Cozying up with a Sloppy Joe Pot Pie

These Sloppy Joe Pot Pies are from “Dinner Pies” by Ken Haedrich (Harvard Common Press, $24.95). Photo by Melissa DiPalma.
These Sloppy Joe Pot Pies are from “Dinner Pies” by Ken Haedrich (Harvard Common Press, $24.95). Photo by Melissa DiPalma.

We’re pretty focused on traditional sweet pies for the last six weeks of the year, but when it comes to savory, Ken Haedrich’s new book “Dinner Pies” (Harvard Common Press, $24.95) encourages you to think beyond chicken pot pie.

These mini pot pies are filled with sloppy joe filling, but you could stuff them with any kind of stew. It’s a great way to give a second life to leftovers, too. Haedrich, of course, includes lots of dough recipes, but for this one, you can use any biscuit dough you’d like, including the kind that comes from a can.

Sloppy Joe Pot Pies with a Biscuit Crust

1 batch biscuit dough, homemade or store-bought
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1/2 cup ketchup or Heinz chili sauce
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, plus more to taste
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Line a small baking sheet with a piece of plastic wrap. Dust it with flour. Prepare the biscuit dough, dividing it into six equal pieces. Using floured hands, shape the dough pieces into balls and place on the sheet. Gently flatten into disks about 1/2 inch thick, wrap and refrigerate while you make the sloppy Joe filling.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper. Sauté the vegetables for seven minutes, then stir in the meat and garlic. Brown the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.

Add the tomatoes with their juice, ketchup, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, mustard and chili powder. Stir in 1 1/4 cups water, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and ground black pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook until the meat is coated with plenty of full-bodied sauce, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

While the meat cools, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a six-cup jumbo muffin pan or ramekins.

Working with one piece of the biscuit dough at a time (and leaving the others in the refrigerator), flour your work surface and gently roll or pat the dough into a circle 5 inches in diameter. Place the circle of dough in one of the cups and press it in evenly, until the edge of the dough is even with the top of the cup. Repeat for the remaining pieces of dough.

Divide the sloppy Joe filling evenly among the dough shells; you can fill them right to the top. Bake on the center oven rack for 20 minutes. Slide the shelf out and sprinkle an equal amount of the cheese over each one. Slide the shelf back in and continue to bake just long enough to melt the cheese, about five minutes more.

Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool for about 10 minutes. Slide a butter knife down the edge of each shell and carefully work the shell up out of the cup. Set the pies directly on the rack and cool for another few minutes before serving. Serves 6.

— From “Dinner Pies” by Ken Haedrich (Harvard Common Press, $24.95)

Austin360Cooks: How to make Springfield-style cashew chicken

Springfield-style cashew chicken is a regional favorite from Southwest Missouri. The key is serving fried chicken pieces with a thick oyster sauce, cashews and chopped green onions. Photo by Addie Broyles
Springfield-style cashew chicken is a regional favorite from Southwest Missouri. The key is serving fried chicken pieces with a thick oyster sauce, cashews and chopped green onions. Photo by Addie Broyles

Springfield-style cashew chicken — or, if you live in Southwest Missouri, simply, cashew chicken — is the last dish you might expect a good Methodist family to eat the night before Christmas.

No turkey and casseroles. No prime rib and Yorkshire pudding. No chili and mulled wine (though that does sound like a New Year’s Eve tradition I might have to start this year). We go straight for the oyster sauce-smothered bites of fried chicken that is easily the bestselling dish at every Chinese restaurant in the general radius of the biggest city near my small Missouri hometown.

The original cashew chicken came from a restaurant called Leong’s Asian Food, which now sells a pre-made version of the sauce online ($4.59 for 12 oz., leongsasianfoods.com). But we’ve always enjoyed making it at home, when there are enough hands to lighten the work.

All that dipping in flour and eggs can make for quite the mess, not to mention standing by the stove to fry about three batches of chicken. But even the cooks (it’s helpful to have one person toss the chicken in the eggs and flour, and another person frying) don’t seem to mind when it’s time to slather on that salty sauce and pile on the chopped green onions and crunchy cashews.

Sometimes, we’ll add a side dish of steamed broccoli so it doesn’t feel too decadent. You could also fry pieces of tofu or, if you have it, use up some of the peanut oil from the fried turkey. A deep fryer could be handy here, but we use a large skillet.

(Note: This post is part of an ongoing series called Austin360Cooks in which we invite readers to share what they are cooking at home. Add #Austin360Cooks to your posts on social media to participate, and each week, we run one submission in the print food section of the Austin American-Statesman.)

Springfield-style cashew chicken

3 eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
3-5 cups flour
4-6 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
4-6 cups vegetable oil, for frying
For the sauce:
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3-4 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup cashew nuts, for garnish
1 bunch chopped green onions, for garnish
Cooked rice, for serving

Whisk egg with milk in one bowl and place flour in another. Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large wok or skillet.

