I recently received some mail from Joyce Voelpel, who wrote in with an assortment of Spanish hamburger/sloppy joe/chili sauce recipes. She also included a particularly intriguing recipe for Coney sauce, sort of the New York version of the chili sauce used on Winnipeg's much-loved Fatboy-style burgers.
This chili sauce is the topic of much Winnipeggy speculation as to the herbs and spices that give it its characteristic taste, but it seems to me there's also the issue of texture -- and this recipe very cleverly puts half the ground beef into the blender, resulting in a sauce that's meaty without being lumpy.
Jeanette Johnston from Keewatin, Ont., wrote asking for a macaroni and cheese recipe that doesn't get gluey. I'd like to offer a family favourite that doesn't thicken with flour, an ingredient that can sometimes lead to gloppiness. Instead it uses a criminal amount of whipping cream, making this more of an occasional treat than a weekly staple.
Shirley Hales is hoping someone might have a classic recipe from Gourmet magazine -- she thinks from the 1970s -- for some wonderful-sounding cookies called chocolate walnut thins. Anna Knutson would like to replicate the Quaker bran muffin mix. She thinks it would be almost as easy to make the muffins from scratch, and I agree.
Finally, I recently read a food trend piece that declared that tarts are the new cupcakes. I'd love to see some tried-and-true tart recipes. If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to email@example.com, fax it to 697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.
1.25-1.5 kg (2 1/2-3 lbs) ground beef
10 ml (2 tsp) ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 ml (1/2 tsp) black pepper
5 ml (1 tsp) dried oregano
45 ml (3 tbsp) beef bouillon powder
1x 156 ml can (5.5 oz) tomato paste
750 ml (3 cups) hot, strong, plain black tea
1x 39 g envelope (about 2 tbsp) onion soup mix
15 ml (1 tbsp) chili powder
5 ml (1 tsp) paprika
2 ml (1/2 tsp) garlic salt
45 ml (3 tbsp) brown sugar
250 ml (1 cup) ketchup
175 ml (3/4 cup) V-8 juice
1/2 tsp Kitchen Bouquet, optional
In a large heavy pan, brown ground beef over medium-high heat, occasionally raking through the meat with a fork to break it up. When meat is cooked through, put about 75 ml (1/3 cup of water) into your blender or food processor (enough to cover the blades) and add half of the browned beef, pureeing until smooth. Return this mix to the pan, reduce heat to medium, and then add cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper, oregano, beef bouillon powder, tomato paste and hot tea. Transfer this mixture to a large heavy pot and add onion soup mix, chili powder, paprika, garlic salt, brown sugar, ketchup, juice and Kitchen Bouquet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until well mixed and hot. Serve over hot dogs, hamburgers or plain buns.
Tester's notes: I must admit that putting meat in the blender seemed a little weird at first -- I felt like a boxer in training -- but the resulting texture was terrific. I also liked the addition of tea, which gives the sauce a dark, slightly mysterious finish. (Just remember to find plain tea: I used Irish Breakfast Tea brewed until it was the colour of mahogany.)
I found the final flavour a little sweet, so next time I'd cut the sugar -- remember, there are sugars in the ketchup -- and amp up the peppers.
Macaroni and cheese
425 g (about scant 4 cups) macaroni
340 g (3 cups) grated sharp cheddar cheese
500 ml (2 cups) whipping cream
500 ml (2 cups) whole milk
250 ml (1 cup) seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
37 ml (2 1/2 tbsp) butter, melted
45 ml (3 tbsp) grated romano or asiago cheese
Preheat oven to 205C (400F). In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook macaroni until just barely done. (Do not overcook, as it will also cook a little in the oven.) Drain well. In a large bowl, mix cheese, whipping cream, whole milk and nutmeg. Add drained macaroni, stir well and then pour into a 22 x 33cm (9 x 13 in) glass baking dish. (The sauce should just cover the macaroni; sometimes you need to adjust the amounts slightly.) In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, melted butter and romano or asiago cheese. Sprinkle lightly over macaroni mixture. Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until browned on top and bubbling at the edges. Let sit for five minutes and then serve.
Tester's notes: Even my dad, who doesn't usually like macaroni and cheese -- he says it reminds him of the Great Depression -- likes this one. I use a package of pre-grated cheddar cheese. If you grate your own, make sure to grate it fine, so it will melt easily as the casserole bakes. This doesn't freeze well or even reheat that well the next day, so if you're serving under four people, just cut half the recipe in half and use a smaller baking dish.