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.

Apricot-Lime Glazed Chicken

In 2019 & 2020 Brion & I spent a couple of holidays in the beautiful town of Mérida on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Of course there were many places to explore such as the archeological sites like Chichen Itza and Uxmal while we were there. If you would like to see pictures and read about some of our adventures in Mérida, you can find them on the website blogs in February 2019 & January 2020.

When I decided to make this chicken meal today the peninsula’s bright and sunny flavors came back to me remembering the chicken lime soup we had tasted there. In Yucatán, the lime they use for this soup is the region’s native lima ágria.

In Mexico, using lime juice is quite common. People squeeze limes over grilled meats, fruits, vegetables, salads, soups, drinks, and even chips. The lime juice brings out the flavors in food in a way best described as ‘bright’. It’s tangy, refreshing, and brings out the best flavors in the food it’s on.

The apricot-lime glaze, with a touch of hot sauce, makes the perfect combo of sweet, sour, and spicy on these chicken thighs.

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Apricot-Lime Glazed Chicken
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Instructions
  1. Heat grill to medium. In a small bowl, combine preserves, lime juice, hot sauce & red pepper flakes.
  2. Season chicken with 1/2 tsp black pepper & grill, covered, turning occasionally 10-15 minutes. Uncover & continue grilling, basting with sauce until chicken is cooked through, 5-7 minutes more.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. cut each ear of corn into 3-4 pieces. Add corn to pot with 2 tsp salt & simmer until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain, transfer to platter & serve with chicken & lime wedges.

Cauliflower, Chicken & Bacon Gratin

Gratin is sort of like a crustless quiche, but a little more substantial. What’s not to like about anything cooked with chicken, bacon, custard and cheese? The cauliflower is meltingly tender. The bacon is smoky. The chicken is seasoned just right. The custard that holds it all together is creamy, and I love cheese.

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable. It’s inexpensive and good for you, and you can turn it into rice or pizza crusts. It even gives a pretty good impression of a ‘steak’. You can add cauliflower to virtually any casserole, and it will blend right in with the meat and cheese. This gratin is loaded with cauliflower, but with all the bacon, chicken and cheese in there you’ll barely notice.

There are few things as convenient or as comforting as a ‘casserole.’ While the easy-to-assemble dish might appear to be a more modern invention, casseroles have existed in one form or another across different food cultures throughout history.

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Cauliflower, Chicken & Bacon Gratin
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Arrange chicken in a 9 x 13-inch, foil lined baking dish. Drizzle chicken with olive oil & season with salt & pepper. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove from oven & shred.
  3. Reduce oven to 350 F.
  4. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add cauliflower & cook for 6 minutes. Strain cauliflower well.
  5. In the 9 x 13-inch baking pan, gently stir together cauliflower, chicken, 1 cup shredded cheese, bacon pieces, green onions, ranch seasoning mix & garlic powder. Top with halved cherry tomatoes & remaining cheese.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes. I put a pan with a small amount of water in it under the baking pan to prevent the gratin from drying out during the baking time.

Hoisin Beef & Rice Roulade

Hoisin is not a sauce I use regularly but in this case I found it puts a nice Asian twist on a traditional meatloaf. Impressive enough to serve to guests but easy enough to prepare on a weeknight.

The history of hoisin sauce is as rich and complex as its flavor. The name ‘hoisin’ comes from the Chinese phrase meaning ‘seafood sauce’ due to its seafood-like flavor but ironically, the sauce doesn’t contain any seafood. It’s believed to have originated in southern China, and its use has evolved over centuries. Once a luxury only the wealthy could afford, it has become a staple in Chinese households and restaurants worldwide. An intriguing tale associated with hoisin sauce is its role during the mid-Autumn festival in China, where it’s used in preparing traditional mooncakes, symbolizing unity and completeness.

Traditionally, hoisin sauce was made from fermented soybeans, rice wine, sugar, spices, and other ingredients. Today, hoisin sauce is widely used in many Chinese dishes including Peking duck, dim sum, barbecued pork, and spring rolls. It has also become a popular ingredient in other Asian cuisines such as Japanese and Vietnamese.

