Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Eating and Drinking’

Not So Plump Dumpling

Dumplings with Winter Farmer's Market Veggies (and Siracha of Course)

Everyone loves a good dumpling, but if you’re just ordering from the Chinese place around the corner, chances are their veggie dumplings will be made with thick dough, and filled with little more than cabbage. This appitizer is suprisingly easy to make at home with store-bought wonton wrappers, and it’s possible you can even have a healthy, flavor-filled batch ready before take out could arrive at your door.

You can get pretty creative with how you stuff your dumplings, just decide if the ingredients need to be cooked prior to filling (steaming only takes about 5 minutes, and you want the filling to be soft… so if it won’t be soft (or for a protein, cooked) in 5 minutes give it a quick saute), and then give them a quick chop in the food processor. Even in the winter you can find amazing greens and root vegetables that are in season, and incredibly nutritious (and of course, delicious).

For my dumplings I used some of the amazing produce I got yesterday at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. I got Shiitake and Pioppini Mushrooms from John D. Madura Farm. The Pioppini have a great peppery flavor, and are an excellent addition to stir-frys as well.

Shiitake and Pioppini Mushrooms from John D. Madura Farms at the Union Square Greenmarket

I also diced, and sautéed some Sweet Potato. I also quickly sautéed the Baby Bok Choy, even though it was super tender, I just wanted to make sure the bottoms of the leaves had no crunch in the dumpling.

Baby Bok Choy

While the ingredients cooked, I made a sauce based on a Mark Bittman recipe for Steamed Shrimp and Cilantro Shu Mai . A simple mixture of Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Rice Wine, Scallions, and Fresh Ginger this sauce will hold the ingredients together in the dumpling, as well as serve as a dipping sauce later.

I gave the cooked ingredients a quick pulse in the food processor along with a few tablespoons of the sauce.

Fill the won-ton wrappers with about a teaspoon of the mixture. Moisten the edges with water, fold in half to make a triangle, and crimp the edges just like a pie crust. To make a Shu-Mai shape, just gather the edges around the center instead of folding, pleating the edges, but leaving some filling exposed.

Steam for about 5 minutes (until wrapper is completely tender), or give a quick pan sear like I did.

For Sauce:

1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1 T Rice Wine
1 T Sesame oil
1 T Minced Ginger (or more… to taste)*
1/4 Cup Chopped Scallions (White only)

*To peel ginger try using a spoon, much easier!

Advertisements

I Don’t Think You’re Ready For This Jelly.

Jam and Baguette, with toasted Walnuts and Patches of Star fresh Chevre from Union Square Farmer's Market

Last night, after doing our butchering detail in class, Chef Remy gave us a quick lesson on pickling, and gave me this delicious recipe for Raspberry, Black Pepper, and Balsamic Jam. While raspberries are obviously not in season for us here in the Northeast, I just had to share this simple but outstanding jam. The balsamic plays up the tartness of the berries, and the black pepper adds a surprising bite. We sampled some with fresh baguette and chevre, which was absolutely amazing. The jam has so much flavor it really should be paired with a mild cheese, I’m also looking forward to experimenting with it with some dessert flavors (very dark chocolate?) We’re thinking of serving it with johnnycakes in our Southern-style buffet in a few weeks.

Cooking the jam...

Raspberry, Black Pepper & Balsamic Jam
(Makes about 2 quarts… easy to adjust for smaller batches)

2 500g bags frozen raspberries
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 kg (about 2.2 lbs) granulated sugar
2 T ground black pepper
3 oz (1/4 c) good Balsamic Vinegar

-If raspberries are frozen solid, heat these in a large sauce pot first.
-Add sugar while stirring.
-After all sugar has been mixed in, add the pepper and Balsamic Vinegar.
-Keep mixture at a low simmer until it begins to thicken (about 15 mins). Keep in mind that because no pectin is being used for this recipe it will be a loose jam. Add more sugar to thicken up the jam if it doesn’t reach a syrup-like consistency after 30 minutes over low heat.

-To make a smaller batch, the important ratio to remember is equal parts fruit and sugar, adjust the black pepper and balsamic to taste.

