Autumn Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Here is a bowl of all the chunks of the Fairytale Pumpkin. The great thing about these pumpkins is that there is a lot of flesh and not a lot of empty space inside the pumpkin.
Here is a bowl of all the chunks of the Fairytale Pumpkin. The great thing about these pumpkins is that there is a lot of flesh and not a lot of empty space inside the pumpkin.

Autumn is probably my favorite season. I love the seasonal flavors that start showing up on plates as we move from light summer fare to heartier savory foods. Pumpkins and other winter squash are some the best ways to celebrate this season. You can search for butternut squash on my blog and find a number of recipes. Last fall the supermarket put the huge heirloom pumpkins on sale for 4 for $1. We got $5 of them. You can do the math, but just know it was A LOT of pumpkin. This is the soup we kept coming back to last year.

https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/CDPH-Guidance-for-the-Prevention-of-COVID-19-Transmission-for-Gatherings-10-09.aspx
Autumn Pumpkin Soup

We used a large Fairytale Pumpkin for this recipe. This pumpkin can come in colors from dark green to orange and has a fairly thin skin. The flesh is firm but not fibrous like Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins. It’s also bright orange. Making the roasted pumpkin filling is very simple and because it’s so easy, I don’t know why you’d want to use a can of pumpkin if pumpkins are available. We put salt and pepper on the chunks of pumpkin before we roasted them, but if you want to use of them for sweet dishes, just roast them without any seasoning and you can use them as you need.


Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick (4 TBSP) of salted butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 6 cups of diced roasted pumpkin (not canned – we used Fairytale)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne (optional and to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Olive Oil or sour cream for topping
  • Optional:
    • Tabasco Sauce or your favorite hot sauce
    • Red pepper flakes

Instructions

These instructions are divided into two parts. The first part is for roasting the pumpkin. If you’re using canned pumpkin, skip down to the instructions for the soup here.


Roasted Pumpkin

For this recipe, we used about 1/2 of a large Fairytale Pumpkin. However, we cut up and roasted the whole pumpkin. We will freeze the pumpkin that isn’t used and use it later in either another soup or one of my favorites, pumpkin ravioli.

Heat oven to 400 F and put foil down on 2 large baking sheets.

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Keep the seeds for roasting them once the pumpkin is done in the oven.

Cut the pumpkin into 2 to 3 inch chunks, then toss them in a bowl with olive oil. Using our largest bowl, it took a couple bowls to get them all coated. Then we place them on baking sheets and lightly sprinkled salt and pepper on them. (Note: You can skip the salt and pepper if you want to use the roasted pumpkin for sweet dishes.)

Here are the pieces of pumpkin that have a light coating of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and are ready to be roasted.
Here are the pieces of pumpkin that have a light coating of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and are ready to be roasted.

Roast the pumpkins for about 45 minutes to an hour, until fork tender. We had large chunks and it took about 1 hour. Plus, we’re in Breckenridge, CO, and it usually takes food a little longer to cook up here at this altitude. We turned the pans every 20 minutes or so to make sure they heated evenly.

Here are the roasted pumpkin pieces after being roasted for about 1 hour.
Here are the roasted pumpkin pieces after being roasted for about 1 hour.

Let the pumpkins cool, then cut the skin away. Note that you can cut the skin away before roasting but some pumpkins are pretty tough when raw, so we’ve found it much easier to cut the skins away after roasting.

Here are the pumpkins after we skinned them. The small bowl on the left is the pumpkin that we cut into smaller pieces for the soup.
Here are the pumpkins after we skinned them. The small bowl on the left is the pumpkin that we cut into smaller pieces for the soup.

Cut the chunks down into 1 to 2 inch cubes.


Instructions for the soup

Melt the butter on medium heat, then add the onion and stir to coat onions. Cook the onions for 5 minutes. Then add the carrots, garlic, shallots, ginger. Continue sautéing these for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft.

Here are the onion, carrots, ginger and garlic cooking.
Here are the onion, carrots, shallots, ginger and garlic cooking.

Add the chicken stock, pumpkin, cayenne, cumin, and nutmeg and stir thoroughly. We added little salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer the soup mixture for an hour.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup mixture into a smooth consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender to blend the soup in small batches.

