Category Archives: Main Course

Bittersweet Bourbon Heritage Month (A Bourbon Themed Meal)

September 2011

The Month

This isn’t a term paper, so I’m going to go ahead and reference wikipedia to bring you this amazing tidbit about America.

National Bourbon Heritage Month is an observance in the United States that calls for celebration of bourbon as America’s “Native Spirit”. On August 2, 2007, the US Senate declared September 2007 as “National Bourbon Heritage Month.” The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, passed by unanimous consent. The resolution calls for consumers who enjoy bourbon to do so responsibly and in moderation. The bill reinforces the 1964 Act of Congress that declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit” by celebrating the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States.

I may have been late to discover the shocking revere the US Senate has for my newly, yet quickly, acquired spirit of choice, but I had just enough time for a proper, bourbon themed commemoration.

There was someone for whom I had been wanting to prepare an elaborate meal.  Timing made the meal a bit more bittersweet than I intended, but I went ahead with my plan and gussied up a table for two.

The Dinner

The Menu

The breakdown of that menu…

The Cocktail

The Rolls
(Click here for my recipe)
(Adapted from here)

The Pulled Pork
(Click here for the recipe)

I have an affinity for pulled pork, but of course, I’m picky about where the pig wandered in its wandering days, what it ate and what types of sauces lend to that fall-apart-on-a-fork quality I love so much.  It was high time I just made my own.  The hunk o’ pork that weighed down my market bag came from the trusted folks at Pittsburgh’s only organic farmers market

My dedication to this meal was such that I took a bus to Whole Foods to ensure I would have organic liquid smoke and enough time for the afternoon of cooking.  If you have ever taken a Pittsburgh public bus, you know the level of dedication I am referencing.

Next time I’d add more cocoa to this mix covering my hand, and in the end, I’d probably add more bourbon too!

The pork present…

The Cake
(Click here for the cake recipe)
(Click here for the buttercream and ganache recipes)

Remember the new mixer, the gifted mixer that made me cry an almost equal mix of utter happiness and complete sadness?  Remember that beautiful, buttery inaugural whirl?  The buttery rosette splatter became the batter for what I am calling a Bittersweet & Salty Bourbon Chocolate Cake.

The title is indicative of the ingredients:  dark, dark chocolate with salted almonds, but the title also fits in the vein of Like Water for ChocolateBaking and emotions are inseparable, and sadness may be a tangible taste.  At least in this case, the sadness was decadent and delicious.  Please pardon my melodrama and allow me to indulge.

I won’t give him full credit for the special bourbon place in my heart and jam jar (because the first time the fancy truly struck me was in the South), but he did indeed foster the flavor.  Hence in my planning of the meal I would make him, bourbon had the spotlight, but bittersweet saltiness stole the show.

This cake would have been baked with love, but he broke my heart.

Like the dark chocolate, approaching friendship with him when I wanted all of him, was bittersweet and filled me with salty tears.  I attempted to bake my way through it, to make something beautiful of something sad.

It was something beautiful.

But it was also something sad, and before I even cut one slice, I was overcome with sadness.

In the end, we didn’t even eat the cake together at that gussied up table.  I couldn’t.  He took his piece and went on his way.  I stared through tears at the tiers of chocolate, cut my own slice and stared some more.  Part of me envisioned throwing the decadent layers from my third floor window and the satisfaction I would feel as chocolate smashed all over the street.  I could never do that though.  Instead I shared the slices with a friend who knew all too well what I was feeling, a friend who dreams of the very place that turned me onto bourbon and a friend celebrating another year of life.  I was still hoping for something beautiful for this cake despite the sadness I was feeling.

Can the baker ever be removed from the baked good?  Does the emotion bake out with the alcohol?  Does each slice have a slightly decadent hint of sadness?  This would probably be true if it weren’t for chocolate.

Thanks be to the gods for the gift of dark, dark, bittersweet chocolate that works in perfect harmony with salty tears and salted almonds.

When Irene Came To Town (Home Cookin’ In Philadelphia)

August 2011

I went to Philly for fun, friends and family.  Irene went to Philly to create a pleasant breeze, cut the humidity, clean the streets, cancel transportation plans and bring us together for a night at the home front.  I am sincerely sorry for those who were really negatively affected by the hurricane, but for Philly, the buzz was mostly hurricane hype, a few cancelled plans, a rearranged bus trip and one more day in the city.

With all that Hurricane Hype (the name of my band if I ever form one?!?), our plan was to play it safe and play at home.  While the gents prepared for a flood, I prepared food.

Local heirloom tomatoes, spinach, fresh mozzarella and olive oil with roasted garlic to start.

Then came the heavy hitter:

A Shepherd’s Pie

1 lb responsibly sourced ground lamb meat
3-4 carrots
4-5 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 red onion, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery
1 red pepper
1 container of mushrooms
4-5 cloves of garlic
Lots of butter!
salt
pepper
grated mozzarella cheese

Boil the potatoes with a few cloves of garlic until mashable.  Once soft enough, drain any excess water.  Add 2-3 Tablespoons of butter and a dash of salt.  Mash, mash, mash.  Set aside.

