pie they said, we want pie

Before we get into the pie of it all, I must say you know that your blog is getting popular when you get hit with 261 items of spam overnight.  Thank you WordPress spam filters for doing double time!

Anyway, sometimes a pie just comes together and my Thanksgiving pie was amazing if I do say so myself.

I made apple this year as per the request of my better half.  I made a double crust apple pie with dried apricots, raisins, and cranberries soaked in Calvados.  The crust was dusted with turbinado sugar and pink Himalayan sea salt.

Sounds yummy? It was.  So what I did was make a double batch of pie crust (I have given you pie crust recipes before so I am not doing again now), pulled out my vintage deep dish pie dish and threw my apple mixture in, sealed it up, did an egg wash and a little dusting (turbinado sugar and the pink sea salt) and voila! Yummy deliciousness!

I used about 8-10 small MacIntosh apples peeled, cored, sliced thin.  Tossed them with 1/4 cup flour, 2 tablespoons corn starch, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, juice of 1 lemon, fresh grated ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, mace, and 1 1/4 cup of dark raisins, chopped dried apricots, and dried cranberries that had been soaked overnight in Calvados.

I cut my vents, added my pie bird and in it went to a pre-heated oven on a cookie sheet.  400 degrees for 15 minutes, and then 350 degrees for somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes (I forget – so if you are trying to replicate, you will have to simply keep an eye on your pie.)

My yam and pumpkin soufflé topped with toasted butter pecans was a big hit too – another made up mish mosh of a recipe, but I think I am keeping that one to myself for now.  And oh yes, I roasted my turkey the way I saw my late father do it time and again, and guess what?  It was not dry!

For the record, this chef is on strike for a few days.  Executing a fabulous Thanksgiving is like giving birth…and LOL my friend Pamela did just that. (She had a baby girl!)

No, I will not be shopping today.  Black Friday is against my religion. For the most part so are malls.  For those of you shopping, ditch the mall and check out Main Street.  I think supporting independent merchants, small businesses, and BARN sales is where it is at!

And if you are looking for that perfect hostess gift for holiday parties, or a fun present, consider my recently Blurb published photography book chestercountyramblings….four seasons!

let’s talk turkey about thanksgiving

Today Rachael Ray announced it was (as per Butterball which may or may not have a trademark on the day) National Thaw Day.  She said:

“No matter what size bird you are dealing with, if you are cooking a frozen turkey it needs to get out of the freezer and get into the fridge today,” Rachael suggests. “Store it in the lowest part of the refrigerator, and take it out [of the freezer] today and it will be perfect by Thanksgiving day!”

Ok so it is funny, as I was staring at my frozen turkey this morning, I was wondering the same thing.  Some years I have gotten a fresh turkey, but this year economizing is the name of the game so I took advantage of my free turkey from the grocery store. I actually have the points for two free turkeys, but have only picked up one at this point.  Maybe I will donate the second one.

Anyway, apparently every four pounds of turkey is equal to one day of refrigerator thaw.  And once defrosted a turkey can hang out in the fridge another four days. My turkey is in a plastic shopping bag and resting in a shallow pan.  I don’t want anything to leak if possible.  After all, who wants to scrub the refrigerator on Thanksgiving Day?

A week ahead of time is also when I start to think about how the table will look.  I collect vintage linens so I can change my table out from year to year.  And no, I never pay a lot for old and vintage linens.  Garage sales, church sales, flea markets, thrift shops.  I look for lots of things in numbers I can deal with, tablecloths that can be tea stained or dyed if need be.  I only look for natural fibers, so polyester will not be found on my table – I don’t like the sheen, feel, and texture.  I generally hand wash my linens, so a week ahead gives me time to do that and get them ironed up if need be.

I also love vintage dishes, so you might find those on my table as well. I have some cool goblets also gathered courtesy of garage and church tag sales.  I don’t do paper plates, plastic cups, and aluminum foil containers as serving dishes.

