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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Not a Wimp Or a Blimp

But Flounder is here!  Perhaps I've seen "Animal House" too many times!  Yay!

This time the choice for our online group, French Fridays with Dorie, is Almond Flounder Meuniere.  Oh yum. I look forward to anything that includes nuts. 

Dorie describes this dish as an inventive cross-breeding of the classic sole amandine, in which the fish is finished with sauteed sliced almonds, and sole meuniere, in which the fish, often whole, is sauteed in browned butter. Flounder is easier to find here in the U.S.

Due to previous purchase of a giant bag of sliced almonds from Costco, the only ingredient I had to go out and buy were the flounder fillets.  Other ingredients include butter (of course), lemon zest, flour, and an egg yolk. What could be easier?

Some of the almonds are ground then mixed with 1 Tbsp of flour, the zest, salt and pepper.  Pat the fish fillets dry and brush them with beaten egg yolk. Dip that side of the fish in the nut mixture.

Flounder Fillets brushed with egg yolk
Sauteeing in browned butter
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp butter and a small pinch of salt if your butter is unsalted. Cook the butter until it is light brown, about 3 minutes. Slip the fillets into the brown butter, nut side down. Don't crowd the pan, lower the heat. Spoon browned butter over the fish as they cook, about 3 minutes per side. Garnish with some toasted almonds and parsley if desired.

We had ours with broccoli seasoned with almonds and red pepper flakes.  This was DELICIOUS!!  Quite simple and very tasty.

You can always see what other Dorie followers have to say at

Home Made Boursin Cheese

On this day I'm trying Dorie's recipe for cheese spread that she nicknamed "Boursin's mama".  If you're familiar- Boursin is a soft, flavored cheese you can purchase to spread on crackers. Dorie says it's as popular in the stores in France as it is here.

Lyonnaise Garlic and Herb Cheese sounds a whole lot more tasty and interesting to me. I decided to take this recipe to a baby shower. One of my coworkers was bringing crackers.

The ingredients list looks wonderful: ricotta cheese, minced and rinsed shallot, garlic, snipped fresh chives (from my garden), minced fresh parsley (also from my garden!), minced fresh taragon (too hot here to grow this one), red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and freshly ground white pepper. Actually, the ricotta is a replacement for fromage blanc. I didn't have time to go in search of that one.

The ricotta is drained in a fine mesh strainer for a few hours to thicken its texture. After straining, mix the other ingredients into the cheese. Dorie advises to taste and adjust seasonings as you wish. I always struggle with this kind of instruction. How do I know what I wish if I've never had this before?  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

At the 3 hour mark it was time to take off for the baby shower. Off we went.  Much to our dismay, coworker and I, the kitchen was packed with food. Seems party hostess took it upon herself to make TONS of food on her own, so that each guest arriving, carrying additional dishes, was just so much more. The kitchen counters were overflowing. Talk about a miscommunication.  I don't think anyone tried my dip except me and I have to say it was pretty bland.  Perhaps trying so many other dishes with it overwhelmed the dip's subtle flavors? I don't know.

Mother-to-be is a real fan of giraffes.
Thank goodness the quilt I made was a hit!

I took my dip home and hubby and I tried it again later. Still not impressed.  To me it was ricotta cheese with barely any other flavor, shallot maybe, perceptible. Seems like a time-consuming process to arrive at something so plain.

Sardine Rillettes

Let me just say right now that I never met a sardine.  Really. Or not that I know of.  Buying my first can I'm thinking, huh?  But then this whole Dorie journey is one new thing after another so why not?

Dorie explains the term "rillettes", not so long ago, typically meant a rich, salty spread made from pork, goose or duck cooked slowly in its own fat. Really?  I don't know anyone who is that brand of typical, I guess. Salmon is more typical these days, Dorie says.  Looking back, I might have stayed with the more current, trendy favorite...

Dorie offers the wisdom that this recipe comes together in 10 minutes. Well, maybe, if you don't have to dissect each little oily fish first, to remove its teeny tiny little spine.  My cans o' fish were not "boned". (It did not take me one second per fish, but I'm new at this.)

Slice each fish in half horizontally.
Use the tip of your knife to lift 0ut the little spine.

