A little off beef stroganoff

Because of my family’s hatred of mushrooms, I had not had beef stroganoff until my sweetie introduced me to it. When he did, he made the mushrooms separate, and I had a not-quite-right stroganoff that I quite liked.

I took that not-quite-right recipe a step further off and made it into a casserole, roughly following a Rachel Ray recipe.

Beef stroganoff ingredients.

I liked that this recipe had more herbs than usual recipes, and I liked even more that it had a cheesy crunchy breadcrumb topping.

While it was otherwise mostly traditional, I found that the casserole form was on the dry end instead of the usual goopy sour creamy sauce that coats the egg noodles. So, I ended up making an extra sauce using the remaining sour cream, a little bit of cream, and of course, more Worcestershire sauce. With that addition, it was an amazing delight.

I even managed to make the mushrooms all right so that my sweetie could enjoy them mixed into his bowls of stroganoff.

Oooh carby goodness.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 12 to 16 oz. bag egg noodles
  • 7 T. butter, divided (3 for noodles, 4 for breadcrumbs)
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 ½ lb. ground beef
  • 3 T. Worcestershire sauce, plus more for extra sauce if desired
  • 3 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ c. white wine
  • 1 ½ c. stock (the original recipe says to use beef stock; we keep a homemade vegetable — sometimes with chicken — stock on hand so I just used that)
  • ¼ c. heavy cream, plus more for extra sauce if desired
  • ½ c. sour cream, plus more for extra sauce if desired
  • 2 c. homemade breadcrumbs (rye is recommended; I had french in the freezer ready so I used that instead)
  • 1 c. shredded gruyere (Swiss will do in a pinch)
  • 1 c. chopped herbs, divided (some mix of chives, dill, and parsley)
  • 3 T. dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 to 12 oz. mushrooms, sliced (definitely optional)

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles for 2 minutes less than package instructions (using Dutch oven if desired). Toss the noodles with 3 T. butter, half the herbs, salt, and pepper.

Heat the Dutch oven, add the olive oil, and cook the beef until browned. Add the shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. (If using mushrooms, you can add them now as well; or if you’re a split house like ours, you can cook the mushrooms separately with some oil while preparing the beef.)

Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until shallots are slightly softened. Add the wine and cook until mostly evaporated. Add the stock, and simmer for 5 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally. Stir in the heavy cream and sour cream.

Mix the noodles into the beef mixture and set aside to quickly prepare the breadcrumbs.

Prepare the breadcrumbs by melting the remaining 4 T. butter, and then mixing it with the breadcrumbs, gruyere, and remaining herbs.

Top the beef and noodle mixture with the breadcrumb mixture.

Bake in the prepared oven for about 15 minutes until the breadcrumbs have browned, let cool slightly and enjoy!

(If the mixture is too dry, mix together about ½ c. sour cream, 2 T. cream, and 2 T. Worcestershire sauce, or to taste, and dollop on top of individual servings.)

And now for something completely different

Dutch ovens are — at least to me — known mostly for two things: their ability to go seamlessly from stovetop to oven, and their ability to maintain heat. So, it wasn’t until I got my Dutch oven cookbook that I realized since it can hold heat, it can also hold the cold.

Heading into Memorial weekend and then summertime, that can come in handy.

I gave it a test with my family’s potato salad recipe, and found it survived traveling in a car without a problem.

Potato salad ingredients.

The recipe is not a particularly fancy way of making potato salad, but it’s easy and nothing store-bought is quite like it.

Chalk that up to the Italian dressing. That, and most recipes typically call for removing the potato skins but I like the added texture. Amounts vary widely as well because different people have different tastes, including me depending on the day. Mostly you just want to coat everything to your desired tastes.

That’s the awesome thing about this recipe; you can make it your way, and even add hard-boiled eggs as you desire. But this is the way my mother taught me.

Cold and delectable.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. potatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ to 1 c. Italian dressing
  • ½ to 1 c. mayonnaise
  • ½ c. yellow mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring water (filled about halfway) to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add the potatoes, and simmer, covered, until they’re cooked through, about 20 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain water, and let the potatoes cool to room temperature.

Chop the potatoes into bite-size chunks of your preference. Add the onions and Italian dressing, and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours and up to overnight.

About a half-hour before serving, add the mayonnaise, mustard, and salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Enjoy with a hot dog or hamburger, and enjoy your Memorial Day!

The best rice casserole

I love the boxed Rice-A-Roni mixes as much as the next person who has little time and a desire for calories. But I love even more the absence of guilt when I home make a similar recipe.

This is how I came to create my own broccoli cheddar rice casserole.