My Simple Valentine: Heart-Shaped Shortbread Cookies Dipped in Chocolate

Valentine’s Day has always been a favorite holiday of mine, but the days of hand-crafted paper and glitter cards, and (thankfully) the painful awkward days of middle-school choir class and Mrs. Powers’ “Have a Heart” song/activity are long gone. This year I’ll be spending Valentine’s Day evening at the French Culinary Institute, doing production for the school’s restaurant, L’Ecole… and I will be on butchering duty. My bloody valentine will consist of a case of ducks that need to be broken down, and a case of lamb and pork racks that will need to be frenched before service. When that’s done and over with we’ll be moving on to Foie Gras Hotdogs, and Spiced Short-Rib Hot Dogs on freshly baked Brioche Buns, which certainly isn’t everyone’s idea of a traditional treat for the holiday.

I had plenty of frozen Pate Sablee in stock so I decided to make some really simple Shortbread Cookies dipped in Semi-Sweet Chocolate. I thought of many ways to make the cookie a little more special (crystalized ginger, pretzel pieces, almonds, dried cherries…) but although the cookies are not extremely sweet, they are very rich, and after sampling a few I decided the addition of chocolate was enough. This dough is easy to make, and freezes great, or stays in the fridge for over a week. If you don’t have time for arts and crafts, and want a quick homemade treat for friends, coworkers, classmates, (and certain chef instructors), this is a great cookie to try out.

Pate Sablee (Shortbread Dough)

Ingredients:
150 g (5oz) Butter
90 g (3 oz) Confectioner’s Sugar
Pinch of Salt (Fleur de Sel)
1 t good vanilla
2 egg yolks
255 g (9 oz) cake flour
1-2 t water
Granulated sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Soften butter by placing between two layers of plastic wrap and flattening with rolling-pin
2. Combine butter and sugar with fork (or beat with mixer) until creamy
3. Add egg yolks one at a time, until mixed completely
4. Add vanilla and pinch of salt
5. Sift flour and add at once. Make sure mixture is well combined and form into a ball. Flatten into a disc and refrigerate at least 30mins.
6. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Roll out dough to be just under 1 cm thick. The dough will rise a bit in oven. Cut with heart-shaped cookie cutter! Make sure to give enough space between cookies on pan. Sprinkle a bit of granulated sugar evenly over surface.
8. Bake about 15 mins, until the edges of the cookies are light brown.
9. Let cool.
10. In a double boiler, melt 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels. Once melted, add another 1/4 cup. Dip corners of cooled cookies into the chocolate, or drizzle a bit over the cookies with a spoon or plastic spatula.

This is the classic french recipe for Pate Sablee which can also be used as a great base for tarts. I listed this recipe as I had plenty left over from the Tarte Au Citron we’ve been making in class, but Ina Garten also has a delicious and easy shortbread recipe I have used which you can find here.

XoXo!

Healthy, Delicious, and Dangerously Addictive: Hampton Chutney Co.’s Dosa

Seasonal Dosa at Hampton Chutney Co.

It was a gray February morning, a Sunday. It was wet– whether it was snow or freezing rain I couldn’t tell, but I walked down the cobblestones of Prince Street hoping I could avoid a fall long enough to reach an eating establishment without the usual weekend brunch wait.

Between Broadway and Lafayette, I recognized the familiar grass-green sign hanging above the Hampton Chutney Co., and shuffled a bit faster to get inside.

The Hampton Chutney Co.’s original location is in Amagansett, NY, and while in high school, especially when heading out to Montauk to surf in the summer (or working next door at the surf shop), Hampton Chutney was always one of my favorite spots to stop for lunch. While the Soho location doesn’t have the charm of the swinging screen door, or outdoor picnic benches, and omnipresent wind-chimes– it does have the same mellow meditation soundtrack of indian chants, and of course, what is really important, the ever-so-addicting dosa.

A dosa is an Indian take on the crepe, made with rice batter and black lentils. It is very light, and more crisp than the French classic– but the inside is still slightly tender and chewy. It is filled with a variety of savory items, the most traditional is the Masala Dosa ($7.95) with spiced potatoes– but Hampton Chutney offers many combinations like Avocado, Tomato, arugula, Jack Cheese, and Grilled Chicken ($11.95), a Seasonal Dosa with Roasted Butternut Squash, Portobello Mushroom, arugula, and Jack Cheese ($10.95), they even have a Breakfast Dosa made with Two Eggs, Spinach, Roasted Tomato, and Jack Cheese ($8.95).

