine and many, many more recipes on line.  The empanadas freeze well.  Put them in the freezer on a cookie sheet until frozen and then transfer them to zip lock freezer bags.  Bake them a few extra minutes if they’ve come out of the freezer.  Serve them as is or with salsa or Mexican crema.

Peanut Butter Fudge

One of my most requested recipes around the holidays is for peanut butter fudge.  Years ago I worked with someone who brought in peanut butter fudge that his wife made every Christmas.  It was excellent. But when I asked for the recipe he said it was a family secret and he would not share it.  After that I tried several different recipes for peanut butter fudge and finally stumbled on this one that I’ve been using for the last 20 years or more.  I have no idea where I found it, but it is every bit as good, if not better, than the “family recipe” my coworker refused to share.  The fudge pictured above is my version of Reese which is my daughter’s favorite.  A layer of peanut butter fudge and a layer of chocolate.  Of course I end up with two 9×13 pans of this, but I guess that’s not a bad thing.  And I’m all about sharing recipes!

Ingredients:

4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 cup evaporated milk

1 T white vinegar

1 T light corn syrup

dash of salt

12 oz creamy peanut butter

13 oz jar marshmallow creme

1 tsp vanilla

Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil, allowing a generous overhang on each side, and lightly butter the foil and the pan.  This makes the fudge easy to lift out and cut.

Combine the sugar, butter, milk, vinegar, corn syrup and salt in a deep heavy kettle like a Dutch oven.  Stirring constantly cook over medium high heat until your candy thermometer reads 236 degrees.  Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and marshmallow cream until completely incorporated.  Stir in the vanilla.

Pour into your prepared pan and allow it to cool completely.

This fudge is a perfect addition to our Christmas cookie trays.

NOTE:  I’ve never made this with chunky peanut butter and I’ve never added peanuts, but either of those modifications might be good.  If you want to make our Reese version the chocolate fudge recipe I use is also on my blog.  For some reason I only make this a Christmas but I’m thinking fudge is good any time of year.  My good friend and cookie baking partner gives a whole pan to her sister who cuts it up and freezes it.  When she is craving some peanut butter goodness she takes a piece or two out of the freezer.

Tostadas

My good friend Cathy makes the very best authentic Mexican dishes.  It’s what she has been cooking all of her life.  One of my favorites are her tostadas.  So good!  Of course she makes her own tortillas, which I only attempted once and failed miserably at.  It’s much easier to buy them at the grocery.  I’ve always wanted to try making her tostadas (with store bought tortillas) and finally asked me her to share her recipe with me.  Just like McDonalds has a recipe for special sauce, she does as well.  The secret ingredient in her sauce is pickled pigs feet.  An ingredient not easily found where I live.  Several stores later I hit the jackpot and now I know where to go.

I looked up tostada and it means “toasted” in Spanish.  Tostadas are made with tortillas that have been deep fried or toasted, usually corn tortillas.  They used to be made from tortillas that  were no longer fresh enough to be used for tacos, but took on a new life when they were fried.  Maybe that’s also how corn chips and nachos originated.  Tostadas can be made with any of the toppings you might use for tacos.  One locale in Mexico is famous for pizza sized tostadas called tlayudo which are topped with fried grasshoppers.

Because tostadas are made on fried tortillas they are somewhat fragile so you will want a base that is pasty enough to hold the other toppings in place.

Ingredients:

Tortillas (I used flour because that’s what I had on hand)

Vegetable oil for frying

Chorizo

Pinto beans

Onion

Cheese (I used a sharp cheddar)

Diced tomatoes

Pickled pigs feet

Oregano and garlic powder to taste

Heat your oil in a heavy skillet and deep fry the tortillas.  Drain on paper towel.

Add a little oil to a skillet and cook the chorizo with diced onions until the meat is no longer pink.  The chorizo I get is a little spicy and seasoned well so I did not add any additional spice.  If I were using ground beef or pork I would add cumin, chili powder, and oregano along with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the beans and add to the onion and meat mixture.  Allow them to cook together and then mash the beans.  If necessary, add a little broth to keep the meat and beans from drying out.

While that’s cooking, dice up the jar of pickled pigs feet taking care to remove any bones.  I dumped the contents of the jar into my mesh strainer allowing the liquid to drain off and worked from there.

Purée the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.  I think I made a mistake here and added the pickled pigs feet to the blender along with the tomatoes.  I should have just blended the tomatoes and stirred in the finely diced pigs feet.  It made the color of the sauce a little off putting.  However I don’t think it changed the flavor profile.  Add oregano and garlic powder to taste.

Shred your cheese.  You can use cheese that you purchase already shredded, but I think when you shred it yourself it melts better and actually has more flavor.

Now you’re ready to assemble your  tostadas.  The first layer is your meat and bean mixture.  Then the sauce.

Choose whatever toppings you want to add and then cheese.

I put the assembled tostada in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt the cheese a little.  I served ours with avocado, lettuce and a little lime.

I don’t know what is proper, using your hands or silverware.  We used silverware.  They were excellent eaten with a knife and fork but might taste better using your hands!  Even the “I won’t eat pickled pigs feet folk” will like them.  It is a special sauce.  The ingredients can be the cook’s secret.  Thank you Cathy for sharing.  Enjoy your tostadas with a cold beer.  Cheers.

