Friday, February 26, 2010

Hutspot met klapstuk

It seems that I am on a Dutch roll here. Just a couple of days ago, I made boerenkool met worst and now I've just prepared a huge pot of hutspot met klapstuk. The name of this dish does not sound very appetizing, not even in Dutch. Loosely translated it means "hotchpotch with slap piece". Well, there you go, see what I mean? Who wants to eat that?

But, as usual, appearance deceives. In this case the name is not very flattering and quite honestly, neither is the picture. But the taste will convince anyone that there is more to this dish than a silly name.

Hutspot was originally (in the mid-1600s) made with parsnips and potatoes. Every October 3rd, the city of Leiden celebrates the victory over the Spanish invaders with white bread and herring and with hutspot, this last dish presumably left behind by the fleeing Spanish army and found by a young man who shared it with the rest of the starving Leiden-ers. Or at least with those that didn't like herring, I'm sure.

Nowadays the parsnips have been replaced by large carrots and it makes for a colorful and flavorful mashed potato dish, and very affordable, to say the least.

As for the "slap piece": klapstuk is the meat that is cut from the rib. I used slices of beef chuck rib roast and it worked beautifully. The meat is marbled and during its 90 minute braising time will release all kinds of wonderful flavors and most of the fat. You'll love it!

Hutspot met klapstuk
For the meat
1 lb of sliced beef chuck rib roast
2 cups water
1/2 beef bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
8 black pepper corns, whole
1 tablespoon flour, dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Add the water to a Dutch oven or a braising pan, add the bouillon cube and stir until dissolved. Add the beef, the bay leaf and the pepper corns and braise on low heat for approximately 90 minutes or until beef is tender.

Remove the meat to a serving dish, discard the bay leaf and peppercorns and stir the dissolved flour into the pan juices. Stir scraping the bottom of the pan, loosening any meat particles that may be stuck. Bring the heat slowly up until the gravy starts to thicken. Pour the gravy over the meat and set aside, keeping it warm.

For the hutspot
6 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
8 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 large onions, peeled and sliced
2 cups of water
Pinch of salt

Place the peeled and quartered potatoes on the bottom of a Dutch oven. Pour in the water so the potatoes are just covered. Add the pinch of salt. Put the carrots on top, and finish with the onions. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and boil for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Pour off the cooking water but save it. Mash the potatoes, carrots and onions until you achieve a mashed potato consistency, or leave larger lumps, that's a personal preference. If you need more liquid to make it smoother, add a tablespoon of cooking liquid at a time. Taste, adjust with salt and pepper.

Now place a large scoop of hutspot on a warm plate. With the rounded side of a spoon, make an indentation on top of the hutspot, like a pothole. This is the famous "kuiltje". Put a slice of beef on top and pour a tablespoon or two of gravy into the kuiltje, and serve your beautiful, Dutch dish. All you need now is a pair of clogs and a picture of the Queen on the wall :-) Nah....not really.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Biscuits and Gravy

Emile's comment the other day made me realize that biscuits and gravy could easily be misinterpreted as some outlandish concoction, especially if you translate the American biscuit for an English one and gravy for eh...gravy. It's not a biscuit and it's not gravy, at least not how you know it overseas. Trust me.

Here in America it's a regular item for breakfast, both at home and in restaurants, but I understand the confusion. Notes from a travel journal I kept on a trip to Memphis in the mid-nineties (yes, that was last century!) reads: "This morning we're eating breakfast at a large family restaurant. It's possible to order off the menu but most guests are gathered around the breakfast buffet, loading up their plates with the most bizarre combinations. The pancakes here are as thick as roof tiles and some of the items on the buffet line would do well to appear for dinner, but surely not for breakfast? Fried rice, shredded potatoes? And the most bizarre thing of all, regardless of what's on their plate, each guest is sure to ladle spoonfuls of some off-white, lumpy sauce on top."

Well, that off-white, lumpy sauce back then was gravy. I did not know it then and when I finally moved to the United States and figured it out, I avoided the stuff like the plague. It looked lumpy and pasty and I was convinced it would taste like wallpaper paste. I tried my hand at biscuits once but they emerged from the oven like hockey pucks so that was that. I shelved the whole "biscuits and gravy" thing away as one of those American things I'd never understand, like root beer and corn dogs.

Fast forward to last Spring. Talking about food one day with my friend Luke from West Virginia, he mentioned that his were the best biscuits and gravy. I was sceptical but was willing to give it a try. What can I say? The man was right. The biscuits were buttery, tender and flaky and the sausage gravy warm, spicy and comforting. To this day, I cannot make them as fluffy and buttery as he does but they'll do.

The key is, for the biscuits, to not overwork the dough: the less you handle it, the better. Easy to say, harder to do for a breadbaking fool like me, but I manage to restrain myself and just pat the whole thing together. As for the gravy.....get good quality sausage and make sure you cook the gravy long enough to get rid of the flour taste.

