Wednesday, March 27, 2013

....Dinner at Gulf Wars XXII

Right so....I'm in this Medieval Recreation group called the Society for Creative Anachronism (see weblink below), and we do events where we camp in glorious fashion and wear the guises of people who could have lived back in the days of antiquity.  The most recent event for me was GulfWars XXII, put on by the Kingdom of Gleann Abhann.  Here, much like at Pennsic there are a growing number of people who are gluten intolerant.  
The meal my team and I cooked was a dinner, Stuffed Cabbage, hand made Pirogi, Fresh Green Salad, with Hungarian Tomato Sauce, Ukrainian Mushroom Sauce, Caramelised Onion, Sour Cream for garnishes and Balsamic Vinaigrette for the dressing.  In the past, my tomato sauce was made the way my Great-Grandmother made it, with breadcrumbs, which put it on the no fly list for gluten intolerant folk.  

Buckwheat to the rescue!  Alright maybe that's a little over dramatic.  But really, buckwheat made it so that the only wheat we used was in the pirogi dough.  I tried to make a buckwheat version of the pirogi dough, but found the texture was rougher than the wheat, it didn't hold up as well to shaping the dumplings and really really needed some salt.  I've reckoned that an egg would help with the texture and the wrapping around the filling, and salt would improve the flavour.  I'll be experimenting with several different grains in later blogs and have pics of how they came out.  

In that moment, buckwheat pirogi failed, but I think I know how to fix it to bring it around to usable.  Everything else that night went beautifully.  The recipes below contain the ingredients and mostly the procedures for making the various sides, garnishes and main dishes.

Stuffed Cabbage, Hungarian and Russian style
2 heads of Savoy Cabbage (regular green cabbage can be substituted)
2 pounds of Ground Beef
4 cups pound of Basmati Rice
6 cups water
Olive Oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Granulated Garlic
Granulated Onion
Hungarian Paprika
Dried Parsley, ground in the hand

Cook the rice:
1.)  In a large sauce pot, heat some olive oil on medium high heat.
2.)  Add rice to sauce pot, toast gently, stirring frequently, until some of the rice is golden brown.
3.)  Pour the water on top of the rice and bring to a boil.
4.)  Turn down the heat to low and cover, check on the rice frequently, stirring.
5.)  When the rice is cook all the way through the grain and the water has all been absorbed by the rice, take off heat and empty into a bowl in preparation to mix the stuffing.
Soften the Cabbages:
1.)  Cut the core out of the cabbages, place them in a bowl or pan one at a time.
2.)  Boil some water, in a kettle would be the easiest way.
3.)  Pour boiling water over the cabbage to loosen the leaves, cooking them just enough that they're flexible.
4.)  Separate the cabbage leaves carefully, they will be hot.  Allow them to cool before handling further.
Mix the Stuffing:
1.) When the rice is done cooking, empty the pot into a large mixing bowl.
2.)  Add the ground beef, not waiting for the rice to cool at all.
3.)  Add the seasonings.
4.)  Mix with a stiff spoon or spatula until the meat and rice are well distributed. 

Stuff the Cabbage Leaves:
0.)  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
1.)  Take a cool cabbage leaf into your "off hand", use a large table spoon or soup spoon to scoop the stuffing into the cabbage leave in your hand.
2.)  Fold the sides in first, nice and snug on the clump of stuffing.
3.)  Fold down the rib or spine side of the cabbage leaf
4.)  Fold down the top edge of the cabbage leaf, creating a lovely little parcel enveloped in greenery.  The stuffed cabbage will now be upside down in your hand.
5.)  Turn the stuffed cabbage so that the folded edges are down (holding it closed with your fingers) as you put it into a deep baking pan.  (I use 2 ,9"x13" cake pans lined in aluminium foil)
6.)  Repeat until the tray is filled or you run out of ingredients.
7.)  OPTIONAL:  Cover with the tomato sauce below.
8.)  When the pan is filled, cover tightly with aluminium foil and bake at 375 degrees F. for two hours.

Traditionally in Hungarian cooking, this recipe is made with 1 pound of ground Beef, and 1 pound of ground pork.  Because one of my team mates doesn't eat pork, I opted to substitute the pound of pork for a pound of beef.  You could use ground turkey, or very finely chopped mushrooms to substitute for people who don't eat meat, or just don't eat meat with kind of a reddish hue.

Pirogi, Ukrainian style
3 cup all purpose, unbleached flour King Arthur Brand is honestly the best.
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil

1.)  Mix together gently until everything is incorporated, you can use a food processor on low speed. 
It should be firm enough to hold together, elastic enough to stretch, but not as stiff as noodle dough and should not stick to your hand.
2.)  Let rest for a little while before rolling out.  You might need to add more or less water, depending on the mineral content of your water.  At Gulf Wars, we had to add more water to get the dough to be proper texture.  
3.)  Roll out on a floured board or counter.

