Bedfordshire Clangers w/ Variations

July is such a wonderful month. The weather’s warm, there’s still plenty of summer left, and the produce is literally amazing.

Midsummer means the farmer’s markets are brimming with great fruit & veggies. With such a colorful bounty of goods, we can settle into our summer cooking routines with tasty meals hot or cold.

But, even in summer, we sometimes crave ‘comfort food’ such as a ‘hand pie’. The humble hand pie goes by many different names: call it a pasty, a turnover, an empanada, or a ‘Bedfordshire clanger’….

A Bedfordshire Clanger dates back to at least the 19th century. It was typically made for agricultural workers to take with them to work as their lunch. The original pastry was made from suet and cooked by a boiling method. There is a theory that the pastry crust was not originally intended for consumption but as a vessel in which to protect the filling from the soiled hands of the workers.

The clanger originated from the county of Bedfordshire, a small, low-lying and predominantly agricultural county nestled in the east of England and adjacent counties, including Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. 

The name is as intriguing as the food itself. The word clanger, it had been suggested, referred to the mistake of mixing sweet and savory fillings. But a more likely explanation was that in nearby Northamptonshire dialect, ‘clang’ means to eat voraciously.

Knowing their husbands would need lots of protein and carbohydrate sustenance, homemakers came up with the brilliant idea of a doubled, loaf-shaped pie. One end contained a savory filling that used the famed pork of the area while the other end was filled with stewed apples (made from local apples) as dessert. So, the two fillings didn’t combine, there was a ‘pastry wall’ in between blocking any flavors from mixing. A ‘secret code’ denoted which end was meat, and which was dessert: two knife slits on one end of the pastry top means meat, three small holes on the other shows the sweet. This was brilliant, an entire meal for the field workers – handheld, portable and delicious.

The version we have today is not its beginnings but its evolution. Once you’ve nailed this basic Bedfordshire clanger recipe you can experiment with all sorts of flavor combos, there’s really no limit to what you can combine in this savory/sweet pastry.

Since Brion takes lunch to work, I became intrigued with the idea and decided to get creative with the fillings. That way I could make a variety and freeze them and use as needed. These tasty little ‘clangers’ can be served as the main course for a warm-weather picnic or for a hand-held, backyard meal with the addition of a nice fresh salad at home.

