In search of healthy and fun meals to feed my family, with an eye toward sustainable living.

Here you'll find recipes & ramblings about keeping my family fed with what's available in Alaska between local produce, a little bit of wild harvest, and the modern grocery store.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The BEST Homemade Sourdough buns

Today I managed to make some excellent buns, if I may say so!
So I'll write down what I did, so I can reproduce them -- 'cause I ain't buying grocery store buns for burgers no mo!
This went relatively fast, since it does not take long to rise, and does not require ageing the dough. But I do start out with a good active sourdough starter or "Mother".

As a starting point, I used the recipe for "Quick and Easy Sourdough Bread" (p.91) in Ruth Allman's book Alaska Sourdough.

1 c sourdough starter (mine is fairly hydrated, and pours like pancake batter)
Important: sourdough is at room temperature, and well-fed within a day or two.
1 T yeast (active, granular)
2 T sugar
1.5 c warm water
5-6 c flour (unbleached, white)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda

1.) Stir the sourdough well and measure out 1 cup. (I go ahead and feed the mother starter w/ equal amounts of water and flour at this time, and set it on the counter with a loose lid).
2.) In the Kitchenaide with regular paddle attachment, mix water, sugar and yeast. Let sit until you can see that the yeast is alive and well -- starts bubbling at bit.
3.) Add the sourdough, and mix well.
4.) add 4 c of the flour and salt. This will be sort of soft and sticky, not something you can knead!
5.) Lightly grease a large bowl, and transfer the sticky mess into it.
6.) Cover with a clean towel, or a lid ( I use a glass bowl with lid).
7.) Place in a warm place (such as warm oven, turned off), and let double in size --approx. 1 hour.
8.) Mix soda into 1 c. flour, and add to the dough.
9.) Knead on floured board until satiny and springy to the touch. (Warning to self: do not incorporate too much flour making dough stiff -- instead keep this very "soft". If still a little sticky, stretch and fold the dough, and let it sit for 10 minutes to let the flour absorb some more of the moisture.
10.) Shape about a dozen buns. Let them rise on a floured towel or board, covered, for 30-45 minutes, while heating up the oven w/ baking stone at 400 F.
11.) Transfer buns onto hot stone, and bake 20 minutes + until golden brown on top.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cajun Shepherd's Pie with Very Hot Sauce

Cajun food does not always have to be super spicy. This is a good example: the pie itself is not especially spicy, but the sauce is, and so everybody can control the hotness of their own portion.

This favorite family recipe comes from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, and it makes good company food. I like to make the 4 different parts ahead, assemble it, then throw it in the oven when company arrives.

Part 1: Meatloaf
2 pounds ground meat (usually beef, but could use 1/4-1/2 ground pork, turkey, moose, etc -- note that the leaner the meats are, the drier it will be, so may want to add some other fats)
1-2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 c bread crumbs
oil for sauteing veggies:
1/2+ c each onion, celery, bell peppers
1 T+ minced garlic
1/4 c milk (regular, evaporated or half-half)
seasoning (leave out the spicier stuff if desire it mild):
1 T Worcester sauce
Tabasco or other hot sauce, cayenne pepper (I usually leave these out, as the sauce has them too)
1 T each black and white pepper
3/4 ground cumin
1 t dried thyme leaves
1 t salt (or 1.5)

Saute the veggies, let cool slightly, then mix all the ingredients (I use my hands!)
Bake in 13x9" pan for 30 min, uncovered. Drain any liquid and set aside (I de-fat this and use when making the sauce). If not proceeding with next steps, cover meatloaf and store in cool place.

Part 2: Vegetable layer
olive oil for sauteing
1.5 c carrots, julienned
1 c onion, sliced
1-2 c summer squash, julienned
ok to substitute other veggies, such as green beans.
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t each garlic and onion powder

Saute everything, in batches as needed, and pile on top of meatloaf

Part 3: Mashed potatoes
2 pounds potatoes, boiled
1/2 c milk (regular, evaporated or half-half)
1-2 T butter (optional)
1 t each salt and pepper (mix or white and black pepper is great for potatoes!)

Part 4: Cajun Very Hot Sauce
1/2 c each onions, bell peppers, celery
1/4 c minced jalapeno peppers
1 t minced garlic
1-2 c stock (or water, also use de-fatted dripping from meatloaf) Note that the original recipe calls for 3 c stock, but then boils it back down.
1/4 c oil (I use light olive oil that can handle the heat)
1/4 c flour
3/4 t ground red pepper (cayenne, or for milder, use Hungarian Paprika)
1/2 t each black and white pepper
Tabasco sauce or other hot sauce, as desired (I use SriRatcha)
Bay leaf

First make a light-brown roux. Using a whisk, mix flour (little at a time) into hot oil, stirring constantly until desired color is reached (approx 2-3 min). Add vegetables and seasoning (I switch to a spatula here), and cook until veggies are softened. Slowly add stock (watch for splashing! -- best to remove pot from heat, add liquid, then reheat to thicken, simmering on low for 10-15 minutes).

Assemble parts 1,2,3 and bake for 20-30 min or until thoroughly hot (this depends on how warm things were when assembled). Serve with VHS (Very Hot Sauce) as you would a "gravy".