Hoisin sauce is a culinary chameleon, seamlessly blending into a wide array of dishes. Some of the many roles of hoisin sauce are as a

  • Dipping sauce for spring rolls, dumplings, and other appetizers. Its sweet and savory notes perfectly balance the flavors of these bite-sized delights.
  • As marinade and glaze hoisin sauce works wonders with meats like chicken, pork, and beef. The sugars in the sauce caramelize beautifully when grilled, creating a rich and flavorful exterior.
  • Adding hoisin sauce to stir-fried vegetables and proteins introduces a delectable dimension to your dishes. Its thick consistency helps create a glossy coating that clings to the ingredients, delivering an irresistible taste in every bite.
  • From noodle stir-fries to fried rice, hoisin sauce can elevate these dishes with its unique blend of flavors. Just a drizzle can transform a simple plate of noodles into a gourmet delight.
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Hoisin Beef & Rice Roulade
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Asia
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Instructions
  1. Prepare rice according to package directions. Cool slightly. Stir cooked rice with carrot, red pepper, green onion & cilantro. Reserve.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium sized bowl, stir breadcrumbs with milk, eggs, ginger, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt & pepper. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Grease foil well; top with a second sheet of foil (to use as a guide when rolling the beef). Crumble beef into bread crumb mixture; mix gently until combined. Press the beef into a 1/3-inch thick, rectangular layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Spread rice mixture evenly over the beef, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Roll beef, jellyroll-style, using the top layer of foil to guide & shape the beef into a compact log. Discard extra foil. Smooth the surface using fingers to fill in any gaps. Pinch ends closed. Bake for 45 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, stir hoisin sauce with lime juice, ketchup, honey & sesame oil; brush evenly over roulade. Bake roulade for an additional 15 minutes.

Asiago Potato Stacks

Asiago Cheese is one of my personal favorite kinds of cheese. Coupled with a rich history and unique flavor profile, asiago cheese is a deliciously versatile and ranges from smooth and silky to crumbly and brittle.

Asiago cheese has a characteristically sweet and mildly nutty taste. However, the flavors develop as it ages, getting sharper, more intense, and piquant.  As it matures, the cheese develops a slightly acidic and tangy undertone and a fruity appeal. The scent of the cheese is aromatic, with a floral smell that gets deeper with maturity.

A semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, asiago originated in Italy and takes its name from the famous plateau located in the north-eastern part of the peninsula.

Because this cheese features so much variety the everyday cheese lover might know they like asiago but not really be able to describe exactly what it tastes like. Asiago is actually considered one of the best cheeses to use for cooking due to its mild but noticeable flavor.

These ‘asiago potato stacks’ are a nice change from your typical roasted potatoes. Sure, you can dump any kind of cheese on top of potatoes, and they’ll turn out tasty. But elevate those cheesy ‘taters with freshly grated asiago and a fresh burst of rosemary and they’re amazing!

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Asiago Potato Stacks
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Using a mandolin, thinly slice potatoes & place in a large bowl.
  2. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to skillet & mix to combine. Add shallots & garlic; sauté for 1 minute. Add thyme, salt & pepper & sauté for for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
  3. Pour butter mixture over potatoes & toss until each side is coated. Add cheese to potatoes & continue tossing until well combined.
  4. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Stack potato slices in muffin cups & top with additional cheese.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes until stacks are golden brown & crispy. Serve immediately.

Mini Tarts w/ Roast Beef & Gruyere

The holiday season always seems to creep up on us each year. You’ve probably got the mains and desserts figured out for your big Christmas dinner. Now, it’s time to nail down the appetizers or hors d’oeuvres, aka the real reason everyone loves the holidays. Hors d’ oeuvres are part of the holiday party tradition. I think that the best appetizers are ‘finger foods’ where you can eat them easily and with very little mess. Each culture has its own collection of favorite appetizer recipes which have evolved over the years.