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Bedfordshire Clangers w/ Variations
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Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
Raspberry / Nectarine Filling
Blueberry Filling
Apple / Apricot Filling
Plum / Rhubarb Filling
Rhubarb / Apple Filling
Servings
Ingredients
Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
Raspberry / Nectarine Filling
Blueberry Filling
Apple / Apricot Filling
Plum / Rhubarb Filling
Rhubarb / Apple Filling
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sage & salt. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour mixture & use your fingers to work them in. Alternately you could use a pastry cutter to do this.
  2. When the mixture resembles cornmeal with pea-sized bits of butter remaining, stir in cheese with a fork until evenly distributed. Sprinkle 6 Tbsp ice water over mixture & stir with a fork until dough begins to come together. If needed, add an additional Tbsp or two of ice water.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface & knead for about three times. Gather the dough into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap. refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Pork Filling
  1. Bake potato in microwave, peel & cut into small cubes. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet & sauté celery, onion, garlic & bacon together on medium heat until veggies are soft & bacon is cooked. Add ground pork, breaking it up well. Stir in dried herbs & spices. Cover & simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in cooked potato & cheese. Set aside to cool.
Spiced Meat Combo
  1. In a saucepan, sauté onion & garlic. Add ground meat, basil, thyme, cardamom & salt & pepper. Scramble fry until cooked, remove from heat & add parmesan & potato. Place in a dish.
  2. In the saucepan, melt butter; add flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add beef broth, stirring until sauce thickens. Season to taste. Add to ground meat mixture & combine to form filling. Set aside until ready to use.
Turkey Filling
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until just crisp, then remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain; chop when cooled. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings from skillet.
  2. Add butter to the skillet, sauté onions, garlic & mushrooms with herbs & spices, scraping up any brown bits, until the onions have softened & mushrooms have lost most of their size & moisture. Stir in the bacon & shredded cooked turkey, taste for seasoning. Cook for another minute or two, then remove from heat & set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, combine Boursin, milk & spices (if using). Stir until Boursin has melted. Remove from heat. Add to turkey/veg mixture.
Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
  1. Heat butter over medium low heat in a heavy ovenproof skillet. Add the onions cook for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. When the onions are a deep golden color, remove them from the pan and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Combine the flour, salt, chili powder, thyme, allspice, & black pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. In the same pan as the onions, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add each piece of chicken & fry for a few minutes until golden brown; flip & cook for a few more minutes. Transfer to a plate (it will not be fully cooked at this point, just browned – it will finish cooking in the oven).
  4. Turn the heat down & let the oil cool off a little bit. Make a roux with excess oil in skillet & dredging flour. Add chicken broth & cook until a sauce forms. Add the onions & chicken to the pan. Bake for about 20 minutes longer. When chicken/onion mixture is cooked, remove from oven. Allow to cool until ready to use.
Raspberry/Rhubarb Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cardamom & salt. Add water & stir then add chopped nectarines. Simmer until nectarine is slightly soft & liquid is thickened. Remove from heat & carefully fold in raspberries. Set aside to cool.
Blueberry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except blueberries. Cook until sauce starts to thicken then gently fold in blueberries & cook a couple of minutes more. Remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Apple/Apricot Filling
  1. Peel & dice apples. Drain canned apricot juice into a small saucepan. Add sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & salt & combine. Add apples & cook until apples are tender. Cut canned apricot halves into quarters. When apples are cooked & sauce has thickened, remove from heat & add apricots. Gently combine & set aside to cool.
Plum/Rhubarb Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt & lemon zest. Add rhubarb & plums. Gently stir over a low heat. When enough juice has formed, allow to simmer until rhubarb is soft & juice has thickened. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool.
Sour Cherry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, place sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add juice/water mixture & stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Gradually fold in cherries. Set aside to cool.
Rhubarb/Apple Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, add the rhubarb, apples, salt & sugar. Add a drizzle of water if necessary & heat on medium. The rhubarb will begin to release liquid & break down as the apples soften. Heat the mixture until the moisture has evaporated & begins to thicken. Once the mixture is thickened, add the lemon juice, lemon zest and cinnamon. Place it in a bowl & allow to cool.
Apple/Pear Filling
  1. Heat butter in a small skillet until melted, add apples & pears & cook until fruit begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over mixture & continue to cook stirring often until fruit begins to lose its juices. Mix together cornstarch & lemon juice & add to pan. Simmer until mixture has thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
Assembly/Baking
  1. Divide pastry into 5 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface (or dry wax paper) roll out each piece of pastry into 14 x 7 1/2-inches. The excess trimmed from the sides will be used for little pastry ‘walls’ dividing the sweet & savory fillings. Roll excess pastry into a 3-inch length.
  2. Cut each piece of pastry in half horizontally so you have (2) 7-inch long pieces from each piece of pastry. From the top of each piece, LIGHTLY make a line across your pastry 4-inches from the outside edge. This will help to place your fillings properly.
  3. On the 3-inch wide section, place savory filling to cover 2/3 of the area. Place one of the rolled strips after that then place sweet filling on the remaining 1/3 to complete the 'clanger'. The little rolled piece of pastry divides the savory & sweet filling.
  4. On the sweet side make 3 holes for vents & on the savory side make 2 slashes. This is the 'code' to let the person eating the clanger which was savory or sweet.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  6. Brush the edges of each pastry with egg wash. Lift the pastry from the opposite side over the fillings & seal the edges with a fork.
  7. Brush clangers with remaining egg wash & bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden.
Recipe Notes
  • Due to the length of this recipe, I found making the savory & fruit fillings on one day & the pastry, assembling & baking the next, worked out well for me. Although these pastries are VERY time consuming, believe me, the are well worth it in the end, especially if your freezing some to use later. I baked them all & then wrapped them well before freezing.
  • You will probably find there will be enough savory & sweet fillings left over to make about 10 more clangers.
  • All of them will freeze well which will be a time saver for your next batch. Just make a recipe of pastry & your ready to assemble & bake.
  • If your not interested in freezing the 'leftovers', the fruit combined will make a wonderful crisp & the savory fillings can be used in quiche or casseroles.

