NATCHITOCHES MEAT PIES aka CAJUN EMPANADAS

I found a recipe for Natchitoches Meat Pies, a savory dish that sounded really interesting.  I did a little research and found that Natchitoches Meat Pies are an official state food and that Natchitoches is a city in northern Louisiana.  I didn’t like that it was fried though and converted it to a baked version.  For lack of a better definition this is a Cajun empanada 😀

NATCHITOCHES MEAT PIES

FILLING
4 slices bacon, diced
3/4 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons WONDRA flour
1 LARGE onion, FINELY chopped
1 LARGE bunch green onions, FINELY diced
1 cup red, yellow and orange mini peppers, FINELY chopped
2-3 tablespoons chopped FRESH flat leaf parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup chicken broth

  • Brown ground beef and pork until cooked through. Drain.
  • In the same pan brown bacon over medium heat until crisp.
  • Remove bacon to drain on paper toweling.
  • Whisk in flour to bacon grease making a roux.
  • Whisk in chicken broth, seasonings, garlic, onions, parsley and peppers.
  • Add beef and pork in. Simmer 5-10 minutes to meld flavors.
  • Refrigerate the meat mixture for an hour while you are making the dough and before assembling pies.

PASTRY
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
8 tablespoons crisco
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup chicken broth

  • Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder together in food processor.
  • Add shortening and pulse to a cornmeal texture.
  • Add eggs and broth JUST until dough comes together.
  • Transfer dough to a floured counter and knead 30 seconds until creates a smooth ball.
  • Divide dough into equal pieces, about 8-16 depending on how large you want your pies.
  • Roll out each piece to a thin circle.
  • Fill each about half full.
  • Fold over and crimp edges with fork tines to seal.
  • Place on a silicone lined baking sheet.
  • Bake at 425° for 30-45 minutes, turning baking dish as needed to avoid burning the edges.
    Serve with Salsa, sour cream, chopped olives and chopped green onions.

NOTE:

  • I sometimes make them “Mexican” by adding a Taco Bell original spice packet to the mix.
  • I also like to add a sprinkly of shredded cheese to the inside and garnish.

IMOGENE’S CHICKEN

This is one of those recipes that I made EXACTLY as written the FIRST time, but had to change. It was good the first time, but we knew it could be better!

IMOGENE’S CHICKEN
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup Bragg’s liquid aminos
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons FRESH grated ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in cast iron casserole pan.
  • Arrange chicken thighs top side down in a single layer.
  • Whisk together the white wine, liquid aminos, vinegar, chicken broth, ginger, sugar and oregano and pour around chicken pieces.
  • Cover and bake 30 minutes.
  • Turn chicken and cook 15 minutes more.
  • Serve over rice, pasta or mashed potatoes.

CRUNCHY SNAP PEA POPCORN SALAD ala the MIDWEST & MOLLY YEH

On Molly Yeh’s show last week she had the most unusual salad that we just had to try. Now because of the quarantine and so many ingredients being unavailable I did have to make a substitution for the snap peas where I used FRESH green beans, but look forward to next time using snap peas. I also had some shredded rotisserie chicken pieces for some protein.  It was really yummy!

CRUNCHY SNAP PEA POPCORN SALAD
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
Vegetable oil, as needed for popping
White Cheddar popcorn seasoning, for the popcorn
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 shallot, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sugar snap peas, strings removed, cut crosswise into thirds
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup chopped celery plus 1/2 cup tender inner celery leaves
1 bunch watercress, trimmed and torn into bite-size pieces

  • Pop the popcorn in a popcorn popper according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You should have 12 cups.
  • While popcorn is still hot, sprinkle with the white Cheddar popcorn seasoning to taste and let cool completely.
  • Whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, cider vinegar, sugar, and Dijon together in a large serving bowl. Stir in the shallot.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste, but remember the popcorn is already salty.
  • Add the snap peas, carrot and chopped celery and toss to coat.
  • Add the popcorn and toss to coat the kernels in the dressing.
  • Pile the watercress on top and sprinkle with the celery leaves.
  • Serve immediately.

NOLAN RYAN MEATLOAF aka BASEBALL PITCHER RANCHER MEATLOAF

If you like baseball you’ve heard the name, but ANYONE from south Texas REALLY knows the name Nolan Ryan.  What you may NOT know is that his first passion was raising QUALITY beef and he has some of the best beef around!

