Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Perfect Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is the first pie I ever learned to make. 


I learned this at a time when I had all the appetites of a growing teenager and was regularly sneaking off to finish the pies my mother would occasionally bring back from the grocery store. Then one day my grandfather fell sick and I was visiting him in the hospital when my aunt brought him a pie. A pecan pie that was homemade! I begged her for the recipe which she immediately provided. I was shocked by how easy it was to do, and that's why I have chosen to use it to introduce you to the art of making sweet pies...

Well, that and it's getting colder, and hot desserts like fresh pecan pie seem just thing on a chilly night.

All that said, let's get started.

Auntie's Perfect Pecan Pie
Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4-6 depending on sweet tooths


Ingredients

3 Large Eggs

1 Cup of Corn Syrup, Maple Syrup, or Honey
Darker syrups work better than lighter ones for a more intense flavor

1 Cup of Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup of Melted Butter, cooled until it's lukewarm
I like half salted or salted butter because I like a little extra salty with my sweet, but you could use unsalted butter too

1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

1/2 Teaspoon of Cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon of Ground Cloves
Cinnamon and Cloves are two of the main spices in apple and pumpkin pie. A little of these does a lot to enhance the flavor of the pecans, but I want to keep the emphasis on the caramel and nuts, so I've kept them to a minimum.

2 Cups of Pecans

1 Pre-made pie Crust

Equipment

1 Pie Plate or Round Cake Pan

1 Small Knife

1 Whisk

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Mixing Bowl

Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

1 Microwave safe bowl or saucepan to melt your butter

Preheat the oven to 375 oF.

Put your pie crust in your pie plate or pan and being careful not to tear it, press it into the bottom with your fingers. Press the top edge of the crust into the top rim of the pan and trim any overhang off with your knife.

In your mixing bowl, whisk the syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, spices, and salt together until well combined.

Add your pecans and stir with wooden spoon to coat them in the syrup mixture.

Pour everything into the crust.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the middle no longer wobbles when you give it a gentle push, the top has hardened, and the crust is golden around the edges.

Leave on the counter for 10 minutes to cool. 

Cooling the pie is essential as hot sugar is napalm-hot and you don't want to burn your mouth!

Enjoy!

And stay tuned for next time when I'll show you a classic: Apple Pie!

-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.







Monday, October 5, 2015

Peasful Fish and Seafood Pie


Fish pie is a fishy version of a meat or shepherd's pie that contains seafood and/or chopped up fish turned into a creamy filling, which is then covered with a crust usually made of potato and baked in the oven.

There are a lot of variations of fish pie out there. From the French, you have Coquilles St Jacques, a bed of fish and/or seafood swimming in a rich creamy sauce and covered in mashed potatoes fortified with egg yolks, P√Ęte au Saumon consisting of salmon and vegetables covered with cream sauce and baked in flakey pastry, and UK versions consisting of a creamy fish stew covered in mashed potatoes, baked until the potatoes are slightly crisp on top and served with peas.

Since I have a tendency to tinker with traditional recipes, I couldn't help but tinker with this one. My goal: make it as easy, tasty, and budget friendly as possible. And I surprised myself. The pie has all pleasures of a chowder, with the added textural bonus of slightly crisped mashed potatoes, and a refreshing nutritional boost from frozen peas and mint. Don't like fish? No problem! Use shrimp or seafood instead. Don't like peas? I don't either, but the frozen peas in this dish are somehow delicious.

Here's How You Do It
Sammy's Peasful Fish and Seafood Pie
Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes or until the potatoes are slightly brown around the edges - don't be afraid to check
Serves 2 -4

Ingredients

CHOWDER FILLING

1 Leek, the bit at the tip removed, the layers rinsed of all dirt, and thinly sliced
Leeks are a relative of the onion and go great with fish and potatoes. Like onions, leeks have layers sometimes dirt gets in between them, so rinse carefully, Grasshopper.

1 Carrot, peeled and chopped as small as possible

1 Stalk aka Rib of Celery, rinsed and chopped as small as possible

3 Strips of Bacon, thinly sliced

1/2 a pound of Fish thinly sliced, and/or Seafood
I used a 1/4 pound of frozen pollock (the cheapest fish money can buy) and a 1/4 pound of frozen cooked shrimp, but you can use just about any fish or seafood so long as there are no bones or shells to deal with. Have some leftover fish or seafood from the night before? Feel free to chop it up and throw it in your pie filling. This is a great way to use them.


3 Tablespoons of Butter or Margarine

4 Tablespoons of All Purpose Flour

2 Teaspoon of dried Tarragon
This slightly anise-y herb goes great with fish and pairs well with the minty peas in the crust.

1 Cup of Milk - ideally full fat milk, but you can use partly skim too.

Zest (the very outer skin before the white bit) of 1/2 a Lemon, thinly sliced or grated

Salt and Pepper to taste


THE CRUST

4 Medium Potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled

1 Cup of Hot Milk - If you have a microwave, you can heat the milk in a mug the same way you would for hot chocolate, otherwise, do it on the stove in a small pot, just remember that the milk has to be HOT NOT BOILING.

3 Tablespoons of Butter

Zest of 1/2 a Lemon

1/2 Cup of Frozen Peas - Peas are frozen when they're at their best so they don't have the nauseating odor of the canned stuff and are quite palatable even to those of us who don't like them.

Salt, to taste

1/2 a Teaspoon of Dried Mint
Mint isn't just for breathmints and desserts. It can add a refreshing element to savory dishes too! And it goes GREAT with peas.

Equipment

1 Baking Dish
You'll want something with some depth to it, as the filling is a bit liquidy

2 Medium sized Pots - 1 to prep the filling, 1 to Prep the crust

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Potato Masher

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Measuring Spoons

Measuring Cups


Put the bacon in the pot with a little water and heat over medium high until the water has completely evaporated and the bacon is cooking on its own fat, about 10 minutes. When the bacon is looking reddish brown around the edges, add the celery, carrot, and leeks and stir everything together with a wooden spoon for another 5 minutes until the veggies have softened.


Now you can add the milk, tarragon, lemon zest, salt and pepper and stir everything to combine. Bring it to a boil and add your fish of choice and stir again. Simmer for 1 minutes and then add your flour and butter and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until the chowder thickens.


Turn off the stove and pour the contents into your baking dish and set aside. You might want to put the pot you used in the sink and fill it with water right away as it will be a bitch to clean later.


While the chowder is cooling, put your peeled potatoes in a pot with the peeled garlic and cover completely with cold water. Put the pot on the stove on high heat and boil the potatoes until a piece is easily mashed with a fork aka fork tender.


Preheat the oven to 350 F.


Put the frozen peas in a bowl, add the mint, and 1/2 a Cup of the hot liquid used to boil the potatoes. This will thaw them a bit. Mash the peas with your trusty potato masher until they're a rough paste, taste them and season them with salt and pepper and set aside.


Drain the remaining liquid from the potatoes and add the hot milk and butter. Mash the potatoes until they reach the texture you like and add the lemon zest and a little salt.


To the mashed peas, add 1/4 cup of the mashed potatoes and stir. This is a trick I learned watching Jamie Oliver on TV and I find it helps integrate the peas into the entire dish, making it impossible for fussy eaters to separate them out without tasting them first.


Spread the mashed peas and mashed potatoes over the top of the fish chowder and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until it's bubbling and the edges of the pie are brown.

Let the pie cool for 10 minutes on the counter so it doesn't burn your mouth and serve!

Enjoy!


And stay tuned for next time when I take a sweet turn and show you my all-time favorite: Pecan Pie!


-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.