Mini Roast Beef & Cheese Slider Buns

The name ‘slider’ originated in the 1940’s when sailors in the US Navy would refer to mini-burgers as sliders because of their extreme greasiness. In just one or two bites, the burger would just slide right down. Fortunately around 2007, sliders evolved from miniature ‘grease bombs’ to elegant culinary creations that now appeal to people of all backgrounds and tastes.

There’s something inherently appealing about a small burger. For the diet-conscious, the idea of a small gourmet burger is more feasible. When dining out, ordering sliders instead of an average sized hamburger also allows you to try several different varieties as they are often served in pairs.

The modern day slider has been reinvented from the traditional beef patty to being made from chicken, pork and veal as well as various seafood options.

These tasty little slider buns are layered with thinly sliced roast beef then topped with warm cheese sauce. Yum!

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Mini Roast Beef & Cheese Slider Buns
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SLIDERS
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SLIDERS
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Instructions
Sliders
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Heat skillet over medium heat, adding butter & oil. Sauté sliced onions in butter & oil until soft, brown & slightly caramelized, reduce heat to low if necessary. Stirring occasionally, about 15-30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, prepare the sliders. Slice the “loaf” of brioche rolls in half lengthwise, with the bottoms slightly thicker than the tops, do not separate individual rolls.
  4. Layer roast beef to slider bottoms, then layer cheese over the top of the roast beef, finishing with caramelized/sautéed onions. Cover with tops of bread rolls.
Drizzle
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic & onion powder, & dried thyme, stirring until the drizzle is warmed & the sugar has dissolved. Just a minute or two.
Baking
  1. Evenly pour drizzle over the tops of the brioche rolls. Cover with sprayed aluminum foil & bake in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Remove foil & bake for 7-10 minutes until tops are lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Spicy Chicken Loaf

Every region of the world has its unique flavors and spices. In many cases, the best way to discover a new cuisine is by its spice rack. No other ingredient can help us taste the characteristic flavors of a cuisine quite as easily, immediately tipping us off to the differences between a mild German dish and a spice-packed Indian one. But spices also tell the story of our world—the history of how we’re all connected. As people have brought their flavors with them, they’ve been shared and reinterpreted giving us the various, vastly different global, national, and regional cuisines we love to explore.

When you think of spiced chicken loaf, a mixture of ground chicken combined with a lot of hot spices and baked in a loaf pan comes to mind. In this particular chicken loaf, you use boneless/skinless chicken pieces along with an assortment of spices which are roasted together in a loaf form. Once baked, slices of the chicken loaf become a tasty filling served in pita bread.

The pockets in pita bread make them perfect for making sandwiches, wraps or other types of recipes you can hold in your hand.

Traditional pita bread is a round bread with a pocket in the middle. Pita bread must be cooked in ovens that can get extremely hot (at least 500° F). The pocket in a pita is made by steam, which puffs up the dough during the baking process. When the bread cools, it becomes flat again, but a pocket is left in the middle of the bread.

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Spicy Chicken Loaf
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Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. Combine spices in a bowl. Slice chicken into strips & place in a plastic bag. Add spices & toss to coat chicken well.
  2. Line a glass 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with parchment paper & place the chicken in layers one on top the other, alternating dark & white meat. Cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  3. When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Place onion semi-circles & hot green pepper (if using) over the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil & sprinkle with black pepper.
  5. Roast for about 1 -1 1/2 hours. Remove the loaf & pour off the liquids that have accumulated in the pan. It is important that the loaf be 'dry', without liquids.
  6. Remove from the pan, transfer to a cutting board & slice. Serve as part of a pita bread filling.

