Tag Archives: nutmeg

Venison Lasagna Bolognese

The first dish from the buck my husband harvested this fall.

This lasagna is a tale of two sauces—a bolognese ragù and béchamel. Neither sauce is difficult to make and the ragù in particular can be made the day or evening before to simplify the final dish preparation. This lasagna doesn’t require all the cheese (ricotta and mozzarella) of typical lasagna recipes, just finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano on each layer, so that the result is a lasagna that is not quite as filling—and by filling, I mean overfilling. You can certainly use the ragù in a typical cheesy lasagna, but I think the béchamel would be overpowered by all that cheese. Ordinarily, I would add cream and butter to a bolognese ragù after the long simmer, but felt that the layers of béchamel provided the necessary creaminess to the dish.

Two things I did differently:

  1. In addition to using venison instead of lean beef or veal, I used ground, smoked, thick-sliced bacon instead of the traditional pancetta, which is not smoked. The smoky bacon adds another layer of flavor, and the venison can handle it. The bacon happens to be from a local company that provides the hot dogs and kielbasa to Heinz Field, Smith Provision, and it’s a really flavorful bacon.
  2. I used some of my frozen tomato sauce made from our summer garden tomatoes. It’s a thick sauce made from roasting tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and onion, so it is already flavored with some of the final sauce ingredients, but since my sauce has been blended, you still need the chopped vegetables in this ragù.

I used fresh pasta sheets available at my grocery to construct the lasagna; you don’t need to boil them first as they cook in the casserole to just the right tenderness—just make sure you have plenty of sauce to cover.

Venison Lasagna Bolognese

  • Servings: 8 main dish servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Note about salt: There are lots of ways to get too much salt into this dish. There is salt in each sauce, your chicken stock may be salted, the bacon may be salty, and authentic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is salty. Personally, I would leave out any extra salt in the ragù. Taste as you go along.

Preheat oven to 375° when ready to construct the dish.

Ingredients
Bolognese Ragù Sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or more)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • about 1 cup celery heart, center ribs with leaves, finely chopped
  • about 1 cup finely chopped carrot
  • about 1 cup medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 pound smoked bacon, coarsely ground
  • 1 pound ground venison
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 cups thick tomato sauce (or crushed tomatoes or tomato paste with more chicken stock)
  • salt & pepper to taste (careful with the salt—see the note above)
Béchamel Sauce
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups milk (I used lactose-free whole milk)
Lasagna
  • fresh pasta sheets to make at least 5 layers in a 13″ x 9″ dish
  • about 2 cups finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Preparation
  1. Prepare the meat sauce, which needs to simmer for about two hours.
  2. In a large straight-sided skillet (often called a chicken fryer) sauté the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil until the vegetables are translucent. Remove vegetables to a dish while browning the meats, which you can’t do well in a pan of vegetables.
  3. In the same pan, using more olive oil if needed, brown the ground bacon. Add the ground venison and ground pork, breaking it all up and cooking until browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  4. Return the sautéed vegetables to the pan. Stir in the parsley, chicken stock, red wine, and tomato sauce (or whatever tomato product you are using).
  5. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. I’m sure this is a sauce that could be made in a slow cooker, too.
  6. When the meat sauce is about done, make the béchamel sauce.
  7. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter.
  8. Stir in the flour and seasoning, stirring until all the flour is combined with the butter and there are no lumps.
  9. Slowly stir in the milk, stirring constantly with a large wooden spoon or whisk. Some people like to scald the milk first in the microwave, but I find that unnecessary—maybe it quickens the thickening. Continue stirring over medium heat until thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat.
  10. Construct the lasagna. Butter a 13″ x 9″ baking dish.
  11. Using a large ladle, lightly cover the bottom of the dish with béchamel sauce.
  12. Arrange your uncooked pasta sheets over the béchamel. You don’t need to cover every inch of the pan, as the pasta will swell a little on absorbing the sauces. I trimmed my sheets to fit in two large squares on each layer, but your sheets may be more narrow than mine.
  13. Top each layer of pasta with enough meat sauce to cover all the edges. Then add a layer of béchamel. Finish with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
  14. Repeat until you reach the top of the dish, ending with the sauces and cheese. Mine came all the way to the top with 5 layers, and while a little bubbled over, most of it was absorbed by the pasta.
  15. Bake at 375° for about 40 minutes. Place a sheet pan on a lower oven rack to catch any spills. The finished lasagna should be browned and bubbly.
  16. Let rest a little before cutting into large squares.

