Sunday, July 26, 2009

Meat and Potato Pie

Wow, has it really been over two weeks since my last post? It's not due to laziness in blogging...I promise! It's more like zero time to invest in securing ingredients unknown to the Wal-Marts in my town and only a fraction of my normal energy for such causes. Work has been demanding my whole existence for the last few weeks. At such times, I look to tried comforts, readily available and up for the task of satisfying the ravenous hunger of 10 working men or at least me and Aubrey for a couple days. That's right- Meat and Potatoes. This recipe is my mother's and it happens to be easy as pie... HA! I crack myself up. I like to have a vat of Louisiana Hot Sauce to go along with this and let me just say, I love any opportunity to use the stuff. Did you know my mom is the charter member of M.A.T.O.C ( Mothers Against The Overuse of Condiments)?? It's a one woman club but she's as active as a full force. Oh, mother... whatever will I do with you? I know, I'll make your flippin' amazing pie!

Meat and Potato Pie
(Serves 6 sorta hungry people and 4 really hungry people.)


1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion finely diced
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
Lawry's season salt ( the comforts are back!- this was the only seasoning I used through college.)
4 cups peeled and diced russet potatoes
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk ( for thinning and rubbing onto top crust)
1 pkg. prepared pie crust ( top and bottom- I like Pilsbury in the red box.)

1. Brown beef with onions, garlic, and season salt to taste in a large pot. Drain of excess fat.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Add potatoes, soup to the beef. Stir in milk as needed to thin out if you added more potatoes. Mix and season again to taste. Heat over medium high until bubbly. Reduce heat to low and cover for 30-40 minutes until potatoes are nearly soft. Stir occasionally and briefly.

4. While potatoes are getting all soft, prepare a 9" pie dish and get the crust out of the fridge so it will be near room temperature. Place the bottom crust in the pan.

5. When the meat and potatoes are done, add to pie dish and top with top crust. Feel free to get all fancy with crimping the edges to seal. I use the ol' fork method of pressing the tines into the dough around the edge to create a seal. Guess what? I totally just learned that the fork prong things are called tines. Yay for Google.

6. Cut slits into the top crust and rub a bit of milk on top to make a delicious golden crust.

7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden and not burned ( important.) You may want to put a baking dish underneath in case you overfilled. Not that I've ever done this, of course.

Yay! Let's eat this muther!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Top-Crust Peach and Cardamom Pie

It's the moment you've all been waiting for.... I actually baked something without destroying it on my first go. Not only that, but it was my first ever pie- from scratch. Oh, yeah.

I didn't mill the flour or anything, but you get the point. Not only that, I utilized my whole patch of fresh Porter Peaches so I felt very old-fashioned, indeed. The occasion called for my Big Band playlist. If you're ready to embark on the "pie from scratch" journey or if you're an old pro looking for a new twist on the standard peach, this is sure to flip your wig. Newbies like me will enjoy the entry level pie rolling skill requirement!

Top- Crust Peach and Cardamom Pie
Bon Apetite, August 2009
Serves 8 ( or Aubrey and I over 3 days)
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons (or more) ice water

2 1/2 pounds firm but ripe peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, sliced 1/2 inch thick****
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar in the raw

2 1/Special Equipment: scalloped cookie cutter ( or, in my case- a mini tart dish)

**** We'll talk about this!
For crust:

1. Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles very coarse meal. Add 3 tablespoons ice water; process using on/off turns until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry.

2. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead briefly just until dough comes together, 4 to 5 turns. Flatten dough into disk; wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
3. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer dough round to prepared baking sheet and chill 20 minutes. Using 2 1/2- to 3-inch heart-shaped or scalloped cookie cutter, cut out shapes from dough, spacing close together (leave cutouts on baking sheet). If necessary, remove dough scraps, reroll, and cut out additional shapes for total of about 20. Chill on sheet while preparing filling.
For filling:

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Place peach slices in medium bowl. Add sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and cardamom and toss to coat.
2. Transfer peach filling to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Carefully arrange cutouts atop filling in slightly overlapping concentric circles, starting at edge and working toward center, covering filling completely. Brush crust with beaten egg, then sprinkle with raw sugar.
3.Place pie on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden brown, peaches are tender, and juices are bubbling thickly at edges, about 45 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool at least 30 minutes. Spoon warm or room-temperature pie into bowls.

****EASILY skin peaches by blanching them... that is, pop them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, transfer to iced water for 30 seconds and watch those skins come off like butter with just the slightest rub down. It took me a mashed peach and a quick Google to figure this out.

You probably won't believe me that I didn't burn it since I didn't get a good pic of the full post-baked product. But, trust me. It came out golden, bubbly, and thick. Delicious warm and even better cold the next day served in cups.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chicken Breast and Zucchini Pappardelle FAIL!

It's dangerous this time of year to leave your car windows down... you're likely to end up with a backseat full of zucchini. I can't turn the stuff down fast enough so we are swimming in it and in desperate need of zucchini related recipes. I decided to try a recipe I saw in Gourmet for Chicken Breast and Zucchini Pappardelle. Uses zucchini? Check. Uses basil?!?!?! Double bonus. In the quick and easy section??? SCORE!

Somehow, I managed to overlook a slightly important detail- It's called Chicken BREAST and Zucchini Pappardelle not Chicken THIGH, stupid. Don't worry... the oversights don't end there.

