Aunt Emma's Never Fail Pie Crust

3 c sifted flour
1 1/4 c Shortening
1 tsp salt
1 egg, well beaten
5 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp vinegar

Cut shortening into flour and salt.
Combine egg, water, and vinegar in a separate bowl.
Pour liquid into flour mixture all at once. Blend with spoon until flour is all moistened.
It can be re-rolled without toughening. Will keep in refrigerator for two weeks or divide into balls enough for one pie and wrap in Saran wrap and freeze indefinitely.

Makes 2 crusts

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Three Cheers for Gruyere

This week's recipe from Around My French Table is "Cauliflower- Bacon Gratin". Oh boy, cheers follow:
#1 Bacon
#2 Gruyere cheese
#3 Who cares?

Honestly, this dish was AWESOME!

As usual, Dorie's recipe is well-written, is easy to follow, making it easy to succeed. The dish is rich; it's soft and creamy. And it's warm. I'm in love.

One head of cauliflower is cooked in boiling water and broken into florets over a buttered 9X13 pan.  Cooked bacon pieces are scattered over the top.  Eggs and flour are combined in a bowl along with heavy cream and milk. The mixture is seasoned with salt, freshly ground pepper and grated nutmeg.  You stir in about 2/3 cup of grated Gruyere cheese and pour the whole thing over the cauliflower.  Scatter more cheese over top and bake for 25 minutes.

Dorie suggests serving it with a roast, or even just a salad. The bacon can be replaced by ham; different spices and herbs can be added. 

Like I said, awesome, right? 

Getting into the Spirit- Dorie Style

This year I decided to bake something completely different for some of my friends. No cookies, no lemon curd squares, no brownies, bars, or cakes.  No, this year I chose Savory Cheese and Chive Bread straight out of my best loved copy of Around My French Table, page 34.  (See how best-loved it is in the above photo. It's totally falling apart!)

I'm not sure if my fellow Doristas have made this recipe for our French Fridays with Dorie group or not, but I highly recommend it.

Not having received reviews from my gifted recipients yet, I included myself on the gifting and made an extra loaf so I could blog about it.  Every one of my in-residence tasters loved it.

I made the recipe as stated, but the cool thing is that Dorie lists multitudinous ways this recipe can be tweeked according to taste and ingredient availability.  I used the basics as listed: fresh ground white pepper, Gruyere cheese and fresh chives snipped from my garden. Plus I included the optional toasted walnuts.

Dorie lists, under Bonne Idee, the cheese used can be any hard cheese, or combination of cheeses you have on hand.  Likewise, the herbs can be varied including basil, or skipped entirely.  Other add-ins can include diced ham, bacon bits, other toasted chopped nuts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, or minced shallots.  I'd like to try these, in turn, some time- they all make my mouth water.

Honestly, the most difficult thing about this recipe was snipping and washing the chives, toasting the walnuts, and grating the cheese.  I'm not whining- the results were outstanding.

Dorie suggests slicing into strips or squares and serving with s salad or wine.  Okay, she didn't really mention wine. That part was my bonne idee. She also suggests that a couple of days later it's good toasted- and she's right. This morning I had mine with my fried eggs- Fantastique!

And the Pie Crust Making Legacy Continues

If this is not one of the most satisfying feelings on earth, I don't know what is.  My amazing daughter has, just this past year, taken a keen interest in baking her own pies using my Aunt Emma's pie crust recipe!  I don't want to mention to her how close she is to becoming her mother (oh horrors), but this one little act warms the cockels of my heart.

Perhaps moving from the desert to the City of Brotherly Love helped, but she wanted to bake pie with me over her college (Go Hooters!) holiday break, and so bake pie we did.  And we giggled and we had The Best Time Ever.

I even got to show her another way to finish the edge.

Amazing Daughter brought a pie recipe from home: Caramel Pecan Pumpkin!

Good Job! What a great day. Merry Christmas to me!

Creme de la Creme

This week's Dorie challenge (and I do mean challenge) was Creme Brulee, from page 422 in Around My French Table.  Challenge Numero Uno was that I don't like custard; I've never ordered creme brulee in a restaurant; I avoid the slippery, slimy, custard-y desserts altogether.  Numero deux, er, Dos, I've never tried to make Creme Brulee (refer to Numero Uno).  No matter, I was up for it.  I know it's a favorite for lots of folks, so why not?