In a large pan, sauté the onions until translucent.  Add more garlic, the peppers, and mushrooms, stirring until browned.

Add the ground lamb, and continue to stir.

Add the remaining vegetables and stir until browned.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Butter a 9×13 pan.   Pour the contents of the stir fry into the pan.  Add a layer of mozzarella cheese.  Dollop the mashed potatoes on top and then smooth over the cheese layer.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are slightly browned and crisp.

Serve to the Hurricane party.

Brian’s First Brussel Sprouts

Remove the stalk from the brussel sprouts and cut in halves.  Boil until brighter green and softer.

Melt 2-3 Tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add chopped fresh ginger and garlic.  Once crisp, add the slivered almonds and stir to combine and season.

Phil would have earned the “Junior Meteorologist” merit badge had he been a boyscout (and had that been a possible badge?).  He had every possible update alerting us via his phone, internet feeds and the occasional real life reportage from the breezy window.  At one point, he wanted to fill the tub with water.  At another point, he wanted to seek shelter in the tub in case of a tornado.

Then I set the table.

And he finally ignored the hurricane hype for a bit.

There was still plenty of hurricane hangin’ to be had, so we brewed some coffee, and I assembled the dessert.  I was quite pleased I was able to bake away from my kitchen.  I’d like to thank the Philly Whole Foods for the thorough collection of its bulk foods aisle.  Listen Pittsburgh Whole Foods, I’m talking cocoa and cacao nibs by the pound!

Cherry Sauce

½ cup red wine
½ cup water
¼ cup turbinado sugar
1 quart fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half
1 cup blackberries (from the Fairmount Farmers Market)

Directions

Combine the wine, water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until more syrupy.

Remove from heat, and allow to cool.

Add the fruit.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Yield: Makes one 8-inch cake

Ingredients

4 ounces fine-quality 70% dark chocolate
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3 large organic eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
A handful of walnuts, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan.

In a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth.

Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture.

Add eggs and whisk well.

Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.

Add the walnuts and a few spoonfuls of the cherry blackberry compote.

Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven for 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust.

Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes

Serve with organic vanilla bean ice cream, a drizzle of the compote, cacao nibs, chopped walnuts and a smile.

While we digested, Brian read us his greatest literary endeavor- the collection of poems he wrote as a child.  The book really needs to be published!!!!

I laughed, I cried, I experienced deep fear and foreboding.  I mostly laughed.

The next morning we emerged from our hurricane stupors to a pleasant breeze, lovely light, quiet streets…and bubbles!

Despite the many changes in plans, due to what turned out mainly to be a rainy weekend, I crossed a lot off my Philly to do list.  More on those activities to come!

Didn’t Quite Cut the BBQ: Whole-Wheat Rolls

We REALLY like hamburgers (Full disclosure?  We just really like meat!  What you won’t see in these pictures is the “side” of steak and seared tuna, but they were definitely in the meal mix)!

Appropriately enough, the Fourth of July is quite the hamburger holiday!  Accordingly, there was even a new acquisition:  a “baby” grill who came to be known as Charlie the Char Broyler.   Unfortunately, there was also rain, quite a bit of rain!  We abandoned riverside picnic plans, but nothing could rain on our burger parade, not even the… rain?

Plan B:  Charlie stayed put, and we used the big brother grill at the end of the deck…oh yeah, and a wet t-shirt contest?!?

What I made for the holiday BBQ was not what I envisioned, but so it is sometimes when you hover around ovens.  I meant to offer a hamburger roll, but what I wrapped in a patriotic blue place mat was really just an overgrown, grainy dinner roll.  I loaded it with locally sourced beef all the same!  As one of us said, “these are good,” and I chimed in unison, “they’re just not hamburger rolls.”

Do with them what you will!       

Not-A-Burger Roll

Ingredients

1 ¼ cup local whole milk, warmed to about 110 degrees F
12 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for brushing on the rolls
2 large (local/free-range) egg yolks, lightly beaten

1 large (local/free-range) egg, lightly beaten

2¼ cups local, unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 cups local, whole-wheat bread flour plus extra for dusting the counter
2 Tablespoons raw sugar

1 envelope instant active dry yeast
1½ teaspoons table salt

*Organic oats for a final touch

Directions

Whisk milk, butter, yolks and egg together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Mix flours, sugar, yeast and salt together in a bowl.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to incorporate until the dough comes together.

Continue to stir the dough until well combined, adding additional flour if the dough is too sticky.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place (ie:  my apartment on July 4th) until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Line a rimmed baking stone with parchment paper and set aside.

Turn the dough onto the floured surface.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces.

Stretch each piece to form a rectangle about 18 inches long and roughly 1-2 inches wide.

Use a bench scraper to cut each length of dough into 6-12 pieces, depending on how you want to use the rolls.

Cover the pieces loosely with plastic wrap to prevent drying while shaping the rolls.

With a cupped palm, roll each dough piece into a smooth, tight ball and loosely cover them with plastic.

Arrange the rolls on the baking stone, about ½ inch apart.

