Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Little Something For the Oven: Cheddar Bacon and Onion Quick Beer Bread

I must admit that fall is starting to win me over. So far it has been a very gentle transition into the new season with cooler, but still warmish days, and chilly, sleep with the windows open, nights. I am soaking in every lovely minute before winter comes barging its way in.

 I love hanging out in the evenings with a cocktail, my favorite guy, and the silliest dog in the world. We spend hours watching the wildlife that inhabit our backyard get ready for the winter ahead. I especially love the two big beautiful woodpeckers who have kept us amused with their antics all summer long. Their pecking might annoy some, but we could watch them for hours combing through our grass for worms and bugs.

Then there is that overhead tightrope walking squirrel that will steal anything remotely edible that is left unattended. It is probably my own fault after I left some grapes out in the open for a photo I was working on. He of course stole them, and has been stalking me for more ever since.

Lately Mr. H and our dog, Jack, have been hot on the trail of a raccoon who has been hanging out on our roof by the chimney stack. Said raccoon could have easily gotten away with using our roof as his summer deck had he not left some poop behind which my husband discovered while installing a new chimney cap, and the hunt was on. I don't know what they'll do if they catch him. I don't think they have thought that far ahead. All I care about is that no one gets hurt, including the raccoon.

With all this activity and excitement going on, suppertime seems to sneak up on me every evening. As I said in my last post, I've dusted off the slow cooker, so I'm getting better about advanced planning for our evening meal. To go with our hearty slow cooker dinners, I've been trying out some easy side dishes and quick bread recipes.

One of the recipes that has risen to the top is this recipe for cheddar bacon and onion quick beer bread. I wish I could take total credit for this bread but it is actually an embellished version of a Cooking Light recipe for basic beer cheese bread (for Cooking Light's original recipe, click here). While good as is, in my opinion there is always room for lots of Irish cheddar and bacon. Oh yes I did!

So here you go, one great recipe to support your favorite slow cooker meal, to take to a potluck or maybe even fuel a hungry raccoon hunter.

Cheddar Bacon and Onion Quick Beer Bread

This bread has a pleasantly sweet flavor from the sugar and onions, with a very clear taste of beer, so when making this, know who your audience is. I love this combined with the salty flavors of the bacon and cheddar. There's not much better than a slice with a big bowl of Hungarian Goulash.

5 slices bacon, chopped (mine was the regular sliced from the prepackaged meat case)
1 medium size yellow onion, finely diced
2 medium size garlic cloves, crushed
13 - 14 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 - 3 tablespoons sugar (start with 1 tablespoon and taste batter after each addition until you reach desired flavor)
1 - 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
Coarsely ground pepper to taste
6 ounces sharp cheddar, coarsely chopped instead of grated so you have nice pockets of cheese in the finished bread
1 - 12 ounce bottle of beer (I had a Corona in the fridge so that's what I used)
2 tablespoons butter, melted and divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a 9" loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

Place bacon in a medium size (preheated) frying pan set over medium high heat. Fry until bacon is just becoming crisp. Transfer to paper towels with a slotted spoon to drain; set aside.

Remove all bacon drippings from the frying pan, except about 1 tablespoon. To this, add the onions and saute until they are soft and brown around the edges. Add garlic cloves and saute for 1 minute longer. Transfer to paper towels to drain; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, place the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, sage and pepper; whisk together. Make a well in the center. Place the bacon, onions and cheese in the well. To this add the beer and mix with a wooden spoon just until it is moistened.

Spoon mixture into the prepared loaf pan and spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Drizzle one half of the melted butter over the top.

Place pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle with the remaining butter. Return to the oven and cook an additional 20 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack to cool completely before cutting and serving. If you cut bread before it is cool, it can be gummy in the center, so I advise you wait and heat it back up if you like warm bread.

Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Makes 1 big loaf.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Time To Dust Off The Slow Cooker: Hungarian Goulash

My lovely daughter and her boyfriend just got back from a trip to Hungary. When she asked me what I would like for her to bring back for me, being a big foodie, I of course said some Hungarian paprika. I know that I can buy it at my local supermarket, but there is just something about an overpriced souvenir that says love to me.

When I was a girl growing up in a little Texas town, my mom, who was a very good cook in her own right, would occasionally make her 1970's version of Hungarian goulash. Although she just called it "goulash" the insinuation of its Hungarian origin was always there and we loved it. I mean who wouldn't love a combination of beef, paprika, tomatoes and noodles with a swirl of sour cream on top?

So, when my daughter came over this weekend and presented me with a little decorative bag of fragrant red powder from Hungary, I knew goulash was the next blog post. Since my mom is no longer around to give me her recipe, I hit the web looking for the real deal recipe and I think I found a couple of recipes for inspiration. True to form, I felt I had put them together and tweak them just a bit, because that's how I roll.

Before I present the recipe to you, I have to say that I found the variety of recipes for goulash quite interesting. I was a bit surprised to learn that authentic Hungarian goulash is really more of a soup or stew than what my mom used to make. Her recipe would more than likely fall into the Czech version of goulash which is more like a casserole or entree than the Hungarian version.

I also thought it interesting that it is actually a peasant dish developed by Hungarian herdsman (gulyas), that they would cook outside over an open fire. It wasn't until the latter part of the 19th century that this dish gained popularity among Hungarian society prompted by rising national awareness around the country. Now it is easily the most recognized dish in Hungary.

There is also a Czech pork and sauerkraut version called segedinsky gulas which I plan to make for my daughter's sauerkraut loving boyfriend soon. I am a firm believer that if you are a sauerkraut lover, you must be rewarded for it. So stayed tuned for this dish coming later this fall, but for now with the first hint of cool weather, this will really hit the spot.

Hungarian Goulash

I couldn't think of a better dish for a Halloween gathering, tailgating, football Sundays, or for my friends in the UK, Bonfire Night. This aromatic dish is perfect for the slow cooker or those days when you just want something bubbling away on the stove.

2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 medium size yellow onions, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sweet or hot Hungarian paprika (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika (if you prefer you can omit this and use 2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika instead)
1 pound beef, cut into 1" cubes (the cut you use is up to you, but the cheaper the cut, the longer you'll have to cook it)
1 - 3 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to your taste)
A good grinding of black pepper
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 cup chopped parsnip
1 cup chopped potato
1 cup chopped carrot
1 half of a green or red bell pepper, chopped
1 small handful celery leaves

Place oil in a medium to large size sauce pan that has been preheated over medium high heat.

When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and saute for one minute longer.

Add the beef and saute for approximately 5 minutes or until its color begins to brown. To this mixture add the paprika and stir it all very well to thoroughly coat the meat.

Add just enough water to this to cover the meat and onions. Add the bay leaf, salt, pepper and caraway seeds before bringing the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the meat is tender. At this point I transferred mine to my small slow cooker and set the temperature to high, but you can leave it in the sauce pan, covered and cook until desired tenderness is reached. My London broil cubes took a little over 2 hours to reach the very tender stage,

Once the meat is tender, add all the vegetables, the celery leaves and a little more water if needed. Bring the mixture back up to a simmer, replace the cover and cook until the vegetables are tender yet still firm. Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Serve immediately with crusty bread and a little drizzle of sour cream if desired. Like most stews, goulash just gets better leftover and reheated for the next couple of days.

Serves 4