Taste the soup at this point. We added a little more salt and pepper and then 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and a couple splashes of Tabasco sauce. We like things on the hotter side, so just add it if you like the heat. We let our soup continue to simmer for another hour with the cover on it so it wouldn’t evaporate.

Serve the soup hot and top with either a splash of olive oil or sour cream. If you roasted the pumpkin seeds, sprinkle some of these onto the soup.

A picture of our Autumn Roasted Pumpkin Soup with a side of grilled bratwurst sausage.
Autumn Roasted Pumpkin Soup with a side of bratwurst sausage.

We made this soup for two grown men and there was a lot left over. We think this is a great thing! We’ll have soup again, but you can use this soup in other dishes. We’ll reduce the soup and then add it to some marinara for a pumpkin pasta sauce. You can also add 1/2 cup of this soup to Italian Wedding Soup to give it an autumnal flair.

Spicy Asian Chili Oil

A jar of spicy Asian chili oil
Spicy Asian Chili Oil

This oil comes from a recipe on the New York Times food website. It’s included in their recipe for Ramen with Charred Scallions, Green Beans, and Chili Oil. We haven’t made the whole recipe, but the oil alone is worth making.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons red-pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of neutral oil. (grapeseed, vegetable, or canola)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (of course you can add more)
  • 2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Instructions

Put the red pepper flakes and the salt into a heat resistant bowl.

Put your neutral oil (we used grapeseed), ginger, and garlic into a small saucepan. OK, we like garlic so we used 4 cloves, but that’s just us. Heat this mixture over medium heat until it bubbles. It will take 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the oil mixture from the heat and carefully pour the hot oil over the red-pepper flakes and salt.

Add the sesame seeds and the sesame oil. Stir well.

Let the oil mixture sit for at least half an hour to give the flavors time to meld. Make sure to shake or stir well before using it.

This chili oil can be stored in an airtight jar at room temperature for up to a month and indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Chicken Pozole with Green Chile

Pozole is a Mexican stew that has a base of hominy. You can find versions with chicken and pork and they can either be green or red. When you’re searching for it online, a lot of the recipes use the Americanized word Posole.

This recipe originated on the side of a big can of hominy that we found at Sam’s Club. It was the Juanita’s Foods Mexican Style Hominy in a 110 oz can. We had never made this before and thought it sounded fun. The recipe on the can started with a fresh whole chicken and includes instructions on cooking the chicken. We happened to be out of town so we opted to use a rotisserie chicken. This was a great time saver. You could also use a smoked chicken, grilled chicken breast or poached chicken. To be honest, I’m not a fan of poached chicken because it doesn’t matter how many ingredients you add to the water, the chicken always tastes bland to me.

There are very many variations to this recipe that you can find online. Some call for pulled pork and some are “red” instead of green. There are also many different garnishes that you can use. We used the lime wedges and radishes, which seem to be the most popular.

This dish is typically served as a stew so you can add more chicken stock if you want it more soup like. You can also cook it down a little and make it thicker if you want to serve it with tortillas and eat it like a taco.

This serves about 7 to 8 people.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken, or 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of cooked chicken, cut into pieces
  • 55 oz of Juanita’s Mexican Style Hominy (1/2 of the large 110 oz can)
  • 1 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 6 tomatillos (you can also use canned if fresh aren’t available)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground corriander
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • Optional garnishes: lime wedges, sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, diced onion, shredded cabbage, and/or dried oregano. (we used lime wedges and radishes).

Directions

  1. Prepare the poblano and jalapeno peppers by roasting them over a flame until blistered and blackened. You can roast these on the stove top of a gas stove or on your grill. If neither are available, then you can roast them under the broiler with the tomatillos (see next step). Then put them in a plastic bag to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, gently pull the blackened skin away, then seed the peppers and chop the peppers.
    2020-11-08-12-47-08.jpg
    2020-11-08-12-47-44.jpg
  2. Prepare the tomatillos by removing the husks. Then roast them on the grill or under the broiler to give them a nice char. This should take about 5 minutes. Let the tomatillos cool, then chop them into small pieces. If you’re using canned tomatillos, you can skip the roasting step and just chop them up.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven, then saute the chopped onion and garlic for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the poblanos, jalapeno, and tomatillos to the pan and continue to saute until all items are soft.
  5. Transfer the sauteed vegetables to a blinder and puree until smooth.
  6. Remove the skin from the chicken and, using a fork, shred the chicken. Discard the bones (or set them aside for making a stock later).
  7. Add the hominy, pureed pepper mixture, shredded chicken, and 4 cups of chicken stock to the large pan or dutch oven. Mix well.
  8. Cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes. Salt to taste.
  9. Serve with your choice of garnish: lime wedges, sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, diced onion, shredded cabbage, and/or dried oregano.