In my former life with my former in-laws (for lack of a better description of what to call these people), one of the ex factor’s sisters not only had the darkest living room I had ever been in (dark green walls and all her own art work – some was decent, some of it looked like paint-by-numbers), but she wouldn’t know how to set a buffet without aluminum foil containers and cheap paper napkins.

I wouldn’t comment except she made such fuss about how fabulous a table she set, and all I ever saw every Thanksgiving were those aluminum foil containers on the sideboard and table (and the bottles of salad dressing on the table, paper napkins and really bad  as well as warm white wine choices.)  She was also one of those people who would ask you to bring something and then make something in the category of what she requested like it was a competition instead of a holiday meal. And if you arrived five minutes past her decreed holiday start time, chances were she was eating without you which I always found rude to guests who traveled a distance to be with her.  I think one of my favorite Thanksgivings with this woman was when her dog stole the leftover turkey right off the counter.

Anyway, when you have had a few painful Thanksgivings like that, you learn how to craft one you can be proud of, but a holiday that won’t drive you bonkers either.  The key is simplicity.  The KISS theory, or keep it simple stupid. I believe even if you aren’t doing a more formal dinner, you should take the time to set the table well to complement your meal preparation.  It is a holiday, not pizza night.

If you are doing all the cooking, realize it doesn’t have to be the proverbial last supper.  The world will not end if you don’t have multiple kinds of potatoes, every Thanksgiving veggie known to man including that disgusting green bean casserole made with those deep-fried dried onion things. If you are doing a communal Thanksgiving and you are the host or hostess, lay out your menu and be clear about your assignments to other people.

Don’t forget the salad.  It can be simple or seasonal, but take the time to make your own vinaigrette.  So much better than the bottle.

Let’s talk stuffing.  Know what I discovered yesterday when I was thinking of buying a Thanksgiving stuffing mix to cut out a step?  High fructose corn syrup is an ingredient. I saw it on the ingredients list in Peppridge Farm and Arnold’s pre-bagged dried stuffing cubes. Bleck.

I won’t be taking that stuffing short cut.  I am going traditional and have plenty of fabulous herbs left alive, so my turkey and stuffing will definitely include fresh sage and rosemary. And a combination of garlic,  shallots and onion. Baby Bella mushrooms are a must.  Maybe minced apples and raisins, not sure.  I won’t know until Thanksgiving morning.  (Nothing better than the smell of stuffing ingredients sautéing away in the pan!)

And yes, I make my own cranberry sauce.  It is so easy a caveman can do it.  My base recipe is 2 bags fresh cranberries, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup water, cinnamon, a little fresh ginger. Sometimes I add diced apricots or a persimmon or two.  Sometimes I turn it chutney and add funky ingredients like diced green tomatoes.

As for other sides? Well this year it will be yams done somehow (I like them better than sweet potatoes) – I am thinking of roasting them with a couple of carrots and then mashing them somehow – a puree then warmed up in the oven with maybe little marshmallows on top to appeal to the kid factor. Maybe a yam-pumpkin puree. And a simple salad.  Gravy.

Dessert?  Undecided.  Looking like an apple pie.  Haven’t decided.  Saw a double crust apple apricot pie on page 126 of the November 2012 Food & Wine that looks promising.  Or I might do my own apple with streusal topping. I haven’t finished checking out my favorite magazines yet.

As for the big bird itself, it is helpful to remember a couple of simple tricks to keep turkey-lurky from drying out. I pre-heat my oven to 450 degrees for twenty minutes before putting turkey in the oven.  When I put the bird in the oven, I leave it at 450 degrees for the first half hour, and then I reduce the temperature to 350 degrees for the duration.

Most people say 15 minutes per pound is a good rule of thumb. So my turkey is 15 pounds.  So that is 15 x 15 = 225 minutes or 3.75 hours. Sometimes my gass oven is a little pokey on the roasting, so it could be longer.  But I have a thermometer :<}

I cook my turkey covered for almost half of its cooking time. I do put a couple of cups of water or broth in the bottom of my pan along with bay leaves and onion.  I baste around every 45 minutes.  When you baste, haul big bird out of the oven and shut the oven door so you don’t lose the heat.