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Hot Dog Sauce Redux

Two years ago, I posted a recipe probably given to me by my sister-in-law for hot dog sauce, supposedly similar to that at a Greenville, PA bar and grill. We’ve had the original many times, including recently, and thought this recipe was pretty close, at least in basic ingredients. But if you look at the post comments, you’ll see two recent comments from former Greenville residents that suggest one significant problem with my sauce, a problem I agree with—too much cloves. One generous informant, Mr. McDonald, even provided a recipe from one of his former Greenville neighbors “of the original Majestic restaurant.” Here’s the recipe I have been using, followed by the better one:

I decided to make the better recipe in a slow cooker, instead of hovering around a pot on the stove, and that turned out to be a good choice, although the beef didn’t break down like I thought it might, even after 8 hours, so I pulsed it in a blender for a few seconds for a much better texture. Both cooking methods are below.

Greenville Hot Dog Sauce

  • Servings: makes about 8-10 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 2 “handfuls chopped onion” (I used 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg (Mr. McDonald used 2 teaspoons; I used the tablespoon)
  • 3 tablespoons paprika (I only had smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 14 oz bottle ketchup
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I added 2 more at the end)
  • 1 cup flour (Mr. McDonald says “3/4 c. seems enough”; I used the full cup in the slow cooker)
Preparation

On stove:

  1. Brown beef, drain, and set aside, reserving about 3 tablespoons fat in pot.
  2. Sweat onions in the reserved fat until translucent.
  3. Return beef to pot with spices and ketchup.
  4. Beat together water, salt, and flour until all the flour is combined. Add to sauce mixture. “Simmer 2 hours. The sauce will thicken and the beef will break down. The beef is supposed to be in small particles, like Cincinnati chili. If you simmer the sauce uncovered then the water evaporates down,” if needed.

In slow cooker:

  1. Brown beef in large skillet, drain, and place in slow cooker. Reserve about 3 tablespoons fat in skillet.
  2. Sweat onions in the reserved fat until translucent, then transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Add spices and ketchup to slow cooker.
  4. Beat together water, salt, and flour until all the flour is combined. Add to slow cooker, stirring until all is combined.
  5. Cook at HIGH for 4 hours. Stir, then set at LOW for another 3-4 hours. You shouldn’t have any sticking, unless you have an older cooker with the heating element on the bottom, in which case you might want to use an all-day LOW setting.
  6. If the texture of the ground beef is still chunky at the end of the cooking (like mine was) you can use an immersion blender or a regular blender or food processor to make it more finely textured, which is best for a hot dog sauce. Just don’t turn it into a paste!

*About the amount of flour in the sauce. One cup of flour has 16 tablespoons, enough to thicken 8 cups of liquid to a medium sauce, like white sauce or cheese sauce. Combined here with 6 cups of water, you can see why the first cooking method on the stovetop suggests using less. In the slow cooker, however, there is little to no evaporation and the sauce is not too thick. That said, you have to decide how thick you want the final sauce. We like a kind of loose sauce with fine textured meat, and thought this one was just right

Bacon Gruyere Quiche with Fresh Herbs

Quiche gives my husband cognitive dissonance, you know, that odd feeling you get when you confront two contradictory ideas or feelings in the same thing, usually in yourself, like holding two seemingly contradictory political views. Every time he bites into a quiche, he expects the sweetness of a custard pie—one of his favorite pies—but can’t wrap his head around the savory deliciousness of quiche ingredients. It just doesn’t make sense to him. It’s not that he won’t eat a savory omelet; I think it’s the pie format and that creamy custard that confuses him. Anyway, he’s getting a steak for dinner.

I’m following the recipe I’ve always used, from my old Joy of Cooking (1967). It begins with a pâte brisée crust that uses room temperature butter, instead of the cold butter that you would expect. It can even be pressed into a pie plate instead of being rolled, but I prefer to chill it and roll it. It’s a dough that handles very nicely and holds up to the wet custard, as long as you blind bake it a little.

