Shamleless Plug

I'm embarking on a new part of my life that is happier and going in a direction! It's really refreshing.

I was married May 19th, 2012 to a great guy I met at the C.I.A and we're go excited to embark on a life together. He has as culinary degree to match my baking and pastry degree. It's going to be a Good life.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts on food and cooking. I am but a humble baker, who happens to love cooking and embraces the joy of food.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pie Dough Meandering

I don't get the deal with pie crust. So many chefs and people who think they are pastry chefs religiously bleat on and on about the importance of cold fat, ice cold water and the proper distribution of the two. My last boss so deliriously and furiously defended her pie dough that the only time we were allowed to touch the damn mixer was cleaning it when she was done making her dough. Although it wasn't hard to figure out her recipe. About ten pounds Crisco, 50 pounds of flour, about a gallon of ice water and 2/3rds cup salt. Opps! There goes the "secret" recipe. But it sounds like your rough 3-2-1 ratio to me. The 3-2-1 ratio being 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat and 1 part water. Cut the fat into the flour and mix the water into that and you got pie dough.

Last year I was making a chicken pot pie, and forgot to both chill the fat and ice the water. I was annoyed over the tough crust I could expect. But that never happened. My crust was just as flaky, just as perfect as ever. This had to be a flaky fluke. So I tried it again the next time I made pie with the same excellent results.

Tonight, I made pulled pork pot pie. The crust, though needing a bit more salt, was tender, flaky and browned very nicely. So what's the deal with pie dough? I barely even followed the 3-2-1 method. Everyone seems to make a big deal out of it. Secret recipes, methods guarded with pretentious greed. Is there some Pillsbury dough boy conspiracy going on?

During the hay day of Food Network, Alton Brown was a very popular man. He had all the answers and could present it with flair, humor and understanding. His pie crust episode was no different. He stressed the importance of adding ice water in slow stages, even going as far as using a spray bottle. I remember thinking that while the idea was brilliant for proper water distribution, it seemed like a lot of work for pie crust. A mere vessel for transporting filling into your mouth.

Turns out, all this fuss is not needed. As long as you coat the fat with enough flour and make it into a cornmeal consistency, allow time for the dough to rest and use minimal rolling, you're golden. The culprit is over rolling and over working the dough. This is true for any dough you make. A cool hand and a firm but gentle touch is what can make puffy pastry dough or a tender pizza crust.

But of course, that's just my opinion. I've learned how to make the painstaking, multi-step, multi-hour pastry dough at school and one that took about an hour at home with identical results. Is either method right or wrong? No. Is one more traditional and therefore more trusted than the other? Sure. I love tradition. I love experiencing the way things were done classically. I have a deep respect for the classics. But if I can save myself several hours taking principles of those traditional methods and yield the same results, I'm going to take it.

Which brings me back to pie crust. There are incredibly fussy ways to make it, with people swearing this is the only way to make it properly. I have people like my former boss, who was defensive over a "secret" recipe. There is no secret recipe for pie crust. It's a ratio. A ratio, people! This isn't Grandpa Jack's secret recipe for moonshine.

Anyway, long story short, you probably don't need to worry too much about perfectly chilled fat and icy cold water. Nice to have, might increase the quality vaguely. But really, don't worry so much about deep coldness. In my opinion, as long as things are reasonably cold and you don't overwork the dough, you're probably good to go. Just don't flake out.

It's pork pot pie! And it's happy to see you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Onions and Mushrooms

You know, I've never been a fan of mushrooms. For one, it's fungus. The word alone is unappealing. For another, the texture and mouth feel is weird and rubbery. It's almost as bad as biting into the gristle part of a steak. I know I'm eating a mushroom, and the word creeps into my head as I chew "Fungus...Fungus...Fungus!!!!"

But I've found when I chop them into a tiny dice and cook them with onions and red wine, they make an incredible (inexpensive) flavoring agent. Tonight I'm cooking burgers for dinner. You could just form the beef into patties and throw them into the pan, but why? Ground beef doesn't have to be boring. Ground beef isn't just the inexpensive dinner substance formed into the dry meatloaves of the 50's.

Burgers are usually my lazy go to dinner option. Or when I'm craving beef. But since I have leftover raw mushrooms and half an onion, I'm feeling like putting a little more effort into the burgers. Cooking the mushrooms and onions down in a little wine and Worcestershire adds moisture and a deeper beefy flavor to any kind of beef you pair them.

Onions and I are sort of like Gollum and The Ring. I hate what it does to me, but I love them. Slicing into just one onion is enough to make my eyes sting shut hours after we've cooked. They make me cry and I still keep crawling back to their caramelized love. One onion ring to rule them all. Please excuse the Lord of The Rings reference.

Mushrooms are starting to grow on me. Maybe someday I can cook them sliced thin and eat them without noticing their horrible unique texture. But for today I'm happy with my sauteed mushroom stuffed burgers. I really hope they come out well. They are a bit moister than I'd like, so I hope they don't fall apart when I cook them, but the egg yolk should provide enough of a binder.
Cheesy mushroom burgers and tator tots. I promise I usually make better dinners, but for a gal getting up (too) early for a weekend bake at work, it'll do deliciously for now.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

I can't believe I haven't written anything since June. But summer is kind of a boring time of year when it comes to food for me. Don't get me wrong, I like the food well enough. I like the warm summer nights eating at the beach. I like grilled veggies. I like the one lobster roll I eat a summer. If Matt and I could afford the Farmer's Market produce prices we'd frequent them, but honestly summer food doesn't interest me too much. I'm not really a multi-colored heirloom tomato kinda gal. I'm a Fall girl. I love Fall probably more than any other season.

It's New England's time to shine in Fall. You have the best apples ready to be picked. You have an arsenal of pumpkin products. The food gets heavier and richer. Crusty bread becomes a side dish to the wonderfully meaty beef stew.
Food seems to taste better in the cooler months. During the summer, I make our favorite foods less often because it's too hot to eat slow cooked beef. Roasted root vegetables just don't fit into the summer. It's difficult to plan the week's dinner menu when all you think about is the food you're going to make in a few months. I relished the cool rainy days when I could get away with something heavier.
To be honest, summer kind of bores me. I'm not a beach girl, it's too hot and humid to go for a long walk, and I work. I'd rather be home putting time into a good meal than laying on the sand.

But I feel like I'm going to miss out on the heavy food this year. I'm getting married in 247 days. With dress fittings and engagement photos a bride to be has little need for rich foods. But I haven't really felt like too much of a bride apart from when I found my dress anyway. But that's another post.

For now, I'm looking forward to cool days, cozy nights, explosions of colors and slow cooked, slow roasted fall food.