5 lbs russet potatoes, peeled, and boiled 
1 block of Friendship Brand Farmer Cheese grated, 7.5 ounce size (or mexican crumbling cheese)  
Caramelised Onion (1.5 lbs pre-cooked weight, see below)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

1.)  Mash the potatoes with a hand masher or potato ricer.  You don't want to use a hand mixer or stand mixer because you don't want to whip air into the potatoes.  You want them to be smooth and not lumpy though.  Don't add any milk or butter to them.
2.)  Mix the mashed potatoes with the cheese, salt, pepper and some of the caramelised onion.
3.)  Taste the mixture, adjusting the salt and pepper and onion as needed.
4.)  Let cool significantly before handling.

Stuffing the Dough:
1.)  Put a large pot on the stove on high heat, add salt and oil to the water and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, you can turn down the temperature to medium to keep the water hot enough to cook the pirogi.
2.Melt a stick of butter and hold it in reserve, keeping it liquid through the rest of the process.
3.)  Roll out the dough until it's about 1/8th of an inch thick.
4.)  Cut out rounds of dough with a cutter or glass that is about 2 inches in diameter.
5.)  Spoon in the filling, remembering that the dough has to pinch closed, so be careful not to add too much filling
6.)  Fold over so that the dumpling is shaped like a half moon and pinch the edges together, making sure that you get a good seal.  If you run into trouble, either run a finger lightly wet around the inside of the seam and pinch, or dust your fingers with flour and pinch harder.
7.)  Lay each dumpling on a floured tray, keeping them separated so that they don't stick together.
8.)  Gently place 6-12 dumplings at a time in the simmering water, when they float to the surface scoop them out with a slotted spoon. 
9.)  Coat the finished Pirogi in melted butter to help them stay separate
They can be served right away, or fried or frozen

Tomato Sauce, Hungarian style
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
24 ounce can of plain tomato sauce
4 ounce can of plain tomato paste
granulated garlic
granulated onion
Hungarian paprika
freshly ground black pepper
dried parsley, ground fine in the palm of the hand

1.)  Melt the butter on medium high heat.
2.)  Add in the buckwheat flour to start a basic roux.
3.)  Add in the vinegar - Be careful not to inhale the vapours, they will knock you over.
4.)  When the roux has thickened, add in the tomato sauce slowly, mixing constantly to incorporate the roux
5.)  Add the tomato paste
6.)  Add the herb and spices 
You'll note that I didn't give amounts for the seasonings.  I honestly don't know how much I put in, it's a pinch here and there until I think it tastes right.  They should be background notes, not even co-stars for the sauce, there to give a little extra flavour without being too noticeable.
My Great Grandmother never served this sauce with the stuffed cabbage, but in other Eastern European countries they do.  You make the cabbage rolls, pour the sauce over the top and cook it all together.  I served some of it sauce on the side, some of it cooked in the sauce so that people could make up their own minds as to how they liked it best.

Mushroom Sauce, Ukrainian style
1/2 small yellow onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped white button mushrooms 
1 tablespoon buckwheat flour
1/4 cup Better than Bullion No-Beef Vegetable bullion made into stock
1/4 cup Better than Bullion Mushroom bullion made into stock
1/2 cup sour cream

1.)  Cook the onion in the butter until tender. 
2.)  Add the mushrooms and cook on medium low heat for about 10-12 minutes. 
3.)  Sprinkle with the flour and mix. 
4.)  Pour in the stock and stir constantly until smooth and thick. 
5.)  Add the sour cream and cook for a few more minutes. 
6.)  Serve hot.

Caramelised Onions
6 tablespoons of Olive Oi
3 lbs yellow onions
4 tablespoons water

1.)  On medium high heat, warm up the oil in a sauce pan
2.)  Peel the paper off the onions, cut in half, slice thinly.
3.)  Add the onions to the pan, stirring frequently. 
4.)  After a few minutes reduce the heat to more of a low end of medium, stir in the water and cover.
5.)  Stir occasionally, when the onions are a golden brown colour they're finished.  You can keep them in a refrigerator for around a week.  When they smell like vinegar, they've gone off.  They can nicely too.
Our Green Salad was beautifully made by TygRomaine lettuce and Spinach were the base and she cut carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, a white onion, and broccoli and provided croutons and sunflower seeds for the salads, which we presented separately so that people could mix and match and build their own salad.  The dressing was one I learned to make when I was an apprentice chef at a French restaurant.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

In a large mixing bowl add:

1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Honey
Salt (to taste)
Black Pepper (to taste)
Onion (to taste)
Garlic (to taste)
1 cup Balsamic Vinegar

Blend well together.

4 cups Canola Oil

Whisk in the oil VERY SLOWLY pausing the pouring every now and again to make sure as much of the oil is fully incorporated before adding more oil. This can take as much as 20 minutes to get all the oil into your vinegar. If you just can't seem to get all of it incorporated, add a little more mustard to emulsify the mixture. Adjust your seasonings as needed, remembering that once it's in there, it's not coming back out. This is a delicate process, so if you're going to use a stand or hand mixer, use a low setting and wire whisks.

This will make nearly 7 cups of salad dressing. Any vinegar can be used to make a dressing with these proportions, though most people will find white vinegar too astringent. You can also add herbs and peppers to white balsamic vinegar make Italian style dressing, or crushed, fresh berries for a berry vinaigrette.
The Society for Creative Anachronism:  
The Kingdom of Gleann Abhann 
The Great Pennsic War: