Monday, May 08, 2006

Stuffed Foods

I have been thinking about lunch foods lately things that are easy to transport and eat under less then ideal conditions. While a typical corporate break-room will have a frig and microwave frozen dinners for lunch are not all that great and sandwiches are not all that exciting after a while and fast-food is often just pathetic.

Lunch foods have been a problem that has been solved many different ways for some time. The ancient Greeks invented Toast as a way to preserve bread for a journey. What other road foods have existed?

Pasties and runzas have a history of being lunch foods for miners and factory workers. Ravioli is also an obvious one, so are egg-rolls and pot stickers. also things like fried pies or their baked sisters turnovers. Calzones are a folded over pizza and hot pockets are just mini versions of calzones. And don't forget things like tamales.

These are all a kind of an-croute food. The best part about this food is that can be transported and eaten easily without too much extra to carry along. Though a Beef Wellington would not generally be called easily transportable I would put it in the same basic family of stuffed bread foods. You can also use phylo or puff pastry doughs for similar things though much more delicate.

Stuffed foods are a simple preservation technique. Okay it won't last as long as canned but for a day to get to work it is just fine. All you're really trying to do is keep out the airborne germs from the gooey nutrient rich filling. They have a hard time getting through the hard crust of a bread.

Now I've been thinking about other things you can put in them.

Stuffed pies are already common. Hostess Fruit Pies come in flavors like apple, cherry and blueberry, but why stop there, pumpkin, rhubarb and peaches make good pies. But you don't have to stop at just sweet; savory pies, like quiches, would work just fine too, so it is obvious that most any pie filling will do fine as a turnover or fried pie as long as it isn't too watery so the dough doesn't soak through and fall apart before you eat it.

The same idea would apply to a stuffed breads. A calzone is fundamentally a pizza that has been folded over. A pasty is a beef stew stuffed into a loaf of bread and a runza is a hamburger and cabbage casserole in a bread wrapper.

So what else could we stuff into some bread. Again the key is that the filling not be too watery. The first thing that comes to mind is some pulled pork BBQ. Not very wet and has some very big flavor, a very good choice. Obviously any kind of boneless or deboned BBQ will work for this application.

Casseroles also have the kind of features we want in a stuffed bread filling so why not try it. Turkey tetrazinni, tuna noodle casserole, chicken cachatore, and beef stroganoff are just a few ideas. Meatloaf is also an excellent choice.

Stews, chowders and thick soups can work as well.

And it doesn't have to be all entrees, but why not side dishes as well like green bean casserole, Spanish rice, sweet potato casserole or glazed carrots. Okay, maybe a whole pasty of glazed carrots might be a bit much but a spoonful in one corner and spoonful of jam as a dessert in the other would be wonderful.

You can also go fusion, why not put a bit of cherry pie filling in a wonton skin and deep fry that. Or put some stir fry in a pasty. Or a tuna casserole in a tamale. Or some chili in a potsticker.

One of the main techniques to be aware of is to make sure there is as little air as possible the stuffed bread so as it heats it doesn't blow out all over the place. It doesn't really matter if you are baking, boiling or deep frying them, air expands a lot faster then the dough can handle.

The problem of what to take for lunch has been solved by smart women around the world. Their solutions are a reflection of their available resources but they are remarkably similar. We can now almost mix and match to come up with what strikes our fancy.

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