Biscuits and gravy
For the biscuits
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons of cold butter
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon of sour cream
1 tablespoon melted butter

Mix the first three ingredients, cut in the cold butter and stir in the buttermilk and the sour cream. Carefully fold the dough several times until it comes together  (four or five folds will do) and pat into a rectangle on a lightly floured countertop. Take a glass or a cup that has the circumference for the biscuits you want (average of 3 inches will do just fine) and cut rounds out of the dough. In the meantime, heat the oven to 400F. Melt the two tablespoons of butter in the oven dish. Take each biscuit and carefully place it face down into the butter, then flip it over so that the butter-covered side is up. Continue until the dish is full but not crowded. Bake the biscuits golden-brown in about 12-15 minutes.

For the gravy
8 oz of mild pork sausage
8 oz of spicy pork sausage
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 cup of milk

Fry both sausage meats in a skillet until it's crumbly and cooked. Sprinkle the flour over the meat, stir several times, then slowly stir in the milk. Keep stirring, making sure you get all the crunchy bits off the bottom of the pan until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the flavor if needed.

Tear open a warm biscuit and ladle a generous spoonful of gravy over the two halves. Sit down, take a bite and be comforted!

Somehow you always end up with a bit of leftover biscuit dough: too small to make another biscuit but too much to just throw away. Here's what you can do: pat it together, roll it out and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Roll up jelly-roll style, slice and place sliced side down into a buttered ramekin. Sprinkle some more sugar on top and bake with the rest of the biscuits at 400F. Yummie with a scoop of ice cream or just to munch on while you wait. Now, ain't that cute?

Kale with Kielbasa

The Dutch have a very solid and varied repertoire of winter dishes: solid in the sense that they all consist of the culinary trinity (meat, vegetables and potatoes) and varied because well....because there is scarcely a thing the Dutch don't add to their famous "stamppot". Literally meaning 'stomped pot", stamppot is a dish that consists of boiled potatoes mashed with either a raw or cooked vegetable. The meat is either served on top, on the side or cut into small pieces and mixed in. If the choice of protein generates any type of pan juice or jus, it will be served in a small hollow made on top of the mashed potato dish, the so-called "kuiltje jus" (kinda like a pothole in the road but different).

Those that know me well will be surprised to see that I served up mashed potatoes with kale, a dish simply called "boerenkool". There are few things in the food world that I don't care for, and one of them is boerenkool. Or was, should I say. Somehow the American kale is not half as bitter as the Dutch one is, so after preparing this dish with Michiel for Idaho's Melting Pot, I was pleasantly surprised, enough even to go home and cook it for myself two days later.

Kale is a dark-leaf vegetable that will add plenty of nutrition to your diet: it is riddled with vitamins and minerals and contributes plenty of protein. The butter and the kielbasa....not so much.

Kale with kielbasa
3 bunches of kale (or 1 lb)
6 large potatoes
3 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of milk, warmed
1 smoked kielbasa

Cut the leaves off the stems and slice the leaves into narrow strips. Peel the potatoes, quarter them and place them in a Dutch oven. Add water to barely cover the potatoes, then put the kale on top, add the kielbasa. Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil. Boil on a low flame for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are done. Remove the kielbasa, pour off any cooking liquid that may remain and mash the vegetables with a fork or a potato masher. Add the butter and the milk and stir the whole into a creamy consistency. Slice the kielbasa and place it on top of the stamppot. Serve with mustard if desired.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

This is one of those recipes that is a super-standby. When I make biscuits and gravy for breakfast, I usually make a larger batch of biscuit dough. One part goes to biscuits and the rest gets rolled into a large circle and covers this quick and easy chicken pot pie. It's one of those dishes that uses what's in the freezer and the pantry to produce a weekday meal: it can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Chicken Pot Pie
For the filling
2 cups of mixed vegetables*
1 can of mushroom soup
1 cup of milk (optional)
1 cup of cooked chicken, cubed
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

Prepare the mushroom soup in a sauce pan according to the instructions on the can. If it asks to add water or milk, add one cup of milk only. Heat the vegetables in the soup and add the chicken. Flavor with the Worcestershire sauce and the pepper. Taste and adjust. Simmer for about five minutes or until hot, then pour into a pie pan or shallow oven dish.

For the dough
1 can of prepared buttermilk biscuits
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons of cold butter
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon of sour cream
1 tablespoon melted butter

If you use the prepared biscuits, take them out of the can and separate them from each other, placing them in a circle on a lightly floured countertop. Roll the prepared biscuits together into a larger circle.

If you make the biscuits yourself, mix the first three ingredients, cut in the cold butter and stir in the buttermilk and the sour cream. Carefully knead the dough together (four or five kneads maximum) and pat into a circle on a lightly floured countertop.

Roll the dough into a circle slightly larger than your oven dish. Carefully lift the circle and place it on top of the pie filling. Cut the dough that hangs over the edges, brush the top with melted butter and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the biscuit dough is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. (You may want to place a baking sheet underneath the pie pan in case the filling bubbles over; it makes for easy clean-up!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chile Verde Pork

Sometimes I'm at a loss. There are only a few choices of protein that I keep in the freezer: chicken, beef and pork, and its variants such as sausage, smokies and other obscure meat products. (Oh yeah, and a couple of pieces of salmon that I realllly need to use up one of these days, recipe anyone?). Anyway, back to the loss. Here's how it usually goes: if I pull beef out of the freezer, I'm inclined to go for a roast or some type of beef stew like Beef Balsamico or zuurvlees. If the choice falls on chicken, I come up with a myriad of ways to prepare it: roast, stewed, fried, name it. But with pork, all I can think of is shredded pork. And that's it. And I really wasn't in the mood for shredded pork.

