Hot Dish at the Table

Ever had a Hot Dish?

You might know it better by its other name, a casserole. In honour of my week in Wisconsin, via Minnesota, I made Hot Dish for dinner. Specifically, Beef with Wild Rice, Almonds, and Roasted Tomatoes.

Hot Dish is basically any one dish meal that can be prepared in advance, even frozen. Rice or pasta with a bit of veg and often a lot of meat and some sort of sauce bringing it all together. Common at the potluck table, the neighbours kitchen counter after a rough week, or for Sunday dinner.

Not exactly a fancy Sunday dinner, I realize. My flight got in at midnight last night and I needed to spend the day in precious snow play and cuddles instead of cooking. Oh, and actually reading a book during to naptime to take advantage of the quiet of broken cable. Dinner needed to come without a trip to the grocery store and contain real food for the. girls. Too many cookies and treats over the weekend.

I bought this cookbook in the airport. Totally cheesy, I know. Once you siphon out the recipes that include a can of condensed mushroom soup and past Tuna Broccoli Brie Hot Dish, there are some nice dinner ideas. Perfect for days when you want to read The Cat in the Hat again and again instead of making a roast with popovers. Also perfect for make ahead recipes for the days you want to pass on a meal for comfort. I'll be making a few more from the book this week for friends.

Dessert also came from the book. Conveniently called Busy Day Cherry Cobbler. Conveniently made with my own cherry pie filling in the pantry.

My time away from the family was very busy. My friend, my host, has a great family and they were incredibly welcoming. We did not have Hot Dish, but I learn how to make tortillas and had my fill of Wisconsin Smoked Cheddar.

In truth, I desperately missed my family. All the chaotic energy and even the spazzing, but it's all my spazzing. Dinner tonight was perfect. The Monster chatted far too much about her first trip to an amusement park to be interested in food. Smilosaurus was copying her sister but spooning in the food with sincere pleasure. Hubby and I rubbed our eyes for the tiredness, tried to talk, and could only smile. It was all mine. It was our perfect Sunday dinner.

Hot Dish with Beef, Wild Rice, Roasted Tomatoes, and Almonds
Serves 4-6

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion
4 celery stocks
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 orange
1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup wild rice
2 tbsp fresh thyme
3 cups chicken stock
1 dozen roasted tomatoes*
1 cup almonds or pine nuts

1. In an oven proof casserole or large pan brown the ground beef. While the beef is browning chop the onions, celery, and garlic. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. As soon as the beef is browned, drain off any fat and push the meat to the side of the pan. Add the olive oil, onion, and celery. Cook over medium heat until light browned and soft. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
3. Juice the orange and add the juice to the pan to deglaze.
4. Stir in the rices, thyme, and stock into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a casserole dish, if necessary. Top with tomatoes and sprinkle the almonds over.
5. Bake for 1 hour.

*If you don't have slow roasted tomatoes on hand you could use a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes. Cut the stock used to 2 cups and add the tomatoes, juice and all.

Kind of Numb

For the first time in 7 years we watched the Oscars.

When we last watched this gratuitous display of celebrity, film, and fashion it was shortly after my Father-in-Law died. A few days after our frantic drives through winter streets to rescue, to say goodbye some of the family gathered for dinner. We went for Indian food and came home to the TV staring at us in its temporary living room home of my in-law's home. Without thinking we sat and stared, numb at the pompous and posh party in front of us.

It kind of felt that way tonight too. If you can subtract the chaos of little girls who literally demand you watch them jump on the couch and pretend you need to be rescued.

After a weekend in Edmonton, learning the secrets of my Dad's famous salsa and coming together with family, we arrived home exhausted. Frankly, I'm so drained right now that the emotions boiling through me seem to cancel each other out and that numbness wins.

That means leftovers and the Oscars are what won tonight.

A steak never eaten because we were too tired turns into beef stroganoff. Comfort food in this family. Carrots steamed and glazed with honey and balsamic vinegar. Salad made from anything green in the fridge. A perfectly ripe winter pear next to some okay 1. 2. 3. bite brownies from Wild Earth.

Now, a beer, laundry, and packing. There is no time to process, to celebrate, to cry. I'm off again tomorrow. Leaving the girls and my man for the first time in forever when all I want to do is gather them all around me for snuggles and debates about whether there ever was such a thing as a carnitore. So tonight we gathered at the table and tried to selvage a moment that gave us all comfort, albeit brief, the ritual of dinner together.

