Posts tagged I want to eat this all the time
Posts tagged I want to eat this all the time
Pumpkin Pie! And Pie-Related Bits of Wisdom.
Because the pie crust I made the other week was for a double-crust pie (like an apple pie), but I only used one crust for my lemon meringue pie, I had a spare pie crust kicking around.
After the disappointment of the oozing lemon custard, which did solidify a bit in the fridge but continued to be disappointing, I wanted a sure thing. So I made pumpkin pie.
I have a few thoughts and bits of advice:
So…I made this the other night. I used regular spaghetti because that’s what I had and regular chicken breasts that I deboned and skinned myself because I think purchasing chicken cutlets is RIDICULOUS.
Beyond that, it was amazing.
I mean, god, dinner can be hard. It happens every day! After work! You have to work and then you have to cook dinner. And you’re supposed to eat healthy things, too. I have a few easy dinner fall-backs, but they tend to involve a lot of cream (for instance, and also).
This, though, man, this is so good and it doesn’t even involve cream. It has so much flavor. It is not hard to make.
Bravo, Martha Stewart.*
* Or, rather, chefs and food people who work for Martha Stewart.
Crispy [Fish] Fillets with Fennel-Mint Tzatziki
I recently started folding down the corner of the page when I see a magazine recipe that I’m interested in making. I know that this is not revolutionary stuff, but a lifetime of being taught that folding down corners MUST NOT BE DONE has made me particularly reluctant to do so. And yet, folded-down corners mean I can easily refer back to the specific recipes that seemed intriguing without needing to remember each one or sit down with the magazine afresh.* Sometimes it takes me a little time to remember what exactly I was meaning to communicate with the folded down corner (I should make a 12-step grilled salad? A dessert with four ingredients that are basically impossible to locate in Maine? Ah! The glazed lamb chops!), but I get there.
Yesterday, before going to the grocery store, I flipped through the January Bon Appetit and discovered this recipe for Crispy Tilapia Fillets with Fennel-Mint Tzatziki that I marked at some point in the past month and promptly forgot about. It involves Greek yogurt AND fennel. Sold.
Now, I don’t think you should feel like you need to stick with the fish specified in a recipe. There was a mountain of Atlantic pollock on sale at the fish market. I like pollock, it’s cheap, it’s not at the edge of extinction, it has a nice flavor, so I got it instead. If you’re unsure of a good substitution, this is a nice opportunity to have a conversation with the fishmonger. Bonus: some of the guys who work at the fish market near our apartment are adorable.
Back to the recipe! It was really, really, spectacularly good. Oh my goodness. I made a pound of fish and we ate it all. I’m kind of embarrassed to write that here, but on the other hand, I think it’s really important that you know how good this is.
The fish was delicious, but the tzatziki was spectacular. (Tzatziki is a Greek/Turkish sauce or appetizer, generally made with strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, and mint.) Just last week I made an alternative tzatziki with radishes and cucumbers, which was really good, but nothing like this. I would not have thought that fennel would be awesome in a tzatziki, because it’s pretty crunchy and not necessarily in the watery-crunchy way of cucumbers. However, when you salt it and let it sit, it becomes a bit more tender without getting squishy, which is exactly what you want. The fennel and mint together was brilliant.
The tzatziki does call for white balsamic vinegar, which I do not have and will probably never have. I used a little bit of regular balsamic vinegar, which turned the tzatziki a somewhat unappetizing beige color, but otherwise seemed to work well. For those of you who are on the fence about balsamic vinegar— you don’t really taste it as such in this recipe, but I think it adds some depth, so I definitely wouldn’t leave it out.
If you make this, and you should, you will also notice that a medium to large fennel bulb produces two rather than one cup of diced fennel. When the fish came off the skillet, I added a bit more oil and tossed in the fennel with the bits of stuck-on breadcrumb and scraped them around until the fennel was slightly softened while we set the table. I served that as a side dish.
* This only applies to magazines that you own, folding down pages in books still MUST NOT BE DONE.
Elsie’s Brown Sugar Cookies
At the risk of blowing all my good stuff early, these here cookies are the second-most-special holiday treat in my family (the first-most-special holiday treats are the Gilmanton Cup Cakes). My mum calls them “Elsie’s Brown Sugar Wafers,” I’m not sure why. They’re not wafer-y at all. They are small, buttery, shortbread-like cookies with little nuts on top. They are easy to make, and they are heaven in a small, brown cookie.
If you’re having trouble navigating the recipe above (what? why would you?), here it is again, with more detail:
For the batter:
Mix the batter together, then chill the dough.
Form the dough into small balls (about the size of a ping-pong ball) and arrange on a baking sheet.