So when I found* a pork picnic roast in the freezer, I knew I had to come up with a different recipe. Browsing the web, I came across various ways to prepare "pork chile verde" and remembered that several months ago a dear friend from Colorado, Fred Fell, emailed me a recipe of pork chile verde. At first glance it seemed a bit spicy because of the jalapeños, and there was no bean in sight. And you know me, I love beans. I automatically assumed that "chile" meant beans. Well, not so much. Chile can also be eh...chile. As in peppers. took me a minute or two to process that thought. And here is me pretending to know it all!

But ofcourse, between one thing and another, I could not find the recipe and I didn't just want to get any old recipe from the web. I emailed Fred and hey presto! he responded this morning with the recipe. Just in time to get some essentials at the store and get cracking!

Now, Fred is going to wonder why I even bothered to ask him about the recipe at all: I ended up using a variety of different items that were not the original ingredients. But that's just how it goes, and I can't help it. I start following a recipe and halfway through I think: "Hmmmmmm, I wonder what happens when I use this instead?" or "Would that other thing be just as tasteful?". Yeah, so I'm useless following recipes, what can I say?

Chile Verde Pork
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 lb of pork meat, cubed
2 teaspoons of cumin
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 lb of tomatillos, husked
1 can of roasted green chiles
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cups of warm water
1/2 chicken bouillon cube (or 2 cups of chicken stock instead of the water and the bouillon)
1 cup of cilantro, stems and leaves

Heat the oil in a skillet or Dutch oven and quickly brown the pork, adding the cumin,the oregano and the pepper. Plug in the crockpot and transfer the pork after draining the fat, keeping enough fat in the pan for the next step. Sauté the onion and the garlic in the fat and add to the meat in the crockpot. Slice the tomatillos in half and place them, together with the unpeeled garlic, cut side down in the skillet. Cover and roast for about five minutes, then turn them over and roast for another five minutes or until the garlic feels soft. Put the tomatillos, skin and all, in a blender bowl and add the canned green chiles and the cilantro. Squeeze the soft garlic out of the skins and add them to the bowl. Quickly blend into a smooth, green sauce.

Now add the sauce to the crockpot. Simmer for two hours until meat is tender. Taste and see if you want to adjust the flavor with some more cumin, cilantro, salt or pepper. Remember, a recipe is just a guideline! Serve with rice and tortillas and a refreshing dollop of sour cream.

What can I say? Heaven must be green. The meat is tender, the sauce is flavorful and has a lovely tomato-ey flavor but not the acidity from a red tomato, and the cilantro is a wonderful touch. You just have to try it, I guess! If you want to add some heat, blend in a jalapeño or two.

* It's not like I open the freezer one day and go "hey ho! what's this?". Well, actually I do but what I meant to say is that I was the one who put the roast there in the first place, it's not like I have some little gnomes running around stuffing food into my freezer. Or that my freezer is so huge that I lose things in there. Although I do sometimes wonder....I've been cooking out of this thing for the last three years now and there is just no end in sight. Maybe the gnome story is not so far-fetched after all?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Erwtensoep (split pea soup)

Oh, the ubiquitous split pea soup......when it's cold in Holland and people go ice skating on the lakes and the canals, the traditional picture is that a small shack "koek-en-zopie" sits next to the ice selling hot split pea soup and coffee with cookies for those tired and cold after such a wonderful day on the ice. I'll be darned, but each time I've gone skating I've never seen one of those shacks. May have something to do with the fact that I've only been skating once or twice in my life and the experience was so unpleasant that I may have blocked the memory of a soup shack. I fail miserably in the skating department, it is a very un-Dutch side of me.......

But I hopefully redeemed myself by making a very good split pea soup: it even passed the "wooden spoon" test! (i.e. the soup is so thick that a wooden spoon will stand up on its end and not fall over when stuck in the soup).  Hand over those bitterballen, I'm back!

2 cups of split peas
4 cups of water
1 carrot, peeled
2 ribs of celery
1/2 an onion, peeled
1 bay leaf
black pepper
pinch of salt

About 12 little smokies or half a kielbasa

Rinse the split peas and remove anything that doesn't belong (stones, sticks, dried up discolored peas...). Put the peas and the water in a Dutch oven. Mince the vegetables and add to the peas. Bring to a boil, add the bay leaf and simmer for about 40 minutes. When the peas are soft, either puree or just stir several times, the peas will dissolve and make a creamy soup. Stir in the smokies or the kielbasa (slice before adding), heat until warm and taste. Add pepper and salt if needed.

This is an easy, quick solution. I keep a pack of smokies in the freezer. Split peas do not have to be soaked in order to cook quickly so you can have this soup on the table in less than an hour.

Traditionally, this soup is served with dark rye bread and pancetta.