IMG_zf0blc.jpg

Marinated Mushrooms

Here is our jar of marinated mushrooms. You can see buts of the garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes and orange peel floating in there with the mushrooms.

Here is our jar of marinated mushrooms. You can see buts of the garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes and orange peel floating in there with the mushrooms.

We saw this recipe on one of Lidia Bastianich’s shows on CreateTV. It sounded simple enough and we have some extra mushrooms leftover from the Christmas holiday cooking. We were surprised at how much a pound of mushrooms cooked down so next time we’re going to double the recipe.

The orange peel really adds a nice flavor to the mushrooms and was a pleasant surprise. There is a lot of liquid left over from the vinegar that the mushrooms are cooked and stored in that has a really good mushroom flavor. We’re going to try to re-purpose this into a salad dressing or something like that.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups of white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves (fresh if you have them available)
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (depending on your preferred heat level)
  • 1 pound of small white button mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and peeled
  • Peel of 1 orange (peeled with a vegetable peeler)
  • Extra-Virgin olive oil (for tossing)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian Parsley

Instructions

Using a large sauce pan or dutch oven, combine the vinegar, water, rosemary, bay leaves, salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring this mixture to a boil.

while the mixture is coming to a boil, prepare your mushrooms. The goal is to have them be bite-sized, so smaller is best. For any larger mushrooms, cut in half or into quarters.

Once the mixture is boiling, add your mushrooms and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender.

Remove the pan from the heat and then add the garlic and orange peel. Allow the mixture to cool in the cooking liquid.

Once cooled, pack the mushrooms into a jar and then pour the cooking liquid over them. Seal the jar and refrigerate. We ate ours after about 4 hours of refrigeration and they were great. You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week.

When you’re ready to eat, serve them by placing the mushrooms into a serving bowl and drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.

Here are our mushrooms after we drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parsley. They were eaten too fast so I couldn't get a picture of them in a nice clean serving bowl.

Here are our mushrooms after we drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parsley. They were eaten too fast so I couldn’t get a picture of them in a nice clean serving bowl.

Watermelon-Jalapeno Margarita

Summer Watermelon-Jalapeño Margarita

Summer Watermelon-Jalapeño Margarita

It’s hot outside and what goes better with a hot summer afternoon than watermelon. Well, there are more than a few ways to enjoy your watermelons. We recently bought a large watermelon that was bigger than we expected. Our housekeeper suggested that we make watermelon water, which we did.

Once we tried the watermelon water, we knew we had to try it in an adult beverage so we tried our hand at a margarita and we both think it turned out great.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon diced
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar (you can substitute honey)
  • 1 cup tequila,
  • 1/4 cup triple sec.
  • 2 cups of ice
  • 1 jalapeno, cut into 1/4 inch licked
  • 12 to 15 fresh mint leaves (you can substitute fresh basil)

Instructions

Mix the watermelon, lime juice, water, agave, tequila and triple sec in a blender and blend until super smooth. Stir in the ice, half the jalapeno slices and half of the mint leaves. (Do not blend the jalapeno slices, just stir them in with the ice) The remaining jalapeno slices and mint leaves are to garnish your drinking glasses. Stir very well and serve.

If you want your drink a little sweeter you can stir in some additional agave or some sugar. You can also taste your watermelon before you start mixing it. If the watermelon isn’t very sweet, you can throw in a few pieces of cantaloupe to add some natural sweet flavor.

Texas BBQ seasoning rub

Our pantry has over a dozen containers of mixes for meat runb but we’re still always on the lookout for something different. One of our go-to runs is the Ring of Fire rub. We recently had a brisket that we wanted to try something different with. When we looked online, we found a recipe that looked like a great starting point.