If you’re looking for a sophisticated, bite-sized appetizer for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, look no further than mini appetizer tarts. Tartlets can be sweet or savory, hot or cold, and are a perfect choice if you’re looking for a vegetarian option. Think of your favorite flavor combination and you can find a way to serve it in these tiny pastry cups — try brie and raspberry, chicken cordon bleu, cranberry and goat cheese, pear and blue cheese, buffalo chicken and ranch or roast beef and gruyere.

Not only do mini tarts make for a chic presentation, but they also make it easy to time your guests’ arrival with taking the tarts out of the oven if you are serving them hot. Most recipes require a short cooking time, which allows you to pop the tartlets in the oven half an hour before your guests arrive and serve a warm appetizer as soon as they walk through the door.

These mini tarts are filled with roast beef, shallot-sautéed mushrooms, cream cheese, horseradish and Gruyère. You will love the nutty aroma when the tarts come out of the oven. I think  they are the perfect Christmas appetizer or party food idea.

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Mini Tarts w/ Roast Beef & Gruyere
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. With fingertips, cut in cold butter until mixture resembles small peas. In a measuring cup, whisk together water, egg & vinegar. Make a well in dry mixture & pour wet mixture into it all at once. With hands, mix until JUST combined. Roll out pastry & cut 24 squares with a pastry cutter. Fit squares into 24 mini tart pan cups. Set aside in refrigerator until ready to fill.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, over medium heat, melt butter, then add shallots & mushrooms. Add thyme, salt & pepper; sauté until browned. Remove from heat. Divide roast beef between the 24 pastry shells. Spoon mushrooms onto the mounds of roast beef followed by a tiny dollop of horseradish.
  2. Place cream cheese & eggs into a small bowl & whisk until smooth. Season with salt & pepper. Spoon into tart shells, allowing the mixture to settle down into them.
  3. Sprinkle each cup with some grated cheese before transferring to the oven & bake for 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer, you can always use frozen prepared mini tart shells instead of homemade for a quick shortcut.

Chicken, Veal & Shrimp Pastetli (Vol-Au-Vent)

Pastetli were invented in the early 1800s in Antonin Carême’s pastry store in Paris, France where they’re called vol-au-vent, French for ‘windblown’ to describe its lightness. While they’re served as an appetizer in France, they’re eaten as a main meal not only in Switzerland but also in Belgium and the Netherlands. It is also from the Netherlands where the Swiss name Pastetli origins from. The Dutch call them pasteitje (little pastry). From there it came to the German Pastete. Just to add a little complication though, a Pastete in Switzerland is rectangle cake shaped puff pastry pie filled with sausage meat, mushrooms in a creamy sauce.

A vol-au-vent is a light puff pastry shell that resembles a bowl with a lid. The shell is generally filled with a creamy sauce (most often a velouté sauce) containing vegetables, chicken, meat or fish. The lid is placed on the filled shell and the pastry is then served as an appetizer, also known as bouchée à la Reine, or as the main course of a meal. When prepared, the pastry dough is flattened and cut into two circles. A smaller circle is cut out of the center of one of the circles, which then will be used as the lid. The circle without the center cut and the circle with the center cut are then joined together around the edges so as the pastry bakes, it rises into a shell with a hole in the top. The lid, which is baked separately, is added later. The pastry shell may be made the size of an individual serving, or it can be made in several different sizes to become a main serving for one or a larger size to be served for more than one.

Vol-au-vents rose to prominence in Paris in the 19th century. In post-war Britain, they were a mainstay of any self-respecting buffet, served to suitably impressed guests alongside welcome drinks at dinner parties. By the 1990s, they had become unfashionable and remained so for decades. Updated vol-au-vents started reappearing in chic restaurants a year or two before the covid pandemic (2020) erupted and have become the retro appetizer or main course to have.

