Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mom's Cornish Pasty

Mmmmm, Pasty.   If you're not from Wisconsin or Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you may have never heard of these small meat pies that were the workingman's meal for many a Cornish and Finnish immigrant in the 1800's.  Cornish immigrants worked the galena (lead) mines in the Southwest corner of the state while Finnish immigrants worked the iron ore and copper mines in Northern Wisconsin and the Yoop (short for U.P. or Upper Peninsula...residents are referred to as Yoopers).   The Pasty was their staple food...hearty, well rounded, filling and cheap.  And as one Yooper told me, "A Pasty isn't a Pasty without Rutabaga".

Traditionally, they are made as individual-sized pies, but Mom always made Pasty as a whole pie from which slices were served.  You can do either with this recipe, though I'll give the recipe as a whole pie.  If you want individual pasties, just roll out smaller pieces of the pastry crust and put an amount of the meat mixture into the center, fold the crust over and pinch the edges, vent and bake.

There are a lot of options for making them, you can pretty much 'clean out the fridge' of vegetables.  Serving suggestions vary...Mom always served pasty with Heinz Chili Sauce on the side.  I've used that, ketchup, jalapeno relish, sriracha sauce (Huy Fong brand) and beef gravy.   Use your imagination!

Here are the basic ingredients for the filling:

1 lb hamburger
1/2 rutabaga, diced small (or use 2 small to medium sized potatoes)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1 egg, whisked and beaten.
Garlic salt, Pepper
Few dashes Worcestershire

Mix all ingredients by hand in a large bowl, season to taste.  Prepare pie crust (recipe below), place meat in bottom crust, cover with top crust, pinch seams and vent the top.  Bake in 350 oven for 1.5 hours with a cookie sheet underneath to catch any juices that might come up through the vents.  If making individual pasties, bake for 1 hour.


2 cups Flour
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon salt

Mix first three ingredients in a bowl with a fork.  Add buttermilk a little at a time (start with 1/8 cup) and mix til the mixture is just between wanting to form crumbles and wanting to form a ball.   Don't get it too moist.   Divide in half, roll out first half on counter til it's a bit larger than the size of your pie pan.  Fold in half, grease your pie pan, lay the folded crust over one half of the pie pan and unfold.  Press and stretch and form into bottom of pan and up sides til covered.   Roll out the other half of the crust dough, fold and place in the same manner over top of meat after it has been added, unfold and pinch halves together, cut vents.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Green Bay Style "Chili Johns" / "Real Chili" Chili

Chili comes in many varieties...about as diverse as the ethnic mixes of the regions that made each style famous.  One of the oldest and most unusual varieties is that which is known as "Green Bay" Chili or "Chili John" chili.  It predates the similar Cincinnati 5-way by a number of years and traces back to Lithuanian immigrant "Chili" John Isaac, who opened a restaurant in 1913 down by the docks of Green Bay, WI, hanging a simple sign out front that said, "Chili".

"Chili" John Isaac
Not only did John Isaac invent this style of spaghetti-meat sauce-beans on top chili, he also invented the Oyster Cracker, calling upon the Nabisco company for a cracker that would be sized more appropriately for adding to his chili.

Chili John's at one time had 3 locations...Green Bay, Beaver Dam, WI, and Burbank, CA.   All three are still in business, though not affiliated, and only the Green Bay one still serves the completely authentic John Isaac recipe.  You can even order it online!  John Madden, legendary NFL coach and broadcaster, never missed a visit to Chili John's when he covered a Green Bay Packers game.  Fran Tarkenton also was known to have a bowl before playing the Packers at home.

So where does "Real Chili" come into the story?

According to the Real Chili website, Milwaukee's infamous chili restaurant was started by Francis Honish in 1931.   What the website doesn't tell you is that Francis Honish was a former cook at Chili John's in Green Bay.  Hmmm.   There was actually a bit of bad blood and a lawsuit or two over the issue way back when, but time seems to have quelled the implications of chili-theft.   Both chilis are very, very similar in style and taste.  Patrons today probably don't care about the politics involved, they're just glad that they can get a bowl of Green Bay Chili in Milwaukee or Green Bay!

I've eaten at Real Chili and all three of the no-longer-related Chili John's restaurants and no matter what variation you get, it's all good!   This is a very, very close rendition of the original Chili John's chili, though the real recipe is still a secret.

You will need for the Meat Sauce:

1/2 lb. Beef Suet, rendered
1 onion, finely chopped
2 lbs hamburger browned
1 oz. unsweetened Baker's chocolate
3 T chili powder
1 T cayenne pepper (or less if you don't like it hot)
1 T garlic powder
1 T cumin
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t ground cloves
1 T paprika
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3-4 chili peppers, ground finely
2 regular soup-sized cans beef broth (or equivalent made from powdered)

Render the suet in a large pan, remove whatever is left and cook onions until tender. Add the meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. When meat is browned, add spices, chocolate, broth,  and vinegar, stirring to mix well. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer uncovered for 1½ hours. It should start to thicken. It is best if refrigerated overnight and reheated the following day.

To serve, you will need:

Spaghetti noodles
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Vinegar (I like British Malt Vinegar)
Chopped onions
Warmed kidney beans or chili beans
Franks Red Hot
Oyster crackers
Pickled jalapeno slices

Spoon some cooked spaghetti noodles into a bowl, spoon generous portion of meat sauce on top of that, with some beans, a handful of oyster crackers, and a dash of vinegar.   That's your basic Green Bay Chili.  In addition, you can add any combination of the above toppings to complete your Green Bay Chili experience., greasy, yummy Green Bay Chili!