Monday, January 30, 2017

Good Bread Series Begins: U.P. Pasties

We're starting a new series...Good Stuff that's made with the staff of life -- bread or pastry. 

Foods starting with this foundation not only taste good -- they smell wonderful while cooking. They can be made ahead of time, kept in the freezer or fridge, then heated after you get home from work. But they're also quick to make, in the first place.
     Bread and pastry-based dishes are easy on your budget, too -- a very nice thing in the bleak, pennypinching months after the holidays. 

First up, a favorite from my Michigan days: pasties.

Although I grew up closer to Grand Rapids (the true Michigander now whips out a hand, and points to the lower palm area), we would take occasional trips Up North. A quick drive on the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced "Mackinaw," for you out-of-state yahoos) took us to the Upper Peninsula, or "U.P.," home of wide-open water, forests...and pasties. 
     These meat-and-veg turnovers were said to be a favorite of U.P. miners, who would pack them in their metal lunchboxes or cans for a meal later on. We bought them at bakeries, and ate them in the car, along with a cold carton of milk. (It rains a lot in the U.P.) 
      Pasties are usually about the size of your hand -- or larger. Make them smaller, and they're also good for school lunches. (Or bus drivers -- like the Brick.) 

Yoopers have argued about the essential ingredients in pasties since time began, practically. Some advocate for cubed roast beef (leftover from Sunday dinner), turnips and rutabaga. Others are big on hamburger and carrots. Potatoes and onions seem to be universally agreed on. You may even add heresies like corn, chopped mushrooms or green beans (gasp). But don't come crying to me! 
     The filling can be a little dry: moisten it with leftover gravy, broth or a little steak sauce,  if that's the case. 


1/2 pound hamburger   (or 1-2 cups cooked and cubed leftover beefsteak or roast)
    ( Pork or chicken can be substituted -- but pasties are usually beef)
1 onion, chopped
3 potatoes, chopped roughly
1 turnip, peeled and chopped  (Fine -- skip this if you're not a Michigander. Or turnip-lover)
1 carrot, sliced and diced
salt and pepper to taste

One recipe of pastry:
      1/2 cup butter  (1 stick)
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      2 cups flour
      ice water

First up: the pastry. Mix first three ingredients together, using your hands or a fork, until mixture forms little 'pebbles.' Gradually add ice water, a few tablespoons at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Keep it in the fridge for now, and:

Mix the filling. (No, you don't have to cook the burger.)

Putting it all together:  Grab a scant handful of dough. (Or a large serving spoon's worth, if you're making smaller pasties.) Roll it into a thin circle, then add a few spoonfuls of filling. Fold the pastry over to make a half-moon, like the photo below. Pinch the edges, or push on them with the fork tines to seal. (Poke a few holes or slashes in the top crust, to release steam.)
     Continue this process until your pastry is gone. I usually get enough pasties for supper for 2-3, plus a few left over for lunch the next day. These can be frozen; take out and bake as directed.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 min., until crust is brown. Serve with fresh-cut veggies or sliced oranges...or a cup of soup. Pasties can be eaten hot or cold.

     Leftover filling can be sauteed until meat is done, then added to scrambled eggs or an omelet. (It's good in soup, too.)

Taste of Home is very fond of pasties, and offers at least two different versions:

Their interpretation of U.P. pasties.

Herbed Cornish-style pasties.  (Cornish miners are said to have started the tradition in the Upper Peninsula.)

Both are good...but frankly, I've never seen herbs of any kind in true Upper Michigan pasties. They're pretty basic.

Photo courtesy of Taste of Home

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cooking For A Group: Soup And Chicken Wings

The Brick just hosted the January version of our church's Senior Luncheon.

He served 37 people three soups and three different kinds of chicken wings, plus vegetables and dessert, for less than $2 each.

How'd he do it? You'll have to go here to find out.

Here are the recipes.

Three types of chicken wings:          Barbecue
                                                          Buffalo wings
                                                          Lemon and garlic

Three soups:    Split pea and ham
                        Colorado chili
                        Loaded baked potato


You'll need approx. 1/3-1/2 pound of wings per person. (Maybe more, if the price is right.)
Baste wings with flavorings, then bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 min. Serve hot.