Other ingredients include cream cheese, minced shallot, green onion, lime or lemon juice, minced fresh herbs, piment d'Espelette or cayenne, salt and pepper. Sounds tasty!

I followed Dorie's instructions which include mixing all ingredients together then mashing the sardines into the mixture with a fork. She says, "Taste for seasoning, adding more juice, salt and pepper if you like.". Well I did. I guess it has to sit for a while. Aren't all dips and spreads better after they sit a while? You cover the surface of the dip with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or over night.

We tried this with crackers as a light supper.  Neither one of us cared for it much.  Defnitely not a do-over.

Sable Breton Cookies

The name for the classic French version of the buttery-good shortbread cookie is "sable" with an accent mark over the e, which this blog site seems to be unable to provide.  Or I am incompetent. (Technicality unrelated to baking).

Dorie explains that the northwestern region of France known as Brittany is known for its fleur de sel and salted butters. We can't mimic the Breton butter here in the States so Dorie came up with a recipe where she calls for unsalted butter then adds salt in the recipe to perchance get close to that region's renowned butter cookie, le sable Breton.

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table, page 465.

One thing you must remember about this type of cookie is the dough is always refrigerated for a lengthy period of time before you bake them (minimum 6 hours!). You have your choice of rolling the dough into a log and doing the slice-and-bake routine, or rolling the dough flat and cutting shapes. I chose the latter. That French rolling pin I bought is not going to live its life in the drawer!

Dorie calls for the usual ingredients: flour, baking powder, one stick of unsalted butter, sugar, fleur de sel or fine sea salt, and egg yolk. It is very firm. Shape it into a disc, wrap it well and leave it in the fridge. When ready to bake it's better to roll it thicker rather than going town to make it thin, like pie dough. Dorie recommends about 1/4" thick. Bake until firm but not brown.  I chose the traditional fluted cutter. While I was searching through my cutter stash I discovered I had two plain 2" cutters. One of my favorite bakers will be the recipient of one of these for the next time she is cutting cookies or biscuits in Philadelphia.

These didn't last long. Every time coffee was made the cookie stash got smaller.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Always a Classic

They say any French cook should have mastery over the Cheese Souffle, no? Well, I'm in it now with attempting my very first. Uh oh, the "rise" and the dreaded, subsequent fall. Will she do it, you ask.  As Dorie Greenspan shares,"Really, the cheese souffle should be ashamed of itself, scaring off cooks for no good reason!".  Kind of reminds me of Dorothy admonishing the Cowardly Lion for roaring at eveyone in the forest. He only needed courage. 

With a list of simple ingredients: dry bread crumbs for lining the souffle dish, milk, butter, flour, salt and freshly ground white pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, 6 eggs (separated), and Gruyere cheese (grated), we are ready to go.

Butter the inside of the dish, dust with bread crumbs. Bring the milk to a boil, then set aside. Tres simple! Make a roux with butter and flour, slowly blend in the hot milk. (And now you have a "bechamel", in case you're wondering.) Cook until it thickens. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pull from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer, allow to cool for 10 minutes.  One by one, whisk the egg yolks into the bechamel, then stir in the grated cheese. In case you didn't, you should have dropped the whisk prior to stirring in the cheese. Otherwise, note to the wise, a big melty, cheesy, gloppy mess occurs inside the whisk wires.  So, STIR people, stir with a big spoon!  Moving on...

Whip the egg whites in your mixer with the wire whisk attachment (don't fear the whisk, just respect it's limitations). Whip them until they hold firm, shiny peaks.  Stir one quarter of these whites into the bechamel, then use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the remaining whites.

By the way, did I mention, you use practically every pot, pan, strainer, bowl and spoon making this "simple" dish. I have to say I was a little off track with Dorie's directions to use a "medium" saucepan to make the bechamel, and again with her advice to use a "medium" bowl in which to pour the strained bechamel. Neither was sufficient and I found out a little too late... Arrrrggghhh. "If I only had a brain..." But I digress.

Gently pour souffle batter into prepared dish, set the dish on a baking sheet and slide the sheet into the oven, prewarmed to 400 F.  Perhaps you should not be waiting for June to try this dish. At lease not if you're south of Canada.