*I refrigerated the formed rolls overnight due to a change of plans and let them come to room temperature before baking them.  I wouldn’t recommend that process, as it seemed to deflate the rolls.

Butter the surfaces and sprinkle with oats.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Unwrap rolls and brush with melted butter.

Bake until golden, 20-25 minutes.

Cool rolls for 10 minutes before serving.

The rolls crossed a bridge (a big deal in Pittsburgh) to join the festivity preparations.  The fruits were looking quite patriotic!

Beef and blue cheese and grilling in the rain.

America roll + lettuce + local tomato + avocado + grilled onions + organic mayo… shiiiet, who knows after that?!?!  It was time to dig in!

I proved to Mike I am a seasoned veteran of hamburgers by loading my fixins on the bottom bun and weighing them into place with the beef itself.  C’mon!  I didn’t grow up the daughter of a cattleman for nothing!

(and a roll?!?)

Everybourbon Says I Love You: The Menu

February 2011

This Valentine’s Day was an ode to a very special moustache that often saves bits of Bulleit for later. Accordingly, I went big, and I went Bourbon!

THE RECIPES

Entrée:  Bourbon Glazed Ham

Ingredients

1  cup  honey
1/2  cup  molasses
1/2  cup  bourbon
1/4  cup  orange juice
2  tablespoons  Maine Maple Mustard
1  (6- to 8-pound) smoked ham half
Cloves
Garnish: fresh herb sprigs

Directions

Combine honey and molasses in a saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking to blend.

Whisk in bourbon, orange juice, and mustard.

Remove excess fat.  Place ham in a roasting pan.  Insert cloves to garnish.  Use a brush to glaze the sides with the bourbon mixture.

Bake at 325° on lower oven rack for 1 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 140°, basting occasionally with honey mixture.

Allow to cool slightly.

Remove cloves.

Slice and serve.

Side Dish:  Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

About 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for greasing the baking dish
1/2 pound frozen cranberries
1/2 pound dried cherries, rehydrated in bourbon
1 cups raw sugar
1 cup local honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup bourbon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine all ingredients in a buttered 9×13-inch baking dish.

Cover tightly with foil and bake until cranberries are tender and sugar is dissolved, stirring once, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven, carefully remove the foil and allow the cranberry sauce to cool completely.

Refrigerate cranberry sauce until well chilled. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead.)

Transfer to bowl and serve.

Side Dish:  Bourbon Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients

5-6 chubby, red-fleshed sweet potatoes
Splash of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1-inch square of ginger, peeled and grated
2 generous pinches of ground cinnamon
1 generous pinch of ground cloves
Zest of one organic orange
3 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Splash of milk (2T. or so)
Splash of bourbon (2T. or so)
1/4 freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Spicy Pecan Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon red chile powder
3 tablespoons cider vinegar

For the Sweet Potatoes

Preheat the oven to 375.

Peel and slice the sweet potatoes into medallions.

Toss the sweet potato medallions in a generous splash of extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place in a single layer on a baking stone.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating from top to bottom halfway through, until tender and golden.

Remove from oven and let cool.

In a glass baking dish, layer the sweet potato medallions, overlapping slightly.

Sprinkle with the lemon zest, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.

Cover tightly and place in refrigerator. You can assemble to this point a couple days in advance.

For the Spciy Pecan Topping

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat melt the butter and add the pecans. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until the pecans are lightly browned and smell fragrant.

Stir in the brown sugar, stir until it is lightly caramelized, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the spices, and then add the apple cider vinegar. Stir until the liquid evaporates. Pour pecans out onto parchment lined baking sheet, separate the nuts into a single layer, and bake at 375 for 4 minutes.

Let cool.

An hour before serving

In a small bowl whisk together butter, maple syrup, milk and bourbon. Drizzle all of the sauce over the sweet potatoes, sprinkle with Pecorino, cover with foil, and bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes.

Uncover and continue baking until deeply golden and caramelized – another 15-20 minutes.

Sprinkle with spicy pecans and serve.

Dessert:  Bourbon Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Bread Pudding Ingredients

10 cups of stale bread pieces from homemade rolls
1 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup bourbon, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled, plus extra for dish
8 large, local, free-range, egg yolks
¾ cup organic packed light brown sugar
¾ cup pure maple syrup
3 cups local heavy cream
1 cup local whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 package Ghirardelli chocolate chips

Bourbon Topping Ingredients

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup bourbon, divided
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons raw sugar
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons organic unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Bread Pudding

Heat the dried cherries and 1/2 cup bourbon in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bourbon begins to simmer, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the mixture, placing the bourbon and raisins in separate bowls.

In a large bowl, whisk yolks, brown sugar, maple syrup, heavy cream, milk, vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Whisk in remaining 1/4 cup bourbon plus the bourbon used to plump the dried cherries. Toss in the toasted bread until evenly coated. Stir in the cherries and chocolate chips.  Let mixture soak overnight, tossing occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter 13 by 9-inch baking dish, and set aside.

