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

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.