Dorie's version includes a spoonful of jam in the bottom of the dish (I chose raspberry), melted, prior to adding the warm, creamy mixture of heavy cream (oh yeahhh), whole milk (why not), egg yolks, sugar and vanilla.  Simple!
I don't know what was happening in my oven this day, but these took a whole lot longer than 60 minutes to reach the "centers just jiggle a tad" stage.  Maybe it doesn't hold the 200 degree temperture well. At any rate, I waited and waited and finally got there.  Patience is a virtue where I can excel when it's something worth waiting for...
These aren't browned, the color is from the raspberry jam bubbling up a little.
I ended up chilling the baked custards for TWO DAYS before I got the chance to add the brown sugar crust.  I took Dorie's advice for the broiler method. Besides, Santa had not yet had the opportunity to bring me a propane torch. (ahem!)
I do believe I am a Creme Brulee Convert!  These were not slimy or slippery but creamy and luscious.  I think the fruity jam at the bottom helped a lot since the creme part is quite rich.  Broiling the sugar was a little tricky and I burned a couple of them a little bit. They went from "almost there" to "oops" in about 2 seconds!

I ate it anyway.  Yum.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fun with Potato Chips

Mid December finds me baking a dish using crushed potato chips!  How very strange.

This "Potato Chip Tortilla" from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table is, according to Dorie, best served at room temperature as finger food.

After crushing the chips with my hands, I stirred together eggs, sliced green onions, fresh basil, and minced garlic seasoned with piment d'Espelette, salt and pepper.

I combined the egg mixture with the chips, and poured it all into a skillet.

 Cooked until set, the pan is put under the broiler for another minute or so. 

We had ours with a cheese plate and a glass of wine. Three out of three tasters agreed this was good but not outstanding. 

Maybe I was just missing the crunch of those chips!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chard-Stuffed Pork Roast

What a great way to treat a pork roast.

Last week the cooks at French Fridays with Dorie made this stuffed pork roast and it was totally delightful: very simple and very delicious.

The stuffing was assembled using only Swiss chard, onion, garlic and raisins.  The mixture is seasoned with red pepper flakes, plus black peppercorns and coriander seeds that were pounded and cracked with the mortar and pestle.  The stuffing ingedients are cooked until tender.

My 2 1/2 lb pork loin roast is opened by cutting lengthwise just enough so it opens like a book,  stuffed, and tied with string.

The outside is rubbed with oil, salt and pepper.
This simple dish is worth the little effort and produced a beautiful main course that is defnitely dinner guest-worthy.

Tender and juicy, the raisins are a great addition!

We ate ours with the "matafan" from the previous week.  Purrrrrfection.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mighty Fine

December with the French Fridays with Dorie online cooking group brings us "Matafan" on page 356 from Around My French Table  by Dorie Greenspan.  You and I might call them Fluffy Mashed Potato Pancakes. Dorie describes how these can be served with a salad or hors d'oeuvre, or even as a side dish.

I made mine to accompany the pork roast that I'll post in the near future.

The recipe calls for baking 2 large Russett potatoes on a bed of Kosher salt.

The insides are scraped out. I was wishing I had a food mill or ricer. Pushing the potato through a strainer was hard work!  The pancake batter is completed with eggs, flour and hot milk, with stiffly beaten egg whites folded in at the end.

Just like my blini in the past, my pancakes weren't very pretty. I'm going to blame the fact that my electric stove takes too long to heat up and is all of a sudden very hot! It's okay though, smoking butter never hurt anybody.

  They were very tasty. Ours were served with butter, salt and pepper. Yummo!

Total Cooking Day

I realize most people, especially foodies, don't share my negativity toward the Thanksgiving meal.  I actually feel kind of guilty about it.  I have come to realize feeling guilty about not enjoying it doesn't help the situation.  Every year I think, "next year I'm doing this differently"- and sometimes I do it differently with the same outcome. Here's the thing. About 15 years or so ago the meal was prepared; hubby and I did almost all of it ourselves. We did all the clean up and divvying up of food to be taken home by family. It took hours and my feet were killing me. I vowed Never Again. 

