26 August 2009

Another One-Dish Wonder

I love left-overs. The problem is that we usually just have odds and ends left over, not complete meals. A few weeks ago I grilled some lamb chops on my Big Green Egg. We had 7 or 8 left over, so I sucked-n-saved 'em and put them in the freezer.

I was watching Food Network over the weekend and Emeril made a beef pot pie. I thought that would be an excellent re-purposing of my left-over lamb; never mind that pot pies are hearty winter dishes and it's a 100-degree summer day here in Dallas. I went online to find a recipe and came across a very simple one at AllRecipes.com. I adapted it to what I had in the refrigerator and pantry, and the result was fantastic.

I didn't have enough lamb in the freezer for the recipe, so I augmented it with some cubed steak.

My mother taught me the simplicity of making my own pie crusts several years ago when Tom and I were visiting my parents in Atlanta. We made Aunt Pearl's fried apple pies on that visit. (That will have to be a future blog posting.) This pot pie recipe works great with a home-made crust, but also works fine with the store-bought variety. It just depends on how much time you have.

Here's the scoop...

Red Meat Pot Pie

large mixing bowl
2 medium saucepans
9-inch pie pan

1 pound cooked cubed red meat (I used beef and lamb)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
1 can beef broth (14 ounces)
3 large carrots, diced
3 medium potatoes, cubed
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup water
2 pie crusts

In one of the saucepans, saute the already-cooked meat in the olive oil to warm through and give a nice carmelization, about 3 minutes.
Add 1 cup of water to cover and simmer the dickens out of it until the meat is VERY tender, 2-3 hours. Drain the meat into the mixing bowl and discard the liquid.
Preheat oven to 350.
In the other saucepan, cook the potatoes and carrots in the beef broth until almost tender, about 20 minutes. Don't over-cook them our the finished product will be mushy. Remove the vegetables from the pan into the bowl with the meat, preserving the broth. Add the thawed peas and stir to combine the mixture.
Dissolve the cornstarch in the 1/3 cup of water, then stir into the broth in the saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened, about 3 minutes.
Place one of the pie crusts in the pie pan. Fill with the meat and veggie mixture. Pour the thickened broth (now a gravy) over the filling. Top with the other pie crust and fold over the edges and seal.
Poke 12 or so slits in the top crust so it can vent.
Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, until the top crust is golden brown.
Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve it with a large serving spoon; don't try to cut it into wedges like a dessert pie.

07 August 2009

When in Rome ...

Signage? What Signage?

We loaded the toaster and left the villa on Saturday morning, headed back to Rome for the final leg of our Italian adventure. We made an encore visit to Orvieto for lunch and then headed to Fiumicino (the town where Rome's airport is located) to turn in the toaster and begin our big city fun.

Like most major cities, the route to the airport was clearly marked. Unlike most major cities, however, there was ZERO signage to guide us to the rental car return. We circled once, twice, and finally surrendered to the Hilton hotel to inquire. "Go back into the airport entrance; follow the signs to 'covered parking' [Yes, this morsel of signage was in English. Go figure.]; pass entrance A and entrance B, and enter at entrance C; Hertz is on level 4 inside the covered parking." Do most tourists who rent cars in Rome just know this stuff?

Once the toaster was returned, it was a short haul to the Leonardo Express (the train from the airport to the city) platforms for the 35-minute ride to Rome. The hotel is just two blocks south of Termini, Rome's main train depot, so that leg of the journey was going to be easy. Or was it? ...

Street signage in Rome is almost nonexistent. We walked the two blocks south of Termini, hoped that we were on the right street, and finally happened upon Hotel Contilia, our home for the next four nights, a few blocks to the west. We were initially skeptical of the neighborhood -- at the conjunction of Chinatown, the Middle East quarter, and Termini -- but we soon learned to appreciate the vibrance of the area. The mixture of hotels, apartments, sidewalk cafes, and ethnic markets give the area a great energy.

When in Rome, Eat With the Americans

Something we have learned in our travel experiences is to do a walk around the area surrounding the hotel -- sort of a "self-orientation" to learn where the nearby markets, restaurants, and other services are located. On this trip, we found a nice-looking pizzeria where we would return for dinner.

We arrived for dinner around 9:00 PM, Italy's defacto dinner hour, and were seated on the patio with a commanding view of the patio and dining room. As other patrons arrived and were seated nearby, we quickly realized that everyone within earshot was North American. Apparently the look of this place has an uncanny attraction for us.

We would come to find out that it was not just that pizzeria that was chock full of North Americans; the whole city of Rome was full of us. Very full. The typical tourist attractions were packed.