Zesty Chicken Wraps

People in Mexico, the Mediterranean, and South Asia  have been eating wraps since around the 1900’s. The wrap in its Western form probably comes from California, as a generalization of the Mexican/Tex-Mex burrito and became popular in the 1990’s.

Wraps have become a popular option in sandwich shops and restaurants, and for good reason. Like all sandwiches, wraps are an outlet for culinary creativity. A wrap can be anything you want it to be – breakfast, lunch, dinner, even a snack!

Wraps offer the same flexibility and creative options as a sandwich, but in a more convenient format all rolled up in a tasty tortilla or flatbread. The usual flatbreads are wheat tortillas, lavash or pita; the filling may include cold sliced meat, poultry, or fish, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, guacamole, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, grilled onions, cheese, and a sauce, such as Ranch dressing or honey mustard.

They are the perfect on-the-go meal. Most wraps can be eaten one-handed, leaving the rest of you free to continue about your day. They’re the perfect meal solution for a busy schedule.

It is remarkably easy to create your own personalized wrap: choose a bread, pick your condiments, layer your fillings, decide whether you want to grill it or not and enjoy. Does it get any better than that!

I have to admit, I absolutely love wraps so I like to fit them in to our meals whenever I can. These zesty chicken wraps are so good !

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Zesty Chicken Wraps
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Course Lunch
Cuisine Mexican
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Course Lunch
Cuisine Mexican
Servings
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. In a large bowl, combine 2 Tbsp oil, lemon juice & seasonings; add chicken & turn to coat. Cover & refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
Filling
  1. In a heavy skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil & sauté zucchini & onions until tender crisp. Remove & keep warm. Drain marinade from chicken & cook in the same skillet until no longer pink, about 5-6 minutes. Return zucchini/onion to pan, heat through.
Assembly
  1. Lightly spread 4 tortillas with a bit of guacamole or sour cream. Spoon filling down the center of tortillas. Add toppings saving a good bit of the cheese for sprinkling over them after they are rolled.
  2. Roll up & place on a microwave safe dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese & microwave only until cheese is melted. Top with sliced green onions & tiny grape tomatoes. Serve extra toppings on the side if you like.

Shrimp, Bacon & Pineapple ‘Pizza’

When you think of an English muffin, breakfast usually comes to mind. An egg and bacon sandwich, melty peanut butter with jelly, or something as elegant as eggs benedict. While English muffins are great for breakfast, they also make a toasty lunch or snack!

Everyone’s tried English muffin pizzas at one point in their life. They offer all the flavors of traditional pizza without the hassle of dough.

Pizza took off across North America during the 1950s. There were numerous contributing factors to the rise in the sudden popularity, but one that profoundly shaped every day cooking was the desire for more convenient foods.

Takeout pizza from restaurants offered a great way to save on time but could be costly. Domestic brands knew one way to appeal to the 1950s ‘housewife’, was combining the convenience of opening a can or jar with the thriftiness of eating at home.

In 1954, Hunt’s brand tomato sauce started advertising the ‘English Muffin Pizza’ with the hope of selling more canned tomato sauce.

The ad called it a 10-minute pizza and included a prominent photo of a can of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce.

Back then, Mozzarella was not too familiar to the average home cooks, so the ad refers to it as ‘pizza cheese.’ Helpfully, the marketing suggests brick, Swiss, or other good melting cheeses.

Although these shrimp, bacon & pineapple pizzas take a bit of time to make, they are well worth it. Don’t be put off by the odd sounding combination of ingredients, they pair well!

