Your classic British cold pork lunch pie – seasoned pork and aspic in a firm and thoroughly tasty hot water crust pastry. It’s a process befitting a Tudor kitchen, but making these Melton Mowbray-style pork pies is way easier – and more fun! – than you might expect.
Almost from the beginning of this blog, there have been a number of recipes that we’ve wanted to make, but have lacked the time, ingredients, or frankly, the willingness to tackle. Pork pies are one of those recipes. For any of our readers who are unfamiliar, the traditional British pork pie is a hearty, venerated and highly portable vittle served cold and protected from the elements with a robust pastry shell. Between the layer of meat and pastry is a set aspic jelly. At this point, our carnivorous Brit readership (alright, Nathan?) will be slavering and ready for the recipe. More trepidatious American sensibilities might be juggling with the concepts of “cold pork”, “robust pastry” and “aspic jelly”. Fear not, Brad, buddy, all will be explained. Oh? You’re not? Well, you kind of look like a Brad. You just do. Sorry.
When the cold evenings get you thinking about a warming supper, but there’s still farm fresh corn in the market, corn chowder is our favorite way to ease into autumn. This version combines sweet corn and smoky bacon in a creamy broth, dotted with lightly poached shrimp and sliced jalapeños to soothe the end-of-summer blues.
What happened to summer? It seems as though the season just started, and its bounty had only yesterday begun to fill the supermarket shelves. Just like that, it’s all done for another year. Fortunately, even the Northeast still has plenty of farm fresh corn to offer – a cornucopia, you might even say – and we’ll take up our supermarket’s “12 corn cobs for $4!” offer as long as we can. This aren’t the tiny, young cobs from July that we could almost eat raw – at the end of the season, while corn is still pretty tasty, but not really at its peak, it’s a fantastic ingredient in a soup or stew. Hence: shrimp and corn chowder.
Fresh, light and delicious, Vietnamese summer rolls are a great appetizer or light meal any time of the year. Crisp vegetables, bright herbs and shrimp are rolled in a rice paper wrapper, with a side of sweet and salty peanut sauce for dipping.
If you’ve ever eaten at a Vietnamese restaurant (or had the pleasure of traveling to the country, you adventurer), you’ve probably had summer rolls. They’re sometimes called “fresh spring rolls” or “salad rolls”, but not to be confused with traditional spring rolls, which are often smaller, fried, and filled with cooked vegetables and pork. These are the epitome of fresh and light, filled with finely shredded raw vegetables (we used purple cabbage, carrots, cucumber & scallions, as well as butter lettuce), lots of bright herbs like mint, cilantro and basil, rice vermicelli noodles and poached shrimp, all wrapped up like a translucent burrito in a rice paper wrapper.
We love the flavors of Vietnamese cooking (as you can tell by some of our previous recipes: Vietnamese-style baked chicken and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops (Thit Heo Nuong Xa). I first made Vietnamese Summer Rolls over a decade ago and I’ve been wanting to make them again ever since. When we found out we were going to have a weekend houseguest, our 12-year-old niece Charlotte, who is an adventurous eater and a great cook in her own right, we thought these would be a fun dish to make together.
Tender chicken, caramelized onions and Swiss chard in a creamy garlic sauce, topped with a blanket of buttery, flaky, ultra-crisp phyllo dough. This is comfort food pretty enough for the fanciest dinner party, but tasty enough for a relaxed family meal.
(Note: This would also be a great way to use up leftover Thanksgiving or holiday turkey. Chop or shred the cooked leftovers and fold into the sauce and vegetables before adding the pastry top.)
I think it was probably about 12 years ago that my mom bought us our first piece of really good cookware, a 5-quart Le Creuset dutch oven. At that point, we were still using a cheap, thin-gauge pan set I had bought in college, which burned pretty much anything that got near it, even if the oven wasn’t on. Being the weirdo that I am, I even remember the first thing I made in it, Duck Leg Ragu. I remember it, not because it was particularly amazing, but because while I was cooking it, something miraculous happened … The bottom of the pan didn’t scorch before the duck had browned. There wasn’t a blackened ring of sauce in the exact same shape as the burner. It was a red-sauce miracle! That’s when I realized that investing in a few items of really special, well-made cookware was much better than having a crappy set of pans in every size. Since then, our special collection has slowly grown, and I love each piece. We cook a lot (I know you’re shocked) and I use these skillets, fry pans, and grill pans almost daily. The great thing is, well-made cookware lasts for generations so if you have kids, tell them whoever helps in the kitchen inherits the good stuff.
Three layers of delicious: these ultra-decadent peanut butter bars are a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The base is a crunchy, buttery graham cracker cookie, the middle is a generous layer of creamy whipped peanut butter and the top is silky chocolate ganache sprinkled with chopped roasted peanuts. Get ready to perform some crowd control.
A couple of weeks ago, I was working on a list of ideas for treats Matt and I might make for the fifth annual For Goodness Bake sale (an amazing event, hosted by our lovely friends, Kristen Pratt and Tara Tornello). This thing is a big deal and our fellow Beaconites go all out, making all kinds of delicious cookies, cakes, tarts, cupcakes and savories, all to sell for a good cause. It’s kind of like the Great British Baking Show, but without a tent and with a lot more cursing (we are Americans, remember).
So I’m reading the list to Matt who, to be fair, has spent a long day fixing computer whatsits and thingamajigs (technical terms), so he’s on the Playstation, drinking a can of beer, and barely paying attention to what I’m saying. “Brown Butter Hazelnut Blondies” get a shrug. “Lemon and Rosemary Tarlets” get a pout and narrowed eyes. “Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars”: a huff and a raised eyebrow.
“Whipped Peanut Butter Bars with Chocolate–”
“That one,” he interrupts, throwing the game controller aside, suddenly as focused as a lion in Sainsbury’s that just spotted a shepherd’s pie in the sale bin. I described my idea, a buttery cookie crust studded with crunchy peanuts. Whipped, almost airy peanut butter buttercream. Chocolate ganache topped with chopped roasted salted peanuts. Yeah, now he’s paying attention.