Pour the bread mixture into the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle.  Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix granulated sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Using your fingers, pinch 6 tablespoons butter into sugar mixture until the crumbs are the size of small peas.  Remove foil from pudding, sprinkle with butter mixture, and bake, uncovered, until custard is just set, 20 to 25 minutes.

Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and bake until top of pudding forms golden crust, about 2 minutes.

Let the pudding cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes (or up to 2 hours). Serve with bourbon topping.

For the Bourbon Topping

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch and 2 tablespoons bourbon until well combined.

Using a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in cornstarch mixture, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook until sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat, and stir in salt, butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon.

Drizzle warm sauce over heart-shaped, bread pudding.

Once a Cornhusker

January 2011

My parents brought me from Gothenburg Memorial Hospital to a home with a gambel roof and walls the color of sweet corn.  Though my family was deeply tied to the Midwest, I was the first to be born a Cornhusker.  Gothenburg is a small, small town where people know everything about everyone, you wave at anyone and everyone, “downtown” is a block, and the people are friendly when they serve you a “pop.” Breakfast was “Daylight Donuts” and lunch was “The Snack Shack,”  and dinner was a homemade meal which probably included meat and potatoes more often than not.  The older women of the town made me my very own “Quelcy” quilt to welcome me into the world.  The older men of the town would spoil me with donuts from the said establishment.  We drove the wide roads in pick ups or old boat cars.  A trip outside of town was surely lined with cornfields.

My dad’s job in the cattle industry uprooted us to the suburbs of Philadelphia after just two short years of my life.  I didn’t have the Gothenburg memory bank of my siblings, but I always had a tie to a Midwestern mentality.  I don’t trust water, am more comfortable on land,  the Cornhuskers were the only American sports teams to ever interest me (well, maybe the Phillies a bit), and I hold a very special place in my heart for sweet corn!

Most people think there are more cows in Nebraska than people.  I acknowledge I am from Pennsylvania based on the sheer number of years I have lived in the state.  However, part of me always clings to a patch of Nebraskan soil as my home turf, much to the shock of most people when I say so.

Our first year in Architecture School at Carnegie Mellon University, we freshman had visions of skyscrapers and mansions in our heads.  We were quite surprised to hear that our first assignment was to analyze the systems, structures and concepts of a “specimen” of our choosing.  Whaaa?  Weren’t we in architecture school?  Why were we picking specimens?  I went on the suggested wanderings through the park for inspiration, but it turned out my specimen choice was an intuitive one:  corn!

My corn analysis ended up being one of my best received projects, and for years after, I was still associated with kernels and cobs and even known as “the corn girl.”  It went to show, you can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Cornusker out of the girl!

Summers with my family are all about quality beef and fresh sweet corn.  It was time to put that combination to winter use, and the result was like the natural mixing of food on a plate at a chuck wagon buffet.

Cornbread Topped, Oven-Barbecued Beef Brisket… n’ beans!


PART ONE:  The Brisket

Ingredients

4 teaspoons organic brown sugar
4 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon red curry powder

Brisket

1 brisket roast (4-5 lbs)
1 pound smoked bacon

Smoky Bacon Barbecue Sauce

Bacon from cooked brisket
1 local red onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
½ cup cider vinegar
1
/3 cup packed organic dark brown sugar
1-2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup organic ketchup
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced

For the Barbecue Rub

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, breaking up any lumps of sugar.

For the Brisket

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 275°F.

Massage the dry rub  into the meat and then use a fork to poke holes all over the surface of the brisket.

Move the meat to a broiler-safe pan.

Wrap the bacon  strips around the brisket, overlapping slightly.

Cover the roast with foil and roast until a fork inserted into the brisket can be removed with no resistance, about 4 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully flip the brisket.  Replace the foil and return to the oven.  Turn off the oven and allow the brisket to rest in the warm oven for 1 hour.

For the Sauce

Remove the bacon from the brisket, chop it into small pieces, and heat it in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes.

Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Off the heat, add the vinegar and sugar and stir to combine.

Return the saucepan to medium heat and reduce the mixture to a syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes.

Add broth to the saucepan and reduce to syrupy consistency again.

Off the heat, stir in the ketchup and chipotle.

Brisket Reincarnation

Those chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce added quite the mouth-watering and occasional eye-watering spiciness!  Therefore… part two…

Additional Brisket Ingredients

1 can organic sweet corn
1 can organic dark red kidney beans (rinsed thoroughly)
1 can organic, fire-roasted tomatoes
a drizzle of black-strap molasses to taste

PART TWO:  Cornbread Layer

Cornbread Ingredients

2 ¼ cups St. Vincent’s local ground cornmeal
2 cups local buttermilk
¼ cup peanut oil
4 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 large, local, free-range eggs

Adjust the oven racks to the lower-middle and middle positions, and heat the oven to 450°F.

Heat a 10-inch heatproof skillet on the middle rack for 10 minutes.

Bake the cornmeal on a rimmed baking stone on the lower-middle rack until fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the hot cornmeal to a large bowl and whisk in the buttermilk; set aside.