Dip the tines of a fork into the egg white and gently press the balls into disks, making a cross-hatch pattern on the top of the cookie. If the edges crack, let the cookies warm up a little.
Top with a few pieces of walnut.
Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes.
This is my pumpkin pie. I am so proud of it. Please ignore the fact that the crust edge looks kind of jankety and focus instead on the lovely little leaves arranged on the pie surface.
I decided a while back that pie crust was something that I needed to know how to make from scratch. It just seemed like an important thing to have in my arsenal, like knowing how to sew on buttons, or how to hem pants, or being able to lift your carry-on suitcase into the overhead bin without help.
There are types of cooking or recipes where your success depends mostly on your ingredients: if you have fresh and delicious enough ingredients, what you make will be delicious. Tomato, mozzarella, and basil salads fall into this category. Many seafood recipes fall into this category— mussels in a simple white wine broth aren’t going to taste like much if the mussels aren’t any good.
There are other recipes that are sort of about the recipe, in that you don’t need to have brilliantly ripe and perfect ingredients (though they should be good) for the recipe to work. Tuna noodle casserole is sort of like this, as is this pasta dish, and the pumpkin cookies I recently made. The recipe doesn’t hinge on the quality of the ingredients, and while they require some amount of familiarity with cooking techniques, it’s pretty basic.
Then there are recipes that are all about technique.* Souffles are like this, except that they’ll still be pretty good if your technique isn’t awesome. French onion soup is like this, in that the whole recipe is based on caramelized onions. Pie crusts are totally technique. If you over-mix or manhandle dough, it will be tough. If you under-mix, the dough won’t hold together. If it’s too warm when you mix the ingredients together, you won’t have the chunks of butter that you need. If it’s too warm when you try to roll it out, it’ll stick to everything and you won’t be able to roll it out. Yes, the flavor is different if you use butter versus lard,** but that won’t make or break the dish the way bad technique will.
The issue that I always have is that the dough won’t stick together. I always end up adding more water than the recipe calls for to get everything to adhere. Recipes and blogs and other powers-that-be are always telling you that you should NOT ADD TOO MUCH WATER. And you know what? I tried. I tried really hard not to add too much water for a long time. But Thanksgiving broke me. In a moment of crazy hubris based on one or two successful pie crusts, I offered to make all the pie crusts (for an apple, pecan, and pumpkin pie). This was maybe a mistake, there was the aforementioned dark moment in the Marsh parking lot, but it worked out in the end. I resigned myself to adding enough water to get everything to adhere, even if it was more than the recipe called for.
I used the crust recipe listed on the Orangette blog here. I like the flavor, and my grandmother’s recipe uses lard, which seems particularly un-gracious given that the Thanksgiving host this year is a vegetarian. In addition, Smitten Kitchen has a really nice set of pie crust tutorials (here, here, and here) that I highly recommend checking out.
Again flouting all sorts of conventional wisdom, I did not pre-bake the crust. I’ve had problems with crust-shrinkage, and honestly, I hadn’t figured out a solution, so I decided that it didn’t actually matter a whole lot because even when I have pre-baked, the bottom crust is still not super-duper flaky. You’re pouring a custard into it. It’s not going to be super flaky. And it’s Thanksgiving. Don’t fuck around on Thanksgiving.
I also used a pastry cloth to roll out the crust, which I think is key. This helps keep the dough from sticking. I bought mine in a little set for Sur la Table that included a rolling pin cloth (yes it was an impulse buy). You could probably use a flat, tightly-woven cotton dishtowel, floured.
Finally, a note about the decorative leaves:
I highly, highly recommend decorative leaves. Decorative leaves look impressive and distract from a not-so-decorative crust. They’re also tasty and it makes people happy when they get a slice of pie with a decorative leaf on it.
I think re-rolling dough is a somewhat risky proposition, so I just cut the pie crust slightly off-set so that I had an inch or two leftover at one side (does this make any sense? Imagine a big wobbly circle, your rolled-out crust, then imagine a slightly smaller smooth circle inside that wobbly circle, pushed up against one edge of the larger circle). Then I used a little leaf-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the leaves.
I strongly suspect that if you dump the leaves on top of the pie before it goes into the oven, they will sink into the custard and you will have weird, squishy dough surprises in your pie.**** I didn’t time this perfectly, but I made a little tray out of foil for the leaves, and stuck them into the oven with the pie after 10 minutes or so. Then, about 10 minutes before the pie was done, I added the leaves to the pie like so:
Also, this is the pumpkin pie recipe, using homemade pumpkin or hubbard squash puree rather than canned pumpkin. It is a really good recipe, and this is the first time I actually made it in a large enough pie dish (thank you, Target).