NOLAN RYAN MEATLOAF with LAVA MUSTARD BBQ SAUCE

MEATLOAF
2 pounds ground sirloin, NOLAN RYAN beef where possible
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup FINE bread crumbs
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 SMALL red pepper, FINELY diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cups shredded Jack cheese
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons Frank’s original hot sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • In a large bowl use your hands to combine all the ingredients until well mixed.
  • Place mixture in a greased loaf pan.
  • Bake 45 minutes.
  • Increase oven to 425° and cook 10 minutes more.
  • Top with sauce and bake 5 minutes more.
  • Serve immediately.

LAVA MUSTARD BBQ SAUCE
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
¼ cup Kentucky bourbon
1 cup barbecue sauce of your choice (I  use Sweet Baby Rays)
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon QUALITY honey
1 tablespoon COLEMAN’S dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes, but don’t allow the onion to turn brown.
  • Add the bourbon and cook off the alcohol, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the barbecue sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, honey, mustard and cayenne. 
  • Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring at regular intervals.

NOTE:  I have to leave out the mustard due to allergies and find the sauce is still awesome!

JEZEBEL SAUCE

I found this recipe in an old cookbook and it sounded ODD and I have NO idea where the name came from, but just awesome enough to try.  It made just a couple changes, but it really makes an awesome appetizer.  The recipe apparently has a convoluted history of unknown origin… Billie’s friend Nancy too the recipe to a garden club Christmas Party.  She had gotten the recipe from her brother-in-law’s niece…

JEZEBEL SAUCE
18 ounce jar SMUCKER’S pineapple preserves
18 ounce jar SMUCKER’S apple butter or jelly
3.75 ounce jar Inglehoffer (German) horseradish
1 tablespoon Coleman’s dry mustard
1 teaspoon FRESH ground pepper
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 box wheat thins

  • In a medium size bowl stir together the pineapple preserves, apple butter or jelly, mustard, horseradish and pepper.
  • Chill at least 2 hours.
  • Place cream cheese on a platter and pour sauce over top.
  • Serve with crackers.

PLUM SLAB PIE ala VALERIE BERTINELLI

PLUM SLAB PIE ala Valerie Bertinelli yield 12 servings

CRUST
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/3 cup cold water, plus more if needed
Cooking spray, for spraying the baking sheet
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 large egg
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

  • Combine the flour, granulated sugar and salt in a food processor and mix until combined.
  • Add the butter and pulse until evenly combined and the size of small pebbles.
  • Pour in the vinegar and pulse 1 to 2 times until just combined.
  • With the food processor running, slowly pour in the cold water, adding just enough for the dough to form a ball. You may not need the entire 1/3 cup of water.
  • Remove the dough from the food processor and form it into a ball.
  • Cut off about a third of the ball so you have a small piece (about 10 ounces) and a larger piece (about 1 pound 6 ounces; see Cook’s Note).
  • Form both pieces of dough into discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Spray a baking sheet very lightly with cooking spray.
  • Dust a work surface lightly with flour.
  • Roll the larger disc of dough into a rectangle that is 2 inches larger on all sides than the baking sheet.
  • Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and then unfold it over the baking sheet, gently guiding the dough into the baking sheet and lightly pressing it into the corners, sides and bottom.
  • Refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the pie.
  • Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the smaller disc of dough into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle.
  • Place a ruler along the 12-inch side of the dough and make a mark with a pizza cutter every 1/2 inch. Turn the ruler along each mark and use it as a guide to cut a straight line, making twelve 1/2-inch strips that are 20 inches long.
  • Transfer the strips of dough to a baking sheet, laying them diagonally so they fit and dusting the strips with flour as you lay them down.
  • Refrigerate while you make the filling so the dough does not begin to stick together.

FILLING
6 pounds red plums, cut in 1/4-inch half-moon slices
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons orange zest plus 1/3 cup fresh orange juice (about 1 small navel orange)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • In a large bowl, mix together the plums, granulated sugar, cornstarch, almond extract, orange zest and juice, cinnamon, ginger and salt, making sure the plums are evenly coated.
  • Let sit no more than 5 minutes.