Each Dosa is served with a choice of Cilantro, Curry, Mango, Tomato, Peanut, or Seasonal Pumpkin chutney. These chutneys are also available for purchase, and are a really great way to spice up weekday lunches on sandwiches and salads, or even used alone as a dip. Out of habit, no matter which dosa I get, I always seem to go with the Mango Chutney. It is the perfect blend of sweet and tart, with just a little heat. With the flavors in the Seasonal Dosa, in hindsight, I should have gone for a more mild flavor, that would have complemented the flavors a bit more (maybe the pumpkin?).

Daily soups are also offered, as well as the best grilled cheese I’ve ever had (on sourdough with tomato and avocado… yum!). And as for drinks, they don’t offer bloody marys on Sundays, but I was happy with their warming Cardamom Coffee with more than a hint of spice. They also have delicious Chai Tea (iced and hot), and Mango Lassis, a light yogurt drink with mango that is a meal in itself. The freshly baked cookies (especially the White Chocolate Macadamia) where also a favorite of my friends and I, although I didn’t get one during this visit.

Any quick and inexpensive meal that can transport me back to a summer afternoon in the Hamptons in the middle of February is certainly one I’d recommend to anyone, whether they are familiar with the Hamptons location or not. With so many variations, the dosa makes a great breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack that is super healthy and offers something unique if you are tired of sandwiches and wraps. There is also a location on the Upper West Side on Amsterdam Avenue between 82nd and 83rd, and both NYC locations deliver.

The Hampton Chutney Co.
68 Prince St (Between Broadway and Lafayette)
464 Amsterdam Ave. (Between 82nd and 83rd)
Amagansett Square, Main St, Amagansett, NY

Upcoming Events in NYC

There are a few really interesting foodie events coming up in New York City starting tomorrow, all featuring some really amazing local talents, and plenty of cocktails, beer, and meat.

Sunday, January 22nd:

Cochon 555
Only a select number of tickets ($125) remain for this event, but it sounds like a really great way to spend your Sunday. Five chefs (Bill Telepan, Peter Hoffman (Savoy), Brad Farmerie (Public), George Mendez (Aldea), and Sean Rembold (Marlow & Sons), will each prepare a different breed of heritage pig, and the winner will go on to the national tournament. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Brewery will be serving beer, Murray’s Cheese will also be there, and according to NYMag there will be wine, oysters, and caviar as well.

Tuesday, January 25th:

Good Spirits at Le Poisson Rouge
From 5-8pm Edible Magazine will host this seasonal cocktail pairing event where they have matched “mixology-minded chefs and food artisans” with “spectacular, storied spirits.” Tickets are $40 and available here.

Hidden Treasures from the Cellar, Vintage Beers from Brooklyn Brewery at Back Forty:
Back Forty(190 Ave B at 12th st) will be hosting Brooklyn Brewery for a special pairing event featuring some of their vintage unreleased brews. The menu is available on the restaurant’s website, and tickets are available here for $103 (including tax and tip).

Wednesday, January 26th

SLOW U: Good Meat with Author Deborah Krasner at Brooklyn Kitchen

Deborah Krasner author of “Good Meat” the “The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat” will talk about the good meat movement and how it impacts the environment, our diet, and the way we cook. Tom Mylan of the Meat Hook will do a beef sashimi tasting to demonstrate the qualities of different meat cuts. Proceeds of the event will benefit Slow Food NYC, and Krasner will be signing copies of her new book which features over 200 nose-to-tail recipes.

6:30 pm at Brooklyn Kitchen, 100 Frost St, Brooklyn, NY. Tickets $25, available online.

Sunday Morning Breakfast Sandwich (After The Saturday Afternoon Farmer’s Market)

Just because I haven’t been blogging for the past few weeks, certainly doesn’t mean that I have not been cooking, or eating (believe me!) I’ve moved on to level III of the Classic Culinary Arts program at the French Culinary Institute, and moved on from Chef Scott, to the infamous “Chef X.” Chef X has a more Gordon Ramsey-esque teaching still, and while we must remain almost completely silent throughout class, his thick accented voice has not problem carrying over our pots and pans, and knives chopping.

