Potato and Sauerkraut Hotdish

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This is the crowd pleaser of all crowd pleasers – the “MUST HAVE” on the holiday table, the easiest thing to bring for a potluck, and well, AMAZINGLY delicious. Let’s just say this is one old-fashioned, the-way-it-used-to-be-before-canned-soup HOTDISH! But potatoes with sauerkraut? This lesser known concoction was brought to the Midwest by our creative German ancestors and usually contained sausage or bacon. (I know, I can hear you right now, “Ooh bacon, that’s a good idea!” Don’t even think about it!) My mother learned of the recipe from a neighbor who originally hailed from the Pierz area of Minnesota – a German stronghold. Hotdish tends to be very provincial as each kitchen cook has their own secret ingredient. If you prefer to call it a casserole then we’ll know you’re not from Minnesota!

Midwest church-goers are famous for their potlucks where you can find Tuna, Hamburger, Tator Tot as well as other noodle, meat and canned soup concoctions. For some reason my family always called these things casseroles, and tuna was the only one I was familiar with thanks to Grandma’s inability to cook, and my parent’s strict adherence to the edicts of food improvisation.

Unfamiliar, that is to say, until I entered the hot lunch program at my local Elementary School. I took a brief foray away from vegetarianism and learned the nuances of true Midwest Culinary Cuisine. Not only did I enjoy the hotdish repertoire, but it was in those cafeterias that I learned of “Shit on a Shingle” – otherwise referred to as “Chipped Beef on Toast.” I also had the pleasure of discovering Spam, American Cheese slices, and Corn Dogs. You must remember, I was a child of the “Back to the Land” movement. I knew where food really came from so this highly processed stuff was totally foreign to me. It also drove me quickly back to the comforting lap of the vegetarian diet.

Don’t get me wrong, I love hotdish. I am by nature, a lazy cook and lover of all things comfortable. I love the ease of the one pan meal and the idea that I won’t have to cook for a few days as with casseroles, if you’re not feeding a crowd, there are leftovers.

A couple of years ago my mom came to one of the family dinners with this potato and sauerkraut casserole thingy. It got high approval ratings from everyone, especially my potato loving husband. I’ve never had to make it only suggest that Mom bring it for our gatherings, but as the red potatoes from the CSA keep rolling in, I decided it was high time to make my own hotdish. So I called Mom for the recipe. My mother cooks like I do – it’s always a creative process, there is never a recipe and if an interruption occurs during the preparation, the meal is terrible!

Here’s my mom giving me the “recipe.”

“Well, you just need to drain the sauerkraut and boil the potatoes. Then I saute the sauerkraut in a lot of butter with garlic . When the potatoes are done, break them up; Don’t really mash them, just smash them, and add them to the sauerkraut. I like to put jalapenos in it and some cheese. That’s it, then you bake it.”

“What kind of cheese do you use?”

“Whatever I have. I always have lots of cheese. I might use feta or mozzarella. I always put parmesan in it- whatever you have. I wouldn’t use cream cheese or sour cream because I don’t like those.”

Thanks, Mom!

Making this casserole really got me excited about making sauerkraut as well. I have a huge cabbage from the CSA so I think I’ll give it a try. Here’s a great link showing how to make Sauerkraut. I was interested to find that during WWII it was considered patriotic to make your own sauerkraut. I never knew sauerkraut to be a particularly political pickle.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large jar or bag of sauerkraut – 32 oz.
  • 5 pounds new baby reds
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno diced
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 1 cup chopped green beans (optional)
  • Idea Note: Chopped herbs would be fabulous to add to the top or incorporate into this dish.

Directions:

Boil the potatoes until tender. When they are cool enough to handle, smash them with a potato masher. Drain the sauerkraut well and meanwhile saute the garlic in melted butter. When the garlic releases its fragrance, add the sauerkraut and saute for a few minutes. Mix the sauerkraut with the potatoes in a big bowl. Use a food processor to chop the jalapeno and mozzarella. Mix everything together. Pour it all into an oiled baking pan. Sprinkle the parmesan on top and decorate with green beans. Bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees.

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Pepper Pie

This morning I was cruising through some of my favorite blogs, and I noticed that Lee Zukor, from Simple, Good and Tasty was wondering what to do with the plethora of peppers that have been arriving in the CSA boxes the last few weeks.  I had been planning to make a roasted pepper and white bean chili of sorts and dashed him off a few ideas for the soup. After surveying the contents of my crisper, I decided instead to make a dish that I came up with a few years ago. It’s my second favorite thing to do with an abundance of peppers – the first being pepper stew with beans.