Most of the meat rubs we have lean towards the sweet side but this one has some noticeable heat. It’s not going to burn your mouth but it’s definitely going to tingle your tongue.

When we mixed this the first time, the recipe didn’t specify whether to use regular paprika or smoked paprika so we used 5 teaspoons of smoked paprika. That was WAY too much. Cutting it in half with regular paprika gives this mixture a better balance. I’ll also admit we increased the cayenne from 2 teaspoons because we like the heat. If you don’t want it as hot, cut it back to 2 teaspoons.

A final note, the original recipe says 1/2 cup of brown sugar is optional. I think it really needs the sweetness to be authentic to the flavors of Texas and to balance out the mixture. However, that was too much so we cut it in half. As you can see, this is all very subjective and you can play around with the ingredients to find the mix that’s right for you.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions

Mix everything except for the brown sugar very well. Then add your broken sugar. You can use a spoon or whisk but, if you have trouble feeling it mixed well, try putting it into a mixer or coffee grinder.

You can store this is a cool dry place with you other spices and it will last for months.

New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Black eyed pea soup simmering

Black eyed pea soup simmering

If you live in the south, you probably have some sort of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. These little peas are supposed to bring you good luck in the coming year. Legend has it that this tradition comes from the Civil War era when the Northern army didn’t burn the fields of peas as they swept through the South.

I hope you don’t just eat these peas on New Year’s Day because they are really good and should eat them year-round. I have another recipe for black-eyed pea soup but it’s a lot more complicated. For this one, I wanted to make a soup with less steps and just a lot easier to make. I basically start with our favorite soffritto mixture of onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Yes, these are more items than in a traditional soffritto but we like the flavors.

As for the meat in this dish, we happened to find a spiral sliced ham at our local HEB grocery store that was on sale after Christmas so we had to get it. We parted the ham up and used the bone from the ham. The last half or so of the ham wasn’t sliced so we cut up these pieces into bite sized chunks and used these. Without this ham, I would have used sausage and some bacon.

Now, let’s talk about spicy, as in heat. We like it hot! I think a spicy soup is perfect all year round, but especially on a cold winter day (like New Year’s Day). Therefore, we put in 2 jalapenos and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. You can definitely cut back or even eliminate both ingredients if you don’t want it spicy. However, I’d at least put in 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. we buy jalapenos by the dozen and grow our own during the summer so we always have plenty on hand.

To start, get all your vegetables ready.

Vegetables for the soffritto to go into the black eyed pea soup.

Vegetables for the soffritto to go into the black-eyed pea soup.

Cook your vegetables in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.

Vegetable cooking for black eyed pea soup.

Vegetable cooking for black-eyed pea soup.

Once cooked, add your black-eyed peas, liquid, ham bone and ham chunks.

Black eyed pea soup starting to cook.

Black-eyed pea soup starting to cook.

Let it simmer for a couple of hours and then it’s ready for you and your family!

Black eyed pea soup simmering

Black-eyed pea soup simmering

It’s become our tradition to make a black-eyed pea soup on New Year’s Day afternoon while we’re watching college bowl games.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound package of black-eyed peas, sorted and soaked overnight
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (you can cut back on this if you don’t want it spicy)
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1 cup ham pieces
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (reduce the amount if you don’t want it spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

The night before you want to make this, rinse your black-eyed peas and then place in a large pot and cover with an inch of water.

The next day, drain your peas and rinse them again in a colander to get out any remaining grit from the peas. They should have swelled up over night.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat and then put in your onions. After 2 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Next, add the carrots, celery, bell peppers and jalapenos. Stir well and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the other vegetables are tender.

Add your beans and chicken broth and water. Then add your ham bone and ham pieces.  Next add the cumin, cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce. If all your ingredients aren’t covered with the broth and water, add additional water until fully covered. Then bring to a boil. After it starts boiling, reduce your heat to low, put the lid on your Dutch oven, and allow the pot to simmer for at least 2 hours, until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally. If the water starts to evaporate to the point that it no longer covers the peas, simply add enough water to the pot to cover the peas while they simmer.

