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

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...