Notice I have many sweet red peppers and a few jalapenos. I only used one of the really hot jalapenos, but also had a few mildly hot reds that made it into the pie. The dish came out with just a little zip – perfect. In the past when I have used only sweet peppers I add 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper to liven it up a bit.

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This dish I make is another one pot creation. It’s simple and delicious, but not particularly beautiful.  I do use TVP, but have, through research, started to question the healthfulness of soy. It seems that the jury may still be out on that one, so while my family has cut back on soy consumption the last few years, it’s still an occasional part of our diet. Any thoughts?

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And now, for what you’ve been waiting for…I present the illustrious and delicious, Pepper Pie! The answer for an abundance of autumnal peppers.

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Pepper Pie – Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 cups TVP – sprinkled on the bottom of a baking dish 9x13ish
  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. whole brown mustard seed
  • 1 Tbs. whole cumin seeds
  • 5 – 8 peppers, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 oz. feta
  • 4 whole fresh tomatoes
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 cups grated provolone, mozzarella or cheddar to top

Directions:

1) Begin by pureeing the tomatoes, feta and cilantro in a food processor.

2) Next, with oil in a saute pan and over low heat, slowly caramelize the onions. When they begin to brown on the edges, toss in the garlic for a quick saute. Don’t burn the garlic.

3) Shortly after you add the garlic, add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Keep everything in the pan moving until you hear the mustard seeds begin to pop. This is all happening on low heat.

3) Add the peppers and mix well with the other ingredients already in the pan. Turn off the heat. The peppers do not need to be totally cooked as they will be in the oven for a good while

4) Pour the pepper saute over the TVP in the bottom of a baking pan.

5) Cover the peppers with the tomato, feta, cilantro mixture.

6) Cover the dish with grated cheese.

7) Bake at 375 degrees until the cheese is melted.

Vegetable Pot Pie

Vegetable Pot Pie

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…in July, in Minnesota! I’ve heard it’s been unseasonable cool in many parts of the the country, but when one starts thinking about pot pies and gratins in the middle of the summer, you know it’s severe! Saturday topped out at 65 degrees on a day that in years past has delivered 95 degrees with a dew point of 70. I absolutely hate too much heat so I should be thankful, but I really think something is wrong when I start shopping for a Riviera Maya vacation for August! At any rate, I made a warm and satisfying vegetable pot pie for a cool summer day! It is a summer treat as all the vegetables were all from this week’s CSA box.

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The recipe involves three parts: the vegetables, the roux and the pastry.

Ingredients:

The Vegetables:

2 cups onion finely diced

2 large fennel bulbs thinly sliced

2 tbs. canola oil

3 cups diced carrot

2 cups chopped green beans

1 small cauliflower head cut into small florets

5 leaves kale, deveined and chopped

2 cups cooked white beans

The Roux:

3 Tbs. canola oil

3 Tbs. flour

3 cups hot water

1 tsp. cumin seed

1 tsp. brown mustard seed

2 tsp. good curry powder

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper

The Pastry:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced

2/3 cup ice water

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

I would recommend you make the pastry first. It can cool in the fridge while you prep and cook the veggies. I used the food processor method for the pastry.  Start by mixing the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add diced butter and pulse a few times until it looks like a crumble. I like to pulse the machine and add the ice water in a slow dribble just until it comes together. Dump the dough out onto the counter and knead quickly into a ball. Place it in a covered bowl in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Next, get all the veggies washed and prepped. I sauteed the onions and fennel over a low heat for about twenty minutes bringing them just to the point of caramelization. At that point, the rest of the vegetables can be added at the same time and sauteed for a few minutes. They will get baked in the oven, so you don’t want to overdo it.

The roux was fun to make because I had the idea to toast the spices with the flour and oil and it seemed to work! After I added the flour to the heated oil the mixture was pretty dry – perfect for toasting spices. I added all the spices and kept them moving around the pan until I heard the pop of the mustard seeds. I gave them a few more seconds to toast and then added the water. This boiled up quickly, so be ready to turn the heat down a bit. I whisked it all together until the lumps were out and finally, mixed it in with the vegetables. Once the roux and veggies are mixed, you can spoon it into a baking dish. I like the idea of making individual pot pies, but today opted for a one-pan quick method. I rolled out only about 1/2 of the pastry and cut it to fit the baking dish. I then cut it into six sections and premolded each so I could easily scoop out the pot pie without breaking up the crust. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees until it is brown on the top – perhaps 50 minutes to an hour.