ASSEMBLY

  • Evenly spread the filling over the crust on the baking sheet.
  • Lay one of the dough strips diagonally across the baking sheet from one corner to the other.
  • Repeat laying strips parallel to the first piece evenly across the rest of the pie. You can cut strips down to size as you work your way towards the end of the pie, making sure to leave a bit of overhang on both sides.
  • Take every other strip of dough and fold it back over itself so that it exposes a little more than half of the filling. Lay a long strip of dough in the opposite direction, going diagonally from one corner to the other. Fold the dough strips back down and you will begin to see a lattice form. Fold back every other strip of dough that you didn’t fold back before, and then lay another strip of dough diagonally across the pie, working towards a corner. Continue this process until half the pie has a lattice top. Then rotate the pan and repeat the same process on the other side to finish the lattice.
  • Fold the dough hanging over the sides of the pie up and over the edge, tucking the ends of the strips from the lattice top inside. This will ensure the strips of dough stay anchored to the edges of the pie.
  • Crimp the edges of the dough using your pointer fingers and thumb to pinch the dough together.
  • Whisk together the heavy cream and egg and brush evenly over the lattice top and edges of the pie.
  • Sprinkle the entire pie with turbinado sugar and bake until the crust is a deep golden brown and bubbles form towards the middle of the pie, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  • Let cool completely, at least 40 minutes.

COOK’S NOTES

  • I have made this many times and it translates into other flavor profiles EXTREMELY well.  My personal favorite is peach, but I also love it made as cherry!
  • The weights for dividing the dough are approximations!  The weights are totally dependent on several factors – your climate (rain really affects the outcome) as well as how much water you add to the dough. The most important thing is to remember is to divide the dough so you have 1 piece that is twice the size as the other piece of dough.

JACK ALLEN’S MAMA’S CHICKEN

JACK ALLEN’S MAMA’S CHICKEN
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper, to taste
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup Dijon mustard (optional)
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced thin or chopped
1 tablespoon FRESH chopped thyme

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Generously season chicken with FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper.
  • Roast chicken 20 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • While chicken is roasting, melt butter in large cast iron skillet.
  • Saute’ onions and garlic until translucent.
  • Add Dijon if using and cook 3 minutes.
  • Add wine, broth and heavy cream, blending well and cooking over medium high heat 10 minutes.
  • Add mushrooms and thyme, cooking another 10 minutes.
  • Add cooked chicken pieces to sauce, turning to coat.

NOTE: I listed the Dijon as optional because I CANNOT tell you how it tastes with it due to my severe allergy. BUT, I can tell you this tastes awesome without it 😀

JACK ALLEN’S MEATLOAF (sort of)

A few years ago we met some friends at Jack Allen’s Kitchen restaurant for lunch. We’d never been there before, but were surprised by the menu and tasty dishes we ordered! Their claim to fame is Texas comfort food in a local fare farm to market restaurant setting. I was so impressed I actually bought the cookbook being sold at the front door as we left.

Every recipe I’ve made has been great. A few though, like this one, I’ve adapted to meet our likes and deal with food allergies! We love this adapted version

JACK ALLEN’S MEATLOAF (sort of) 😀

2 stalks celery, FINELY chopped
1 large red pepper, FINELY chopped
1/2 cup FINELY chopped onion
3 LARGE cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds extra lean ground beef
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
2 LARGE eggs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Frank’s original hot sauce
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup ketchup + 1 cup ketchup for topping

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • With clean hands mix everything together except the 1 cup of ketchup for the topping until uniformly mixed.
  • Form into loaf pan.
  • Spread with remaining ketchup.
  • Bake 45-60 minutes, until cooked through.

CONVEYOR BELT CHICKEN

I can’t tell you what cook book this is from because it is just a photoed page, not even a good photo or a whole page. 😀 BUT, the title caught my attention so I tucked it away for a future date and guess what, today’s the day. I finally sat down and read the recipe only to find it is SO SO simple and similar to a way grams used to prepare chicken.

According to the author, it’s more the method than the ingredients that led to the name of this recipe. She used bone-in thighs that she de-boned, but retained the skin. I left the bone in though for simplicity and to add some flavor. They are cooked over a medium low heat in pre-heated cast iron with a weighted press. The moderate heat plus the weighted press encourages the fat to render evenly and leaves behind a golden crisp skin and VERY tender meat.

I’ve adapted it ever so slightly by adding minced garlic and chopped thyme during the cooking. In my opinion it ALWAYS creates a golden, crisp skin and super tender meat that presents itself beautiful enough for a company inspired dinner.

I will warn you that this is a horrible picture, but it didn’t change the awesome flavor! Oh and the conveyor belt name?  It apparently came from the author’s friend’s husband loving the chicken so much that he wanted to build a conveyor belt from the plate to his mouth!