* These categories aren’t perfect, obviously, and I would never argue that all recipes can be sorted into one of the three. Souffles, for instance, sort of straddle all three categories.
** Shortening is gross. Which reminds me that I wrote about making pie crust in my first-ever tumblr post! I actually talked a fair amount about pie crust in that post, which makes me wonder if this whole tumblr is basically about pie crust and my trying to learn to cook like my mother and grandmother.
*** This is the flour that my grandmother says to use. I figured I would use something that was less processed and more befitting the Prius-driving, CSA-joining yuppie that I apparently am, and then I talked to my mum. Apparently my mum had the same thought 30 or so years ago and bought King Arthur, which has a higher protein content and made a less-tender crust. So Gold Medal it is. I love this, because this is one of those rare mistakes that I never had to make myself.
**** Credit where credit is due, my sister-in-law also strongly recommended waiting until the pie had set slightly.
I’m not going to comment on the election.
Instead, I am going to tell you about one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time.
We had some from the CSA kicking around, and I decided to roast it while I had the oven on for cauliflower cheese. So I sliced it into wedges, tossed it with some salt, pepper, olive oil, and chili powder (the mix, not straight up chili) and roasted it until it was almost blackened on one edge.
It reminded me a bit of roasted chestnuts, both in the nuttiness and in the richness. It’s denser and smoother than pumpkins and some other squashes, with a better, more buttery, sweeter flavor than butternut squash. Apparently, it’s also known as “sweet potato squash” and I guess it’s a little like sweet potatoes. But better.
And you know what else? I’m not sure if it was because my squashes were small, or if this is always the case, but you can totally eat the skin.
Which reminds me: always try eating the skin, because those precious moments you spent peeling could really go toward some more worthwhile activity, like sipping a nice glass of knob creek, or practicing your toe dexterity, or flipping through magazines, or watching your bestest friend’s art/cat video for the thirtieth time.
But back to the issue at hand. Buy your self some delicata squash right now. That stuff is magical.
photo courtesy of Dunbar Gardens
Dinner was a disappointment,* but breakfast, guys, breakfast was awesome.
First, I had my main man** around, which was great.
Second, I had a fantastic cold brewed vietnamese iced coffee:
Third, our New York Times was successfully delivered and at our front door, which does not happen as consistently as I would wish.
Fourth, I had some nice Maiden Blush apples, sliced and cooked in butter with a little bit of brown sugar over steel cut oats with maple syrup. This is just about my favorite breakfast ever.
The apples were great, tart but also sweeter than I expected. I cut them up into wedges and laid them into my cast iron skillet with some butter and just left them there for a while til they browned and got all melty. When they got close to done I added some brown sugar.
Meanwhile, I cooked the oats with equal parts water and milk (1 part oats to 2 and a little bit parts liquid, about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup oats per person). Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once they’re done, toss the apples on top of the oats, pour a little bit of maple syrup and voila. Best breakfast ever.
* I don’t know how I feel about this phrase, “main man,” but I’m looking for the male equivalent of “best lady” here.
Dinner last night consisted of a little something I like to call galettapalooza. Bear with me. I bought puff pastry again because even though it’s expensive and I could probably just make a tart dough, I’m also probably not going to unless people are coming over.
I also decided that I could reduce the waste inherent in a big container of puff pastry and only one person eating thusly: rather than thawing for a day in the fridge and then unfolding, I took the sucker out of the freezer frozen, and broke off half. I re-wrapped one half and stuck it back in the fridge and thawed the other half. I know that this is not exactly revolutionary. But I was excited about it.
So my puff pastry thaws, and it turns out that I have ripped it in half the long way, which isn’t ideal, but whatever.
Here’s where things get REALLY crazy. I have a large narrow rectangle of puff pastry. So I decide to make one personal sized tomato galette and one personal sized peach galette for dessert!
I have been wanting dessert for about three days now and have not gotten my act together to go get it. But not tonight! I’m making dessert! With a peach that was just this side of going bad! THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST DINNER EVER. And by that I mean, this is going to be the best alone-dinner ever because when I cook for two or more people I’m able to get my act together and cook real food, rather than cobbled together puff pastries.
So you prepare the puff pastry however you do. In my case, I rolled it out on a pastry cloth, lightly floured. Then I cut it in half and plopped them on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and stuck the whole thing into the fridge to chill while I prepared the fillings.
Tomato and Chevre Galette
Stir together approx. one tomato cut into wedges (I used half a yellow tomato and half a red tomato from the Monument Sq. farmer’s market), leaves from some sprigs of thyme, a garlic clove minced, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Let sit while you prepare the peaches.