Remove the souffle when it is well-risen, golden brown, and still a little jiggly in the center, 40-50 minutes. Dorie says "don't even think about opening the oven door before the 25 minute mark".  You may slide a piece of tin foil over the top of the souffle if it is browning too rapidly at that point. 

Serve immediately.  Period.  Her advice: "Bring the souffle to the table, bow to the applause, then use a large spoon to scoop out portions". The souffle's drama is fleeting, so seat your guests first.

King of the Forest Moment! And it was delicious!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Saint-Germain-des-Pres Onion Biscuits...

...and no I can't pronouce that French part either.  Dorie explains, on page 8 of Around My French Table, this is the name of the neighborhood in Paris where she lives part-time.  I have to think that if I came up with a recipe that was popular with my friends I might not be apt to name it after my surburban neighborhood.  But if I also had a second home in Paris, I just might!

No matter, these lovely little morsels are wonderful and worth the effort.

The list of ingredients is basic: unsalted butter, a small onion, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and milk.  Dorie instructs us to melt some of the butter and cook the chopped onion until it softens.

Whisk the dry ingredients, and then rub the remaining butter in with your fingers. Scatter the cooked onion over the bowl and pour in the cold milk. Toss it all together with a fork.

Onions and milk added

Rolled flat

Turn the dough out on a floured surface and press it or roll it to 1/2 inch thickness.

Dip a 1 1/2 inch biscuit cutter into some flour and cut the biscuits as close together as possible. Gather and re-pat or roll the leftover dough. You should end up with about 32 small biscuits.

 The texture is light and flaky and the taste is sensational.  Big, fat YUMMO!

So what am I going to do now?

Long time, no blog. Not that I haven't been cooking along with the French Fridays with Dorie crowd, well, barely cooking.  Somehow lost my Dorie cooking mojo what with the failed onion soup, and then... I can't even remember now what happened.  Other things took priority: Took a vacation, had to clean house, oh I think I had to wash my hair too.

I'm workin' on gettin' it back, People!!

Okay so here I go.

Thank you for your patience.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Onion Soup to Cry About

You might as well know up front. This cooking assignment- this "Cheese-Topped Onion Soup" was a TOTAL FLOP!!       

Rarely have I been so disapppointed in a recipe from Dorie's Around My French Table, but most of all disappointed in myself.

I love French Onion Soup.  I order it often in restaurants.  I was so excited this recipe had been chosen. I was so excited to make it.  I read the recipe ahead of time- slowly cooking the onions for "an hour or more" was described. I was up for it.

I think I started cutting up my 4 pounds of onions around 3 pm. Okay, so that took a bit longer than expected.  I followed Dorie's cutting instructions and thought I was moving along pretty nicely. (I had visions of Meryl Streep playing Julia in the movie, vigorously practicing the slicing and dicing to compete with her male classmates. Ha!)  Moving right along.  Found the Comte cheese at... Costco! 

I melted the butter in olive oil in a large pot, added the onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Stirred them all together with the recommended wooden spoon.  Simple and straightforward enough.  And here's where it started to fall apart. What, you say. She barely got started!  Well, yup.  A SUPER simple recipe... NO fancy ingredients or tricky, fancy, Frenchy techniques... what could go wrong?

I'll tell you exactly what went wrong.  At the point where Dorie instructs us to stir everything in the pot with a wooden spoon, she then instructs us to turn the heat down to it lowest setting. 

(Looking back on it, hours later, and I do mean HOURS, that's where the soup came to a screeching halt and never did recover.)

I'm so obedient. I am so disciplined in following directions.  I did what she said to do and turned my burner down to it's lowest setting.  Having just stirred the pot, I went off to play with my sewing for about 15 minutes.  Came back to stir (directions said, "frequently").  Hmmm. Not much happening but Dorie says it's a slow process.  It's now about 4:00.  No problem, we should be eating soup by 6 or 6:30, if I take the hour "plus", and the 30 minutes you cook after adding the chicken broth.

Apparently I was so discouraged I didn't take any photos...