Broccoli rice casserole ingredients.

Sure, recipes abound for throwing together cooked rice, a pre-made cheese sauce, and some microwaved broccoli, but with slightly more effort, you can enjoy baked, cheese, rice, and broccoli that doesn’t feel quite as bad for you.

Though it wasn’t hard to find either kind of recipe online, there was nothing I found that quite suited my tastes. So, I did what I usually do, I mixed and matched to make it suitable for my Dutch oven dreams.

All the recipes of any kind called for mushrooms but I just about refuse to eat them. If they’re tiny and hidden, I may be able to handle some. I can kind of do raw ones, sometimes, if I have to, but as much as I try to keep an open mind about foods, I just can’t do it with mushrooms. So, if you like them, feel free to remove one head of broccoli from my recipe and substitute with 8 oz. mushrooms, or do both and have an extra vegetable-y recipe.

With my changes, and thanks to mostly Southern Living and a little Serious Eats, and I had the perfect recipe, and even better, it came together quickly and deliciously. I loved it.

Nom nom noms.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 6 T. butter, divided
  • 1 c. panko
  • 2 c. cheddar, divided (I like extra sharp)
  • 1 c. Parmesan, divided
  • 3 c. broth (I used homemade; the recipe calls for chicken)
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 t. thyme
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes (optional but I liked the kick)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ c. flour
  • 1 ½ c. uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 3 heads fresh broccoli florets, chopped to stems

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 2 T. butter, and combine it with the panko and ½ c. of the cheddar, and ½ c. of the Parmesan, and toss together. Set aside.

Melt remaining 4 T. in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broccoli (and mushrooms if using), the salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until the broccoli has started to turn bright green. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the flour until combined.

Add the rice, and stir for another couple minutes. Stir in the broth and milk, and bring to a boil. Add the remaining cheeses, and the sour cream, and mix until well combined. Cover with Dutch oven lid or aluminum foil.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the rice is tender, the liquid is nearly absorbed, and the broccoli is cooked through. Add the panko mixture on top, and bake for another 10 minutes until the top is browned. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Breaking babka

During my year of bread, babka — or the similar povitica — was always on my list but I was too afraid to spend the time needed to make this beautiful treat.

Fate tempted me back when I found a wonderful looking babka recipe in my Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen.

I won’t lie, it’s a multi-day affair. That bothers me less now that I work your standard 9 to 5 with weekends free. But it does take some planning, say, when you’re scheduled to have 3 hours of your afternoon spent at the theater with Avengers: Endgame.

Forgot an ingredients photo but here’s my table with the 18 x 24 dough covered in filling, pre-roll.

Even with that, I found it to be worth the effort. So much so that I made it two weeks in a row. (I may have also seen Endgame two weeks in a row.)

Mostly I just wanted to try to redo the recipe with my favorite filling. I know, I know it’s sacrilege to think there’s something better than chocolate, but I frickin’ love cream cheese filling.

The second time worked slightly better in some ways, but I think that’s mostly just the nature of breads. Sometimes the mix needs some tweaking.

My first attempt had the stand mixer get the dough perfectly concocted in well short of the 10 to 12 minutes recommended, so I stopped it. But that meant that I had to let my dough rise for longer because the yeast didn’t activate as well. The second time it was sticky and slow like it was supposed to so everything rose well.

The second time my filling was softer because I probably could have used a little more cream cheese. (I replaced 12 oz. of chocolate chunks/cocoa with 8 oz. cream cheese, and I think 12 oz. may have made a better, thicker consistency, but it still worked.) The first time it was smooth and just stiff enough to spread and keep a nice firm shape.

Either way, as long as you’ve done a handful of breads before, I think anyone can make this one. It wasn’t even *that* hard to make it look pretty.

The creamy cream cheese one.
The gooey chocolate one.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

For Dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. yeast (The recipe calls for instant or rapid-rise, which I didn’t use. If you knead well in the stand mixer, it didn’t seem to matter. I had a good rise the second time.)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. whole milk (I used 2% the second time and didn’t notice any major differences.)
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks (16 T.) butter, softened

For Chocolate Filling

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter
  • 6 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large egg whites

For Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 to 12 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter
  • ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large egg whites

For Finishing

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten, with 1 T. water and pinch of salt

Directions

For Dough

Whisk together flour, yeast, and salt, in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate bowl (that holds at least 4 c.), mix together the milk, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla, until the sugar has dissolved. Use a dough hook attachment on low, and begin to slowly add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and continue to mix until the dough starts to form.