Add the oil to the hot skillet and continue to heat until the oil is just smoking, about 5-10 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the oven and add the butter, carefully swirling the skillet until the butter is melted.  Pour all but 1 Tablespoon of the oil mixture into the cornmeal mixture, leaving the remaining fat in the skillet.

Whisk the baking powder, baking soda, salt and eggs into the cornmeal mixture.

Mix the brisket ingredients in the skillet.

Pour the cornbread batter on top of the brisket mixture.

Bake until the top begins to crack and the sides are golden brown, 16-20 minutes.

Let cool in the skillet for 5 minutes.

Slice and serve!

Thanksgiving Deja Vu Pot Pie

November 2010

First there was a special Thanksgiving dinner lovingly prepared for two…

There was cranapple sauce in a hollowed orange with a touch of zest…

There were buttermilk biscuits

Cornish hen…

and fixings!  Only the brussels and taters would make it to another day.

There was also dessert as you already may know.

Then there was a trip to the cheese shop where a label mistake made for a cheese steal!  God bless the new girl!

and a trip to the market….

Then it all came together!

Déjà vu Thanksgiving Potpie

Crust

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tablespoons cream cheese
2 sticks butter
Red Wine Vinegar
Cold water

Filling

Thanksgiving Brussel Sprouts (peanut oil, sesame oil, garlic)
Thanksgiving mashed potatoes (red potatoes, butter, parano cheese)
Clarion River Farms Organic Hot Italian Sausage
1 head of garlic
1 medium white onion, chopped
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
1 cup grated comté cheese
fresh thyme
fresh parsley for garnish

Then it started to disappear quite quickly!

Fin.

Leftover Pie

November 2010

A pot pie can be a slew of comfort foods thrown effortlessly into a pie crust, or it can be a carefully calculated combination of ingredients.  I like the line between those two approaches when a pot pie wraps a whole-wheat, flaky crust around the remnants of meal prepared with all the love and care of a Saturday morning trip to the farmer’s market and an afternoon spent in a kitchen.

This was one of those potpies.

The herb-crusted beef, horseradish sauce and potato casserole of a well spent Saturday combined with green peas and a homemade crust for a weeknight treat and a jealous dogface.

Part One:  A Meat and Potatoes Kind of Night

Herb-Crusted Beef

Sauce

½ cup sour cream
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup horseradish, drained
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon pure cane sugar
Salt and pepper

Beef

2 high quality chuck steaks, 5-6 lbs total
2 teaspoons pure cane sugar
2 slices high quality whole grain bread, quartered
½ cup fresh parsley
2 teaspoons plus 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 ¼ ounces parmesan cheese
6 Tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves

For the Sauce

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 to 1½ hours to thicken.

For the Beef

Combine 1 Tablespoon salt, 1 Tablespoon pepper and sugar in a small bowl and rub the mixture over the steaks.

Place one steak on top of the other and secure with butcher’s twine if necessary.

Transfer the beef to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, pulse the bread in a food processor for crumbs.  Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl and toss with 2 Tablespoons parsley, 2 teaspoons thyme, ½ cup parmesan and 2 Tablespoons olive oil until evenly combined.

Wipe out the food processor and process the remaining parsley, thyme cheese, 4 Tbs oil and garlic to a smooth paste.  Transfer the paste to a small bowl.

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roast the beef 20 minutes and remove from the oven.

Separate the two steaks.  Coat the beef with the herb paste followed by the crumb topping.

Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 125 degrees for medium-rare and the topping is golden brown, 20-25 minutes.

Leave the beef uncovered on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board and carve.  Serve with the sauce.

Mashed Potato Casserole

Ingredients

4 lbs local potatoes (about 8 medium) peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks.
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup organic, low-sodium chicken broth
12 Tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) local Amish butter, cut into pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons salt
4 large, local, free-range eggs
¼ cup finely chopped chives

Directions

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Heat the half-and-half, broth, butter, garlic, mustard and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Keep warm.

Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a large bowl.  With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat the potatoes, slowly adding the half-and-half mixture until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.  Scrape down the bowl; beat in the eggs 1 at a time until incorporated.

Transfer the mixture to a greased, glass, baking dish.  Use a fork to make a peaked design on the potatoes.  Bake until the potatoes rise and brown, about 35 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes.  Serve.



Mustachio Pie and a Sausage Torte Celebration

September 2010

That first day, in the sunny park, when we shared Greek food and laziness, neither of us had foreseen a one-year anniversary.  We had long been saying we’d been “hanging out” for “two weeks,” but the one year  moment was nigh!  When had “two weeks” really turned into one year?  When had we first spent that sunny afternoon together?  When had we both altered our schedules so our work shifts would align?  I found an email I sent to a friend when I was in that gushing state of mind:  August 19, 2009.

For most of those “two weeks,” the dashing carpenter had complied with my mustache request.  He referred to the “caterpillar” on his lip as “your mustache.”  He’d spend his evenings in his armchair, watching the news and combing his mustache with the tip of a metal, mechanical pencil, saving his facial hair frustration and complaints for me.

