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Kentucky Bake

Taking inspiration from my friend Ellen Eber’s post of a recipe on Facebook, I put together a Kentucky Bake yesterday after work. Once all the ingredients are assembled, it’s pretty simple. Turn the oven on to 350, lay the ingredients in layers, cook for 20 minutes under foil, another 25 without the foil and voila!

Full recipe is here:

Some changes –  I used half the turkey the recipe calls for, swapped out Swiss cheese in favor of provolone, and used diced canned tomato instead of fresh sliced.

There were bloopers – the first four slices of bacon were a wee bit too “extra crispy”. I’m not into carbonized bacon. Lack of shelf space to work with made managing the dough a bit tricky. I suggest rolling it out flat where you can, then pick out the parts you need.

Came out perfect on the first try. Don’t take my word for it, ask Ashley!

Get the ingredients together

Preheat the oven to 350
Grab that fry pan and get busy with the bacon
Then start layering stuff as you would with lasagna

Throw it in the oven with the foil on for 20 minutes.
Take it out, remove the foil and what’ve you got?

Looking good. Throw it back in uncovered for another 20 minutes
Ta-da! Kentucky Bake! Looks scrumptious!
…and it absolutely is.
Refrigerated several pieces to eat over a few days.
Thanks, Ellen!

Written by Influential Prose

April 29, 2015 at 4:45 am

Posted in cooking

Christmas Cottage Pie

One of the keys to successful bachelor living is a willingness to play with your food. This is not to say spouses are unable to do so; it’s merely that they remain constrained by the tastes of their spouse and offspring. 
Bachelors, uncaged from such limitations, are free to explore to the edge of kitchen sanity and even sail beyond it. (That’s what fire extinguishers are for!)

Today’s adventure begins with a trip back in time, to the Rose & Crown restaurant at Disney World’s Epcot Center. My first wife Beth and I dined there sometime in the 80’s, and we were both smitten by the cottage pie. Some meals are so scrumptious the memory lasts a lifetime. This was one of those meals.

Fast forward to yesterday. Beth was revisiting Epcot and noted they still serve the cottage pie. After learning this, since I lack the means to fly immediately to Florida, I decided I would bring the cottage pie to me.

Thus the Christmas Day Mission: find the recipe, gather the necessary ingredients and magically hack them all into a cottage pie. Do it without injury to self or kitchen.

The deed is done.

Like so…

First offer your roommate a portion of the cooked goodies, but give him a chore to do. In Ashley’s case, this was transforming a whole onion into one cup of chopped onion.

A moment of teasing over onion-triggered tears can spark aggression, as you see here…

Soon afterward the onions were merrily soaking in a hot tub of butter.

The seasonings were lined up and ready to go.

Mixed these with the onions, gravy and lean beef. Stir and cook, preheat the oven to 400.

Ordinarily we would of course rely on real potatoes, but our kitchen is not yet endowed with a potato masher tool and I don’t think I have any drill bits quite right for the job either.

Ashley claims he can mash potatoes barehanded, one to each fist Paul Bunyan-style. I’ll believe it when I see it. Meantime, we used the less optimal dehydrated potatoes as a fallback.

Laying out the seasoned ground beef and upper layer of potatoes. Looks like newfallen snow blanketing freshly plowed earth.

The final appearance is mottled due to gravy bubbling up from the bottom.

As served, after 20 minutes in the oven and a few more to cool off, but still steaming.

It worked out pretty well. The ersatz potatoes lack the firm texture of the real thing, but the overall effect was satisfying. This is not a dish I would make daily as-is – it calls for rather more salt and butter than I care for, but much of that was for the potato mix.
With a little practice and refinement I think I can get it into the ballpark of Rose & Crown-caliber Scottish cottage pie.

Not bad for the first engineering prototype.

Disney World’s Rose and Crown Restaurant Cottage Pie Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

1/4 cup butter
1 cup diced onion
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground savory (Yeah, I don’t know what this is, either. Check here for substitutions.)
1 cup brown gravy (homemade or instant)
2 cups mashed potatoes
Additional butter

1. Heat 1/4 cup butter in a 9-inch skillet.
2. Add onion and cook until lightly browned, stirring consistently.
3. Add beef, salt, pepper, and savory (or whatever you’re using instead) and continue cooking 5 minutes longer.
4. Stir in gravy and heat until bubbling.
5. Spoon into a buttered, 8-cup flat casserole dish. (My dad always used a circular dish, or  you could use ramekins as they do at Rose and Crown.)
6. Top meat mixture with mashed potatoes.
7. Dot with pieces of butter.
8. Bake at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned.

Additional notes, same recipe:

Written by Influential Prose

December 25, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Posted in cooking

Be Careful What You Wish For

I started out using the simplest of coffeemakers – a mug filled with hot water and instant coffee. Experimenting with different amounts of sugar and creamer revealed the right balance, and thereafter I’d do it by eye and feel. You get to know the weight of the ingredients and the color of the coffee after adding creamer.

But eventually this approach seemed too crude. If you were off just a little, the coffee would be too strong or too weak, the sugar too sweet, the creamer too lean. It was usually good, but it could be better.

Since Debi and I are both coffee power drinkers, we went all out and got, not a coffee machine, but a coffee *system*. This machine would grind the beans, mix the grind with water, calibrate the blend to your liking and the resulting slurry spiraled into a handsome thermos.

Thing was, it had an elaborate puzzle of parts, all that needed frequent cleaning. The thermos didn’t do a great job of insulating the coffee, and there was no heater plate to keep it warm after brewing. For all the expense and complexity, it was a high-maintenance headache. When it broke down within warranty, we wasted no time trading down to a simpler model.

The simpler one lacked the grinder, but was designed to dispense into cups. No fussing with a carafe that dribbles. Just stick your mug under the dispenser, press the trigger and out pours coffee.

But the trigger always needed a lot of pressure to work, to the point where I worried about shattering a mug just pressing it to the trigger. Then the dispenser part quit working altogether and we had to pull out the whole tank just to pour a cup. That got old fast.

Last week I bought a basic used carafe-style coffee maker. The hot plate works, the coffee tastes fine and cleanup is easy.

All this to simply note that sometimes the fancy options aren’t always the best idea. I’m no Luddite, I see many areas where advancement has been genuine (the growth of smart phones, for example.)

But some things work most reliably when kept simple.

Written by Influential Prose

December 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Posted in cooking