In batches, dip the chicken pieces in the flour, then the egg wash and then the flour again. Using tongs, place the chicken in the oil, but don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry the chicken until golden brown and place on a paper towel. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding more oil and keeping the oil hot.

To make the sauce, whisk together oyster sauce, soy sauce and 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water and slowly add to the saucepan. The sauce should be almost as thick as the plain oyster sauce, but not as strong in flavor. (Note: You can make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator if you’re frying the chicken the next day.)

Serve with green onions, cashews and rice. Serves six.

— Adapted from a recipe by Sis Ann Broyles

Monica Pope to headline Prevention Magazine’s third annual R3 Summit

Monica Pope will return to Austin for a dinner at Prevention Magazine's R3 Summit. Photo by Penny De Los Santos.
Monica Pope will return to Austin for a dinner at Prevention Magazine’s R3 Summit. Photo by Penny De Los Santos.

For the third year, Prevention Magazine is bringing back its R3 Summit to Austin next month. The event, slated for January 15-16, will take place at ACL Live at The Moody Theater and for the first time will feature a mega dinner on Jan. 15 with Houston chef Monica Pope.

The two-day event will include talks with wellness, fitness and food experts, including Austin chef Chad Sarno and Travis Stork, host of “The Doctors,” as well as some cooking demos and tastings. Tickets for the main part of the summit start at $150, but you can also buy individual tickets ($75) to the big Friday night dinner with Pope. Also presenting that night is meditation expert Bob Roth. Info and tickets at preventionr3summit.com.

Le Cordon Bleu Austin culinary school closing by 2017

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin is located in the Domain.
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin is located in the Domain.

Austin’s largest culinary school will shutter in the next two years, if not sooner.

Career Education Corporation, the parent company of the Austin Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, announced on Wednesday that it would close all 16 of its U.S. campuses by September 2017. The school will stop enrolling new students in January, but current students can finish their studies.

In 2013, the company paid $40 million to settle a lawsuit from former students who claimed that the recruiters had overpromised compensation for graduates.  In May of this year, it announced that it was getting out of the career education business, focusing on online schools instead.

This week, the company said that it had been in negotiation to sell the campuses but that it couldn’t come to an agreement with potential buyers.

The school started out as the Texas Culinary Academy in 1981, making it the longest running culinary school in Austin. At its height, the school had more than 1,000 students. In 2001, Le Cordon Bleu bought the school and moved it to a larger campus at the Domain. (Its previous location at 6020 Dillard Circle is where the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is now located.)

Officials with the Austin campus have not yet responded to a request for comment or more details, but I will update this post when they do.

Whole Foods denies selling shrimp processed by slaves

wholefoodshrimpA break from our previously scheduled holiday coverage to address a big story that broke yesterday and its possible connections to Austin.

The Associated Press released an investigation about shrimp peeled by enslaved workers in Thailand. We’ve known about some of the problems with imported shrimp, but this report is the most detailed we’ve seen of deplorable working conditions and the sheer volume of shrimp that enters the U.S. from such operations.

According to the AP, the shrimp makes its way to the U.S. through suppliers, including Thai Union, which works with the restaurant group that owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden, as well as retail chains such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Dollar General and Petco.

Want to know more? This Q&A answers many of the immediate questions you might have.

On social media this morning, Whole Foods denied that the shrimp they buy from Thai Union had been processed by slaves. “After thorough investigation, we’re confident Thai Union shrimp at our stores did not come from [an] illicit processing facility,” @wholefoods tweeted.

Although the Austin-based retailer didn’t go into details publicly, the CEO of Thai Union acknowledged that “illicitly sourced product may have fraudulently entered its supply chain.”

But Whole Foods (WFM) says it conducted on-site inspections in May after reports of labor abuse first surfaced, and it is confident that the shrimp it gets from Thai Union is not the shrimp peeled by slave labor.

According to CNN Monday, Whole Foods said that it investigated its own supply chain months ago by conducting on-site inspections of Thai Union facilities.

From the post:

Whole Foods also points out that the slave labor in the AP report is used to peeled raw shrimp, but that none of the shrimp it buys in Thailand is processed that way. “All our shrimp is either raw with the shell on, or cooked in the shell and then peeled in approved production facilities,” said the company.

Thai Union also promised AP to bring all shrimp-processing in-house by the end of the year and provide jobs to workers whose factories close as a result. Whole Foods said it supports this move.