There is no debate it has been a tough couple of weeks so far, but Chef X keeps reinforcing something that at this point in the program people really need to figure out. As he sees it “if you cannot cook from your heart, than you shouldn’t be here.” While his criticism, rules, and yelling isn’t easy to deal with after working for 8 hours, I can say that I very quickly have had to lose my bad habits, and get organized, focused, and just COOK!

This means, that when I do have free times on the weekends, I have been doing a lot of cooking also. It’s been a great few weeks while friends had time off for the holidays to get together for some informal dinner parties. A few of my friends became vegetarians, and vegans, for their new year’s resolution, so this has been a fun opportunity to try some new dishes. There have been lots of seasonal salads, fresh pasta dishes, and winter produce such as butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squashes, kale, beets, and when available wild mushrooms.

This is my first full weekend back in the city for a few weeks, and after a couple of fun-filled nights with my friends, I dedicate this post to the very important weekend breakfast sandwich. The sandwich I made today made use of ingredients I purchased at the Union Square Farmer’s Market yesterday afternoon, and while it involves cheese, and just enough grease, it felt a little less guilty than your average Bacon, Egg, and Cheese, because of it’s fresh ingredients.

I got these wonderful Araucana blue chicken eggs from Lynnhaven farm at the market that I couldn’t wait to use. Here is the photo of the finished sandwich on Bread Alone sourdough bread, with a sweet potato shallot hashbrown, scrambled eggs with wild mushrooms, and arugula, with the recipe to follow!

Ingredients
(Makes 2 Sandwiches)

For Hash Brown:
1 Large Sweet Potato
2 shallots
Fresh (or good quality dried) thyme

For Eggs:
Assorted Wild Mushrooms (Oyster, Maitake…)
3 Whole Eggs
Sharp Cheddar Cheese (I used Cabot Clothbound)

arugula
2 thick slices bread (toasted)
Vegetable oil
Salt and Pepper
Unsalted Butter

Sweet Potato Hash Brown
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Shred potato over a towel
-Season with salt and pepper and thyme
-Sweat shallots in a small saute pan with butter until some color develops
-In the towel, squeeze excess water out of potato.
-Remove shallots from pan, add to potatoes. Wipe pan clean and add a good amount of vegetable oil. Wait until ripples form in the oil, it is important that it’s very hot, or the potato will stick!
-Add potatoes and press down with spatula. Add more oil if necessary, pull hash brown up at edges to check color. When golden brown, flip. Brown other side, then top with few small pieces of butter, finish in oven.

For Rest of Sandwich:

-First cook mushrooms in a pan with a little bit of oil until golden brown. Season once color is achieved.
-I put my eggs with a little salt and pepper right in the same pan and scrambled. I scrambled them loosely and let them form and cook to the shape of the pan so it wouldn’t be as messy on the sandwich.
-Shred cheddar on top, place in oven until it melts.

To Assemble:
-Butter toast.
-Remove hashbrown from oven, cut in half, place on toast for,one each sandwich.
-Remove eggs from oven, cut in half, place one top of each hashbrown.
-Top with arugula, and a few dashes of hot sauce to taste.
-Enjoy!

Dinner at John’s (the Winter Edition)

The days were just starting to get shorter,and the weather colder. I broke out my scarf, my gloves, and that is when it hit me. Maybe it was school, or work, whatever it was, I needed a break from the City. Going out to Shelter Island for the weekend is always proves to be a great escape, especially when you have a dinner party with a great group of friends planned.

I visit the Union Square farmer’s market weekly, and other outdoor markets like the New Amsterdam Market have a great selection of produce and other food items even during the colder months, which is also true for the farm stands on the East End. I didn’t get a chance to go while I was visiting, but the Sag Harbor Farmer’s Market has moved indoors for the winter and runs on Saturdays at 34 Bay St. from 9am – 1pm as well. I took a Jitney in the afternoon and missed the market, but had access to another great local food that is in season… bay scallops! While my family usually purchases scallops from our neighbor who is a commercial fisherman, we went to Commander Cody’s on Shelter Island to pick up a couple of pounds for dinner.