And yes, I do indeed rub my turkey down with butter before I herb and salt and garlic the skin and put it in the oven.  I do not brine my turkey.  I have thought about it, but never done it.  I have no desire to deep fry my turkey so I can’t comment on that.

Check out this blog link for a KISS method of turkey cooking. Whole Foods also covers the basics, Southern Food does too, and when all else fails there is Butterball and they have a turkey hotline too. While Martha Stewart has a LOT of recipes, I find her recipes may be confusing and overly complicated for the beginner home chef. There are a LOT of turkey recipes out there.  I like to consult web sites that I know test the recipes Food TV and Epicurious are the websites I haunt the most.

I like to entertain for friends and family.  I like to cook, so you may find cheeses and whatnots mixed in from DiBruno Brothers and Carlinos, but for the most part you find what I serve I actually prepared.  Maybe I am old-fashioned, but it is something I just like to do.  I also believe in adopting Thanksgiving orphans.  I have been one a couple of times over the years when family and friends were scattered to the four winds for the holiday. I actually have an article on easy entertaining featuring Chef Angela Carlino in the fall issue of Main Line Parent Magazine (which I haven’t seen yet in print because I keep spacing on picking up a copy).

Do you have a Thanksgiving tip or recipe or tradition you would like to share? Feel free to post a comment!

Now for the last word: if you don’t feel like cooking, might I suggest Thanksgiving at The Yellow Springs Inn?  Check this out  from Exton Dish! (Yes, click HERE)

A place to SKIP is Farmhouse Bistro at People’s Light. We did that last year because family and friends were all scattered and it is something we would not do again, or recommend.  We’ll leave it at that.

This post must now come to an end.  I have recipes to read.

the epicurious cookbook is out!!!

As of October 30, epicurious.com released their first cookbook, and one of my recipes is in it!

You can order cookbook direct from epucurious.com or Amazon.  I am thrilled to be included, and they even feature a blurb about my recipe inside the back cover, which I also think is very cool.

I received my advance copy from the publishers about a week ago, and it is a terrific cookbook.  Truthfully, if my recipe wasn’t in the book, I would still buy it!

 

as american as apple pie

So the other day when I posted a photo of a pie I baked on my Facebook page, I had NO idea I would get so many requests via e-mail for the recipe.   I baked an apple pie with raisins soaked in Calvados and a sweet cinnamon crust and an oatmeal crumble topping. Yes my own recipe and no, not written down – in my head – so here is I hope good enough to work with….

This recipe was inspired by a pie I had almost 20 years ago at the Brinley Victorian Inn in Newport, Rhode Island. The man who used to bake these crazy good double crust apple pies worked at the B&B (maybe he was a manager, I can’t remember).  And he soaked his raisins in booze (don’t remember what, whiskey I think).

I prefer a crumbly topping on my fruit pies, so anyway, here it is, hope it is proportionate enough that a bunch of home chefs don’t complain something was off  ( it is hard to write down something your hands can pretty much make for themselves on auto pilot)

Soak 3/4 cup of dark raisins in 1/4 cup of Calvados (French apple brandy – if you don’t have that a good bourbon will do as well.)

 Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups  flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

8 teaspoons sugar

8 tablespoons or 1 stick unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into little dots

4 tablespoons ice water

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

Using pastry cutter, cut butter into flour, sugar, salt, spices.  Add ice water.  Form dough gently, do not overwork.  Wrap tightly in saran wrap and toss in refrigerator at least a couple of hours.

When sufficiently chilled roll out your dough and line a deep dish pie plate. My pie plate is like 9 inches in diameter (I *think* – it is vintage pyrex – so I do not recall exactly)

Gently rub bottom of crust in plate with soft butter.  (I saw it on a cooking show once)

Filling:

I use 8 to 10 apples of medium size. (I do not like red delicious apples so I will not use those) I peel them and slice them very thinly.  I toss into a mixing bowl with 1 cup of sugar (2/3 cup white 1/3 cup dark brown), 1/4 cup of flour, 3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground mace, and 1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom.  I juice one medium to small lemon over mixture and toss. Fold in raisins that have soaked up their booze.