Subsequent years were followed with all manner of getting out from under cleaning up that mess.  One year we had, and this is no joke: Rolled turkey, stove-top stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, brown and serve rolls, and gravy out of a jar.  I might have made the ubiquitous Green Bean Casserole, you know the one I mean with the canned soup and the crispy onions. And I made the pies but only because I actually enjoy it. The next year we bought the whole darned meal already cooked from a supermarket and took it home. I believe I made pie that year too. I can't bring myself to buy pie no matter how poor my attitude.  But enough of my whining.

Following that I tried to work on my attitude by introducing new recipes.  One year it was all Martha Stewart; another it was all Rachael Ray; and yet another was all from the recipes that we learned when we bought our pricey cookware. These have been met with varied success.  Success meaning that my meal participants (these would be the Non-Pie Eaters, "NPE's", from my previous blog entry) are now whittled down to folks who really don't like a wide variety of foods.  This is putting it mildly.  If I served a turkey meal out of a paper bag from the grocery store, they would be fine with it.  But I, now being the Food Blogger, thought I'd better put more effort into this year's meal.

So now I come to realize that Dorie Greenspan did not include roasted turkey in her book,  Around My French Table. Hmm, well I guess the French don't roast turkey. NPE's expect turkey, even if that's all I serve. In order to satisfy my French Friday's assignemnt for that week I made the Baked Apples for mine and hubby's dessert.  The others got Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies from Martha's book.

I ended up returning to our friend Julia's book for this year's Turkey Experiment.  The Way to Cook includes numerous ways to present turkey on your table. I chose Boned Stuffed and Roasted Turkey Breast from page 172, and Savory Sausage and Crouton Stuffing from page 184.  I prepared in my usual manner, by skimming over the recipe instructions, creating an extensive grocery list and heading out to ONLY 2 stores to find everything. The Main Ingredient: a ten-pound bone-in turkey breast. This was found at my local Sprouts store.  Yay.

The stuffing was prepared first with white country bread cut up and toasted in the oven to make the croutons. 

The turkey breast had to be boned and I had never done this before.  Before tackling the task, you carefully separate the skin, in one piece, from the meat.  I have to admit to having a brief Silence of the Lambs moment.  I recovered quickly.  I think I did a pretty fair job of extracting the breast meat from the bones. 

You lay them, side by side, on the skin; spoon the stuffing on; and wrap everything up in cheesecloth.

 And you know, mine looked very much like Julia's photo. That's one great thing about Julia's book- tons of photos to guide you along.

Ready for the oven
All done and delicious

Finally, a meal that got rave reviews from the NPE's.  We also had the obligatory bowl of corn, along with roasted asparagus, potatoes and gravy.

But no pie.  Next year I'm doing this differently.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why I Didn't Get Pie on Thanksgiving

One might think, given the title of my blog, that some kind of pie would have been obvious, this being a Major Pie-Eating Holiday.  Well not this time, not this year. As I reflect, this is probably the first Thanksgiving in decades that I didn't make a pie. 

So here goes the story: The local family who visit on Thanksgiving don't eat pie. The end.

Should I have made one all for myself?  Just what I need, my favorite pie- pecan- being eaten by only me.  Hubby loves pumpkin but he didn't want a pie all for himself either.  Not a good way to start the holiday season- eating a whole pie.

So here's what happened instead...drumroll please.............

Ta-Da!  Enter Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table and this week's French Fridays with Dorie cooking assignment: choose any recipe.  After mulling over numerous possibilities I selected "Baked Apples Filled with Fruits and Nuts" from page 394. This became dessert for the two of us. The rest of the family got (at their request) "Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies" a la Martha Stewart.  Tough crowd.

This recipe was a hit with me for several reasons.  The first one is it can be considered quasi-healthy, right?  Apples, dried fruits, chopped walnuts and honey make up most of the dish. Add in half a stick of butter, apple cider and a dollop of Creme Fraiche. Done! (Well, not that fast.) Second, I had dried fruits left over from making that recent lamb stew. Dried figs and golden raisins, namely, plus I added a few dried cherries I had on hand.  Honestly, coring the apple and peeling half way down took most of the prep time. Baking time of almost an hour makes this not a quickie dessert, but you could pop them in prior to sitting down to dinner and that would make the wait time shorter.

I admit, my photos were rushed and didn't come out very flattering to the dish. It was delicious though! Trust me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Braised Cardamom-Curry Lamb

My blog entry is way overdue but here I am...finally! This week's entry was found on page 283 in "Around My French Table".