Bay Scallops, Parsley Coulis, Fennel and Orange Slaw

Since I had already promised John I’d make Sweet Potato Gnocci for the meal, I thought the scallops would stand out better on their own as a first course. Scallops, especially fresh bay scallops, have a sweet and delicate flavor that can easily get lost among a starch, or a strong sauce. I like to serve them seared, without any batter or coating. I bring oil up to a med-high temperature in saute pan, and allow the scallops to develop a golden “crust” on both sides, and finish them with some butter, salt and pepper, off the heat. They cook extremely quickly, and it is important not to leave them over the flame for more than a few minutes at most, as they can become very chewy. I served them over a parsley coulis which added just a little zest without concealing the flavor of the scallops. See a quick recipe for the coulis at bottom of post.

Vanessa brought a really beautiful salad featuring some really spicy young arugala her mother grew. Borrowing a recipe from my favorite, Ina Garten, she added roasted butternut squash, roasted pecans, and a warm shallot-apple cider vinagrette. Instead of dried cranberries she tossed in some pomegrante seeds, which were tart, sweet, and a nice seasonal touch.

Sweet Potato Gnocci

The Sweet Potato Gnocci were a little intimidating, but I chose to use a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis that featured ricotta cheese as an ingredient, as I recalled a Mark Bittman article earlier in the month stating the light fluffy texture of gnocci made just with the cheese. The dough was a bit difficult to work with, which made for some interesting looking gnocci– but they tasted really great, and that’s all that really matters, right?

Instead of Giada’s sweet sauce, I did a brown butter sauce with a little fried sage, pancetta, and because it was a dinner party at John’s, we had to incorporate some gently sautéed oyster mushrooms. Connor did a wonderful job of finishing the plate with just a little freshly grated parmesan cheese, a component which really tied all the flavors together. While extremely rich, this dish was excellent. The gnocci had a nice soft texture, and the sauce had really wonderful warming flavors that were so enjoyed on a cold winter night (the red wines John picked for the evening didn’t hurt either).

While we couldn’t sit out back on the porch and drink lovely pink gin cocktails, and look out at the water front– we stayed cozy inside and were full, happy, and warm. Winter is a great time for food, and so many ingredients are still in season to create hearty, and memorable meals.

Parsley Coulis:

Ingredients:
2 T oil
2 shallots (minced)
1 oz mushrooms (chopped finely)
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch parsley, stemmed
S & P
Lemon Juice

-Bring water to a boil in small sauce pot, add parsley for a few seconds, drain, and quickly place in ice bath. Drain on paper towels, squeeze out all excess moisture. (This step helps parsley retain vibrant color for finished sauce).

-Sweat the shallots and mushrooms in a pan with 2 T oil, without achieving color. Add 1/2 cup stock, cook until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.

-Pour contents in food processor or blender, puree about a minute. Add parsley. Pour contents back into pan, season to taste. Keep warm for service.

Bake that pie and eat it with me.

Apple Pie (right out of the oven). How bad can that be?

The pies came out a bit more “rustic” as Chef Scott at FCI would put it, but I cannot complain about the results as far as taste. That more perfect, Martha-esque style will come in time, with much more practice, I hope.

Apple Pie:

After making my pie crusts the night before (using the recipe I’ve previously posted) I used the following:

5 Cortland Apples (thinly sliced)
5 Granny Smith Apples (thinly sliced)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 T maple syrup
Zest of one lemon
2 T lemon juice
2 T cinnamon
1 T fresh nutmeg
1 T allspice
1/4 cup flour

I toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and add it to the crust lined pan, and then top with crust and cut vents or shapes. Cook at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour until crust is golden brown. Topped here with some of the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar… such a treat!
Sweet Potato Pie with Ginger Whipped Cream and Maple-Glazed Pecans

I borrowed a really simple recipe for Sweet Potato Pie filling from Bon Appetit (via Epicurious.com) and made a few changes for a more complex flavor combination.