Recipe of the Week: Puppy Chow Rice Krispies Treats

Treat_Stephanie-BanyasRice Krispies Treats have been around since 1939 when home economists at Kelloggs melted marshmallows and mixed them with the popular puffed rice cereal. The company didn’t get around to selling commercial treats until 1995, which gave home cooks plenty of years to come up with new twists on an old favorite

For “Treat: 50 Recipes for No-Bake Marshmallow Treats” (Clarkson Potter, $14.99), Stephanie Banyas came up with dozens of innovative spins, including raspberry cheesecake, gingerbread, lemonade key lime and these puppy chow treats that get a salty crunch from pretzels. She also includes marshmallow recipes, but store-bought ones will save you a ton of time and cleanup.

Treat_Puppy-Chow
The classic cereal snack Puppy Chow meets another cereal dessert: Rice Krispies Treats. Stephanie Banyas’ book “Treat” is full of creative ideas for no-bake marshmallow treats.

Puppy Chow Pretzel Treats

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (do not use natural peanut butter)
1 (16-oz.) bag marshmallows or 15 ounces marshmallow spread
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
6 cups puffed rice cereal
1 cup coarsely crushed pretzels
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Using 1 tablespoon of the butter, grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch-by-13-inch glass or nonstick baking dish.

In a medium pan set over medium heat, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter. Add the chocolate and peanut butter, and stir until smooth. Add the marshmallows, reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan. Let stand until the marshmallows soften, 2 minutes. Fold in the vanilla, salt, cereal and pretzels, and stir gently.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared dish and spread evenly with a piece of wax paper. Refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes. Cut the treats into 1-inch bars.

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and toss the treats in the sugar until well coated. Serve. Makes 88 pieces.

— From “Treat: 50 Recipes for No-Bake Marshmallow Treats” by Stephanie Banyas (Clarkson Potter, $14.99)

Graham Cracker Toffee and other treats from “Food Gift Love”

Maggie-Battista-Food-Gift-LoveMaggie Battista knows what you want under the tree.

The founder of Eat Boutique (eatboutique.com), a website dedicated to food gifts, either homemade or purchased, has released an entire book of food-based projects you can gift. “Food Gift Love” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25) includes recipes for jams, marmalades and sauces, as well as homemade vinegars, extracts, syrups and infused spirits. Not all of the gifts are tied to winter holidays, which makes the book a little more useful the other 10 months out of the year.

If you’re interested in taking a class in gift-making, the Container Store, 9629 Research Blvd., is hosting a DIY gift demo on Saturday with Austin blogger Jeanine Donofrio of loveandlemons.com, who is releasing her first book next year. The event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday is free and you can RSVP at containerstore.com/rsvp/holidayAUS.

toffee
This graham cracker toffee is one of the many DIY gifts featured in ‘Food Gift Love’ by EatBoutique.com founder Maggie Battista. Photo by Heidi Murphy

Graham Cracker Toffee

This treat is less toffee and more a delicious hack of graham crackers, butter and sugar — but no matter what you call it, it might be the first thing to disappear from your cookie tin.

12 large graham crackers, broken into halves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. coconut oil

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil, setting one aside for later use. Arrange the graham crackers on the other sheet, with each cracker touching the next.

Melt the butter in a small pot over low heat. Stir in the sugar and simmer (do not boil) about 10 minutes, just until the sugar melts. Stir occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Pour the hot mixture over the graham crackers and spread it evenly to cover all the crackers. Sprinkle the nuts over the graham crackers. Bake about 10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

Remove the graham crackers from the oven and let cool on a cooling rack 8 to 10 minutes. Remove each cracker to the second lined baking sheet, taking care to make sure the crackers do not touch each other this time.

In a double boiler set over medium heat, place a bit of water in the bottom pot, making sure the water doesn’t touch the underside of the top pot. (If you do not have a double boiler, just place a metal or glass bowl on top of a medium pot.)

Place the chocolate and coconut oil in the top part of the double boiler. Stir and melt until the chocolate forms drippy ribbons when you lift your rubber spatula from the pot.

Pour the melted chocolate into a plastic bag. Cut a tiny corner off the bag and immediately begin drizzling the chocolate all over the graham crackers until all the chocolate is used.

Let it harden overnight at room temperature, and store in an airtight container up to 1 week. Makes 48 pieces.

— From “Food Gift Love” by Maggie Battista (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25)

Austin Food & Wine Alliance gives $40,000 in grants to six local groups

Earlier this week, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance handed out $40,000 in grants to six local groups.

The recipients and organizers of the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Alliance grant program.  Photo from AFWA.
The recipients and organizers of the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Alliance grant program. Photo from AFWA.

Each year, the alliance is the beneficiary from the Austin Food & Wine Festival, but it also raises money independently of the festival through events, such as Live Fire and Wine & Swine. (Other high-profile festivals, such as Feast in Portland, disclose the amount of money they donate to organizations. C3 Presents, which hosts the Austin festival, does not.)

