This was spring vacation week, so I put up a little effort. In retrospect, I can see that my effort did not extend to vegetable preparation. Oh well.
Corn dogs, chips, and Hobbit bread for the kids;
amazing sandwiches and exhilarating fries for me and Damien.
I gave a talk in Hanover on Saturday, and we stopped at Everything But Anchovies for dinner. The sandwiches were so good, I thought it would be fun to do a sandwich of the week, now that it’s getting warmer.
Meanwhile, back at home, honorable daughter #3 made her amazing stuffed Hobbit bread. She used pre-made pizza dough, and baked two large woven loaves stuffed with a savory filling of mushrooms, onions, and cheese. A fine time for me to leave town.
I’ve mentioned Hobbit Bread a few times, so I figured I might as well finally share the recipe. As you can see, it’s long, complicated, and adorable. You can easily adapt it to make it simpler and quicker, and it’s still ridiculously delicious.
Here is the recipe from An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery (link is to Kindle version of the book – thanks to my friend Stasa for getting a digital version of the recipe for me!):
Braided Bread Stuffed with Mushrooms, Onions, and Cheese
This hearty bread is practically a meal unto itself. In celebration of Hobbits well known love of mushrooms, this is stuffed with mushrooms, onions, cheese, and English country herbs. It’s best fresh from the oven while the cheese is still runny, but the leftovers are almost as good served alongside supper to help soak up a hearty plate of mutton or venison gravy.
1 ½ c / 300 g water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
4 tbsp / 85 g honey
½ c oil
6 ½ -7 c / 825 – 850 g bread flour
1 tbsp coarse salt
8 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp fresh basil leaves, minced
2 tbsp butter
2 c / 200 g sliced mushrooms
2 onions, diced
2 c / 250 g shredded mozzarella
2 cloves garlic in filling
1 tbsp rosemary in each
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp coarse saltTo make a loaf , start by dissolving your yeast in the warm water. Feel free to add an extra tsp of honey at this stage to help kick start your yeast. Walk away for ten minutes. When you come back, the yeast should have bloomed so it looks like a mushroom cap rising up out of your bowl. It knows its fate.
Mix in the eggs, oil, salt, and the rest of the honey. When you achieve a soupy mass, add the minced garlic , fresh rosemary leaves, and fresh basil. It should smell delicious.
Now mix in the bread flour. Modern cooks with a stand mixer can attach the dough hook and let it knead away for 6-8 minutes. If you want to get a real feel for the period, knead it by hand for 8-10 minutes. The dough should be soft, pliant, and not too tacky.
Form it into a ball, cover it with a clean dishtowel, and let it rise for an hour, or until double in size.
Meanwhile, make your filling. Melt your butter in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add your onions and cook until they start to brown . You want them to lose a lot of moisture while gaining some flavor.
Once the onions start to brown, add your garlic, rosemary, and basil. Keep cooking for another 3-4 minutes, or until the garlic barely starts to brown . Finally add the mushrooms. You don’t want to overcook them. Mix them in and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Take the pan off the heat and finish it with the coarse salt. Set it aside to cool while the dough continues rising.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Flour a clean surface and roll the dough into a rectangle . Put that rectangle on a sheet of parchment paper so you can easily move the finished loaf to a pan. Trim away any rough edges.
Now that you have a trimmed rectangle of dough, mentally divide the rectangle into thirds. The center third is where you place your filling. The outer two thirds will be cut into braid strips. To give it an attractive , braided top, make neat, even, 1 inch 2.5 cm wide cuts along each side. Make a bed of cheese in the middle ⅓ of your bread. Pile the mushroom filling on top of that. Cover the filling with any remaining cheese. Fold both end pieces inwards so they cover some of the filling.
To create the braided top, pull the cut edges of dough over the center, alternating sides and tugging tight, so the dough completely covers the filling. This makes a single, massive rectangular loaf . Slide it onto your largest cooking pan. If you don’t have any oversized baking sheets, just slide it into a heavily buttered 9×13 glass baking pan. Either way, let it rise for another hour. You put this much work into it, so you might as well make the bread pretty. Whisk together an egg and 1 tbsp of water to make an egg wash.
Use a pastry brush to paint the surface of the bread. If you’d like, sprinkle another 1 tsp of coarse salt on top. Bake the bread at 350F / 180C for 35-40 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover it with foil.
Due to the moist interior, the bottom of this bread has a tendency to get soggy if you leave it out overnight. That means it’s your duty to consume the entire loaf before bedtime. If you don’t have a party of dwarves or a couple teenagers on hand to help you finish it, you can always use the leftovers to make savory mushroom bread pudding for tomorrow’s dinner.
Reubens and onion rings
I’ve never had a reuben sandwich before! SO GOOD. I boiled a hunk of corned beef that was on sale from St. Patrick’s day (the age made me hesitate, but then I remembered that even brand new corned beef is only just barely food, so it probably hadn’t spoiled), sliced it thin, and made grilled sandwiches on rye. Corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing. I followed these directions, and weighed the sammiches down with cans of tomatoes.
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FABULOUS. I had two, which made me feel like this:
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Pancakes and sausages, chocolate covered bananas
Boy, those bananas were not great. We had made these once before, for a jungle-themed birthday party, and they were really delicious. This time, they tasted fine — frozen bananas have a pleasant custardy taste — but they were a mess. I don’t know what went wrong, but the chocolate never melted properly, and it wouldn’t stick to the bananas. I tried adding some shortening in to smooth it out, but it didn’t help. It sounds crazy, but I think maybe Aldi brand chocolate chips aren’t good for melting. Anyway, the kids had fun.
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Chicken enchiladas, guacamole and chips, corn, waffle iron churros
Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I used chicken thighs instead of white meat. I always run out of onions before I run out of chicken and cheese, so this time I made triple the amount. Then I forgot the stove was on and burned the hell out of them, so they got compacted right down to a third of their size. They weren’t so much caramelized as carbonized.
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I guess in terms of atomic value, we ingested the same amount of onionness, but in practice, there weren’t enough onions. Still a very tasty meal.
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Kids made the guac. Husband made the waffle iron churros while I hid in my room neglecting my domestic duties.
Beef stew and dumplings
Most of my kids didn’t even know what dumplings are, that’s how long it’s been. Dumpling suspicion:
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I grabbed this basic recipe off allrecipes.com.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons shortening
- 3/4 cup milk
(I made double this recipe.) Mix together dry ingredients, cut in the shortening, then add the milk and stir until just blended.
Drop clumps of dough into the simmering stew, cover tightly, and simmer 20 minutes.
They turned out great!
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Light and fluffy, couldn’t be easier. Hooray, a new thing!
Pulled pork, cole slaw, baked potatoes
Holy hell, this was some fatty pork. By the time I was done trimming it, half of it was gone. It got all et up, though. Oh, also we were out of beer (!) to cook it in, so I used Coke.
Cole slaw was made with cabbage and carrots, and a dressing of mayo, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, and pepper. Tasted exactly like cole slaw.
I am now collecting exciting sandwich ideas for sandwich of the week. Next week, we’ll be recreating the yummy ones we had at that restaurant. Tell me all about your favorite sandwiches, hot or cold!