For the Filling:

2 large red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams; 13/4 pounds)
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup whipping cream
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white, beaten to blend

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. Pierce potatoes with fork and place on wire rack in oven, bake 45 minutes or until completely tender.

When cool, scoop out flesh of potatoes, and mash with potato masher or ricer. Combine next six ingredients. Bake 45 minutes.

For Topping:

The topping here was so easy and so delicious! I just added about 1/2 cup finely chopped candied ginger to my whipped cream (whipped by hand of course!) and topped with a few of the wonderful Maple-Glazed Pecans I had prepared the night before. Because Sweet potato pie is really not that sweet, the mild sweetness of the cream, and the sweetness of the maple added a nice touch, not to mention the crunchy texture of the nuts and the subtle bite of the candied ginger. I thought it all tied together quite well. And, judging from the lack of leftovers, so did the rest of the family.

Thanksgiving Recap

Now that we are no longer the stuffed, satiated lushes we were since Wednesday, (and no longer able to sleep in), I figured I have no excuse not to be productive and post about my holiday meal. Thanksgiving went by without a hitch this year… well almost (we won’t talk about my bacon related meltdown at the local Stop & Shop– the result of which my mother officially labeled me as “one of those obnoxious food people”). After trying to go completely local and seasonal, there were a few things that I forgot to add to my list, one of which was slab bacon. But otherwise, besides quite a mess, I feel everything came out really well. By taking on all the cooking, I hope my family got a little more time to enjoy each other’s company, or at least find some amusement or time to relax. The wine certainly helped if my cooking did not.

The Thanksgiving Spread

Vermont Cheeses

For the cheese plate I picked all Vermont cheeses that I purchased at Murray’s Cheese Shop:

Jasper Hill, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar: Nutty and sharp, aged one year.
Champlain Valley, Triple Cream: A buttery and rich creamy cow’s milk cheese from Vergennes, VT.
Consider Bardwell, Manchester: Raw Goat’s Milk, Intense and biting in character, paired best with the Wolffer Big Apple Wine.
Dancing Cow, Lindy Hop: Raw Cow’s Milk Blue, very earthy and barnyardy, also tasted great with the Big Apple wine, could also be paired with something even more sweet.

I served the cheeses with sliced granny smith’s and some La Quercia Proscuitto. I also made some simple maple roasted pecans.

1 bag pecans
2 T Vermont Maple Syrup
2 T Oil
Fine Salt (Sea Salt or I used Fleur De Sel)

Toss all ingredients and bake approximetly 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Sprinkle with salt while warm. Experiment with different herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, or even cayenne.

Uncle Gary Carving the Bird

The turkey came out really well and was extremely moist with I attribute to the brining process, something I have been doing for the past few years. I use Martha Stewart’s Brine Recipe, a mix of salt, sugar, and seasonings. Brining for 24 hours ensures that the turkey will retain much more of its moisture, and absorb much of the flavors added to liquid. I stuffed the turkey with carrots, celery, fennel, sage, lemon and thyme before cooking. We all really noticed the difference in flavor and moisture with the farm-bought bird and plan on making it a tradition.

Brussels and Potatoes

I made mashed potatoes for my two little cousins, and the secret here is as you probably guessed: butter. When you think there is enough butter, add some more.

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon:

1 stalk (roughly 16oz) Brussels Sprouts
3 slices thick bacon
3 T Vermont Maple Syrup
3 T Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. Combine all ingredients. Roast 20-30 minutes until sprouts have carmelized.

Acorn Squash with Sage & Cream, Cornbread Stuffing with Dried Cherries, Pecans, and Sausage (and Leeks)

The recipe for the squash can be found in the post below. The stuffing I adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I also used a box of Trader Joe’s Cornbread Stuffing Mix because after making pie crust, cranberry sauce, and brining the turkey after arriving in Connecticut Wednesday night, I just didn’t feel like making cornbread too. But here is the recipe for the Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage, Dried Cherries, Pecans, and Leeks.

1 lb bulk sausage
1 large onion
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 leek, white and greens
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 box, bag, or batch of cornbread stuffing, or cornbread
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
3 eggs

Brown sausage in saute pan and place on paper towel. Leave drippings in pan, and saute onions, celery, and leeks until translucent. Add stock to deglaze any sucs in pan. Pour over stuffing. Combine all ingredients and pour into 9 x 13 in baking pan. Cook about 15 minutes in a 300 degree oven.