CONVEYOR BELT CHICKEN
1 large chicken thigh per person
Avocado oil (or olive oil if you prefer)
1 tablespoon butter
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons FRESH chopped thyme leaves

  • Preheat cast iron pan over medium heat.
  • Reduce heat slightly.
  • Add butter, garlic and thyme, swirling to coat pan.
  • Rub chicken breasts with avocado oil and add to the pan skin side down.
  • Add weight press and cook 10 minutes undisturbed until skin is golden.
  • Remove the weight and cook 2 minutes more.
  • Spoon any remaining butter and herbs over the chicken pieces and serve.

OVEN ROASTED SALMON & FRESH TOMATO RELISH

OVEN ROASTED SALMON
2 pounds skin on salmon fillet, 1 1/2 inches thick
2 teaspoons avocado oil
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper, to taste
Tomato Relish (see recipe below)

  • Preheat oven to 500° and set rack at lowest position and add baking tray to heat.
  • Cut fillet into equal pieces.
  • Make several SHALLOW slices into the skin side ONLY, DO NOT cut into flesh.
  • Pat salmon slices dry and rub with oil and generously season with salt and pepper.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 275°.
  • Place salmon skin side down on hot baking tray.
  • Return to oven and roast 10-12 minutes until centers are still translucent and edges have reached 125°.
  • Transfer to platter and top with tomato relish.
  • Serve immediately.

FRESH TOMATO RELISH
1 1/2 cups ripe tomato pieces
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 teaspoon apple cider or champagne vinegar* (see note)
2 tablespoons FRESH chopped basil
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper, to taste

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl.
  • Season to taste.

NOTE: Original recipe called for olive oil and red wine vinegar. Personally, I’m not an olive oil fan so I substitute avocado oil AND red wine vinegar just didn’t have enough of a “bite” for us so I substitute a QUALITY apple cider vinegar or champagne vinegar.

  • This is another recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cook’s Science cook book.

ORANGE LIME VINAIGRETTE

ORANGE LIME VINAIGRETTE
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 SMALL shallot. FINELY minced
1 tablespoon minced FRESH cilantro
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons avocado oil
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper, to taste

  • Shake together in dressing bottle.
  • Chill before dressing salad.

NOTE:

  • I sometimes substitute a frozen ALL fruit bar (Pineapple or Pomegranate) for the orange juice to change up the flavor.
  • This is another recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cook’s Science cook book.

HINT OF CHOCOLATE ORANGE BUNDT CAKE

HINT OF CHOCOLATE ORANGE BUNDT CAKE seriously adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Science, America’s Test Kitchen’s Orange Bundt Cake

CAKE
4 LARGE eggs
2 tablespoons FINELY grated orange zest
3/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
18 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 18 pieces and softened)

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Adjust rack to middle position.
  • Grease and flour a large bundt pan.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, orange zest, orange juice and vanilla together.
  • Sift and whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda on LOW speed until combined.
  • Add butter one piece at a time until mixture resembles coarse pea sized pieces.
  • Add egg mixture slowly, scraping bowl regularly for about 2 minutes until mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
  • Bake 45-55 minutes until tester comes out clean.
  • Cool on wire rack for 20 minutes.
  • Remove cake from pan and continue cooling on wire rack.

ORANGE GLAZE
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
Juice of 1 LARGE lemon (about 4 teaspoons)
Pinch of salt

  • Whisk 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, orange juice concentrate, lemon juice and salt together in bowl until smooth.
  • Place wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Brush cake with 1/4 cup of the orange glaze.
  • Let cake stand 1 hour.
  • Whisk remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar with the remaining glaze.
  • Pour evenly over cake.
  • Let cake sit 5-10 minutes while you prepare the ganache.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE DRIZZLE
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

  • Add the chocolate chips to a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  • Add the heavy whipping cream to a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup and heat for about 1 minute, watching it closely so it doesn’t burn or boil over
  • Pour the warm cream over the chocolate chips and allow to sit for 3-5 minutes. I put a plate on top to trap the heat.
  • Gently stir the cream and chocolate together until they come together to a smooth consistency. DO NOT whisk too vigorously to prevent air bubbles in the ganache making it smoother.
  • Drizzle ganache over cake in an alternate pattern to the glaze.

ORANGE SUGAR
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons FINELY GRATED orange zest

  • Using fork mix together the granulated sugar and orange zest.
  • Sprinkle over ganache.