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Shrimp, Bacon & Pineapple 'Pizza'
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Instructions
  1. Crush panko crumbs slightly. In a plastic bag, place the Tbsp of flour. Add shrimp & shake to dust with flour. Add beaten egg to bag & shake to moisten shrimp. Add panko crumbs & OLD BAY seasoning. Shake to coat shrimp well. Set aside in refrigerator.
  2. Shred cheese & chop pineapple. Slice English muffins & very lightly butter.
  3. Grill bacon until cooked but not crisp. Set aside on paper towel. Sauté onions & mushrooms in bacon drippings, remove from griddle. Wipe griddle, then spray with cooking spray & cook shrimp 3-5 minutes. Push to one side & warm pineapple for a couple of minutes. Toast muffins.
  4. Place muffin halves on a baking sheet; cover each half with some of the cheese, mushrooms, onions, more cheese & pineapple.
  5. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Top with bacon & shrimp. Serve with guacamole & diced tomatoes on the side.

French Dip Tortilla Roll Ups

The French dip sandwich is on menus across North America and beyond, from delis to upscale restaurants, served as it was originally conceived or with some variants. For instance, cheese might show up on the thinly sliced beef; some might be smeared with mustard or horseradish. It has also provided inspiration for other cultural dishes.

Although the French Dip Sandwich is not French, (the name referring to the kind of bread used to make the sandwich, a French baguette, rather than its origin), the inventor, Philippe Mathieu was.  In 1918, Philippe owned the still existing delicatessen and sandwich shop called Philippe the Original in Los Angeles.

According to the story at the restaurant, Philippe was preparing a sandwich for a policeman and accidentally dropped the sliced French roll into the drippings of a roasting pan.  The policeman liked the sandwich and came back the next day with some friends to order the sandwich dipped in the meat pan.  As they say, and the rest is history.

However, there is a second theory that the sandwich was created in 1908 at Cole’s P. E. Buffet in LA, possibly for a customer with sore gums, who requested that the crunchy bread be softened with meat juice. For what it’s worth, the controversy remains unresolved.

The classic French dip is a sandwich traditionally consisting of sliced roast beef, served on French bread, and eaten au jus (‘with juice,’ referring to the flavorful drippings of the meat left over from roasting). The juice is commonly served on the side in a small dipping bowl.

These French dip tortilla roll ups put an interesting Mexican spin on the classic.

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French Dip Tortilla Roll Ups
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Servings
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Lay out 4 tortillas on a work surface. Distribute shredded provolone cheese evenly over each of the tortillas. Place thin slices of roast beef evenly over the cheese, then sprinkle the French-fried onions on top.
  3. Roll up each tortilla tightly & place seam side down in a greased baking dish. Brush the remaining oil over the tops of the roll-ups.
  4. Bake about 10-15 minutes, until roll-ups are browned.
  5. While the roll-ups are baking, combine the beef consommé, water, soy sauce, onion & garlic powder in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until warmed through.
  6. Slice roll-ups in half & serve with warm sauce for dipping.

Sweet Potato Focaccia

Focaccia, known and loved in Italy and abroad, is yeasted flat bread which belongs essentially to the northern shores of the Mediterranean and has its origin in classical antiquity. Early versions were cooked on the hearth of a hot fire, or on a heated tile or earthenware disk, like the related flatbreads. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread. Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a brush prior to rising and baking.

The Latin root of the word focaccia is ‘focus’ and refers to cooking by a fireplace or hearth, literally a focal point for the family, a place where dough was baked over hot stones, fire and ashes.

Focaccia is not pizza and is about 2000 years older, a sort of missing link between traditional flat bread and pizza. Above all it is distinctly Italian. Focaccia has undergone many upgrades and evolutions, however, the basic recipe has remained unchanged.

Today, focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread similar in style and texture to pizza. The interesting part, however, is that Focaccia started out as a side dish but over time it became part of the main dish as sandwich bread. If we go further back in time, focaccia was the only star of the show and was originally the prototype of early pizza.

This sweet potato focaccia with fresh rosemary and sea salt is perfect for making turkey sandwiches.