Friction and Brisket

As I've told you before our dinner conversation is quite often nothing by Daddy and I constantly reminded the girls to stop singing/talking/playing with the forks and start eating. Tonight, however, was different.

The Monster started skiing lessons this morning. We were a bit worried because she has a tendency to be uber frustrated when she can't do something perfectly the first time she tries. Skiing is apparently another story. She loves it so much it wore out her entire body, as she told us.

Dinner conversation tonight was minimal until she'd scarfed down her brisket, broccoli, and last minute request of beets and blood oranges. (Yes, dinner was brought to us by the Letter B.) While we waited for her sister to finish the conversation turned to friction. Some days it's fart jokes, some days it is University level physics.

Hubby and The Monster are discussing friction and how it allows for movement. He launches into a lesson on the difference between static and dynamic friction. And she totally gets it. Scary. At the end of dinner she starts pulling on his arm and this conversation happens:

Hubby: You can't pull me because I have a higher coefficient of static friction.
The Monster: Oh yeah? Well I have superhero friction.
Hubby: What's that?
The Monster: Superhero friction lets me push off and fly.

That's when I served the brownies.

Slow Cooked Maple Cider Brisket
This recipe is adapted from the Edible cookbook. The meat itself was a gorgeous cut from Hoven Farms, but not quite as big as the recipe called for, so I played with it a bit. To be honest, I've never cooked a brisket before. I will be adding it to the regular repertoire from now on. Fantastic! Fork tender, with this almost sweet and sour sauce, this brisket was perfect for this cold, snowy day and a table full of hungry bellies. It served all of us and there is enough left for another family dinner.

1 large red onion
1 tbsp bacon drippings
5 cloves garlic
2 1/2 pound beef brisket
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 cup strong brewed tea (original recipe called for coffee, but I had none)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 water or chicken broth
1 tbsp dijon mustard

1. Slice the onion in half then cut into crosswise strips. Heat the bacon drippings in an oven proof pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook the onion for 5-6 minutes until soft and lightly golden.
2. While the onions are cooking, finely chop 3 cloves of garlic and thinly slice the remaining two cloves. With a sharp knife cut slits all over the brisket. Poke the garlic slices into the slits. Set the brisket aside for the time being.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
4. When the onions are soft and golden stir in the garlic, salt, oregano, pepper, and chili powder. Cook for 1 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, tea/coffee, vinegar, maple syrup, water/stock, and mustard. Bring to a boil.
5. Place the brisket in the sauce, cover with the lid of the pan and place in the oven. Braise for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees F and continue for braise for 3-4 hours.
6. Let the meat rest 15-30 minutes before slicing. Serve with sauce.

For an Audience

Love stories are as varied as the people that make them. We didn't have farts at our engagement, but there was a fair amount of bird poop. Hubby proposed on an outcropping of rocks on the Ingonish beach. What's a few dead crab shells and a pound of poop to commitment?

I've spent the last few days devouring Gluten Free Girl and The Chef. More than a cookbook, it reads like a romance novel, minus the bad hair, pecs, and euphemisms. The subtitle does refer to the love story, and it is. A love story between two people, a love story of food and cooking. It is captivating, very funny, and full of the romance we all need in life. Even if you don't cook you want to read this book. Ask my girls, they've been flipping the page exclaiming YUMMY! at every turn.

Hubby has been home for 2 days now. That's 2 days of not working, a first for the last 6 weeks. This means he's exhausted and cranky. I'm bursting with the desire to talk about home renos, preschool gossip, and bedtime routines. Oh, and trying not to run screaming from the house to take a break. What we are doing is retreating, sleeping, and trying to find a little bit of rhythm again. Until he leaves again in another day.

One thing I've realized that with cooking for just me and the girls is that I really, really like cooking for my husband. He's an eater, not a cook. He's my audience.

When I can fill his belly with a warm meal that he didn't have to get from a crappy, small town restaurant I feel great. It isn't about being a good wife, I've already got that down. Food is love and I am totally guilty of showing my love with food.

Inspired by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern I decided to spend the weekend in the kitchen. Bolognese and cookies yesterday. Sunday, a Braised Pork Stew with Cabbage and Caraway from the book. I followed the recipe exactly this time - not something I do often - thus I'm not comfortable sharing it here. We were all filled with love, or just some lovely herbal, mustardy, and nourishing comfort.

If you want the fart reference and the recipe, then you best buy the book.