For reference, here's the recipe:

Chicken Breast and Zucchini Papparedelle
Gourmet June 2009
Serves 4 ( I cut it in half in both quantity and quality!)

1 pound zucchini, trimmed
2 garlic cloves
4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin (1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1 cup torn basil leaves
S & P

Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer

1. Shave zucchini lengthwise (1/8 inch thick) with slicer and put in a large bowl. Thinly slice garlic and reserve separately.

2. Pat chicken dry, then cut crosswise into thirds. Season all over with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Sauté chicken in batches, skin side down first, until browned and just cooked through, 8 to 14 minutes total. Add chicken to zucchini.

3.Add garlic to skillet and cook, stirring, until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add water and scrape up any brown bits, then drizzle over chicken. Add basil and 1/4 teaspoon salt to bowl and toss until zucchini wilts slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

See step number 2? That should have been broken down into smaller portions for me I guess because I thought I was supposed to add the zucchini to the the skillet! Forget delicate wilting with light chicken breasts. I had a grease fest of savory chicken thighs with slippery squash ribbons. Flavor was top notch... seriously, the combo was delicious. The texture was so very wrong. It prompted Aubrey to say, "What's this called?" "It's called Chicken Breast and Zucchini Papparedelle, why?" " Now it's called Chicken Breast and Zucchini Pappardelle FAIL!"

So, lesson learned? Amending recipes is great! In fact, here are a couple tasty-sounding versions at Eat and Greet and Epicurious Reviews. So, feel free to play around in the kitchen. Just so long as your willing to accept an alternative dinner in the face of abject failure ( In my case, egg sandwiches.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Porter Peaches

It's officially peach season and the only time of year when Porter, Oklahoma becomes a foodie destination. Though a few cities fight for the title, only Porter reigns supreme as the Peach Capital of Oklahoma (or, so it says on the water tower. OH, and I'm not kidding about this...there is a big heart painted on the side that says "Billy Bob loves .....?" I couldn't make out the second name! I bet it's Charlene.)

Porter Peaches are delicious. I bought a 1/4 peck of Redhaven as they were a bit more tart and I have baking intentions. You can also get Belaire, the sweeter variety. You DO have purchasing options to consider but I recommend Livesay Orchards as they are friendly, conveniently located to my in-laws' house, and the store is quite cute. You can even pick your own bushel by heading out to the trees.

If all this talk of sweet, juicy goodness has you jonesin' for some cobbler, you're in luck.

The annual Porter Peach Festival is on July 16th, 17th, and 18th. It's fairly artsy-crafty ( more on the crafty side,) they usually have an old car show, they crown Miss Peach, and you can catch the tractor races, too. The festivities are okay but the real thrill is the excitement in the air at all the orchards where you can buy stuff like peach salsa, BBQ sauce, jams, chutneys, butter, the works. Someday, I'll have to go to Georgia to compare!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

An Oklahoman Fourth of July!

Hope everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day!
Even though we love to get out of the U.S. as much as possible, we can go All-American with the best of them. To do so, we head DEEP into the country...that is, we go to Porter, Oklahoma. Every year, Aubrey's parents throw a pretty killer party and shoot off some serious fireworks.
Do you see that up there? Aubrey launched it. You can buy this stuff no questions asked. I'm not sure this California girl will ever get used to it:
Mmmmm, nothing like the smell of sulfur in the air to bring people together ...

Tasha Does Tulsa came out of her city shell to join the festivities, despite the high likelihood of vehicular difficulties. Last year, she popped her tire on the gravel road. Psh... city driver.

At least she didn't hit my parked car... again.

Sindy In Tulsa ventured out yonder, too. Her hubby tried to get her to ride a horse but it wasn't happening.

Activities included Four-wheeling...

Jumping off the storm shelter...

And generally awesome pyrotechnic stunts.

Thanks, Oklahoma.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How to Dry Coriander Seed ...

How DO you dry coriander seed? Wait a minute.... What the heck IS coriander?

Well, until about three months ago, I'd never heard of or cooked with coriander, much less did I know about it's origins and roots. I am now so very glad I gave this spice a try. It is extremely common in dishes around the world, especially Indian dishes, as it's a key spice in Garam Masala.

Word of warning... if you don't like cilantro, you may not like coriander. Why? Because they're from the same flippin' plant. Cilantro is the leaf and coriander is the seed. [UPDATE: Because they are the SAME plant. The name "Cilantro" commonly refers to the leaf while "Coriander" commonly refers to the seed.] I happen to be on the side of the fence that ADORES cilantro so, I think coriander and I are gonna have a promising relationship...that is, if I learn how to dry it.

Coriander can be used green but is commonly used dried whole or ground. The best time for harvesting is when the cilantro leaves are starting to brown, usually late summer or, if you live in Oklahoma...right about now. It made sense to me to pick off the seeds and let them dry away.

Guess what? It is so not the officially recommended method. I should have googled first but here is the answer to our question: Cut stems, hang to dry for a week or so inside a bag or over a bag until seeds have FALLEN OFF... that is, of their own accord. As in, no work necessary. As in, a half an hour saved. Then, that's that. Store in a dry, sealed container. So, if you are growing Cilantro and just chucking the seeds, give this a shot. It'll be worth it.