More sewing and stirring.  Gee, 5 pm and my pot of onions is barely wilted.  Perhaps I'll bump the heat up just a bit.  6 pm, hearing a faint sizzle under my onions, NO hint of any color, let alone carmelizing.  Hmmm.  Perhaps my stove is defective. Change burners. I certainly don't want the dreaded burned taste Dorie describes as one might be tempted to "rush" the process.  Really?  Rushing might burn something?  Well what the heck. Am I then headed toward what Dorie describes as "...don't get the onions really brown, your soup will be pale in both taste and looks".  She forgot to add- JINX!

By SEVEN O'CLOCK PEE EMM I am staring at a pot of very blonde, limp onions. Carmelized?  Nowhere near.  We are starving.  I press on.  It's a work night! We retire early! So... if it weren't looking like a failure now I clinched the deal by adding the rest of the ingredients and serving a very pale, very sad bowl of soup that would never have made it out of any professional kitchen in the world. (I can hear Gordon Ramsay now.  "What an effing idiot!!")

So I can clearly see now that, of course, Dorie likely cooks on a gas range with a zillion BTU's, and my pathetic electric cannot cook diddly on the lowest settings.  How dense was I to stick so tightly to instructions I should have realized were not meant for my all-electric, "modern" cooktop! Even when I saw NO progress?  Duh!

Well, the top was good. You can see the very pale nature of what lies below around the edge of the bowl. Ugh.

Check out what the more successful Doristas accomplished at:

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Meeting a Bearded Stranger

In the latest chapter of Fantanstic Voyage I find myself 10,000 Leagues Under- well enough of my oceanic ramblings. I not only found myself purchasing and cooking mussels but I ate mussels. A lot of them.

It's simply a case of not knowing what I didn't know. I didn't realize I was a culinary neophyte until I started this blog and cooking with French Fridays with Dorie nearly one year ago.  I now realize there is nothing I won't try.  (Okay maybe those giant pupae some weird people eat on TV.) 


Right from the beginning I felt a little "in over my head". Ha.  Where do I buy good mussels?  What is this "debearded if necessary"?  While I ponder life's most important questions I go to Costco. Doesn't everyone?  (Trumpets blare)  On this magical day the fresh shellfish kiosk is in full gear. Amongst the crab legs and giant prawns there are 5 lb bags of mussels! (Our recipe calls for 4 lbs.) Well, let's face it, Costco has never steered me wrong. In fact if I'm not careful my closet and my home would look like they'd been staged for a Costco catalogue.  

Me and my 5 pounds of mussels head for home to Google what the heck "debearded" means. Please understand, landlocked is my life.  Born and raised in the Southwest desert, I never left it.  Eating mussels sounded like something other people did. Like other people who have boats that sail on the ocean, not just a lake.  As I related my story to my boss the next day- he from southeastern Virginia- the laughter and mocking reminded me of my newbie status. Sure enough, some of my Costco mussels had beards.  If I hadn't looked it up I would have guessed the nylon-like fuzzy threads were a result of the mechanisms used to gather the little creatures from the ocean floor.  (Stop laughing!)  Can't say I was overjoyed to learn they are weird anatomical features of the mussels.  Okay, I'm not going to spend much time thinking about that. Grab the beard with a dry towel and yank it off. Voila!  No shaving cream required.  Then there's the issue of the shells being open or closed.  Uh...  Also found out that tapping them on the countertop should make them close in a minute or so. At which point hubby says, "You mean they're ALIVE??"  Uh...  Again, let's not spend much time thinking about that.  Tapping worked for several of them. Not others.  Into the trash they went. Followed the other pointers explained on the Googled website.  Have to say, this whole process is not worse than "deveining" shrimp. 'Cause we all know that's not a vein.

Once the cleaning of the food is done the recipe comes together quickly, smells amazing and looks beautiful.

Olive oil is heated; red bell pepper, onion, garlic and thyme are added with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Drained, diced tomatoes and chorizo are added.  Mussels are added to the pot, as is some white wine.

Give the pot a stir, cover and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and be patient. The shells should all be open. Serve immediately with cooked fettuccine or lots of bread. We chose the pasta.

Reviews for this meal are not 100% stellar.  Hubby not a big fan of dissecting his food and was not so impressed with eating the little fellers.  I thought the whole dish very tasty.  I did offer The Virginian a sample the next day. He asked for the recipe!  I know I'll be trying mussels again, but maybe when I'm in the company of the more adventurous, salt-water friendly types.