You can even adapt them to make some elegant desserts. Fill with cream and fresh fruit or melt a chocolate orange with a dash of Grand Marnier and orange zest then spoon this quick-fix mousse into the cases and top with sweetened Chantilly cream and chocolate shavings.

For our main course vol-au-vents, I am making an interesting filling which includes, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms and tiny meatballs. Sounds a little odd but is packed with flavor.

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Chicken, Veal & Shrimp Pastetli (Vol-Au-Vent)
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Instructions
Chicken/Broth
  1. Add the rosemary, garlic, bay leaves, cloves, chopped celery, carrot and onion to a stock pot. Season generously with pepper and salt. Cut the chicken up: legs, wings and breasts. Also chop up the remaining carcass. Add it all to the pot. Then fill it with water (about 7 cups) until the chicken is fully submerged.
  2. Place the pot over high heat until boiling, then leave it there for 10 minutes. Turn the heat lower and gently cook the chicken for about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the heat and let it cool down for another 45 minutes.
Mushrooms/ Shrimp/ Cheese
  1. Chop the mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Peel & devein shrimp. Grate parmesan cheese.
Puff Pastry Shells
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut (4) 5-inch circles from puff pastry. Beat the egg & prick holes in the large circles with a fork & brush with egg. Cut 12 more RINGS from pastry about an inch wide. Lay a ring on each of the 4 circles & brush with egg wash. Repeat this until there are 3 rings on each large circle. Bake the puff pastry shells for 25 minutes.
Finish the Broth
  1. Remove the cooked chicken from the hot stock. Reserve stock for later. Remove any chicken skin, bones, veins, cartilage, or sinew (discard all this) & pick the cooked meat from the bones. Shred the larger bits up roughly. Then transfer the chicken meat to a large saucepan.
  2. Strain the chicken stock in a fine sieve or colander over a large pan. You should end up with about 6 cups (1,4 l) of chicken stock. Discard the cooked vegetables.
Meatballs
  1. In a bowl, combine ground veal (pork), salt & pepper, egg & breadcrumbs. Mix well and make tiny balls of ½ oz (15 g) each. You should end up with about 20 of them. Cover the meatballs with cling film and store them in the fridge until later.
  2. Bring the stock to a gentle boil again. Once warm, add the meatballs, shrimp & mushrooms. Poach them for about 5 minutes. Then remove the meatballs, shrimp & mushrooms using a slotted spoon. Add them to the shredded chicken in the large saucepan.
Béchamel Sauce
  1. Take the chicken stock off the heat now. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk well until you get a wet crumble. Gently cook this over medium-low heat for about a minute. Then gradually add splashes of the warm chicken stock until you get a sticky flour paste. Keep stirring. Don't add too much at once or the sauce will become lumpy.
  2. Whisk well. Gradually add more chicken stock (about 3 to 4 cups) until you get a pretty runny sauce. Bring the sauce to a low simmer & cook for 3-4 minutes or until thickened. whisk in Montreal Steak Spice, onion salt, garlic powder, mustard & grated parmesan.
  3. Add the béchamel sauce to the chicken, meatballs, shrimp & mushrooms. Stir carefully. Cover the pan for another 5 minutes and let the vol au vent filling warm through or place it back over very low heat.
  4. Put the vol au vent puff pastry casings onto 4 serving plates. Top with the chicken, meatball, shrimp & mushroom filling. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired. Serve the vol au vents hot.

Oktoberfest Potato Stacks

Come Autumn and Oktoberfest celebrations will be cropping up all over Canada.  It’s come to be known as a beer festival in modern culture that lasts for 16 to 18 days from the period between mid or late September lasting until the first weekend of October.

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany started back in the 1800s and was quite unlike the dancing-on-benches festival of today. The very first Oktoberfest was actually the wedding celebration of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese on October 12th, 1810. During that particular celebration, the citizens of Munich were invited to party as well and they just never wanted it to end. The ‘Oktoberfest’ tradition has carried on ever since. 