The month of August was beyond busy with Hothouse preparations, so our official anniversary came and went before I had time to properly commemorate.  This was my first one-year anniversary ever, so I wasn’t about to let it slip away completely unnoticed.  Following the “belated equals bigger surprise” school of thought, I pushed my plans to September.  I had just the present in mind for my gentleman friend and my mustache:  Mustachio Pie and a Mustache Grooming Kit!

Pie Dough Ingredients

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons pure cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

For the Chocolate Pie Dough

Stir together flour, sugar, salt, and cocoa in a large bowl.

Use a pastry blender or a fork to cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-size bits of butter throughout. (Or combine dry ingredients in a food processor, then pulse in butter.)

Drizzle in 1 to 2 tablespoons of ice water at a time (up to 6 tablespoons total), tossing after each addition, and using only enough water to make dough clump together when squeezed. Add vanilla (if using).

Pat dough into a disc, tightly cover with plastic wrap or parchment, and chill for 30 minutes or up to 2 days (or freeze for up to 3 months).

To Make Pie: Preheat oven to 400°F. Use a rolling pin to press the disc of dough into a circle large enough to cover a 9inch pie plate. Press dough into bottom, sides, and along the rim of pan to uniform thickness. Trim excess dough; embellish edges. Chill 20 minutes.

Cover the edges of the pie with tin foil to avoid crisping or burning. Bake 18-20 minutes until the crust is baked through.  Cool on a rack.

Pie Filling Ingredients

1 1/2 cup(s) half-and-half
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup(s) pure cane sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces bakers chocolate
3 tablespoons local amish butter
2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
zest of one organic orange
pistachios, finely chopped

For the Pie Filling

Whisk half-and-half, yolks, brown sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and bubbles.

Cook 1 minute more and remove from heat.  Stir in the bakers chocolate, butter, and vanilla.

Stir in the orange zest.

Pour into pie shell.

Cool partially and garnish with a pistachio mustache.

Cool completely. Transfer to refrigerator to set, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

The Mustachio Pie was my top priority for the evening celebration, but a couple cannot live on pie alone (though, the dashing carpenter might argue otherwise).

Two very important parts of the dinner were ready:  the dessert and the wine.  It was time to add the main course before the arrival of the man.

Sausage Torte

Ingredients
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup grated asiago cheese
1 tablespoons whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2-3 large organic red potatoes, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 small organic summer squash, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 links Italian sausage, crumbled and sautéed in olive oil
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Butter rectangular baking dish.

Layer half the potatoes in rows in bottom of 1 prepared pan, overlapping slightly.

Toss cheese, flour, thyme, salt and pepper in medium bowl to blend.

Layer half the squash in rows atop potatoes.

Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil.

Sprinkle with half the cheese mixture.

Add all the sausage and repeat potato, squash and cheese layer.

Sprinkle onions over top and cover with foil.

Bake about 40 minutes.

Remove foil; bake uncovered until tortes begin to brown and potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes longer.

Add to the anniversary table!

Happy Anniversary Carpenter!

I wonder what the next “two weeks” has in store?!?!

 

Pie Luck

June 2010

On Sunday, June 6th, 2010, the QT Pi(e) girls hosted a “Pie Luck Picnic.”  What’s a Pie Luck?  A Pie Luck was our version of a Pot Luck.  We provided pizza-pie dough and piecrusts made from local ingredients.  Our creative attendees came bearing ingredients to add to both, which we then baked, ate and enjoyed in an ambient, backyard setting.  It was a chance to wine, dine and mingle with a new mix of people, but that’s not all!

As this Pie Luck was conceived to highlight local foods, we asked our participants to document the local food they planned to bring and the exchanges they had in the process of buying it.  We equipped each participant with a disposable camera and some simple guidelines/requests.

Here is the breakdown of our requests:

The Market
Please purchase your Pie Luck ingredients at a local farmers market, farm stand, from a small vendor or through a CSA program.  You could also bring something you grew or foraged.

Mapping
Tell us about how you traveled to the market.  Our hope is that you will bike or walk or roller skate- some mode of transportation with a low carbon footprint.  We’d love to see some hand drawn maps with quirky annotations and drawings (ie:  pass the house with the cds hanging on the porch, turn at the prettiest lilac bush in Lawrenceville, etc).  This is a very open ended guideline, but in the end, we’d like to include your maps and drawings in our blog and exhibit.  We’re not looking for accuracy but concepts, sentiments, mixed mediums, etc.

Photos
We’d like at least one photo of the ingredient you are going to bring to the Pie Luck, and the farmer/worker who sold it to you or plot where you picked it.   Our goal is to highlight the benefits of interacting with the people who grow our food (or the land that produced it) versus the impersonal exchanges of most commercial scenarios.  Other photos can range from the oddities on your route to market, produce varieties, interesting people, etc.  It would be great if you could map the locations where you took your photos as well.

Then it all came together…

It all came together, and it was quite the photo!  Peruse the gallery to see my photos and those of a few of the Pie Luck participants. 