Increase the speed on the stand mixer to medium-low, and add the 2 sticks of butter 1 T. at a time, until the butter is fully incorporated, about 3 to 4 minutes. Continue to knead in the stand mixer for another 10 to 12 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and clears the sides of the bowls. (Like I said, this happened within a couple minutes the first time, and I should have kneaded by hand for longer instead of stopping when a clump formed, but the second time it was definitely too sticky to handle until about 10 to 12 minutes, and I even added a titch more flour.)

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and knead by hand for about 30 seconds and form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough, seam side down, in a large greased bowl. Cover and let rise by about half for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Once risen, refrigerate dough until it is firm, at least 1 hour to up to 24 hours (an ideal time to go watch a long action-packed superhero movie). Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes if you refrigerate for much longer than an hour.

For (either) Filling

Microwave the chocolate chunks, cocoa, and butter OR the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl for about 3 minutes at 50 percent power, stirring often, until the mixture has melted and a smooth, soft filling forms. Add the confectioners’ sugar, and then let cool for about 30 minutes. Then, whisk in the egg whites, until fully combined and the mixture looks glossy (less noticeable with the cream cheese filling, so mix well).

To Combine

Press the dough down to deflate, and then transfer to a lightly floured counter (I had to use my whole damn kitchen table so make sure you have space). Roll dough into an 18 inch by 24 inch rectangle, keeping the shorter side parallel to the counter. Once rolled out, spread the filling on the dough, leaving about a ½ inch border around the edge.

Roll the dough away from you into a firm, taut cylinder. Pinch to close the seam. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate (on a large baking sheet if possible but mine weren’t big enough so I just cleared a space on a shelf) for about 30 minutes.

To Finish

Meanwhile, make a foil sling for the Dutch oven by folding in half 2 long sheets of aluminum foil, so you have 2 long, roughly 7 inch sheets. Place sheets perpendicular to each other, like a lowercase t, and carefully smooth down into the Dutch oven bowl. Spray with a little bit of oil.

When dough is ready, transfer the log back to the lightly floured counter with the short end facing you. Carefully cut the dough in half lengthwise so that you will have the swirls of filling facing up to you. Pinch together the two dough halves and then braid end over end, as tightly as possible. Pinch the second end together, and then wrap into a spiral with the ends tucked underneath.

Put the dough in the prepared Dutch oven, and let rise for another 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and brush the egg mixture on top of the dough.

Cover pot, and bake for about 20 minutes. Uncover, rotate pot, and continue to bake for another 35 to 45 minutes, until the loaf is a deep golden brown.

Lift dough out of pot using the foil overhang, and let cool completely (about 3 hours) on a wire rack, and then finally, enjoy!

Fitting vegetable gratin for mediocre fowl dinner

My sweetie and I had what we thought would be a fun idea when we were ordering meats earlier this year. We should try all these random non-chicken birds available from our favorite sustainable meat supplier, we thought. How bad could they be, we thought.

Well, I am here to tell you that there’s a reason we as meat-eaters dine on chicken more often than wild game birds. There’s the buck shot for one, and the feathering, but mostly it’s the strong and not altogether pleasant taste.

We made it through the birds, but in the future, I’m probably not going to eat too much partridge, wood pigeon, or pheasant. Unless the apocalypse comes sooner than I hope.

But to go along with these fowl, I thought I’d make a nice vegetable gratin to go with our meat-heavy dinner.

Vegetable gratin ingredients.

While the preparation went more smoothly than for the birds, the end result was a similar level of meh. It was easy but at the cost of being pretty bland.

It was less offensive than the birds to my taste buds but it also made a lot more and we’re still slowly going through the leftovers. I much prefer the similar vegetable dish I made last year on a sheet pan — marinated artichokes add so much, I guess (probably mostly salt) — than this Dutch oven gratin.

It looks pretty good, but it’s just not bad.

If you’re looking for a plain dish, or have ideas of sprucing up my adaptation of a The Kitchn recipe, here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, sliced*
  • 3 medium leeks, halved and thinly sliced
  • ¾ to 1 lb. potatoes, sliced*
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced*
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (I used the jar stuff, and didn’t measure)
  • 1 ½ c. sour cream
  • 1 ½ c. Parmesan
  • ½ t. ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • *Note: A mandoline is recommended for slicing these vegetables, so they can be evenly thin. I used ⅛ inch.

Directions

Heat an oven to 400 degrees.

Add all the sliced vegetables to a large Dutch oven. Add in the sour cream, Parmesan, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, and stir well to lightly coat the vegetables with the cream mixture.

Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Carefully remove the lid/cover, and bake for another 15 minutes uncovered so the top can brown. Cool for about 10 minutes, and (try to) enjoy!