Sunday, October 8, 2017

Bangers and Mash Cakes with Onion Gravy

This is my updated version of the classic British dish, Bangers & Mash.  I've gone to the extreme, using mashed potato cakes with a delightfully crunchy exterior and a soft, flavorful interior instead of the traditional mashed potatoes, but I'm not stopping there!  I'm taking the bangers to the next level by stuffing them with cheese and wrapping them with bacon.  And for the ultimate topper, my favorite brown gravy with caramelized onions.   There are multiple steps to success with this, first you have to make the potatoes on the cook top and refrigerate them, while they cool, you prepare the bangers and get them baking, and then you make the gravy and fry the mash cakes.  The potato cakes are not made from leftover mashed potatoes.

It's not exactly what you want to fix for dinner if you're in a hurry, but one of these days, if you get lucky enough to not be in a hurry, which doesn't happen very often around my house lately, this meal is totally worth the effort - especially if you have a "meat & potatoes" lover in the house, and.... I do!
I cooked the potatoes the night before and refrigerated them overnight, saving me time when I'm ready to prepare the rest of the meal.

Here we go...

The Fresh Potato Cakes
I take no credit for this recipe, except the 3 little changes I chose to make.  I saw this on one of my favorite cooking shows, Cooks Country, on PBS.  I followed their directions exactly and then also added three other things.  They recommend you don't substitute russet potatoes with any other kind because the starch content in russet potatoes is perfect for this particular recipe.  They're so good, I'll never make potato cakes the old way using leftover mashed potatoes again!


2 ½         pounds russet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
               (I used 3 large baking sized potatoes) 
Salt and pepper, to taste 
1              oz.  Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup) 
¼             cup chopped fresh chives 
1              large egg yolk ​plus 2 large eggs 
2              cups panko bread crumbs 
1 ½         cups vegetable oil 

My additions:  1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/3 of the  caramelized onions I prepared for the gravy.

Cooks Country's Notes:

Using two spatulas to flip the cakes helps prevent splattering. We like to change the oil after frying the first batch of cakes because any dark panko remnants left behind will freckle the second batch. You can strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer if you prefer to reuse it, but be careful because it is very hot. Plan ahead: The cooked mashed potatoes need to chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, which makes it easier to form the cakes.

1. Place potatoes in medium saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch, then stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tip of paring knife inserted into potatoes meets no resistance, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to saucepan; let cool for 5 minutes.


2. Add Parmesan, chives, egg yolk, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to cooled potatoes.
* Also add additional 3 ingredients here (garlic powder, onion powder, and caramelized onions, if desired). Using potato masher, mash until smooth and well combined. Transfer potato mixture to bowl and refrigerate until completely cool, about 1 hour. (or overnight).

3. Beat remaining 2 eggs together in shallow dish. Place panko in second shallow dish. Divide potato mixture into 8 equal portions (about 1/2 cup each) and shape into 3-inch-diameter cakes, about 3/4 inch thick. (I just divided the mixture into 8 round balls about the same size, I didn't bother with measuring). You can see the caramelized onions I added in the first picture below! The details about that are in the gravy directions.  Working with 1 cake at a time, carefully dip cakes in egg mixture, turning to coat both sides and allowing excess to drip off; then coat with panko, pressing gently to adhere. Transfer to plate and let sit for 5 minutes.


4. Line large plate with paper towels. Heat 1/2 cup oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place 4 cakes in skillet and cook until deep golden brown on first side, about 3 minutes. Using 2 spatulas, carefully flip cakes and continue to cook until deep golden brown on second side, about 2 minutes longer, gently pressing on cakes with spatula for even browning.
5. Transfer cakes to prepared plate. Discard oil and wipe out skillet with paper towels. Repeat with remaining 1/2 cup oil and remaining 4 cakes. 

The Gravy
I've been making gravy like this for a long time. It's what I use with pot roast and multiple other dishes, and it's not hard to do.  You can omit the caramelized onions if desired.  Make the gravy first if you want to add some of the caramelized onions to your potato cakes.  The gravy is easily reheated when it's mealtime, so you can make it the day before also, refrigerate and reheat at mealtime.