I am forever grateful for my fellow Doristas, Dorie, and her wonderful cookbooks! Check them out at

Bananas for Nutella

So the selection for us French Fridays with Dorie cooks was the recipe Nutella Tartine from page 415 in Around My French Table. I made this recipe last year after I'd made a loaf of brioche from Dorie's baking book.  The brioche and the Nutella Tartine were delicious!  I still had some Nutella left over, not so the brioche.  Looking for more Nutella recipes in Dorie's book, I found the recipe for Double Chocolate Banana Tart on page 467.

Guess what I made on Superbowl Sunday?

How fortuitous, since I was planning to take dessert to our friends' house that day.  The host and hostess are fans of chocolate and bananas, respectively.  Score!

Let me tell you, the recipe for this Tart is tons more involved and complicated than the Nutella Tartine. Still, I was up for the challenge.  I. Went. All. The. Wa-a-a-y to try the Chocolate Nutella version described in Dorie's Bonne Idee. That includes the Chocolate Shortbread dough recipe found on page 501.  Wow. I remember thinking, "Hope all this works". I'm glad I started right after breakfast!  We were expected at our hosts' residence at 4 pm.

The Chocolate Shortbread dough calls for flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, confectioner's sugar, 9 tablespoons of butter and a large egg yolk.

9 Tbsp butter much be ice-cold
The food processor creates pea-sizes and oatmeal flakes.
Add the egg yolk, more processing, and see what happens...

Dorie describes (she is a master at this) how to listen for a change in the sounds coming from the food processor to signal you've processed long enough. Wow, she was right, as usual.  Clumps and curds.  I took the option of kneading then chilling the dough, rolling it out (not missing an opportunity to use my fancy rolling pin).  Removing the baked shell from the oven I promptly stuck my thumb into the side. Oh well, handcrafted, right?

The dough is easily laid and pressed into the pan.

Turns out carmelizing bananas is a little tricky. I can see now why you want to start with firm bananas. I probably overcooked mine but I don't think it was noticeable in the final product.

I love how "ganache" is the Fancy Nancy word for boiled cream with chocolate and butter! 

The carmelized bananas are laid in the bottom of the baked tart shell. Next came the Nutella and Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache.

For this Dorista Superbowl Sunday means great food and fun commercials on the television. Who plays the game and who wins is barely on the radar.  So for me, the day had it ALL.

I think I surprised myself:

Absolutely Delicious!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Turns Out Real Men Do-

Gorgonzola-Apple Quiche- who knew?

This week's challenge- make a quiche with a French pastry crust, Gorgonzola (Italian) cheese, onions and apples.  Alrighty then.

Hate to admit this (and it's weird) but the blue-veined cheeses tend to taste like- 'er I say it? Vomit.  I will never order Bleu Cheese or Roquefort dressing on my salad. Ick. But I press on. I have been fooled before. I start out thinking I'm not going to care for a certain dish and I end up loving it. Will it happen this time? 

The tart dough recipe was a challenge. I'm used to my aunt's recipe that uses vegetable shortening as the fat. Dorie's calls for butter, of course. I chose to use the pastry cutter rather than the food processor method. That's what I'm familiar with.


Got to use my new French rolling pin. Woohoo! Works great!
The dough is wrapped and chilled for 3 hours.

Once it's cold through and through, it's rolled and gently fitted into the tart pan. I had a little trouble making it fit. It's not a text book job but I'm happy with it.
 As Dorie says, "What you stretch now will shrink in the oven later."

Partially bake the tart shell, covered with foil, until lightly golden.

You can see I got a little shrinkage.

The shell bottom is covered with diced, cooked onion...

Diced gala apples were scattered over the onion. The Gorgonzola was crumbled and scattered over the apple.

Cream and eggs are combined and seasoned with white pepper and salt before pouring over the cheese-topped ingredients

What happened in the oven was magic. And the smell of it was wonderful!

The combination of flavors- onion, apples, cheese (oh my!)- was... delicious.  I never would have guessed!  Another winner from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table and our awesome cooks at French Fridays with Dorie.