I will add the photos and recipes of the desserts tomorrow, so keep posted!

Easy as Pie… (Well… Kind of…)

Cold Rainy Day... Perfect for Warm Apple Pie!

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I figured it was time to start experimenting a bit with pie. Pie, especially apple, is such a classic New England dessert, and the favorite of so many people– that’s why it is really such a shame when a delicious holiday feast is finished up with store-bought or frozen crust pies. Because that is what really separates a good pie from a bad one, after all– the crust.

While I really enjoy baking, I’ve always been a bit intimidated by making my own pie dough. My mom told me she attempted it in the past, but I had never seen her do it, and my grandmother had always bought decent apple pies from the orchard down the street from her home in Connecticut. Whenever I baked pies while in school, I would use Vermont Mystic Pie’s frozen pie crusts. When baked, it’s really difficult to tell these crusts are store-bought. They are so good, I’d always bring them back with me for the holidays. But I have not been able to find these crusts outside of Vermont, and expectations for Thanksgiving this year are high because of my culinary schooling, so thus, I broke out some flour, butter, and a rolling-pin, and had at it.

We have a pie and tart dough lesson at the FCI in two weeks, but I asked Chef for advice any way. I thought it would be difficult without a food processor, but Chef assured me it wasn’t. On a clean countertop, I cut the cubed cold butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until it was the size of small peas. I then made a small well in the center to which I added my cold wet ingredients a little at a time. I had read in last months Cook’s Illustrated that by replacing some of the water with vodka, because gluten won’t readily form in alcohol, you are able to add more liquid to the dough which makes it a little easier to work with. (The flavor burns off during baking). I had plenty of vodka in stock, and was looking to make things as easy for myself as I could, so I decided to try this method.

I then fraisaged the dough, a technique Chef emphasized in ensuring a really successful flakey crust. To do this, you form walnut-sized pieces of dough and smear them against your work surface with the heel of your hand. This makes even thin layers of butter within the dough.

It is important to refrigerate your dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. I didn’t have a lot of free time this week, so I ended up keeping mine in the fridge for two days. I let it sit for a few minutes before starting to roll it out on my floured work surface.

The rolling wasn’t easy. Every recipe I’ve read stresses applying even pressure and rolling from the inside out, but I found my dough did crack a bit, which forced me to handle it a little more… warming it up further, and making it even more difficult to work with. I guess it just takes a bit of practice.

I keep my filling fairly simple and not overly sweet. My favorite apples to work with are cortland. They are tart, crisp, and hold their shape well. I couldn’t find any locally grown cortlands at the Union Square farmer’s market, so I bought macintosh apples which tend to lose their shape and are better for apple sauces. I took the advice of Lucinda Scala Quinn from her cookbook Mad Hungry and balanced the sweet flavor of the macs with some tart granny smiths. I cut the apples into fairly thin, even wedges, (about 1/4 cm), I usually use about 8 apples. I go easy on the sugar, keeping it to under 1/2 cup (I use organic cane sugar), because I also add some Vermont maple syrup for sweetness. I add lemon juice, lemon zest, and for spices I use a good amount of cinnamon, and just a pinch of allspice, ginger, and some freshly grated nutmeg. I covered the pie and refrigerated it for about a half hour before baking for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Here is the recipe for “Foolproof Pie Dough” I used from Cook’s Illustrated. In the original recipe it called for 1/2 cup vegetable shortening in addition to the butter, because it is a pure fat with no water (water encourages gluten development), but I just had butter, so that’s what I used.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 sticks COLD unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in cubes
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup cold water

I topped my warm apple pie with a few thin slices of Shelburne Farms 2 year cheddar… and I have to say… it was pretty amazing. I think for my next pie I will try a different dough recipe, and hopefully learn a few more tips in class to pass on before thanksgiving. Please comment with any advice you might have! And of course to keep in theme with last post… Both Quinn and my friend Annie’s grandmother agree… Men love desserts, but pie is their favorite. Didn’t get to have this one tested as planned, but hope to get some input on next weeks experiment.