2  1/2 cups water
1 packet Lipton Beefy Onion soup mix
1 packet McCormick Brown gravy mix
1 fresh onion or 1 (10 oz.) package frozen diced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar
Black pepper, to taste  (no salt needed!)

Caramelize the onions:  Add olive oil and butter to medium sized frying pan. Once butter is melted, add onions, pepper, and sugar.  You can omit the sugar if you want to, but it helps the caramelization process along. Once the onions are cooked to the level you desire, remove from heat and set aside. I love using the frozen diced onions for this, they work perfectly and they're already cut up... 
Add 2 cups of water to a medium saucepan and stir the Lipton soup mix into it.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 12 minutes to allow onions to soften.  
Combine remaining 1/2 cup of water with brown gravy mix and stir together well, then add to soup mix once it has simmered for 12 minutes.  Add 2/3 of caramelized onions to gravy if you want to add 1/3 of them to the potato cakes.  If not, add all the onions to the gravy.  
Side note :)  I sometimes also add a can of cream of mushroom soup and a dash of Worcestershire sauce to this gravy, giving it a thicker texture and more volume, but not for this recipe!

The Bangers
Here's where versatility reigns supreme.  Today, I'm using Eckrich Skinless Smoked Sausage because it's what I have on hand, but you can use any type of link sausage you want.  There are so many different kinds and flavors of link sausages these days... find just the right one for you.  I like using Brats or Eckrich.  If you want to spice it up, try hot links or a smoked sausage with jalapeno peppers. Just keep in mind, if your sausages are raw, they will need to be almost fully cooked before you get to the bacon-wrapping process. Don't stuff raw sausages with cheese until after they have cooked almost fully, just before wrapping them with the bacon.

6 link sausages
6 slices bacon
3  cheese sticks, cut in half (or cut pieces off a block of cheese if desired)

Since the Eckrich I'm using is fully cooked, here's how I chose to prepare them:
First, lay bacon slices (one for each sausage) on a wire rack sitting in a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees in the oven until some of the fat has rendered, until it's about half way cooked - about 6 minutes.  Don't turn the oven off, but remove bacon from oven, allow to cool enough to handle.  
While the bacon is cooling, cut a slit into each sausage with a paring knife.  Don't cut all the way to the end or the bottom.  Insert a slice of cheese into each sausage and press down gently into it. I happened to have cheese sticks in the fridge, so I used them, but just cut pieces off a block that will fit into the sausages - I'm using Colby-jack today.... use what you want.
Wrap cooled, partially cooked bacon around each sausage and secure with a toothpick on each end. Place wrapped sausages onto the same rack you cooked the bacon on, return to oven and allow to cook until bacon is crispy. I only had thick cut bacon, but I don't recommend it because it takes longer to crisp up.  When the bacon is as crisp as you want it, remove it from the oven and take all the toothpicks out.


Putting it all Together: 
Place a potato cake on a plate, top with bacon-wrapped, cheese stuffed sausage.  Spoon desired amount of onion gravy over sausage and potato cakes and serve hot.

And there you have it!  The potato cakes didn't taste greasy, the cheese was intact within the sausage, and the bacon was crispy.  The gravy will soften the exterior of the potato cake as it sits, but you still get crispy bites.  I only cooked 4 of the potato cakes and put 4 back in the fridge, uncoated and not fried.  I think I'll cook them in the morning and top them with a fried egg and serve it that way, with a bacon-wrapped banger on the side.  Sounds like a good breakfast to me!!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Apple Butter Shortbread Bars

October is just around the corner, which is when I have a family reunion in Louisiana. Guess who's responsible for desserts? Yep, that would be me. Here's the first recipe I'm thinking about taking. These bars are composed of apple butter slathered between two buttery, tender shortbread cookie dough layers. Then it's topped with a glaze and finished off with a sprinkling of white sanding sugar. I love apple butter, and the shortbread isn't on the "too sweet" side.