Topping:

3/4 cup oatmeal (Quaker quick oats, not the instant or steel cut or flavored)

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

5 tablespoons of butter

1 teaspoon each of ginger and cinnamon

Blend all together with pastry cutter in small bowl and set aside.

Toss your apple mixture into your pie crust.

Evenly spread crumbly sugary topping over top of pie

Place in an oven preheated to 425 degrees and bake at 425 for 15 minutes and reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 to 45 more minutes depending upon your oven.

Hopefully my proportions are o.k.  This is as close as I can get – again – have been making this pie out of my head for years.

roasted butternut squash soup

October = Fall = start of soup season.  I like butternut squash soup.  Mine is different because I roast my squash (roasted vegetables add more depth to soups) and I add garam masala, mace and ginger, instead of just nutmeg.  I will be making this later today, thought I would share the recipe now.

I was over at Sugartown Strawberries yesterday afternoon and was inspired to make soup due to the perfectly beautiful squash fresh picked by Farmer Bob. (And as a related aside, Sugartown Strawberries starts hay rides next weekend I think)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1       medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and seeded (mine today is about 3 pounds)
  • 4      tablespoons   butter
  • 1      large white onion, minced
  • 2      carrots minced
  • 6      cups chicken stock
  • 2      tablespoons corn starch
  • 1      pint light cream or fat-free half and half
  • 6      fresh sage leaves chopped fine
  • celery salt and ground pepper to taste
  • mace and ground ginger to taste
  • small  dash of garam masala to taste

Directions

Halve your squash and remove seeds.  brush with olive oil, dust with salt and pepper and place face down on a sheet pan lined with non stick foil or parchment paper and roast skin side up about 40 -45 minutes at 350 degrees (you want squash to be roasted and cooked to be able to easily slide out of the skin.)

When squash is done, remove from oven and leave to cool

Place butter in dutch oven or soup pot and melt.  Add sage leaves to pot, followed by onion, carrots and a little celery salt. Over lowish heat gently cook onions down to the point just before they caramelize. Remove from heat.

By now your squash should be hopefully cool enough to handle.  Remove from skin and put small pieces into your soup pot with the onions and stir. Fully incorporate your squash (yes, there will be an unattractive mush in your pot at this point) and next quickly whisk in corn starch and incorporate.  Slowly and gently whisk in light cream or fat-free half and half – do not boil but bring the heat up almost   so all is incorporated.

Add the broth. Stir, stir, stir until all is incorporated and blending together and broth is heated through.

Reduce to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes covered.  Next take a hand blender (you know one of those little blender wands and puree your soup right in the pot.

Check salt level and adjust accordingly.  Add ground pepper and additional salt to taste and add a good shake of both ground ginger and mace and a judicial  pinch of garam masala.  A lot of people do this with just nutmeg, I think the garam masala, mace,  and ginger taste better.

Keep on simmer/warm stirring occasionally until you serve.  This is a soup you can serve the same day or heat up the next day.

This is a soup that does NOT freeze well, so make it fresh and finish in a couple of days.

Additional serving suggestions:

Garnish with rough chopped flat leaf italian parsley and  a smattering chopped toasted pecans and a teaspoon of crème fraîche in the center of each soup bowl  or serve plain.

 

 

 

do you dream in buttercream?

Well I don’t actually  dream in buttercream, but it makes for a jazzy sounding post title.

So I have been working and working on a buttercream frosting worthy of posting and I accomplished it with a birthday cake I baked last weekend.

So here it is:

Dreamy Vanilla Rosewater  Buttercream  Frosting

(frosts a 9 inch layer cake and 2 -3 dozen cupcakes depending on how frosted you want things)

1 cup of butter softened (1 stick salted, 1 stick unsalted)

4 cups of sifted confectioners sugar

7 teaspoons of half and half (maybe a smidgen more, maybe a smidgen less depending on what you want)

1 Teaspoon of rosewater (as in used for COOKING)

1 1/4 Teaspoons of a good vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon of salt

Combine butter, sugar, and salt until well blended and smooth (use a mixer and use a large bowl and don’t splatter)

Add half and half and vanilla and rosewater and beat until smooth – between 4 and 6 minutes.