The world’s largest Oktoberfest is held annually in Munich, Germany but Oktoberfest is also quite popular around the world. The largest Oktoberfest celebration in Western Canada was held this year here, in our city of Edmonton, Alberta from Sept. 22 to Sept. 30. Edmonton’s Ice District was transformed into a ‘Bavarian wonderland’ with a 22,000-square foot tent where visitors could sample traditional German dishes, including schnitzels, sausages, sauerkraut, pretzels and strudels provided by local and international chefs. Beer and beverages were provided by Fahr Brewery, Wild Rose Brewery, Blindman Brewing, Troubled Tea and Molson Canadian. The all-ages event included a number of family-friendly activities and live music by a mix of traditional German bands and other entertainers.

Brion & I are acknowledging the tradition with Oktoberfest potato stacks topped with sauerkraut, smoked sausage and beer braised onions. Festive flavor in every bite!

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Oktoberfest Potato Stacks
Instructions
Potato Stacks
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place potato slices on a bowl. drizzle with about 2 tsp of the olive oil plus sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place potatoes in a single layer & roast for about 40 minutes or until slightly golden & tender. Flip potatoes over about halfway through roasting.
  3. While potatoes are roasting, place a heavy bottomed skillet over high heat & drizzle in about 1-2 tsp olive oil. Once hot, add the sliced sausage & caramelize it for a few minutes until golden, then remove from the pan for a moment,
  4. Into the same hot skillet, add in a touch more olive oil & the sliced onions along with a pinch of salt & pepper; stirring frequently. Allow onions to caramelize & become golden brown & soft, about 12-15 minutes.
  5. Once soft & caramelized, pour in the beer & allow it to bubble up & reduce down until the onions become slightly sticky, about 1 minute or so; add the sliced sausage back in & stir to combine.
Assembly
  1. Place the potato slices onto a serving board or platter & top each one with about 1 Tbsp of the sauerkraut, next a couple of the sausage slices then some of the beer braised onions. Sprinkle with some parsley & serve.

Garlic Bread Meatball Bombs

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

Although, we have not officially reached the first day of fall (Sept. 23), this part of the year often begins with a tinge of melancholy. Even so, there are many ways to appreciate Canada’s most sentimental season.

Part of our country’s appeal is its four season’s: Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall. We are entering the season of the fall harvest and the leaves on the trees begin their transformation to stunning shades of orange, red and yellow.

Labor day week-end gives us an opportunity to enjoy family and friends before summer is officially over. I remember as a kid, once we arrived at the Labor Day week-end all those ‘lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer were gone’. Back to school for another year. So, whatever your choice of relaxation is, you know good food will play a big part in the week-end gatherings.

Meatball bombs are a round homemade ‘hot pocket’. They have everything in them you need to make a great tasting meal. Serve two bombs per person. That means each person gets two meatballs, two dinner rolls, lots of sauce, and some gooey, cheesy goodness. Serve these with a simple side salad to round out the entire meal.

Speaking of Hot Pockets, I’m sure most everyone has tried them at some time since they have been around for over 40 years.

Probably the one lasting memory if you have,  is you know that the first bite of the microwavable, molten-in-the-middle meal will burn at least three layers clean off the roof of your mouth.

The frozen creations known as Hot Pockets were created by two Jewish Iranian brothers Paul and David Merage, who immigrated to the United States from Tehran. In 1977, the Merage brothers founded Chef America Inc. and set out to create a portable sandwich whose dough would actually retain its crispness after a few minutes in the microwave. Their creation, which debuted in 1980, was called the Tastywich, but it didn’t last long with its original name. By 1983, after some recipe tweaking, the Tastywich had a new name and Hot Pockets officially hit the market.

History aside, if you’re looking for some flavorful garlic bread meatball bombs, this is just the dish for you! And, you have the choice to use a lot of prepared ingredients from your grocery store, or you can make them all from scratch. There are options for both types in this recipe.

