Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Pie

Still thinking of pie. I love pie. Not just desserty pies either, all pies: chicken-pot, shepherds, fish pie. And tarts too - tarts are just topless pies, in my book. Like pizza. Mmmm, pizza. It's perilously close to dinner time right now...

So, I have this book, published in 2003, by Tamasin Day-Lewis (yes, that Day-Lewis: sister to Daniel-I'll-never-forget-him-shirtless-withhisblackhairstreaming-LastoftheMohicans-Day-Lewis (sigh)) called, racily: Tarts With Tops On. It's about pie. Last week I was scrounging around the fridge, as I so often do, looking for something to make for dinner, feeling uninspired, when I remembered this book. Flipped through it and realized I had the ingredients I needed to make Cheddar Cheese and Onion Pie (found on page 44). Except, as you know, I can never leave any recipe alone. Plus I had to use up the last of the kale, celery and apples I'd purchased at the farmer's market before they became appropriate only for the compost pile. So, if you're interested in the original recipe, buy the book.

But if you're interested in what I made for dinner, well, here it is:

Pie crust: (I didn't love this crust, still a bit too dry, still on the search for the best crust...)

3 cups of all purpose flour (I've been using King Arthur, but I'm beginning to think that I need a more southernly produced flour - Wondra maybe? -- which has less proteins because it's from a warmer climate - see Shirly O. Courriher who writes about the science of cooking)
pinch or 2 of sea salt
3/4 cup of unsalted very cold butter cut up into small cubes
several tlbs of condensed milk (because I never have cream, but I always have cans of this stuff)
beaten egg yolk for glazing the crust

Insides: VERY YUMMY - this turned out great. I think it was the celery.
1 Tblsp of unsalted butter
1Tblsp of olive oil
1/2 large white onion (or 2 leeks, or whatever oniony thing you have)
2 stalks of celery cut into a large dice
3 apples cut into a large dice
3 large leaves of Kale, center stem stripped, and julienned
1/2 cups of shredded cheddar
2 eggs lightly beaten
4 Tblsp of condensed milk
a sprig of thyme
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Sift the flour and sea salt together into the bowl of the food processor. (Or into a big bowl). While the bowl is running, drop in the butter. When all this is combined and the flour and butter looks like crumbs. (In a bowl, just rub it between your palms to incorporate.) Add the milk, tablespoon by tablespoon until the dough comes together. Roll the dough out onto the counter, shape it into 2 balls and stick them in the refrigerator for 45 min or longer.

Melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet, then gently cook onion, celery, kale until soft. Let cool. Toss into a bowl with the apples, cheese, eggs, thyme, salt and pepper.

Roll 1 ball of dough out and gently place in 9" pie plate. Tip the onion, cheese mixture into crust. Roll out second ball of dough and gently place it on top, pinching the crust in a decorative way (if you can). Brush the crust with egg. Slice little steam slits.

Bake for 30 or so minutes - until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

This was remarkably yummy - I think the addition of celery and the apples just made it sing.
Here's pictures of the process:

In Fall a Middle-Aged Woman's Fancy Turns to Apple Pie

When I was in high school, I used to show up at my friend Phebe's house in late September early October to find everyone in the midst of making pie. They had this wonderful large kitchen with a round table right in the center of everything on which Phebe, her mom, one or two of her siblings, their live-in babysitter, were rolling out crust, chopping apples, tossing it all with cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice. I loved showing up on those days, the air outside was snappy, the kitchen inside was warm and busy, and if there weren't enough apples, we'd run out to the small grove in her back yard and climb the ladders and pick more. Yeah, she had apple trees and a swimming pool in her back yard. I spent a lot of time at Phebe's house.

So Saturday morning, when I got up and let the dogs out, the air was cool and gentle and the tree in my neighbor's yard had it's first patch of red and gold leaves up at the very tippy top, and every molecule in my body cried out for apple pie. I wanted pie so badly, I sliced an apple, put those slices on top of my toast, sprinkled cinnamon sugar over the whole thing and stuck it in the toaster oven for a few minutes, just to get the apple pie essence. Which was kind of good, but no apple pie, my friend. And my house is not Phebe's (Phebe's house isn't even Phebe's anymore: now she lives in Santa Fe where the trees aren't much taller than me -- can one grow apples in the desert?) And there wasn't a passel of people in my kitchen talking laughing and throwing peeled apple slices or raw pie dough down each other's shirts, because that's what we did back then for hilarity. But it was a crisp day, and I was thinking that pie dough is something easily made, but which most people are really afraid of making and maybe it'd be a good thing to post about.

I sound blase in that previous paragraph, but the truth of the matter is that I really don't know what I'm doing when it comes to pie crust. In fact, it's been quite a while since I made pie crust, finding adequate, as I do, the red box of Pilsbury in my grocery refrigerator section.

Anyway, I pulled up because they make pie crust with vodka, and who doesn't love a little vodka in the middle of a saturday (even if you're not actually going to drink it for another 5 hours. I was indoctrinated, at an early age, that you must wait until 5pm for any alcoholic beverage).

Here's how the whole thing turned out:

Yeah, we ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture. Sue me.

Still, the crust is not exactly the uniform golden brown it is supposed to be. And in fact, even though everyone else liked it, I found it to be a bit dry.

Which means I'll have to make it again, because now I'm obsessed with pie crust, and I must make pie until I get it right.