Come on people, how easy was that?  Why use frosting in a can?

You can add a couple of squares of unsweetened baking chocolate melted to turn this frosting chocolate.  You can add about 2/3 cup of shredded sweetened coconut to make coconut dream frosting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the best mac & cheese….ever

Yesss….comfort food season is upon us. 

How would you like my macaroni and cheese recipe?

If you are on a diet, or can’t eat rich oooey cheesy goodness, DO NOT make this recipe.  And this is not your mama’s mac and cheese, it’s a special occasion make once in a while kind of deal.

And oh yes, as a related aside, I love these old vintage Dansk Koben Style Dutch ovens from the 1950’s and 1960s?  I picked a couple up in sunny yellow at different tag sales years ago.

Dansk is reissuing them and selling through Crate and Barrel.  Boy am I glad I scored mine at $5 a piece quite a few years ago.  They are quite the tasty price now if purchased new in 2012 (the pricing is a bit ridiculous I think). I have a 4 quart and what I make the Mac & Cheese in, a 6 quart.  They also reissued the baking pan from the Koben Style line.  Save your money on that one – everything sticks to the enamel on that particular pan, so unless you want to be a dishwashing slave, skip it.

Anyway…These Dutch Ovens (Dansk Kobenstyle) do show up often on Ebay and at tag sales.  The prices on Ebay can get a little rich for my blood on them. But if you can score one of either size for $20 or under, you got a great deal.  Mine were a steal, but I collected them before they became collectable – my original impetus was my mother had a 6 quart Kobenstyle Dutch Oven and I loved cooking with it and wanted one of my own. I ended up with two. And seriously, I use them ALL the time.

The Best Macaroni and Cheese…Ever

6 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup flour

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups low-fat half and half

1 3/4 cups light cream

8 oz cream cheese (block not in the tub)

1 box of elbow macaroni or small pasta of your choice (16 oz)

5 cups of grated/shredded cheese (I buy the mix – Cheddar and Monterey Jack, or the “macaroni and cheese blend” which also has  American)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 a medium onion minced

Healthy dash of Worcestershire sauce

Healthy dash of Tabasco sauce

Small dash of ground mace

8 slices of cooked and crumbled thick bacon

Melt butter in dutch oven. Add onion, cook a few minutes until translucent. (4 minutes on my stove on a medium flame I watch like a hawk so not to burn butter.)

Reduce heat to low and whisk in flour and salt and mace. When it all comes together like a white paste you are finished with that step.

Slowly add half and half.  Add Tabasco and Worcestershire.

Slowly add light cream.

Bring it up to a boil and then reduce heat to low.

Add grated parmesan cheese.  When that is incorporated and smooth, add cream cheese.  When that is incorporated and smooth slowly add the other cheese (cheddar blend see above).

Stir, stir, stir so nothing sticks and turn off burner and move sauce off the heat. (Here’s a tip – I remove a cup of the sauce to a separate container – I usually cook this a day ahead, so when I reheat I add the extra sauce as it heats up – some people just heat up with extra milk – I find this thins it out)

Cook your pasta as per the instructions on the box. Drain but do not rinse.

Fold into your cheese sauce in the Dutch Oven.  Add the crumbled bacon and gently fold a little more until all incorporated. Check your mac and cheese and add additional salt and fresh ground pepper to your taste.

You can either serve as is, or throw Dutch Oven into the fridge and eat a day later.  If you choose the eat a day later option, reheat slowly on stove top on very low and add back in the extra cheese sauce which you put in a separate air tight container and refrigerated along with big batch of mac & cheese.

If you don’t use the extra cheese sauce in the re-heating of the mac and cheese, you can store for a few days and use on other things (like broccoli)

This is very rich, but super yummy.  This recipe will serve a crowd easily as you won’t want to dish up honking huge portions.

And hey, if dishing up to grown-ups give a rough chop to some fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley and toss on top when serving as a garnish.