Arrange the tomato slices in the middle of the pastry. Top with chevre (it might have been better to spread the chevre on the bottom of the pastry and then layer the tomatoes on top). Fold over the edges to the extent that you can.*
[Arrange almond and peaches on puff pastry #2]
Brush both galettes with an egg wash (an egg whisked with a little bit of water).
Slice and peel one ripe peach into wedges. Mix with a bit of brown sugar and some almond extract. Whiz a handful of almonds in a cuisinart as finely as you can, so it’s the texture of rough cornmeal, more or less.
Spread the almonds onto the base of the tart (leave about an inch or so around the edge almond-free). Lay the peach slices on top. Top with some of the liquid. Fold up the edges of the pastry to the extent that you can and brush with egg.
This is where things get a little dicey. My oven does sort of approximate temperatures. In that, if I set the temperature to 350, it might decide that 400 is really more appropriate.** I set my oven to 325 or so, which works out to 375 or so and hoped for the best. It took about 30 - 35 minutes. You will never be remiss if you choose to set the timer for the shortest possible time it could take a thing to cook (take what you think might be accurate and subtract 5 - 10 minutes) and then just check on progress and add time as needed.
In any case, I’m counting it as a success. The tomato tart was good, but not spectacular. I think the tomatoes weren’t as flavorful as they could have been. Or something. It was really good, it just wasn’t amazing.
The peach galette was fantastic. I was really concerned that I didn’t have corn starch and that everything would be soggy, but it wasn’t at all. The almonds soaked up the liquid nicely, and it was just a little bit sweet, and even though the smell of the peaches and almond extract and sugar was not hugely promising before it cooked (it smelled strongly alcoholic) it turned out really well.
* You can see from my picture that I was not so successful here with the folding. I actually thought I was more successful before I put them in the oven. In any case, it doesn’t matter much.
** This is why it is really, really good to have a oven thermometer.
What you’re looking at is some damn fine ice cream. It’s mint julep, except not really, because it’s mostly mint with just a tiny bit of julep and when I’m drinking mint juleps I like a lot of julep. Where julep = bourbon.
The recipe is adapted just a tiny bit from David Lebovitz’s Fresh Mint Ice Cream in The Perfect Scoop, which is, according to the cookbook bookseller, the ice cream cookbook to get if you can only get one ice cream book. Not being terribly familiar with the range of ice cream cookbook options, I have to trust that this is true. There was nothing about this recipe that suggested that it isn’t.
Which is to say, the ice cream was delicious and intensely minty. And it was minty like the herb, which is greener-tasting and softer and more interesting than artificial mint flavoring. If you have never had fresh mint ice cream, you should try it. It’s fantastic.
The whole thing came about mostly because my mint plants are dying, aggressively (as mint does everything), so I scalped them in the making of this. Except then I didn’t have quite enough mint, so I had to buy some, too. So it goes.
A note about the bourbon: I added just two tablespoons (just about an ounce, or a shot) mostly so that the ice cream wouldn’t harden so much in the freezer. It’s pretty subtle, flavor-wise, and you could increase the bourbon a bit for more bourbon-y flavor. Just be careful how much you increase, because at a certain point, the ice cream won’t freeze at all. Based on the rum currant ice cream I make, which calls for a 1/3 of a cup of rum (a little over 2.5 ounces) to the same amount of milk/cream, I think you could safely double the bourbon.
Mint Julep Ice Cream
1. Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt in a small saucepan. Add the mint leaves and stir, then remove from the heat and let steep for an hour.
2. Strain the mint-infused mixture through a mesh strainer into a medium saucepan. Press on the mint leaves to extract as much flavor as possible, then discard the mint leaves. Pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl and set the strainer on top.
3. Rewarm the mint-infused mixture. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mint liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan. (This requires a somewhat heavy bowl if you don’t have three hands or someone to pour the liquid or whisk. Alternately, it’s easier if you ladle the milk mixture in and whisk carefully at first. Mostly, you just shouldn’t give up and pour the hot mixture in all at once and then stir. That’s how you get egg chunks in your ice cream.) Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
4. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula (I use a wooden spoon), scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. You can use a thermometer and look for when the temperature hits 170 - 180 (DO NOT LET IT GET HOTTER THAN 180), but eventually you’ll see that the mixture thickens as you stir and coats the spatula. Try running your finger down the back of the spoon, when it’s ready it’ll leave a noticeable trail in the custard on the spoon that doesn’t quickly fade. Again, do not overcook it or you will end up with scrambled egg ice cream. Once you get the hang of it, it will be very obvious when it’s done.
5. So once the custard is thickened, pour it through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the bourbon and stir.
6. Refrigerate until cold (a few hours to overnight), then freeze it in the ice cream maker.