NOTE:  Use any toppings you like.  Diced tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, jalapeños, diced onion.  You’re only limited by your imagination.

Cudighi

Cudighi is an Italian sausage that originated in northern Italy and is seasoned with sweet spices, but is now primarily made and served in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  You’ll see it on the menu of many mom and pop restaurants and bars that serve burgers and sandwiches.  If you’re a “Yooper,” you’re most certainly familiar with cudighi.  You’ve had it in a sandwich with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, on pizza, or in other dishes that would traditionally be make with Italian sausage.  An old friend of mine was famous for making cudighi sausage in a tomato gravy served with polenta.  Italian immigrants in northern  Michigan began making “Gudighi” in the 1930s.  It is apparently derived from Cotechino, a northern Italian fresh sausage make from pork, fatback, and pork rind.  Some places add a little heat to their recipe, most likely with red pepper flakes.   Since Cudighi is not available to any of us Michiganders in the Lower Peninsula, my friend Jane and I decided to make our own.  There are a couple recipes on line as well as  commentary by one individual who claims to have the “original” recipe for cudighi, but has been sworn to secrecy and cannot disclose the ingredients.  This was our first attempt.  We did not use casing but you certainly could.  The result was pretty darn good.  We each bought about seven pounds of pork butt and set about to make our cudighi.  You’ll need a good electric meat grinder or a manual grinder and a strong arm.  Meat should be cut into strips and semi-frozen before you put it through the grinder so that it doesn’t gum up.

Ingredients:

Ground pork butt

1/2 cup of dry red wine per 2 pounds of ground pork

Spice blend:

3 T kosher salt

1 T fresh ground black pepper

1 T nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp mace

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 T garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Whisk spice blend and use 2 T of spices and 1/2 cup of red wine per 2 pounds of ground pork.

Work the spices and wine into the meat with your hands.  Once the spices and wine have been worked into the  meat, cover and refrigerate for two or three days.  We divided the cudighi into one pound packages and sealed them for freezing.

Of course I had to cook some up so we could sample the end result. I made small paddies for sliders and fried them on a cast iron griddle.  This sausage recipe may require a little tweaking but we were pretty pleased with the end result.

Choose your toppings.  I used mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce, tomato and red onion.

The only thing left to do is assemble and enjoy.

Serve with your favorite side.  Chips, potato salad, baked beans.  Mangia!

NOTE:  If you want your cudighi kicked up, add a few pepper flakes.  You may want to increase or decrease the amount of spice blend.  This sausage is different from what most of us think of as traditional Italian sausage because of the ”sweet” spices like cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg.  The cudighi that I get from the Chatham Co-op, in my little UP home town, has more heat.  In the end it’s all a matter of personal taste.

 

 

 

Cheesy Grits and Sausage

The Saturday after Thanksgiving my brother and his wife and family come to celebrate the holiday with us and we have a themed dinner that has nothing to do with the traditional turkey and fixings.  We’ve done Finnish, Polish, Mexican, and Soups and Breads.  This year our theme was Southern fare.  We had barbecued beef brisket, mac and cheese with pimentos, green beans with bacon and onions, coleslaw, bread pudding with bourbon sauce for dessert, and, for breakfast Sunday morning, cheesy grits with sausage.  Sometimes I think the internets know what we are thinking before we know what we are thinking because Allrecipes emailed me this recipe well ahead of our Southern menu being finalized.  When you travel through the south you know that a side of grits comes with breakfast, lunch and dinner so grits fit our theme perfectly.  This casserole is easy to put together, very favorable and very filling.  If you do have any leftovers they reheat well.  Grits originated with Native Americans who would grind corn in a stone mill giving it the “gritty” taste.  It was first served as a porridge.  Grits are rich in iron and B vitamins and add fiber to your diet.

Even if you’re thinking…”ewwwww, grits”…keep an open mind and try this dish. We had good friends visiting this weekend and it was our breakfast this morning.  This recipe fed four people with some leftovers.

Ingredients:

3 cups water

1 cup 5 minute grits

1/4 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese

1 pound of breakfast sausage

6 eggs

1/2 cup of milk

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350.  Cook the sausage in a heavy skillet until it is no longer pink  Drain off any grease and set aside.

Shred the cheese.

Whisk together the eggs and milk.  Put a tablespoon of butter in a skillet and scramble the eggs.  Set aside.

Measure out 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Slowly whisk in one cup of grits, reduce the heat and cook for five minutes stirring occasionally.

Once your grits have finished cooking, stir in the cheese a handful at a time until it is incorporated.

Now you’re ready to put the casserole together.  In a 3 quart casserole dish combine the sausage, scrambled eggs, and the cheesy grits.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top with some additional cheese and pats of butter.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Great served with a little salsa.

NOTE:  When I made this for our family at Thanksgiving I doubled the ingredients and baked it in a 9×13 casserole dish.  As with any recipe, feel free to modify based on personal taste.  The grits are just a little bit creamier if you substitute a cup of milk or half n half for one of the cups of water.  I used a sharp cheddar cheese but feel free to use pepper jack or gruyere or another cheese that melts well and is flavorful since grits are fairly bland on their own.  Also the type of sausage will change the taste.  A spicy sausage like andouille or a sweet sausage like maple links will change up the overall flavor.

I hope this becomes a go-to breakfast casserole for you.