Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bacon (Oh, yes I said bacon!) Tomato Pie

[UPDATE: This pie won!  Yeah!!!!]

My boyfriend works at a glamorous ad agency downtown (to me, anything downtown is glamorous) and they have a super slick white laminate office designed with clean lines, glass, bright colors, and populated with all manner of hipster-type youngsters and Austin crunchy hippies.  They have food catered and free beer on Friday.  And, like most ad agencies, it is jam-packed with hypercreative people who have more ideas than any hippie art teacher you had in high school.  These minds need constant inspiration, and they are always having some fun, weird, so-Austin event.

Compare to my insurance job.  (Need I say more?)  (Disclaimer:  I love my job.  I love my job!)

So, yesterday's event du jour at the Ad Agency was a pie-off.  Thinking outside the box, of course, you have to go with a pie that you can't just buy at Marie Callendar's...but that you can get at one of Austin's staples, Kerbey Lane:  tomato pie.

In 140 characters or less:

@KerbeyLaneCafe is often filled with earthy-type/zen people who love pancakes, serenity, and prefer organic, seasonal, & vegetarian dishes.
For me, Kerbey Lane in northwest Austin became a dependable, easy-to-find neighborhood spot with something on the menu for everyone.  Tomato pie is my all-time fave from Kerbey Lane, but it is a seasonal item.  So, during the non-tomato pie season, I make do with their Nabil's Feast or whatever pancake they have on special (they have seasonal pancakes, too--like their lemon poppyseed.) 

Anyway, when you decide make anything remotely sounding like a comfort food, like tomato pie, you only need one website to reference:

For those of you who have never heard of JustAPinch...I forgive you.  ;-)

Just let me get my nerd moment over with:  this website appeals to me on several levels.   At first glance, it looks like an interesting forum-based website chock full of sassy (not flashy)  graphics, links, and products.  It is a platform for foodies to post recipes, photos, questions, and yummy goodness to their hearts' content.  It's like a Facebook for people who love to cook! 

The people who run this website really have it down.  Marketing, $$, people who have been in the publication biz forever.  It's a solid website, backed by a solid business model.

When you do a search on JustAPinch for "tomato pie," you'll get several equally yummy-sounding recipes.  However, anything with "bacon" will always pop out at me.

This one was a winner for us, and you will be the talk of the town if you make it for your coworkers:

Bacon Tomato Pie
by Kim Phillips-Randolph

Kim, if you ever read this:  I love you!  Thank you so much for this recipe!!!

As with my last post, this recipe is so crazy easy.  Shame on you if you don't make one yourself.

Just a few notes:

  • Ain't no shame in using pre-made pie crust.  I used a two-pack of Pillsbury pie crusts.
  • You can either cut the bacon prior to frying, or (like I did) just fry it, drain, and crumble.
  • I did not realize I should have skinned the tomatoes, per the recipe.  Oopsie!  It didn't matter.
  • I used about 8 larger-sized Roma tomatoes per pie and nuked the slices for about four minutes.  You don't have to--I just thought it would help "melt" them down a little.  After that, I drained them.
  • My secret ingreedamint was McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning instead of salt & pepper.  The recipe calls for 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  I used 1/2 tsp of the Steak Seasoning.  I pretty much love it on anything.  You could say it's my ketchup.  ;-)
  • I don't know why it just seemed weird to mix cheese and mayo together, but it is very effective as a topper.
  • 425F at 35 minutes???!!!!  Yes.  Just do it.  Check in at about 30-minutes. 
  • Make extra bacon.  Everyone smelling it in the house will want some.  Especially the cook.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chef Emil's Bean & Sausage Casserole

There is not a lot of info on the mysterious Chef Emil, but according to his blog, he is a member of the "Cooking Connection Team at the Boerne HEB Plus!" and that is all you really need to know because saying you are with HEB says it all here in central Texas.

For those of you not in the know, HEB is probably one of the best all-'round grocery stores with everyday low-low prices.  :-)  They also own Central Market, a fierce Whole Foods competitor.  In a nutshell, HEB truly caters to local tastes and needs, and is on the mark when it comes to being in communication with their customers.  Their employees make a real difference by not only maintaining that happy face you want to see behind the counter, but by actually knowing their stuff and not hesitating to help their team mates?  For example, that lady passing out coffee samples can tell you exactly where to find that tapenade--and so can the cashier and the person at the meat market.  They know everything there is to know about their store.

On top of that, HEB works hard to promote its own brand as well as those of their vendors by offering coupons and specials coupled with ideas of what to do with all these products.  Their social media is off the charts, too.  Just check out their Twitter feed.

You know, I could be gushing about any solid company, but there's something so much more than that with HEB.  This is a company that is so integrated with family life here in Texas, that I would be hard pressed to say anything negative.

Anyway, in an effort to promote its brand, as I stated, HEB has test kitchens and will also listen to your feedback, too.

I am one of those people who is addicted to hitting SUBSCRIBE, especially when food/recipes is involved.  You would be quite amazed to see my blog reader--and, yes, I actually read many blogs on a daily basis!  (What is wrong with me?!) 

When I came across Chef Emil's blog, I became an instant fan and have enjoyed all of his (their?) updates.  The recipes aren't all fancy-fancy gourmet stuff, but EASY, AFFORDABLE, and stuff I would actually EAT.

And, when I say "easy," I mean RIDONKULOUSLY easy.  Like...if it was any more easy, then you'd just be downright lazy.  That easy.

The other night, we made Chef Emil's Bean & Sausage Casserole.  Click HERE for the direct link.  And, here are a few pics I snapped.  (For you unfortunate HEB-less souls, just sub HEB products with your favorite products.  If you can't find a marionberry/jalapeno sauce, and you feel a little adventurous, try this recipe for Dyna's Marionberry-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce.)

If there is one thing I would change about this recipe:  double up on the sausage and just use 1/2 a bottle of the Green Valley sauce.  I also chopped my own onion, saving an extra $1 or two.

In total, the meal was about $25, the most expensive ingredient being that sauce.  It is spicy/sweet, and brings out the sweet side of the pork.

Also, the tapenade is not kept with the other canned and jarred tomato products.  (grr!)  I eventually found it in the aisle marked "gourmet," "international."  You can also try checking near the olives where they keep olive tapenade.