I don't know about copy rights, so I don't actually know if I can reprint the vodka pie crust recipe from Cooks Illustrated, so I'm not going to do it. Here's the link, although it might not work because you have to have a membership & a login.

In any case, this is how I made the insides:

apples (I used about a six large jonathan apples) peeled, cored and sliced
1 TBLSP brown sugar (more or less - to taste)
1tsp cinnamon
quick scrape of nutmeg
juice of 1/2 a lemon
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup calvados (love this stuff, I keep it in the fridge and splash it in all sorts of stuff)
pinch of kosher salt
1 egg beaten with a bit of water
sanding sugar (optional)

preheat oven to 425
I put all the ingredients in a large dutch oven and cooked them a little bit, stirring frequently, until the apples can be pierced easily with a fork, but not so cooked they fall apart. (Full disclosure: I got this idea from Cooks Illustrated as well because I like a piled high pie, but sometimes the apples in the center don't completely cook) Let apples cool in the pan. When they are coolish to the touch pour them, juices and all, into the pie crust and quickly cover with the top crust and pinch the 2 crusts together in a nice way. (I almost always fail to do this -- the darn thing never looks good). Brush the top of the pie with the egg and don't forget to make a few slivers in the top of your crust so steam can escape. I often forget this because I'm a spaz. Sprinkle the top of your pie with sanding sugar if you have it.

Bake at 425 for 15 min then lower to 350 and bake until your pie is that lovely golden color I dream about. Take it out and let it sit (if you can bear to do that) for 30 min to an hour. Or, just get a fork and dig in, burned tongue be damned.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sandwiches: Not Just For Lunch Anymore

This is what we are having for dinner:

That's right:Leftovers!
The last of the rotisserie chicken I bought Monday, the last bits of the bread I made/bought (loaf, homemade, baguette bought, ), cheddar and mozzerella that's been sitting around the fridge.

And: Farmer's Market Stuff!
In this photo are the tomatoes and the incredible goat's milk cheese (check out this website, the cheese is made by hand and awesome) I bought this afternoon.

What am I going to make with all this? Sandwiches! (I'm feeling very exclamatory tonight).

Yes, sandwiches. Originally, I was going to make a butternut squash soup to go with said sandwiches, but considering that it's hotter and more humid today than it's been all summer, I'm bagging the soup and focusing on sandwiches. Although, I am going to grill them, because somehow dinner, even if it is absurdly warm today, needs to be hot. That's just the way I roll.

OH -- Hey! Just found a jar of:

I'm going to mayonnaise the outside of the bread I made (yes, most of you know that I do hate mayonnaise -- however it's really good on the outside of a sandwich instead of butter -- I'll simply breathe through my mouth while I slather the bread) and grill up tomato, goat cheese and chutney sandwiches for Smith and me. For the girls I'm going to make chicken cheddar/mozzerella sandwiches (with the option of chutney) melted on the panini press.

I do have green beans from the Farmer's Market too -- I might not cook those -- they're so fresh they'll be good raw.

The End Result!:

Yes, that is a glass of Riesling:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back to School

Well, we are all just exhausted here. Remember how I was complaining in May about how the end of school s$!#s and how it's s$!#iness always so unexpected. Well, I was being a big baby then, because September is rough and that's all there is too it. The most difficult part being rousing one pre- and one full-on teen each morning from the comfort of too many bedclothes. And then getting said people into bed at a reasonable time (before 11pm) so their dad and I can once again watch things rated M for Mature without looking like zombies the next day. (Oh well...)

So, in all of this drama, dinner has gone a bit by the wayside, and this blog has gone a LOT by the wayside, although I am still cooking.

For instance, on Sunday I made spaghetti with meat sauce. Went to Whole Foods where they were having a special on grass fed beef, bought less than a pound (because I didn't have an entire gold ingot at the time) and then was at a loss for how to plump it all up so the kids and the husband would feel like they'd got their dinner's worth. Also, I was feeling a bit spacey when I got to Whole Foods and bought just the meat and some fruit, forgetting that I needed canned tomatoes too.

When I got home, and started browning the meat (in about 1/8 cup of olive oil, and dashed with some kosher salt), I realized that last week I'd bought some beets intending to roast them, but of course had ordered bacon and pineapple pizza that night instead, so I julienned the beets and tossed them in another pan with some sliced onion, a couple garlic cloves, some left over julienned kale (it's september so I'm using SAT words) some minced celery and a sliced carrot. Because I forgot the canned toms, I threw in what was left of a pint of cherry tomatoes, a dash of red wine, and 1/4 of a bottle of Rao's Marinara that had been sitting on the door of the fridge and which wasn't moldy yet. I combined the browned meat with the vegetable sauce and seasoned everything with salt and pepper.

Smith boiled up all the 1/4 boxes of pasta I had lying about the pantry and we tossed it with the sauce.

It was really good. Everyone liked it, and no one noticed the beets, until the leftover sauce turned the leftover pasta a really scary color. But that wasn't until lunch the next day, and by then everyone was long gone in school or at work.

I'm sorry I don't have a picture -- I keep forgetting to charge up the camera battery from when we went on vacation.

I'll get there. And things will calm down. I'm sure of it. And if they don't, well then my next post may be on the medicinal and recreational importance of the perfect Manhattan.