Hashbrown Casserole Potato Cakes

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I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but man, I have been on a roll lately.  I am a cooking machine!  I have been trying to make sure my husband stays fed because he’s one of those that when he gets busy, he slams a couple cups of coffee, chews up a Tums and calls it dinner.  So when I can I have been making sure he eats.  A few days ago, we made a hashbrown casserole.  It was good and crunchy, looked amazing, but when it came out of the oven, we had done something a little wrong; it was layered instead of all incorporated, more like a lasagna than a casserole.  While the flavor was excellent, the texture wasn’t quite what we wanted, so we put the whole pan in the fridge and forgot about it.  Flash forward to tonight, I’m making my Panko-Parmesan crusted chicken nuggets, some mixed veggies and I spy the casserole still hanging out in the fridge.  My little lightbulb goes on, and I dig it out.  Everything was there, except something to bind it.  I added two eggs fresh from the backyard courtesy of my girls and mashed it all together.  I ended up with an almost batter that had some crunchy bits in it.  So I patted them out into cakes, and put them in a hot skillet.  Brown on both sides and heat through, and you have yourself a Hashbrown Casserole Potato Cake.  Delish!  And they went well with our meal.

I can’t possibly be the first person to think of this, but when they came out so great, I was awfully proud of myself.  I have had a couple of good ideas lately.  Not to toot my own horn, seriously, because when it comes to meal planning I am as predictable as a Lifetime Movie.  Pork chops, potatoes and a green vegetable; chicken, rice and a green vegetable.  You get the idea.  I don’t know if it’s the addition of the Death Wish coffee, or the fact that almost every day for a  week I’ve had an energy drink, which is seriously outside my norm, but I have been sharper and more focused lately.  Who knows.  It doesn’t really matter what has caused the evolution of my cooking, because the end result is that I am expanding my skills and we are both eating well.  Maybe I can keep it up.  But for now, I’ve got to run, while there are still potato cakes left to eat.

Pie oh Pie!

 

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Some of you know that I worked in a pie shop many years ago, and that for a long, long (very long) time I wouldn’t touch a piece of pie if you paid me.  Face it, there is only so much of a thing you can eat every day before it is gross.  So it was a long time before I tried to bake pie again.  Then along came this guy I wanted to impress, so I baked for him.  I don’t remember what kind now, and he swears up and down that I have never baked him a pecan pie, which I don’t think sounds right, but you know what?  He married me, so I guess the attempt to impress him with my mad baking skills worked.  Or he liked me as a person, whatever.  Well this week I was feeling that little bit of chill in the air late at night and you know what that means; time to wreck those summer bodies with holiday goodies.  What better way to do this than to bake a bunch?  Pies, bread, I want to bake it all.  But I stayed calm and baked just a little bit.  So maybe I made four loaves of bread and a pie, but that is totally reasonable.

While I was digging around in the cabinets for spices, I found a container of shortening that I haven’t used in a hot minute.  I switched all my shortening needs over to lard, which ironically is healthier for you than the vegetable shortening.  But I got to thinking- there had to be a reason everybody started buying Crisco instead of lard for their pie crusts, maybe it’s better after all.  So I put it to the test.  Which is better, lard or shortening?  Here’s how they stacked up:

The lard has a higher moisture content right out of the gate; this means you can add less water when making your dough, but it also means that it is stickier and harder to work with at some points.  The shortening is easy to spread and mix into the little pea sized balls they want in the flour, but what they did to it to make it that way is part of the reason it isn’t good for us.  So the shortening was easier to work, but the lard didn’t crack as much when I rolled it out.  It did, however, fall apart when I went to put it in the pie pan.  Here’s where lard outshines shortening- if it falls apart, that’s ok, just squish it back together.  It tolerates that kind of treatment.  The shortening doesn’t like that as much, it’s drier.

So I got my doughs in the pan and my hybrid pumpkin filling into the crusts and then baked away.  Honestly, if it just came down to the taste, lard is the winner all the way, no question.  It’s flakier, richer and just down right delicious.  If you can tolerate a little more work and schmoozing your crust, lard is the hands down winner.  And it lets us use up even more of the pig in a sustainable way.  If you’re interested, the recipes are below.

Pie Filling:

2 cups cooked down pumpkin, pureed

2 eggs, whisked

2/3 cups packed brown sugar

1 can evaporated milk

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

pinch of nutmeg

Pie Crust:

1 cup AP flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon lard (or shortening)

2-3 tablespoons cold water

  1.  Mix the flour and salt in medium bowl, cut in lard with a pastry blender or two forks.  Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until flour is moistened.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Gather pastry into a ball and shape into flattened round on a lightly floured surface.  You can wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes, this will ensure the water has time to absorb and helps the lard chill again, which will make it easier to work.
  4. Roll on lightly floured surface into a circle 2 inches longer than a regular pie plate.  Place in the pie plate and press gently but firmly against the sides.  This is also where lard excels- it handles being torn and smushed back together really well.
  5. Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl until smooth.  Pour into pie crust
  6. Add fancy doo-hickeys, if you prefer.
  7. Bake at 400 for about 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in the filling comes out clean.
  8. Enjoy, and you really don’t have to share.
  9. Recipe for the filling was adapted from an AllRecipes post.  Recipe for pie crust adapted from Betty Crocker.