This recipe can be altered in so many ways. I have already used strawberry jam in the middle - delicious, and at some point, I plan to try multiple other flavor combinations in both the filling and the dough.

Here's the ingredient list:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup apple butter
12 thin ginger snaps (such as Anna's brand), crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 heaping tablespoon apple butter
1 tablespoon water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat a 9 x 13 jelly roll pan or baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and stir the vanilla into it.

Add the softened butter and egg/vanilla mixture to the flour mixture and mix with your hands until evenly blended and smooth. The dough will be crumbly at first, but continue to work it until it sticks together and forms a ball. Gather up all the loose bits and remaining flour from the bottom of the bowl and press/work into the dough ball.

Divide the dough ball in half by cutting with a knife or bench scraper, as shown.

Press half the dough into the prepared jelly roll pan or baking dish as evenly as possible, covering the bottom and up the sides all the way around about a half inch or so.
Dollop the apple butter onto the bottom layer of dough and spread evenly with the back of a spoon.

Place the ginger snaps in a quart size zipper bag and crush to a medium-fine crumb. Add the ground cinnamon to the crushed cookies in the bag, close the bag and mix. Pour the cookie/cinnamon mixture into a bowl with the remaining unused half of the cookie dough. Mix with your hands until the cookie crumbs appear to be evenly distributed throughout.

Pinch off small pieces of the dough and place on top of the apple butter until it's entirely covered.
Bake for 35 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

During the baking period, make the glaze.

Press the powdered sugar through a strainer into a medium bowl to minimize lumps. Add the apple butter and water. Whisk vigorously until smooth and pour into a sandwich size zip lock bag.

While bars are cooling, snip a very small portion of a bottom corner of the bag of glaze and drizzle ribbons of glaze over the entire surface.
After the bars have cooled in the pan for ten minutes and the glaze has been drizzled on, lightly sprinkle white sanding sugar (not regular sugar) over the entire surface.

Cut in half, then cut each half into equal size bars. Each half makes 12 bars for a total of 24 bars, or more if you choose to cut smaller ones.
Store in an air tight container at room temperature.

The center is moist, the cookie layers are buttery and hold up very well. Easy to slice, easy to serve! That's just the sort of thing I need for my upcoming event. Next, have to decide what else is on the dessert menu for our family get-together. 'Scuse me while I go have one of these with a cuppa coffee!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Easy Apple Cinnamon Cake

This cake isn't made with fresh apples. This cake isn't "scratch". This cake eater doesn't care!!!
Seriously, it's an easy version that really is moist and delish. Give it a try sometime!

Here's how it happens:

Cake Batter Ingredients:

1 15.25 oz. Duncan Hines Classic Yellow cake mix
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
3 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 21 oz. can apple pie filling
Optional: 1 cup (divided use) chopped pecans or walnuts

Whisk the first 3 ingredients together in a large bowl to mix well.

Combine the next 4 ingredients together in a medium bowl and whisk together well. Add the liquid ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir to combine before mixing with a hand or stand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes until smooth. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour the apple pie filling into a bowl and, using a knife, cut the apples up into smaller pieces.

If using the optional nuts, take 3/4 of a cup of them and add to the batter along with the pie filling.

Stir the nuts and apples in by hand until evenly combined. The batter is done.... time to prepare the baking pan. I'm using my favorite tube pan today, but a large bundt pan will work just fine too. To prepare the pan, spray it generously with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Stir to combine and pour into pan, coating well.

Pour or spoon batter into pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean from the center.

Remove the cake from oven and allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Because of the type of pan coating I chose to use, which creates a slightly crunchy exterior on the cake, I've chosen to leave my cake top side down, but if you're using a tube pan, you can glaze which ever side you want! Next, use a wooden or metal skewer, or chopsticks work well too... and poke holes in the top of the cake. Toothpicks are too small to do this with effectively. You can skip this if you want, the cake is plenty moist inside thanks to the pie filling.

While the cake is cooling for the 10 minute period, prepare the glaze.

Glaze Ingredients:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Push the confectioners' sugar through a strainer to eliminate lumps, into a medium bowl.

