Thursday, February 18, 2016

Portobello Caps Stuffed with Grass-fed Beef and Potatoes

The snowy weather of February seems to have brought out a flurry of food articles referencing "meat and potato dishes."  I'm not sure if the phrase "comfort food" was worn out during January, but here's another meat and potatoes dish, but this one features the perfect trifecta of meat, potatoes, and mushrooms.
Beef stroganoff, beef Bourgignon, nuea pad num mon Hoi; from Europe to Indonesia the world celebrates the marriage of mushrooms and beef.
Each time I open a package of grass-fed beef from North Woods Ranch, it's like opening up a package full of possibilities.  In this case, I thought of a hearty mushroom/potato/beef dish that wasn't stewed down into oblivion.
Grass-Fed Scottish Beef from North Woods Ranch
But what about a shepherd's pie?  Could you make a shepherd's pie for one?  Thinking of another dish, I thought about stuffed peppers and substituting a large portobello cap for the pepper.

And from that leap-frogging thought process, I came to this recipe.  Clean the stems and gills from four portobellos (one for each person.)  To up the umami-packed mushroom quotient, I re-hydrated a half-ounce of dried porcini mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes.  In that time I peeled and diced two large floury potatoes, then put them in a pot of water to boil.  Next, I sauteed the beef in a little bit of lard until it was nearly cooked through, then added one medium onion to saute, along with the now softened porcinis.  As the onions cooked down I put the mushrooms on a greased sheet tray, gill side up, and baked in a 375 F oven for 10 minutes to soften and get the juices running.
Dried Porcini's Re-hydrating
When the onion was softened, I turned off the heat and added two minced garlic cloves, a half teaspoon of ground black pepper, and one-quarter teaspoon of dried thyme.  Then I packed the meat/onion mixture into the cleaned portobello tops.  I mashed the (now tender potatoes) with butter and milk, seasoning them with a bit of salt, pepper, and garlic.
Each mushroom received a dollop of the mashed potatoes right on top of the meat mixture.  I spread the mound of potatoes down the sides to connect with the edge of the mushroom.  Almost like a savory, beefy baked Alaska! 
Next the mushrooms returned to the oven and baked at 375 F for 15 minutes.  As the meat was fully cooked, the time in the oven is to allow the flavors to meld and the potatoes to begin to get brown and crusty on top.  If the potatoes aren't browning, add a pat of butter to the top of each potato/mushroom cap.
An optional, but very tasty step is to strain the porcini's soaking liquid into a small sauce pan and let it reduce at a medium simmer for the 15 minutes the mushrooms are finishing up in the oven.  It makes for a very tasty gravy!

Recipe at a Glance:
To Serve Four
1 lb North Woods Ranch Ground Beef
4 large portobello mushroom caps
2 large russet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs)
1 medium white onion
.5 oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
1/2 C whole milk or buttermilk
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 minced garlic clove

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Bring a small saucepot of water to a boil.  When the water boils add the porcini mushrooms and let soak for 30 minutes, turning off the heat.  Put the potatoes into a pot with water and bring to a boil.  When the potatoes begin to boil, turn the heat down to medium.

Crumble the beef into a greased skillet over medium high heat.  Stir the beef, breaking up any lumps.  When the beef is nearly cooked through, add one chopped onion and the re-hydrated, chopped porcini mushrooms.  Cook for 4-5 more minutes, until the onion begins to soften.  Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Reserve the porcini soaking liquid.

Scrape out the gills of the mushrooms and pop out the stem.  Place them on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  While the mushrooms are baking, mash the softened potatoes with the butter, milk, salt, pepper, and the minced garlic.

Bring the mushrooms out of the oven, then fill the caps with the onion/beef mixture.  Top each mushroom with a quarter of the mashed potatoes, spreading the mashed potatoes towards the edge of the mushroom caps.  Bake for 15 minutes at 375.  Strain and reduce the porcini mushroom soaking liquid in a small sauce pan, seasoning with salt and pepper at the end.

Serve the baked mushroom caps with a splash of the porcini gravy.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Berkshire Breakfast Hash

Hearty winter breakfasts are a wonderful way to kick off the weekend, but I realize not everyone wants to start their morning slicing and dicing through a recipe.  A good time saver is to ditch the knife and pick up a box grater.
Here is a simple Berkshire Breakfast Hash that takes about half an hour to serve up a skillet full of crispy/creamy potatoes, pork, and eggs.
Berkshire Pork Sausage from North Woods Ranch
To start, open up a one-pound package of North Woods Ranch's ground Berkshire pork sausage.  Warm up an oven-safe 12" skillet and crumble the pork into the pan.  While the sausage is browning in the pan, shred two large potatoes (peel on) and one medium onion (peel off) on the coarse teeth of a box grater. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
When the sausage has cooked through (5-7 minutes), dump in the potatoes and onion.  This mess of shredded root vegetables will act as the structural weave holding little nuggets of savory sausage.  Season with salt, pepper, granulated garlic, thyme, and a dash of cayenne.
While the potatoes cook, keep flipping the bottom layer of potatoes on top, so all the potatoes get the direct heat of the skillet.  Slip in a few pats of butter or lard to keep the potatoes from sticking.  If you get a lot of potatoes sticking, scrape away any loose potatoes from the sticky area, then splash on a few tablespoons of water to release the potatoes, scraping up the crusty bits with a spatula.  Don't worry - the water will evaporate into steam and won't make for a soggy breakfast.
A Broken Yolk is Still a Yummy Yolk
After about 10 minutes the potatoes should be browning in spots and shrinking down as they lose their water.  At this point pack down the potato/sausage mix against the bottom of the skillet.  Put in the oven for 15 minutes.  Refill your coffee cup.  Remove and dig four little holes in the potato mix.  Crack an egg into each hole, then return the skillet to the oven for another 3 minutes.

Serve with plenty of your favorite hot sauce.  If you like this recipe, try a sweet and savory version using grated sweet potatoes and a drizzle of maple syrup at the table!

Recipe at a Glance:
Serves 4
- 1 lb North Woods Ranch loose ground sausage
- 2 large potatoes, scrubbed
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled.
- 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- Dash of cayenne pepper
- 4 Free Range eggs
- Salt and Pepper
- Lard or Butter for greasing pan

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Heat an oven-safe skillet over medium heat.  Add the sausage, crumbling it and stirring up any large chunks.  Season with salt, pepper, and spices. 

Grate the potatoes and onion on the coarse side of the box grater.

Once sausage is cooked, add in the grated potatoes and onion.  Add a little butter or lard to keep the potatoes and onion from sticking.

Stirring often, let the potatoes begin to brown and soften, about 10 minutes.  Pack down the potato and sausage in the skillet and place in the oven.

After 15 minutes the potatoes should be tender with a crispy bottom.  Make four wells in the potatoes and crack an egg into each.  Return skillet to oven and bake until whites are set but yolks are runny, about 3 minutes.