Persillade Relish

We saw this recipe on America’s Test Kitchen and it sounded great. We knew we had to try it and used it for some steaks we cooked on the grill. We don’t usually put any sauce on our grilled steaks but we just really wanted to try this recipe out and see how it was.

The main thing we did differently is we used homemade dill pickles rather than the cornichons that the recipe called for. I don’t know if it would make a difference but we liked the way it turned out. So, I wouldn’t go out and buy a bottle of cornichons if you have a supply of dill pickles in your refrigerator.

As a side note, this is the only version I found online that includes the pickles and capers. I thought they were the star of the show, but I love capers so that’s what appealed to me at first. One article from Canada says this Persillade Relish (or sauce) is a distant cousin to the Argentine Chimichurri, Spanish Salsa Verde, German Gruene Sosse and Mexican Salsa Verde. I could definitely see the similarity to chimichurri and Spanish salsa verde but not to Mexican salsa verde. We make the Mexican version all the time and it’s got a lot more liquid to it. I’ve never made the Spanish salsa verde but it is something I’m adding to my list of things to try.

My final thought is that without the pickles and capers this relish/salsa is very similar in ingredients and texture to an Italian pesto. We’ve made pestos from basil, of course, but also with parsley, arugula (one of my favorites) and cilantro. I think you can definitely play around with this and come up with your favorite combination for your family.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons minced dill pickles (or cornichons)
  • 1 teaspoon of the brine from the dill pickles
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and chopped coarse
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

You can put this into a food processor and give it a few pulses but we just mixed it all by hand.

You can put this relish over any meat or even use it on crackers. It’s really tasty and simple to make.

Beef stew for a winter day

Beef stew simmering on the stove.

Beef stew simmering on the stove.

We’re sitting at the end of 2018 with a day to go before New Year’s Eve and I’ve been craving a stew. It really hasn’t been that cold in Austin to warrant making a stew, but the past couple days have been grey and chilly and I really started thinking a stew would be perfect.

You should know by now that we don’t follow recipes step by step and luckily it always turns out well. We’ve realised most measurements are only suggestions since when grandmothers would make the recipes they didn’t pull out a measuring spoon to get exactly 1/4 tablespoon of sugar or 1 teaspoon of thyme.

So, with that in mind, we set out to find a stew recipe that we wanted to loosely base our creation on. This is our second attempt at documenting our stew making process. A couple of years ago we made a pot roast stew with beer and paprika and many more vegetables. To be honest, almost all of them were so similar that I think it just comes down to using good meat, vegetables and simmering for a long time. The proportions of the different ingredients will change the ultimate flavor but I was pretty sure it would turn out great regardless of how you combined them. In the end, we selected a recipe from Once Upon a Chef as our primary source for inspiration into this afternoon project.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 cubes
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of red wine
  • 2 cubs of beef broth (we used beef bullion)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices on the diagonal
  • 1 pound potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Freshly chopped parsley (optional)

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 325 F and put a rack in the middle.

Pat your beef dry with a paper towel and generously season with the salt and pepper. Using a large Dutch Oven, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Then in 3 batches, brown the beef in the olive oil for about 5 minutes per batch. Turn the beef while browning with tongs and don’t crowd the beef while it’s browning. You can add a tablespoon of oil between batches if there isn’t enough grease in the Dutch oven. Once each batch is brown, transfer to a separate dish and place aside.

Once you finish your last batch of beef, put the onions, garlic and balsamic vinegar into the Dutch oven. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape off the brown bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Add your tomato paste and cook for another minute.

Add the beef and juices back to the Dutch oven with the onions and garlic mixture and sprinkle with the flour. Mix this together until the flour is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the beef broth, water, wine, bay leaves, thyme and sugar to the mixture and stir it all together. Bring to a boil then cover the Dutch oven with a lid and transfer to your preheated oven. Let it cook in the oven for 2 hours.

At the end of two hours, take the Dutch oven out of the oven and add your carrots, potatoes and celery. Stir in the vegetables and then put the lid back on the pot and place simmer for at least one hour over low heat. Cook for an additional hour, until the vegetables are tender and the meat is fall apart tender. You can place the Dutch oven back in the oven as it was done in our source recipe, however, we needed the oven to make bake some bread so we finished it on the stove top. It turned out fine.