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Sweet Potato Focaccia
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Course Lunch
Cuisine American
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Ingredients
Dough
Course Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Dough
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine yeast, 1/2 cup flour & 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Let sit for about 20 minutes until frothy.
  2. Cook & mash sweet potato; add it along with the remaining 3/4 cup lukewarm water, 4 cups flour, olive oil & salt to the yeast mixture. When dough forms, knead about 7-8 minutes until the dough is soft & satiny. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a draft free area until doubled in size.
  3. Add a little bit of additional flour to your cutting board. Put the dough on it & pat it out with your hands into a 12 x 16-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into 16 pieces.
  4. Place the pieces on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and allow to raise until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  6. Punch holes in the dough. Add the rosemary to the olive oil. Brush the tops with the olive oil and rosemary mixture. Sprinkle with the sea salt.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes. Tops will be lightly browned. Remove to a rack to cool.

German Krautstrudel w/ Bacon

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

Sauerkraut strudel is a popular savory strudel version in beer gardens and during Oktoberfest which is the German fall folk fest celebrated during and after the harvest season.

A tradition dates back to 1810 in Munich, Germany. Originally a celebration of the marriage of the King of Bavaria and Princess Therese. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since. In 2022 it runs from September 17-October 3.

Oktoberfest is not only about the beer, singing, dancing and fair attractions. Many of the best known and most loved Bavarian specialties are enjoyed during the festival.

German strudels are not limited to the classic fruit fillings for the pastry. Savory examples are very common and this simplified sauerkraut strudel with soft sautéed strands of cabbage, the smoky flavor of bacon, and a savory crunch of caraway seeds; all wrapped in a delicate, flaky crust is a good representative. 

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German Krautstrudel w/ Bacon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Dice the bacon & cook in a pan over medium heat until it renders the fat but is not yet crispy. Drain on paper towel & sauté the diced onion in the rendered bacon fat. Cool down. In a bowl combine the drained sauerkraut, bacon, onion, egg, bread crumbs & seasonings. Mix well together.
  3. Roll out the puff pastry sheets, brush with half the melted butter. Reserve the rest. Spread half of the sauerkraut mixture over each sheet, roll & pinch to tuck in the ends. Place each strudel seam side down onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet & brush with melted butter.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before slicing with a serrated knife.
  5. Serve with sour cream, sliced green onions or mustard as a dip.
Recipe Notes
  • To make a STRUDEL DOUGH from scratch:
  • Sift 2 cups of all-purpose flour into a bowl. Mix with 1 tsp of salt. Add a beaten egg, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2/3 cup lukewarm water. 
  • Mix well together and knead into a dough. Cover with plastic and let rest 30 minutes.
  • Flour work surface and knead dough for a few minutes. Roll it out very thin.
  • Flour one side of a large, kitchen towel, spread it out. Place the rolled out dough on top and using your hands stretch it out, aim for a rectangle shape, roughly 16 by 24 inches.
  • Proceed as above and use the towel to help you roll the dough over the sauerkraut filling. 

Shrimp Quesadillas w/ Guacamole

Quesadillas are basically toasted tortillas with cheese inside. The name in Spanish literally means ‘little cheesy thing’. What constitutes a quesadilla varies greatly between Mexico and its neighboring countries. They agree that the quesadilla and taco or burrito are different; the former being cooked after being filled or stuffed while the later two are filled with pre-cooked ingredients. Also they may be made with flour, corn or wheat tortillas as well as Mexican Masa (tamale version).

The quesadilla originated in central and southern colonial Mexico, beginning as a corn tortilla gently heated until soft enough to fold, then filled with cheese and toasted on both sides until golden and crispy on the outside and gooey with cheese on the inside. Over time, chopped, cooked vegetables and bits of roasted, shredded meat also found their way into these cheesy tortillas.

Influenced by the many micro-cultures of Mexico and Latin America, the quesadilla has been adopted and adapted by chefs and home cooks around the world, especially since the little cheesy things make it so easy to feed vegetarians and meat-eaters at the same table. A vegetarian quesadilla can be as simple as cheese folded into a tortilla. For the meat or seafood lovers, just add some shredded chicken, pulled pork or ‘roasted’ shrimp.