Add all the remaining glaze ingredients and whisk together until smooth.

Spread the glaze evenly over the cake as shown below:

If using the optional nuts, sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of them over the top of the glaze. I like to finish this cake off with some clear edible glitter, just to brighten up the presentation a bit. Totally optional!!

And now there's nothing left to do but EAT CAKE!!!! Yippeeee! This is my favorite part!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hashbrown Crusted Breakfast Pie

This is so easy and "change-up-able", and it's often enjoyed for dinner at my house rather than breakfast.  I really enjoy foods traditionally served at breakfast time for dinner.... all of them..... I just love breakfast stuff!  You need to use a deep dish 9 inch (1 qt. capacity) pie plate for this.  Here's what you need to throw this together:

For the crust:
3 cups frozen shredded hashbrown potatoes
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon flour
Salt & pepper

For the filling:
4 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1 (4 oz.) can fire roasted chopped green chiles, drained
1 cup fully cooked ground pork sausage
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
Salt & pepper
Smoky Sweet Paprika (optional)

I've been asked if fresh potatoes or non-frozen grated potatoes would work with this instead of frozen ones, and yes, they will.  I use frozen ones because if I keep them stocked in my freezer, I never have to worry about having to run to the store to get potatoes if I don't happen to have any on hand.  Whatever potato choice you make, the important thing is to make sure you get as much moisture off of them as possible before you add the melted butter and press them into the pie plate. I also use Jimmy Dean fully cooked sausage patties, which I get at Sam's and keep stocked in my freezer.  They come 4 patties to a package.  One package is the perfect amount for this.  I just defrost it in the microwave and crumble it up with my hands.  Just get a tube of your favorite ground breakfast sausage and crumble it up and brown it if you don't used the fully cooked version.

I just spread them out into a separate pie plate to microwave them for thawing.

Here, I've patted them dry and added the flour, butter, salt and pepper, mixing with my hands.

To make the crust, defrost the potatoes in the microwave at 40% power for a few minutes at a time, stirring in between, until fully defrosted.  Press paper towels over the top to absorb any excessive moisture, then mix around and repeat once more.  Sprinkle the flour and salt & pepper to taste into the thawed potatoes and mix well.  I just do all the potato mixing with my hands.  Add melted butter, making sure all the potatoes are well coated before moving on to the next step.

There's actually no need to spray the pie plate with non-stick spray before forming the crust, but I can't stop myself, I always do it anyway.  You don't have to! Don't be like me!!!!  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

After pressing the potatoes into the dish with my hands as evenly as possible, I smooth the surface.

Put all the potatoes right into the pie plate and begin forming the crust with your hands, trying to keep a consistently even thickness on the bottom and sides. Once I have it pressed in by hand, I smooth out the bottom with one of my measuring cups.  Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.  While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.


Whisk the eggs well in a large bowl. Add the cheeses, green chiles, cooked sausage, cream, milk, and salt & pepper.  Mix it all up well. Remove the crust from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 415 degrees.

Here's what the crust should look like when ready to add filling - just starting to brown around the edges.

Pour the filling into the crust - you may have a "pile" in the center... just level it out with the back of a spoon. 


This is the Smoky Sweet Paprika I like so much.  You can use regular paprika or none at all, but it adds color to the top, and because the center is somewhat bland looking, I like to add it.

Return to the oven, now at 415 degrees, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until set.  Once it's done, the center of the pie should not be cratered inward, it should be lifted level with the edges, and it should be nicely browned, with a very slight jiggle, if any. 

Here's what the bottom looks like.

 The potato crust will be soft along the inside, but should be crispy on the outside.  It should cut nicely and hold together well.  Let the pie sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

If you keep with the volumes I have used here, you can switch up the ingredients any way you want. Use different cheeses and meats.  Omit one of the cheeses and add some caramelized onions.  Put some sliced cherry tomatoes all around the top.  Add a little Tabasco or Cajun spice blend if you want to.  Make it your way! 

I have also used muffin tins for this instead of a pie plate, but it's waaaaay more time consuming!