I am realizing I have never in my life experienced such cooking adventures since joining French Fridays With Dorie this past summer.  What a fun and satisfying experience.  Lovin' it!  This is better than 3 years of high school Home Ec. (It would have been 4 years but I'd already taken all they had.)  I have to say that, even though we didn't venture much beyond Baked Alaska and how to properly set the table with lots of extra glasses, plates, flatware and fancily folded napkins, I learned how to read a recipe, by gosh.  And I practiced mise en place, even though we didn't call it that.

Chopped onion and home-grown Egyptian mint
So here I find myself with a lamb shoulder. I am thankful to the lamb and I am happy to be using my beloved cardamom pods. Especially since they are pricey and sitting in limbo in my well-filled spice cabinet. I am thankful I have no fewer than 4 flavors of mint planted around my yard. And yes, I planted it. We don't have crazy, wild-growing, taking-over-everything mint fluorishing without effort here in my yard.  I guess some people do.  I don't believe I've ever bought a dried fig that wasn't inside it's Newton, either. Woohoo!

Following Dorie's beautifully written text, I prepared what became a beautiful and aromatic stew. Even the non curry-loving hubby ate heartily.  The addition of honey, apples, dried figs and raisins are a nice balance to the ample amount of curry. The onion, garlic, baby potatoes and cardamom provide a great base for the layers of flavors. The lamb was melt in your mouth.  We had ours with roasted broccoli and sour dough bread. 

Hearty and delicious!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall into this soup-

This week's French Fridays with Dorie online cooking group recipe is "Spiced Squash, Fennel, and Pear Soup". 

A longer list of ingredients I have rarely encountered!

I chose butternut squash and roasted it ahead of time, as directed in the recipe.

I never before purchased or cooked with fennel.  Once again, Dorie introduces me to a wonderful thing.  I am not a fan of licorice but fennel is really nice! All the ingredients are cooked together, seasoned with garlic, ground ginger, cumin and freshly grated nutmeg, then emulsified with an immersion blender.  Voila!  Yummy goodness in a bowl. I swirled a little creme fraiche on top.  Four out of four adventurous tasters agreed, this one is a Fall Favorite. Savory and sweet all at once.

I served mine with a repeat performance of the Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Nice. This time I used cooked brown rice in place of the stale bread cubes.  It was also a winner at the table.  Might as well cram all the flavors of fall into one meal...

Dessert was Nutella Tartine, from page 415.  I almost picked something apple, staying with the theme, but knowing I had limited time, that extra loaf of home-made brioche in the freezer, and a fan of chocolate at the table made this a more favorable choice.  I actually found a jar of "bitter orange marmalade" at the market. And by the way, it tasted awful!  But I went ahead and smeared the brioche with it anyway and you know what?  It was great and got another score of 4 out of 4. Well I think it did because it disappeared in a matter of minutes.  Dorie was right: No leftovers except the crumbs.


Trick or Duck

Halloween for us was spent answering the door, handing out candy, and eating the week's Dorie meal: Twenty-Minute Honey-Glazed Duck Breasts.  Every one should be so lucky!

From Around my  French Table, page 229, we learn how to prepare this wonderful dish. I, along with some of my other fellow duck-virgin Doristas, had never prepared duck breasts.  As an adolescent I talked my mother into buying a duck to accompany the ham for Christmas dinner.  I prepared an orange sauce and roasted the little guy in the oven. I really liked it. I'm a dark-meat fan anyway. A whole bird of dark meat- yay!  Just never did it again.  I order duck breast and duck confit dishes often when I see them on a restaurant menu.

This amazing dish has only 3 ingredients besides the duck: balsamic vinegar, honey and lime juice.  Even if you don't like balsamic vinegar, you might like this glaze. It's a delicious accompaniment to the duck.

Score the very thick layer of fat

Sear the breasts, fat side down

Wow, I should have taken a photo of the fat in the pan after searing.  If you sear them too long they're overcooked and tough.  I tried not to do that.  As usual, Dorie's instructions are impeccably written. 

I served our duck with Endives, Apples and Grapes, from page 338.

Finished meal- Bravo!
And so it goes.  We really enjoyed this meal. Very tasty. I am no longer a duck-breast virgin!  Perhaps I should have considered a cherry recipe to go along side...