Barbecue:  For every 30-40 servings, baste with 1 bottle barbecue sauce.

Buffalo-style:  1 large bottle Frank's hot sauce. Sprinkle heavily with garlic afterwards.
        (serve wings with celery sticks and ranch dressing)

Lemon and garlic:  1 bottle garlic vinaigrette dressing, mixed with lemon juice. Sprinkle with garlic after.

Can't find chicken wings at a good price? Substitute boneless chicken breast, cut in thin strips -- look for boneless breast or chicken tenders on sale. 
                             (These will take less time to cook - about 20 min.)

How dare you!!

      (Each serves between 10-15; combined, they'll easily cover 35-50)


     1 pound diced ham, leftover hambone (from a spiral-cut or regular ham)
     1-2 pounds split peas (the more, the merrier)
     2 chicken bouillon cubes
     1 chopped onion
     2 diced carrots
          (add any minced celery leaves, or a handful of celery too, if you're not making potato soup)
     2 large diced potatoes

This is especially good, made by crockpot. Start the night before by combining everything but the potatoes. (Adding them now only results in mushy spuds.) Add enough water to comfortably cover everything, then cook on low til next morning (or 8 hours). Take out the hambone, dice the meat and add it back in. (Give the fat and gristle to the chickens, and the bone to Charley the dog.)
     Soup can be cooked on low for another 3-5 hours -- add potatoes 2 hours before you serve. Salt and fresh-ground pepper are essential.

Also good served with a sprinkle of croutons or a swirl of sour cream.


     2 pounds ground beef
     2 pounds pinto or Anasazi beans  (about 4 cups uncooked)
     2 beef bouillon cubes (optional, but make the chili taste meatier)
     1 #10 can crushed or diced tomatoes
     2 chopped onions
     2 tablespoons garlic salt
     4 tablespoons chili powder
           (Also add a can or two of diced green chilies too, if you've got them, and your people like spicy foods. Here in Colorado, they do.)

     Another good crockpot starter. Cook the beef, onions, spices and beans together, adding water to cover, for 7-8 hours on low. Add tomatoes and cook 3-4 more hours. (Tomatoes can be added from the start, but the chili will not have as bright a color or fresh aroma.)

     Good served with a splash of sour cream, or a sprinkle of Cheddar cheese and corn chips.

     The surprise hit of the luncheon -- not a drop was left over.

     5 pounds baking potatoes  (approx. 10-12), chopped
     2 chopped onions
     handful minced celery tops (if you've got them)
     1 teaspoon garlic salt
     4 chicken bouillon cubes
     1 box or can of mushroom soup
     2 teaspoons basil or marjoram  (not crucial, but add to flavor)
     3 pounds sour cream
     This one cooks on the stovetop just as easily as the crockpot. Mix everything together except the sour cream, then add water to cover. Cook for 2 hours (stovetop) or 4 hours (crockpot on high); stir in sour cream just before serving. Adjust taste by adding salt and fresh-ground pepper. (A few extra tablespoons of butter, or a few cups of milk - fresh or dried - add to the flavor.)

     To serve, sprinkle each with a tablespoon each of chopped cooked bacon and grated Cheddar. Other good additions: parsley, chopped green onions or sprinkled Parmesan cheese. (The first two are especially important -- they add to the traditional 'loaded' flavor.)

Serving a group:  Set up a station with three crockpots or kettles of soup -- ask people what they want, or let them serve themselves, buffet-style. (Note: You'll need more soup if done buffet; people tend to serve themselves more than they actually eat.)

Pile chicken wings on platters, and serve alongside the soup. Or if you have enough helpers, have three circulate with platters of chicken wings, replenishing as needed from the kitchen.

Other good additions that don't cost much, to round out the meal:  hot rolls, crusty bread and butter, crackers, veggie platter (red or green peppers, carrots, celery, black and green olives, sugar peas, pickles and such), fresh-sliced oranges.

For dessert:  cookies or squares of cake, served with a squirt of whipped cream or a small scoop of ice cream (the latter from the largest container you can buy)

Serve with friendliness and a smile. They'll love it.