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Garlic Bread Meatball Bombs
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Servings
Ingredients
Dinner Rolls
Garlic Butter
White Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Dinner Rolls
Garlic Butter
White Sauce
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Dinner Rolls
  1. Dissolve yeast & sugar in lukewarm water & allow to sit a few minutes until frothy. Add oil, salt, & 2 1/2 cups flour, beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining 1/2 cup flour to form a stiff dough..
  2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover: let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
  3. Punch down the dough. Divide the dough into 18 pieces. Pinch the ends of each dough piece together in the center. Place seam side down. Use the palm of your hand to gently roll each dough ball until smooth and round.
  4. Place the dough balls in a parchment lined baking dish. Cover & allow rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  6. Lightly brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Remove rolls to a wire rack.
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the meatballs & mix well. Divide mixture into 18 meatballs & place on a foil lined baking tray. Bake 35 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. Remove from oven & set aside.
White Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, cook butter & flour until bubbly. Slowly add broth & cream; boil for a FEW minutes, add soy, salt & pepper. Set aside.
Assemble & Bake
  1. Hollow out the top of each roll with a sharp knife. The hole will need to be slightly bigger than the meatballs, but not so deep that you puncture the bottom.
  2. Set the rolls into a 9×13" baking pan which has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together garlic butter ingredients. Using the back of a teaspoon, liberally smear the holes of the dinner rolls with the garlic butter. Use all of the butter evenly into each dinner roll.
  4. Spoon about a tablespoon of the prepared sauce into each of the hollowed out dinner rolls. Place a cooked meatball into each hole. Top each meatball with the remaining sauce mixture. Evenly distribute the cheese over each of the dinner rolls. Sprinkle on the Italian seasoning.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven.
  6. Using a sharp knife, slice between each dinner roll. Garnish with parsley if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • For a QUICK & EASY meal use:
  • 12 (store bought) dinner rolls
  • 12 frozen meatballs, cooked
  • FOR SAUCE: 
  • 1/2 cup dried tomato paste
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • NOTE: I found for the original recipe it was easier to make the meatballs & sauce first, then the rolls. Just a suggestion!

Cheesy Everything Spice Crackers

Crackers and cheese are one of life’s true snacking pleasures. They have been around for almost two centuries since they first made a debut as an after-dessert course in restaurants in the 1850s. Today, this classic duo is still going strong in everything from lunchboxes to the most elegant charcuterie boards.

Crackers are available in different shapes and sizes. Some can be round, rectangular, or even irregular in shape. John Pearson, who invented crackers, will always be credited for baking the first cracker at a time when it wasn’t even in anyone’s imagination. He used only three basic ingredients. Later on, more ingredients were added to the recipe that gave a different flavor to the crackers.

Crackers are one of the most versatile snacks around, and these cheese crackers are no different! There’s something about a homemade version of a store-bought snack that’s amazingly delicious. By making crackers at home, you can skip over the artificial flavorings, sugars and preservatives and stick to the good stuff—

These crackers are buttery, crunchy, savory, so cheesy, and sprinkled with that addictive spice known as everything bagel seasoning. You will love these!!

Print Recipe
Cheesy Everything Spice Crackers
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Servings
CRACKERS
Ingredients
Servings
CRACKERS
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder & smoked paprika. Add the butter & pulse 5-7 more times or until butter is incorporated into flour & no large pieces remain. It should look like coarse meal. Add the cheeses & pulse a couple more times until combined. With the machine running, stream in 1/4 cup of the half & half until mixture comes together in a ball. Divide ball in half.
  3. Take one half & roll out to about an 1/8-inch thick between two sheets of parchment paper. Transfer dough, along with bottom piece of parchment to a baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to cut out 2 x 2-inch crackers & use a fork to prick each one a few times. Brush the crackers lightly with remaining half & half & sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of everything spice. Repeat with remaining dough.
  4. Bake on middle rack for 20-25 minutes or until crackers are a light golden brown. They continue to crisp as they sit. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to substitute a different cheese in for the cheddar & Romano such as fontina, asiago, parmesan, gruyere or an aged gouda if you prefer.