Serve warm.

Here are a few pictures of our process along the way.

For best results, cut your beef into 1 to 1-1/2 inch cube pieces.

For best results, cut your beef into 1 to 1-1/2 inch cube pieces.

Brown the beef cubes on each side.

Brown the beef cubes on each side.

Here are the beef cubes browning.

Here are the beef cubes browning.

Here is the picture of right after we added the beef and it's juices to the onions and garlic.

Here is the picture of right after we added the beef and it’s juices to the onions and garlic.

Here is the stew right after we added the beef broth, wine and water to the pot.

Here is the stew right after we added the beef broth, wine and water to the pot.

This is what it looks like after 2 hours in the oven braising.

This is what it looks like after 2 hours in the oven braising.

Beef stew simmering on the stove.

Beef stew simmering on the stove.

 

Bacon-Maple-Bourbon-Pecan Pie

Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas dinners deserve a grown-up dessert. That’s why we knew we had to try this recipe when we found it in the monthly newsletter that our realtors send to us. Of course, it wasn’t as fantastic as it could be so we modified it for some extra wow factor. The original recipe is for a Bacon-Maple-Walnut pie. The first thing we did was added the bourbon. We got this idea after watching a cooking show where bourbon was included in a couple different ways into desserts. The pie was great but we couldn’t help comparing it to a pecan pie, so we knew that was the next upgrade for this recipe. We are in Texas after all, so the pecan is always our nut of choice when it’s an option.

Since I mentioned them above and they’re the inspiration for this recipe, here’s the shout out to our realtors, Doug Jacobs & Jeff Mikeska, who sold us our house 18 years ago and still send us their newsletters and calendars. The newsletter they sent back in 2016 had this recipe in the holiday section. Of course, it caught our attention and we had to try it. I’ll also add that they’re great guys that we highly recommend them if you need a realtor in Austin.

Ingredients

Bacon – 4 ounces of thick cut bacon plus the bacon fat, separated

  • save 2 to 3 tablespoons of bacon fat for the crust dough
  • put the crumbled bacon in the pie

 

Ingredients for the Pie Crust

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of bacon fat, from the 4 ounces of bacon (see above)
  • 5 tablespoons of vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of very cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

Ingredients for the Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup of dark maple syrup (grade B or 2)
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of bourbon (go for the good stuff here!)
  • 4 ounces of bacon, crumbled into small pieces (see above)
  • 2 cups of pecans – crushed or halves

Instructions

Instructions for the Crust

NOTE: we usually don’t get as much bacon fat from the bacon used for this recipe as the original recipe calls for. Therefore, we usually use some bacon fat that we have left over from earlier. In case you’re wondering, yes, we have a little container like my Granny used to have where we collect bacon fat anytime we cook bacon. If you don’t have as much as the recipe calls for and you don’t have your own backup reserve, go ahead and substitute with additional shortening.

  1. Fry your bacon in a skillet on medium heat until the bacon is crisp (about 3 to 5 minutes). Transfer the fried bacon to a paper towel.
  2. Save 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan (you’ll put this into the filling), then measure the rest of the left over bacon fat and put it into a heat-safe measuring cup. Let the bacon fat cool for 10 minutes. Then add enough shortening so that you get a total volume of 6 tablespoons (this is also 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons).
  3. Pour flour into a bowl and add the bacon fat from the measuring cup, cutting it in with a fork until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
  4. Mix the 2 tablespoons of cold water and the vinegar and then add it to the flour mixture until it forms a soft, non-sticky dough. Form the dough into a ball, dust with flour and roll into an 11 inch circle. Place the dough in a pie plate.

If you want an easy method to roll out your pie dough, check out this method using a recycled plastic bag: How to roll out pie dough using a plastic bag or wax paper
Instructions for the Filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Beat the eggs, maple syrup, sugars and vanilla extra into a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed. Mix in the reserved 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.
  2. Crumble the bacon into small pieces and put the crumbled bacon into the bowl. Stir in the pecans until incorporated and pour into the pie crust.

Bake pie at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, until puffy and brown. There should only be a slight jiggle in the center of the pie when it’s finished cooking. Let pie cool before slicing.