This year’s grant recipients are: Texas Keeper Cider ($12,000), Two Hives Honey ($8,000), Meridian Hive Meadery, ($8,000), Urban Roots ($5,000), Salud Bitters Company ($5,000), and Manor High School Culinary Arts Program ($2,000).

Texas Keeper Cider, the second cidery to receive a five-figure grant from AFWA, plans to use the money for a cider taproom. Two Hives Honey is working on a hyper-local line of honey harvested from micro-apiaries in Austin neighborhoods. The meadery will use the money to expand expand production, and Urban Roots plans to update its curriculum for farm interns who are also high school students. Salud Bitters is seeking FDA certification and hopes to provide educational tours, and Manor High School will use the money to buy appliances for a student-run restaurant and catering business that serves families staying at the Ronald McDonald house.

This is the fourth year that the non-profit has given grants to Central Texas culinary innovators.

Whole Foods hires noted New York chef with Austin ties

Chef Tien Ho will start at Whole Foods Market early next year. Photo from Business Wire.
Chef Tien Ho will start at Whole Foods Market early next year. Photo from Business Wire.

Today, Whole Foods Market announced that it had hired former Austin chef Tien Ho as the global vice president of culinary and hospitality.

Ho, who had worked at the Driskill Hotel, left Austin in 2002 to make a name for himself in New York City. After working at noted Big Apple restaurants including Café Boulud and Má Pêche, he was named best new chef in 2011 by New York Magazine. He most recently worked at Morgans Hotel Group, where he oversaw the culinary departments in the group’s 10 hotel brands.

Hiring Ho, who graduated from University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree in history and philosophy, indicates that Whole Foods is putting even more emphasis on the restaurant part of its grocery business. Many stores include a “grocerant,” an eatery within the store, and in Austin, those restaurants serve everything from ramen and raw oysters to barbecue and seafood.

Two of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes

We’re working on a big cookie story for next week’s food section, but I wanted to share two of my favorite cookie recipes we’ve published. The first is this chocolate dulce de leche bar with sea salt caramel, which won a cookie swap contest we hosted in 2009.

The other is a pfeffernusse cookie that I wrote about in 2012. The cookie itself is a unique little nugget that you dip in hot chocolate or coffee to soften, but what really won me over was the history wrapped up in a recipe. Every year around this time, I think about those tins of pfeffernusse shipping across the Atlantic during World War II.

Anne-Charlotte Patterson, left, won the Statesman Cookie Swap at Stubb's on Thursday Dec. 17, 2009, with her Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars with Sea-Salt Caramel.  Joan Brook, right, tries one of them. Photo by Jay Janner for the Austin American-Statesman.
Anne-Charlotte Patterson, left, won the Statesman Cookie Swap at Stubb’s on Thursday Dec. 17, 2009, with her Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars with Sea-Salt Caramel. Joan Brook, right, tries one of them. Photo by Jay Janner for the Austin American-Statesman.

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars with Sea-Salt Caramel

Anne-Charlotte Patterson’s shortbread cookie bar, kicked up with a touch of cayenne pepper, is topped with a dulce de leche custard.

For the crust:
Butter for pan
1 stick salted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the filling:
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
6 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
For the caramel sauce:
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Sea salt for sprinkling

For the dulce de leche: Remove label on can of sweetened condensed milk and puncture lid. Place can in a small saucepan filled with water (water should come up three quarters of the way up the sides). Simmer for 90 minutes or more until sugar caramelizes. Add more water as needed to keep can mostly submerged, which will turn the condensed milk into dulce de leche.

While milk simmers, prepare crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a 7-inch-by-10-inch glass dish, such as Pyrex. Line bottom and 2 sides with parchment paper, leaving an overhang. Butter parchment. Mix butter, brown sugar, salt and cayenne in a bowl on low speed. Mix in flour and blend with fork until a soft dough forms. Spread dough evenly in baking pan, then prick all over with fork. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes, then cool completely.

To make chocolate dulce de leche custard: Bring cream and one cup caramelized condensed milk (save remaining dulce de leche for other use) to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon until dulce de leche has dissolved.

Whisk together yolks in a bowl, then slowly whisk in hot cream mixture. Return to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until pan is visible in tracks of spoon and mixture registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until melted. Pour chocolate mixture over cooled shortbread and chill, uncovered, until cold and set, about 2 hours.

While bars chill, make caramel sauce: Place sugar in a small saucepan, pour water evenly over top. Set over medium-high heat and swirl pan until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, cover, boil syrup for 2 minutes. Uncover, swirl pan, continue to boil syrup until dark amber in color. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter until smooth. Stir in cream, then vanilla. Let syrup cool to room temperature, then drizzle over chocolate-covered shortbread.

Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Remove from pan using parchment, cut into bars and serve, or keep refrigerated.

— Anne-Charlotte Patterson