Monday, October 27, 2014

Back to the fire: Italian beef soup

We spent a day traversing parts of Wisconsin for our recent anniversary, and when we stopped for lunch, I ordered an Italian beef soup to go with the de rigeur fried cheese curds.

Tangy, beefy, with a hint of tomato, and, I believe, a bit of hominy, it was excellent. It was so good, we decided that would be our first fire soup of the season.

If this is your first time here, you should know we cook a ton of soup over a fire with a tripod, chain and Dutch oven. If you check the recipe index, you'll find a rather lengthy list of soups. A bit unorthodox, sure, but the sheer flavor of soup over the fire is amazing.

So no wonder we are back at it, I suppose.

We got a wonderful beef chuck roast at the butcher's, and I used about half for this, with a plan to use the other half in the crockpot for regular Italian beef.

The recipe I started with came from Cooking Light. Now, I knew I wanted to add hominy, and probably a bit of celery, so already the ingredient list became longer. I stifled the urge to put in kale — constant battle — but decided to add a bit of beer along with the red wine.

We actually had most of the ingredients on hand, which is a shocker, so the only other thing I added was Worcestershire.

All you need:

1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into cubes
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. red wine
3 1/2 lbs. chopped tomatoes
2 c. beef broth (I use Better Than Boullion) plus 2 additional cups
1 c. beer
1 t. oregano
1 t. thyme, ground
1 bay leaf
1 8-oz. package baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 T. basil, or 2 T. fresh basil
1 t. parsley
1 can hominy, undrained
Dash worcestershire

All you need to do:

Prepare fire and put tripod in place.

Heat a saucepan to medium and add 2 T. olive oil. Trim and cut beef into cubes, then toss with flour, salt and pepper. Brown lightly on all sides, and put into Dutch oven.

Chop and add vegetables, then add to pan. Saute five to ten minutes, then remove to Dutch oven.

Deglaze pan with red wine, scraping bits with a wooden spoon. Add to Dutch oven.

Add remaining liquids except additional 2 cups beef broth,  and spices to Dutch oven.

Place over fire, and cook for about 40 minutes, pausing to stir every 15 minutes, and add more broth if necessary.

If cooking on the stove:

Follow above directions, eliminating additional beef broth, and put in oven-appropriate* Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes, checking vegetables as needed.

The additional liquid may seem excessive, but when cooking over fire, may become necessary, especially if you get an errant log determined to engulf the oven in flames. It happens.

Serve with fresh beer bread or biscuits. Enjoy!

*I should mention that I use an enameled Dutch oven on the stove, while I use a cast iron Dutch oven with a handle over the fire. Just an fyi in case you don't want to sacrifice your enameled version!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Peach and blueberry cobbler on the grill

Well, the hatch chiles have been roasted and frozen for winter chili. I've done some more canning - bread and butter pickles this time, which were so much better than expected. We have gone through half a jar on hamburger sliders, while I ate the other half out of the jar, and now the last of the cucumbers will be pressed into service to make sure we have enough for the winter!

So, with all the canning slowing down, and the huge basement cleanout about over, it's time for recipes. We have been hitting the grill pretty hard these days, making up time from this past winter.

I'd heard you could put fruit and things into a Dutch oven and put it on the grill after dinner was cooked, and after a while, instant cobbler. So, I decided to test the theory.

I'd stocked up, inadvertently, on peaches and blueberries, and thought I might as well combine the two for the experiment.

After tossing the fruit with cornstarch, I topped the pairing with a crumb topping and melted butter. Then added the lid, and set it on the cool side of the grill to do its work.

Wasn't I surprised after dinner! Not only did the cobbler turn out bubbly with a crispy topping, it turned the inside of my Dutch oven... blue. Ah, well.

This is a great thing to put together on any night you plan to grill out for dinner. It cooks quickly, and would feed 4 to 6 if stretched, although that might require ice cream, and may also result in battles over portions, etc. Do what you will, but make sure to have plenty and eat it the day of or day after -- it won't — and shouldn't — last long!

All you need:

A hot grill, with the charcoal pushed to one side.
2 peaches, diced (I didn't bother to peel them)
1 pint blueberries, washed and dried
2 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. sugar
Dash cinnamon
1/2 stick butter, melted

Streusel topping
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. oats
1/2 stick butter, cut into pieces
dash cinnamon and kosher salt

All you have to do:

Place fruit in Dutch oven and stir in cornstarch. Mix topping in separate bowl and cut in butter until crumbs are the size of peas, then pour over fruit. Melt butter and pour evenly over topping. Top with lid.

(I should mention here that my Dutch oven has a cast iron handle, not plastic. If you're nervous about putting a plastic handle into the hot grill area, you might remove that first. Your call.)

Set the covered Dutch oven on the grill, and let cook for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the heat of the grill. It's done when the fruit is bubbling, and the topping is browned. Carefully remove with big ol' oven mitts, and let cool about five minutes at least.

Serve with ice cream!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall: A sabbatical

Well, it's been awhile.

I could say it's because we haven't been cooking, but that would be a lie. In fact, we made the best seafood stew ever the other night, and didn't even bother to write down ingredients or take photos, or do anything, really, but just enjoy sitting by the fire. And eating.

Which, actually, was pretty great!

The truth is, I've been busy at work, and traveling. These were snapped at the side of the road en route up the Appalachians. When we haven't been traveling, we've been busy with a few things. Namely, freezing leeks and kale from the garden, which we finally unearthed. Cleaning gutters. Painting. The aforementioned seafood chowder — here's an approximation. You know, the usual fall stuff, minus the pumpkins, etc.

In fact, our sum total of fall activities has been planting two red mums. Alas. There are recipes on the way, though. A great on-the-grill cobbler, an Italian beef stew, that sort of thing. Keeping it in the road until next time...