Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pennsylvania Dutch Pot-Pie and Clarified Butter

I remember many years ago when my cousin came to stay with us in Maine. She brought her exchange student from Holland. Rudy Jansen was his name. He was homesick for something from home so I decided to cook Hotsput. This is sort of an unofficial national dish in Holland. It was basically a boiled dinner. I used Corned Beef but any big cut like that would do. I started the dish, but he hung over me pointing out that I had not cut the onions just the right way, or the potatoes had to be just this shape. It slowed me tremendously. Anyway, after hours of cooking this at 185 degrees exactly, it was finally done, and when his plate went in front of him he mashed it to a pulp before consuming it.....I almost killed him!
As you may know, the Pennsylvania Dutch are not Dutch. They are Swiss for the most part, from the German speaking part of the country. But there is a certain similarity in their cooking to other Germanic areas like Holland.
Virginia Good, odious woman that she was, was a good cook as detailed elsewhere in the blog. She was from an area and later lived in areas that were influenced by the Pennsylvania Dutch. They called this Pennsylvania Dutch Pot-pie or just Pot-pie. Just how Pennsylvania Dutch it was is up to you to research. I just know it was very good, though not as tender as a Pot Roast. The meat falls apart, but it remains in a sort of stringy form. Not tough by any means, but the texture is not like a New England or Yankee Pot Roast.

Ginny Good would buy a large Bottom Round Roast. I have used other cuts that you might associate with Pot Roast, but this is what she used.
She would cut the meat apart along it's natural divisions, and remove every scrap of fat, gristle and silver skin from the meat. She would cut the remaining blocks of meat into the largest uniform sizes possible.

Put a generous amount of olive oil in the bottom of the pan. I had a steel pressure cooker that worked well, though I never used it as a pressure cooker. I use just standard oil, not Extra Virgin. Butter works, but it burns easily, so clarify it first. I preheat the pan and add the oil, but she started cold and raised the temperature till the smell of the oil was obvious. Very hot!. Then brown the meat on all sides till it is very dark but not burned. You may have to lower the heat a bit, but adding the meat itself will lower the heat while it is on high. Nevertheless, you want a lot of color. While browning the last side, add a tablespoon per pound of Italian seasoning. I just mix my own, but she warned that you should avoid too much Rosemary. She sprinkled a generous layer of granulated beef bouillon over the meat at this point as well.(see below) Lower the heat to a simmer and cover tightly. The meat should develop a broth from the smothering process. Feel free to add water or broth at any time. The beef can go in the oven(She and her sister would do this in shallow foil baking trays, but it would be good in a dutch oven as well. Bake, or simmer at about 300+- for about two to three hours, till the meat is ready to fall apart, but still retains it's shape. Serve as chunks in the broth, sliced, in sandwiches or continue with the recipe below.

As the meat was covered, she would add pearl onions. I use chopped onion to taste, You can also add carrot chunks or baby carrots. As the broth developed from the smothered meat she would also add large chunks of potato. The carrots are my addition. The recipe calls for double starches, but no vegetables other than the onions.

Meanwhile, she would make pasta sheets. See earlier recipes in the blog. The pasta was rolled out very thinly on a table or counter. Stretch it if necessary. Then it was cut into huge squares. Perhaps four inches by four inches. Remove the meat and potatoes from the broth. Bring to a boil and drop in the squares of noodle one by one. Shred the meat very coarsely or leave in large chunks. When the pasta is cooked, return the meat to the broth and noodles. If you cannot stomach the double starch and no veggies, add the carrots with the onions and a couple of hands-full of peas in the last five minutes. Serve in large shallow bowls with plenty of broth and starch number three, bread.

Clarified butter. Salted butter is for spreading on bread, potatoes, or veggies. Any time you plan to fry or bake with butter, always use unsalted butter. This means that the amount of salt that you use in the recipe is the amount called for in the recipe. Salted butter is very salty indeed.

To clarify butter, you simply melt the butter in a sauce pan on low heat. The completely melted butter will have a cloud of milk solids in it. You simply ladle or siphon out the clear part of the butter and leave the solids behind. The butter that is left behind may still be used, but not for anything where looks are important or where heat will be applied.
The clarified butter is straight fat. This is less likely to burn when frying as the solids burn before the fat does. This does not give you leave to use smoking hot fat to fry. As soon as it smokes, you start to get into health problems above and beyond the ordinary dangers of fat.

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