The filling possibilities for a quiche are endless, but I usually stick with the traditional bacon and Swiss cheese, with Gruyere being my Swiss of choice. You can make this recipe in a regular pie plate, but I like the high, formal collar you get with a spring form pan.

Bacon Gruyere Quiche with Fresh Herbs

  • Servings: one 9 inch pie
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Preheat oven to 450° to bake the pie crust; allow time to lower to 375° for baking the quiche.

Pâte brisée crust:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-3/4 cup water (does not need to be ice water)

1 beaten egg white (you will use the yolk in the filling, below)

  1. Work the butter into the flour-salt mixture with your fingers. A food processor would be too much with the soft butter and probably work it too much, resulting in a tough dough.
  2. Make a well in the center and add 1/2 cup of the water, then stir quickly with a fork until it holds together, adding more water as needed. I used a little more than the 1/2 cup, but not as much as the 3/4 cup.
  3. Dump the dough onto plastic wrap and shape into a ball, then flatten into a round of about 1/2″ thickness. Cover with the wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out the chilled dough to fit your pie plate or spring form pan. Fill the pan with parchment paper and some kind of weights—beans work well to keep the sides up in a spring form pan.
  5. Bake at 450° for about 12 minutes. remove beans and decide if you want to bake it a few minutes longer. It won’t be completely done, but will be done enough to stay crisp on the bottom through baking the custard.  Brush the crust with beaten egg white and set aside while you prepare the custard.
  6. Turn the oven down to 375°, opening the door to hasten the cooling.

Custard filling:

1/4 lb thick sliced smoked bacon, diced and browned

2 cups shredded or diced Gruyere cheese

3 whole eggs, plus 1 yolk from the egg you separated to brush the crust, above

2 cups whole milk, scalded and cooled slightly

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

a pinch of grated nutmeg, fresh or ground

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

  1. While the crust is baking, sauté the bacon over medium heat to brown and to render out most of the fat. Drain on paper towels.
  2. Sprinkle cooked bacon and shredded cheese over bottom of baked pie crust.
  3. Whisk eggs with the herbs and seasonings, then whisk in the cooled milk quickly.
  4. Pour the custard over the bacon and cheese.
  5. Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned. This is longer than I would cook a custard pie, because I hate a custard pie that weeps, but it works for a quiche that is loaded with other filling ingredients, and I use a lot more cheese than the original recipe.

Pumpkin Blondies

Remember the Great Pumpkin Scarcity Caper, where we cleaned out the local grocery shelves of canned pumpkin because of the dog? You might remember that I confiscated 3 of the large cans for my cooking. I used one of them for the two Thanksgiving pies, and today I opened can #2 for two uses. First up, Pumpkin Blondies, kind of a cakey brownie, thick and moist, but not chewy. I wasn’t going for chewy, but didn’t want a spongy cake either. These turned out just right—I tested three of them already to make that evaluation.

I used my regular blondie recipe, actually called “Butterscotch Brownies” in the old Betty Crocker (1961) p.195. I’d like to know when people started calling them blondies. The original bar is really dense and chewy, made simply with butter and brown sugar for the butterscotch taste. I didn’t change anything in the recipe, except to add pumpkin. I’m sure that’s heresy to add without other adjustments, but I just wanted to move the recipe away from the original dense and chewy texture, not make it the same as the original with a pumpkin flavor. Plus, I wanted to see how just that addition changed the end result. It worked very nicely, but you could probably do things to make the end result more cookie-like if that’s what you want.

Pumpkin Blondies

  • Servings: makes one 8 inch square pan
  • Difficulty: easy
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I used canned pumpkin puree; increase total time if you roast your own pumpkin.

Preheat oven to 350°; butter an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup dry roasted pumpkin seeds (these are usually salted)

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar and butter until combined.
  2. Beat in egg until mixture is light and creamy.
  3. Mix in pumpkin and vanilla until combined.
  4. Mix dry ingredients together, then stir into wet ingredients.
  5. Stir in pumpkin seeds.
  6. Spread in buttered baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes—the top should resist your finger a little when done. You can use a toothpick to test doneness, but the bars are moist and you don’t want to bake until they are dry. The toothpick might fool you.
  7. Cool in pan; then cut bars in the pan or turn out the whole thing onto a cutting board and cut into bars.