For the full QT Pi(e) story, check out:  www.qtpieproject.wordpress.com

The Carpenter’s Birthday, Part Two

May 2010

The Carpenter’s Birthday arrived, and it all came together like a mortise and tenon [cake]!

The Maple Wood Mortise and Tenon Cake Recipe

Cake Ingredients
½ cup local pure maple syrup
¾ cup organic vanilla lowfat yogurt
½ cup local maple crumb sugar
4 local, free-range eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon organic orange zest
1 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup olive oil

Frosting Ingredients
1 package organic cream cheese
1 stick organic butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons local maple crumb sugar

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350ºF

Combine the syrup, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla and orange zest.  Stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir to incorporate.

Add oil, and fold gradually until oil absorbs the batter.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the cake is golden and toothpick comes out clean.

Cut around the pan sides to loosen the cake and allow it to cool completely.

For Frosting

Blend all of the ingredients in a mixer until smooth.  Ice the cake!

Happy Birthday Carpenter!  May there be many, many, many mannnnny more!

The Carpenter’s Birthday Part One

May 2010

Almost time for the Carpenter’s birthday!  This was the first time I would share his birthday with him, so I wanted it all to be magically special.  Of course, there had to be a pot pie made from my whole grains to pair with his wood grains!

I had French markets, meals and pique-niques in mind when I created this concoction.

While I selected a natural ham, a woman next to me in the grocery store scoffed at its higher price, but I’d say it was worth it to have the extra ham promises.

An extra dash of greens and an extra drizzle of sweet.

Voila.

Now for the rest of the birthday…

Buffalo Pot Pie Part Two

March 2010

When I made the first Buffalo Pot Pie, I was overambitious in my preparations of the filling.  Rather than risk an oven disaster of pot pie overflow, I set some of the buffalo meat mixture aside, froze it and saved it for a second edition (and a second heart in the dough).  When it came time to bake the second version, I added a hotter salsa and some more peppers to give the pot pie just a bit of a different twist.  

That pot pie monger man friend of mine likes to accuse me of making up pot pies that never happened in an effort to increase the tally of the Pot Pie Plan.  I offer the double heart cut outs as proof that this “part two” is indeed different from “part one.”

That pot pie monger man friend of mine likes to retort that I am capable of Photoshopping the “evidence.”  Using my Photoshop talents against me?

Though I could, I did not falsify the pot pie plan record through the use of digital, photo- editing software.  I give my word.

Case closed.  I win.

From Pasture to Plate

September 2009

As the leaves were just beginning to change colors and paint the highway views spectacularly, the new dashing fellow whisked me away to someplace magical.  The carpenter gent had made a friend named Sara Brown back in his college days.  Sara Brown happened to be the descendant of Richard Brown, a Quaker farmer who built a farm in 1740!  The farm had stayed in the family from Richard’s time all the way until Sara’s time.  Her childhood had taken place amongst the history that predated America as America!  Then she passed her dream childhood bedroom to her daughter Hannah.  There I was playing with a wooden baking set with a charismatic little girl in a 269 year-old home while Black Angus beauties roamed the green pastures.

When it came time to make dinner, the carpenter and I were certain we wanted to try beef, and he especially desired a beef potpie.  It was a perfect idea!  I made the pie dough, and Sara made the beef, vegetable, cream of mushroom and cheese filling.  Paired with red wine, conversation and such a livable museum around us, it was a truly memorable meal.

Pilgrims vs Indians vs Martha

(Just as politically incorrect as it sounds)

November 2008

I remember seeing Magali around campus.  Her personality contrasted against the Pittsburgh gray.  There was something so unique about her, and it was evident even from afar.

We became acquaintances at her vegan baked goods table at the I Made It! Market.  There were a few more encounters in the small Pittsburgh scene, but shortly after that I left for France to spend my days with a 3 year old and Barbapapa.

On a sunny Parisian afternoon during the nanny stint, I had a rare midweek opportunity to take a stroll through the city instead of ironing little boy sweater vests.  It was a fanciful day, and I was following my whims wherever they led.  On the same day, Magali was also in Paris, walking a different route than her normal routine.  There was a bright orange coat, and with disbelief, I questioned, “Magali?”  Our paths had crossed, and it was a pleasant surprise.

Magali was studying abroad in Paris, and her semester was nearing a close.  We made plans to picnic and wander, wander and picnic.  I was so relieved to learn vegan friends had inspired her vegan cupcake sales, but her own diet included a healthy dose of roasted chickens, café crème, fromage, croissants, etc.

On a rainy Parisian afternoon, we made a beautiful pear, honey and blue cheese tartine on crusty, rustic bread and finished with hand pies oozing with red fruits fresh from the oven.  In French copain is the word for friend, but the word derives from co- (with) and pain (bread).  Through sharing bread with each other, on a rainy Parisian day, on picnic cloth on the floor, Magali and I really did become friends.

In Pittsburgh, we celebrated our friendship, our foodie sides and our love of the ridiculous by throwing a Thanksgiving potluck.  The goal was to channel the First Grade Feast in which half the class dresses up as “Native Americans” (but really, how politically correct is a paper bag cut into a “Native American” vest?) and the other half dons the conservative apparel of the Pilgrims.  We threw Martha Stewart into the mix also.  Had she been at the first Thanksgiving table, we really thought Martha would have been responsible for the survival of the expats and the unison of both parties in a craft hour to design the place settings.

