Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cornbread & beef skillet pie

I'll admit that I've done more than enough moaning and groaning about winter wearing out its welcome here in western PA.  But, that negativity is behind me, and I've welcomed warm temperatures with open arms (and an empty stomach).  I like to think that mother nature and I have turned over a new leaf.  Started a new chapter.  We're totally Ross and Rachel circa the second season of Friends (hint: they're together).

So, if everything is sunshine and daffodils, someone please explain to me why I've all of a sudden started craving hearty cold weather comfort foods!  It's like I have a secret wish for snow and brutally cold temperatures to linger.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Bring on spring!  Apparently, I've subconsciously realized that the days for soups and casseroles are numbered, and I better squeeze in as many as possible before it's too late.  You know, when just the thought of turning on an oven causes beads of sweat to form on my forehead.

Having wrestled with the idea of possibly longing for a few more weeks of cool weather, I've come to the only logical conclusion possible: if loving aromatic fingers-and-toes-warming one pot meals is wrong, then I don't want to be right!   But, if you're going to point the finger of blame, please direct it toward the cornbread and beef skillet.  It made me do it.

These one dish meals have really made an impression on me lately.  Chop everything on Sunday and package it up neatly for a quick drop, heat, and eat weeknight meal.  Balanced, oh-so-satisfying, and absolutely gorgeous! 

Fire engine red bell peppers, fresh mushrooms the shade of my favorite pair of khakis, and the most beautiful purple from an onion you've ever seen.  Cook it a bit on the stove-top and pop it into the oven while your mouth waters...

I can't tell you how delicious this was!!  Really, words don't do it justice, but I'll try.  The savory beef with the peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  It was almost like a gourmet loose-form burger.  Then topped with the sweet and light-as-air cornbread?  I may have stumbled upon a legendary combination.  I intentionally lingered at the dinner table longer than usual to properly enjoy every lip-smacking bite.  And, you know, that speaks volumes since type A me usually can't stand to let dirty dishes sit longer than 15 minutes.  Good thing there was only one dish :)

(Attention fresh-from-the-farm-produce and delicate salads: Please be patient.  Your time to shine is near.  If it's any consolation, some of your friends were invited to the party.  You know, mushrooms, onion, and peppers?  For now, cover your ears and avert your eyes while I feast on this.)

One Year Ago: Maple yogurt loaf

Cornbread and Beef Skillet Pie
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
-serves 6 with a side, or 4 as a one dish meal

A few notes: The original recipe called for making a homemade corn muffin batter, but the negative reviews discouraged me from using it.  Instead, I used an American kitchen staple in the Jiffy corn muffin mix that retails for a whopping 59 cents (what is this, 1970?) at the grocery store.  If you prefer to use your favorite recipe, by all means do.

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
Ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 package (8-10 ounces) white mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/4 cup tomato paste
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add peppers, onion, and mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Meanwhile, prepare corn muffin mix as directed. Set aside and allow to rest for a few minutes.

Raise heat to high; add beef and tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until meat is no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons flour and 2/3 cup water; season with salt and pepper.

Drop tablespoons of corn muffin batter over beef mixture in skillet, 1 inch apart. Bake until biscuits are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 13 to 18 minutes.  Serve hot immediately.

Transfer any leftovers to a covered container and store in a refrigerator for up to 5 days. While the corn bread topping will soften slightly, the leftovers will taste delicious! (Apply the principle "allowing foods like stews, chili, or lasagna to rest overnight only improves the flavor.")

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