My very good blogging buddy Angela - who features lovely simple but sophisticated recipes on Seasonal and Savory - offered the following for my "Chopped" challenge, in which I had asked readers to suggest ingredients that I would then have to use in creating dishes:
"Hmmmm...how about harissa, oranges, and bacon"?
Since no course was mandated, I thought about making an appetizer of roasted chickpeas with crumbled bacon in a coating of orange and harissa ([hah-RIH-suh] = a very spicy, vibrantly colored North African pepper sauce). I gave serious consideration to making a sweet, spicy and salty dessert. But then I had a new idea ....
Angela spent some time in Michigan's Upper Peninsula ("da U.P., eh?" as they say up there with their quaint Finn-Canadian-ish accents). Thus, she is well acquainted with the requisite Northern dietary mainstay: the pasty [PASS-tee], a hand-held pie that miners could bring with them for lunch.
Now, no self-respecting Yooper would serve a pasty flavored with harissa - it would be a sacrilege. Chopped beef, potatoes, onions, rutabaga, salt, and pepper - that's it for the filling. But I'm a troll: someone who lives under the bridge - south of the Mackinac Bridge, that is - in the state's Lower Peninsula. No one expects me to know how to make a proper pasty anyway, so why not have some fun with it?
Pasties are dry ... very dry. You'll note that the above listing of essential ingredients doesn't include any kind of liquid to bind them together. And those starchy vegetables are served in a crust. This serves a practical purpose, of course, to make them more transportable. But "dry" is an understatement when talking about pasties, as is "bland." The harissa was very welcome for livening things up a bit.
Ketchup is the usual accompaniment to pasties, though sometimes gravy is served. Rather than incorporating the required oranges into the main course itself, as I was doing with the harissa and the bacon, I thought they would lend a brightness to a sauce which, as far as I'm concerned, is a mandatory condiment for this dish.
So for my 500th post (wow!), I offer you a hearty winter meal with a nod to Michigan's history but featuring a unique flair! Everything turned out perfectly, with great flavor. I like to call these "Troll Pasties," with love and affection for both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas!
1 large baking potato, cut into 3/4" dice
1 large rutabaga, cut into 3/4" dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon harissa powder (or use 1 tablespoon prepared harissa and eliminate the water)
2 tablespoons water
6 strips bacon
1 small onion, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400F. Stir the potato, rutabaga, oil, and salt together in an 8"x8" baking dish. Stir together the harissa powder and water; pour over the vegetables and stir to coat. Bake for 1 hour or more until the vegetables are golden and very tender.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet; dry bacon on paper towels and crumble. Drain most of the fat from the skillet and saute the onion just until translucent. Stir the bacon and the onion into the potato mixture; cool to room temperature.
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon cold water
Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the shortening until the mixture resembles meal. Add the 1/2 cup of water bit by bit; mix with your hands until the dough holds together well and forms a ball, using more or less water as needed. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Divide the dough into 6 portions. One by one, roll a portion into a 10" circle. Place 2/3 cup of the filling onto half of the dough.
Lightly dampen the dough around the filling, then fold dough over to form a semi-circle. Trim the rough edges, then crimp the edge of the dough; press the edge with a fork to seal the pasty.
Place onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat to make the remaining 5 pasties. Combine the egg and 1 tablespoon water; brush over the pasties.
Bake the pasties for 50-55 minutes until lightly golden brown.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
juice and zest of 1 orange
juice and zest of 1 lemon
juice and zest of 1 lemon
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and salt; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly add the stock, incorporating each addition before pouring more. Add the juices and zest; bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes until thickened.
To serve: Place 1 pasty onto a dinner plate and serve with gravy.
Makes 6 generous servings.