We sent the ridiculous invitations and began the ambitious plan to roast a turkey!  Our spirits were high when I received a coupon in the mail for turkey!  We layered in mittens, hats, scarves and snarky excitement for a trip to the fancy “Giant Eagle” super market.  All coupon hopes were dashed when we saw the price tags on the specified turkeys:  $95!  The coupon laughed in our faces.

The next best turkey was still a free range bird, raised naturally.  It just hadn’t been raised with $95 worth of daily hugs, massages, yoga, caviar and love.  We accepted the difference and carried the frozen bird to the checkout. The cashier passed the bird over the scanner.  Nothing.  Once again, she passed the bird over the scanner.  Nothing.  She looked for a sticker.  Nothing.  She asked us if we saw a price.  Nothing.  She called for a manager.  Nothing.  Repeated nothing.

“How much do you want to pay?”

“$19.99,” I said sarcastically.

“$19.99 it is.  Paper or plastic?”

Blank stares.  “Was she taunting us?”

The groceries were ready at the end of the conveyor belt, and she printed the receipt.  We had a natural bird for at least half the price?!?!  Only one thing to do…

Ruuuuuuun before a manager realized!

Such a special turkey deserved a special dessert finale, and I had one vision in my mind:  a “roasted turkey” cake made from seasonal, Thanksgiving flavors.

It was a huge baking and sculpting endeavor, but the side-by-side comparison proved a success.  The cake played with people’s senses.  The eye saw a turkey, but the mind tried to process dessert flavors.

The Harvest Palette

The Recipes

I had conceived of this cake creation long ago.   As I see each cake as a fresh start, I only intended to do a turkey cake once, so I went big- four cakes big!  Each recipe was Thanksgiving themed in its ingredients and included local harvests wherever possible (squash, cider, eggs, milk, etc).  I used icing to stack the different cake layers and coat the surface.  I added the glaze for a more lifelike texture.

Butternut Butter Cake

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal soaked in 1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter
3/4 cup raw cane sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 cup baked and pureed squash (butternut, acorn)
1 Tablespoon rum
1 Tablespoon Bourbon Whiskey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.  Grease the pan of choice.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a medium bowl.

Cream together the butter, sugar and salt in food processor until light and fluffy.  Add and mix the honey.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl once or twice.

Pour the mixture into a bowl.  Add one-third of the flour mixture.

Whisk together the vanilla, sour cream, squash and alcohols in a separate bowl.

Alternate mixing the flour mixture and the squash mixture into the sugar mixture, ending with flour.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake about 30 minutes, until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Place on a rack to cool.

Magali and I danced with the excitement of a successful Thanksgiving dinner party, with our feathers and face paint all a whirl.  Funny thing about those feathers and the face paint all a whirl.  As we were putting the final touches on the party scene, I said, “wouldn’t it be funny if we were the only ones who dress up?”  Funny thing about those feathers and face paint all a whirl.  When the guests showed up, we were the only ones dressed up.  That’s why you plan ahead with extra feathers and face paint!

Spiked Cider Cornmeal Cake

Ingredients

1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon potato starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup apple cider
2 Tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

Combine the buttermilk and the cornmeal in a small bowl; let the mixture soak for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, potato starch, salt and spices in a small bowl.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Beat in the vanilla, cider and rum.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the moistened cornmeal, stirring until batter is evenly combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake 40-50 minutes.

Place on a rack to cool.

King of the Harvest Cake

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups whole yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon potato starch
1/2 cup unsalted buttermilk
1 package cream cheese
1 c raw cane sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon rum
1 Tablespoon bourbon whiskey
1 cup finely chopped boiled beets
1/3 cup chopped almonds

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease the pan of choice.

Soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk for thirty minutes.

Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and potato starch in a medium bowl.

Beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition, until no lumps remain.

Add the sugar, molasses and honey gradually.

Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the beets, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Stir in the bourbon, rum and almonds.

Pour the mixture into a prepared pan.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean.

Place on a rack to cool.

Pumpcorn Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted, softened butter
1/2 cup olive oil
4 large eggs
15 ounces baked, pureed pumpkin
1 Tablespoon bourbon whiskey

Directions

Soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease the pan of choice.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl.

Mix together the brown sugar, butter and oil in a large bowl until thick and mayonnaise-like in consistency.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice to be sure everything is evenly combined.

Add the bourbon.

Stir in the pumpkin, then the dry ingredients.

Mix until evenly moistened.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake 30-35 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched and the edges of the cake pull back from the pan.

Remove from the oven to a cooling rack.

Icing

(Just eye it and taste it; you’ll be fine!)

Cream Cheese
Baked Squash puree
Pure Maple Syrup
Pure Vanilla Extract
Honey

Glaze

Organic Powdered Sugar
Water
Local Apple Cider
Molasses
Honey