Speaking of shrimp …. to maximize the flavor, don’t sauté them – roast them! Much like roasting meat on the bone, roasting shrimp in their shells gives them a more intense flavor and keeps them from drying out as easily. The flavor from the shells penetrates the flesh, making them even tastier.

Something else I wanted to mention is a suggestion to help make your quesadillas nice and crunchy. Don’t use butter or oil to cook them in, use mayo instead. The fact that mayo contains a bit of sugar will promote browning and also give some extra crispiness.

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Shrimp Quesadillas w/ Guacamole
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon to a cooked but not real crisp stage. Remove from pan to paper towel. Sauté mushrooms, zucchini & garlic until most of the moisture evaporates. Cut each shrimp in thirds & add to skillet with seasonings. Cook for another minute or until shrimp begins to turn pink. Remove from heat & add cooked bacon & combine.
  2. Grate cheese. Lightly butter one side each of 4 tortillas. Place on a griddle, & cook until warm & browned slightly. Remove 2 of them & keep warm. To each of the remaining 2, sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese, top each one with 1/2 of the filling then sprinkle with remaining cheese over filling. Place the 2 warm tortillas on top of the filled ones.
  3. Place a lid (or a baking pan) over the griddle for a few minutes to give the cheese a chance to melt.
  4. Remove quesadillas to a cutting board & cut each one into 4 pieces. Serve hot with your choice of toppings.
Recipe Notes
  • As I mentioned in the blog article, roasting the shrimp really intensifies the flavor. If you have the time, try it instead of just sautéing them.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Place the shrimp (shells-on) on a lightly greased baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and minced garlic.
  • Sprinkle evenly with the seasoning (such as Old Bay) and arrange the shrimp in a single layer. 
  • Bake the shrimp for 8-10 minutes or until just pink and opaque throughout.
  • Remove from oven.

Oyster, Bacon, Tomato & Avocado Po’boys

I have always had a love for sandwiches, not sure why … just do. Submarine, sub, grinder, hero, hoagie … there are many names for a sandwich on a length of Italian bread split horizontally and filled with cold cuts, cheese, veggies and dressing.

The classic oyster po’ boys make the most of briny, salty oysters. If you’re not familiar with this sandwich, it originated in New Orleans in 1929 as a way to feed the striking workers. Credit goes to brothers Clovis & Bennie Martin, streetcar conductors-turned-sandwich-shop owners who made it their duty to help out striking streetcar conductors by giving them free sandwiches. The strikers were called ‘poor boys’ (New Orleans shortens everything, so it got shortened to po’ boy). The brothers’ generosity earned thousands of new fans, and the sandwich with its new name, became of symbol of the city’s heart & soul.

The original po’ boy was filled with breaded, fried oysters or shrimp. Some common variations include crab, catfish, crawfish, spicy sausage, fried chicken and shredded seasoned beef. Seafood and chicken po’ boys are made with breaded and deep fried ingredients, but if deep frying is not your thing, oven baked is the closest technique to achieve the crunchy, deep-fried texture.

Brion & I like this combo because the avocado brings out the sweetness in seafood. Oysters coated in cornmeal make a savory sandwich and a perfect meal. It’s portable, it’s filling and there are endless possibilities.

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Oyster, Bacon, Tomato & Avocado Po'boys
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Rating: 5
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Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon until crispy but not hard. Drain on paper towel until ready to use.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together cornmeal & spices; set aside.
  3. Gently dredge oysters in flour then in egg whites & lastly in cornmeal/spice mixture. Cover breaded oysters & refrigerate until ready to bake. Prepare tomato, avocados (guacamole) & bread.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. Remove oysters from refrigerator, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray & carefully place oysters on it so that they are not touching each other. Bake for 15 minutes until crispy & cooked.
  6. Spread bread 'pieces' with your choice of dressing. Divide oysters between bottom halves, followed by avocado, bacon & tomato. Place top halves of the bread over the fillings & press lightly. Serve immediately.