24 November, 2012

Crapple Pie

Well, I'm sorry to say the crapple pie lived up to its name.  Strangely enough, it wasn't the cranberries-simmered-in-mystery-liquid that did it in.  In fact, I'd say the cranberries were the highlight of the pie!  Having just skimmed my last few posts, I realize that I haven't spoken about the pie before, so I guess a little rewind is needed.

Somewhere between Thanksgiving shopping at Publix last weekend and pie baking on Thursday, I decided to change my plain apple pie into a "crapple" pie with the addition of cranberries.  Those of you who have been reading for six years, (DEAR LORD, when did six years go by??!?) or who were at that fateful Thanksgiving dinner, might remember when I proclaimed that cranberries have no place in civilized desserts, and wonder when I changed my mind.  I didn't - I just forgot!

So I started by simmering cranberries (just 1/2 cup) in some apple juice, brown sugar, and sherry.  I wanted brandy, but apparently we were out, and the sherry caught my eye before the rum.  After 45 minutes, they had popped open, sweetened, and were absolutely delicious.  I took them off the heat and left the pot on the stove to cool, and every time I walked into the kitchen, I'd pop one in my mouth.

Self control?  What's that?

And then I made cornbread for Scott's stuffing dressing, pizza crust for Thursday's dinner, and then considered the 2 1/4 cups of AP flour I'd need for the pie crust.  And that's when the pie started going south - when I realized the crust was going to include 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour.

Scott was helping me core and peel apples when I realized I should probably find an apple pie recipe to modify, rather than just winging the whole thing.  "Two teaspoons of cinnamon?  That couldn't be enough!  I'll use a tablespoon."

...and then the time came to roll out the crust.

I'm blaming the whole wheat flour, mostly because the crust just looked healthy with those dark speckles.  Really though, the fault lies somewhere between the temperature of my little baking corner (which, have I mentioned, is the spot right next to the damn oven?  nice choice, Jamie!), my own temperament - woah, crazy lady! - and my hesitance to use enough self-rising flour on the rolling surface because I thought it might somehow make the crust puffy.

The first horrible attempt to transfer the crust to the pie plate, during which I let out a string of f-words, I'm pretty sure caused Scott and both cats to hide behind various pieces of furniture.  I did, in fact, scare myself.  On the second attempt, the crust still refused to release from the pastry mat.  So I took the whole mat and flipped it over onto the pie plate.  The crust (mostly) transferred, but I made a powdery explosion of flour all over every surface on that half of the kitchen - stove, counter, wall, floor...  It was a mess.  And Scott agreed to clean it up, probably out of fear.  Seriously, picture "There is no Dana, only Zuuuuuuuuuulllll" only without the cool gold dress and wildly-blowing hair.

With the apples transferred into the pie, I arranged the cranberries over the top.  And then I started on the top crust.

I had already decided on a lattice, because it's so much easier to transfer the small strips of crust than an entire disc.  Unfortunately, the entire disc of dough cemented to the counter.  I declared defeat, then declared "rustic tart!"  I didn't have enough dough to fold up the edges all the way around, so I decided to just drop torn chunks of dough willy-nilly on the top.

It became #UglyPie. 

Surely, something that ugly would at least taste good, right?


The apples were too firm, the filling was too liquid, there was WAY too much cinnamon (and lemon! I just used the lemon to keep the apples from browning, but I'll be damned if my first bite wasn't predominantly lemon and cinnamon), some of the crust chunks on the top were burned...but the cranberries were still delicious.

So that's the tale of the crapple pie.  My apple pie last year sucked, but in different ways, so I'm thinking that maybe it's just time to move on.  I make a mean peach, I enjoy cherry and blueberry.  Maybe it's time to learn pumpkin or some sort of custard.

23 November, 2012

It's All Gravy

From-scratch day-late free-balled Thanksgiving dinner was delicious, with only a few culinary missteps.  The following is more of a "see you next year" reference than anything meant to be read for fun:

Scott's Best Gravy Yet:
3 T butter
3 T AP flour
2 C turkey drippings/chicken stock (or broth)
Make a light roux - 5-10 minutes - and slowly add the liquid, 1/4 c at a time, whisk constantly until gravy thickens to desired consistency.

Use the dinner roll recipe in the Pillsbury cookbook, but don't forget to add the egg before all of that flour!

Sherry has no place in civilized cranberry sauce, but the texture is better when simmered on the stove top than just eaten raw.  Try again next year!

Time for a new green vegetable recipe! 

Here's the cornbread dressing recipe, which is delicious, but there was WAY too much baking soda in the cornbread.  (once doused with gravy, it was still good enough to make again)

Take the turkey out of the roasting bag for the last 45-60 minutes to brown the skin.

Time to give up on apple pie. They're always tasty, but not happy with the texture of the apples.

22 November, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

I've probably mentioned before that Thanksgiving is my worst holiday.  Every year, it brings with it a little bit of melancholy along with turkey and stuffing.  I truly miss the big family feasts of my childhood, but really haven't done much to establish traditions of our own.  That's the thing about there just being two of us: a lot of tradition just feels silly.

Perhaps that's why dinner tonight is homemade pizza with chicken sausage, zucchini, and corn.

Tomorrow is our big meal.  No worries...there will be turkey.  And stuffing cornbread dressing. And mashed potatoes. And sweet potato casserole. And broccoli casserole.  And cranberry relish. And rolls.  And a pie.

...and with the exception of the canned soup and Bisquick in the broccoli, every single thing is going to be made from scratch.  With butter.  But let's not discuss the butter...

Anyway, Scott and I are currently reeling from a "three steps forward, two steps back" sort of month.  As everyone else is taking to social media to rattle off a list of things they are thankful for, I'm having difficulty being thankful.  "Thanks for the health...except for the things that aren't working properly."  "Thanks for the family...the ones who haven't somehow either betrayed or rejected me."  "Thanks for the work and the paycheck...that come with their own share of drama."  And so, to not seem ungrateful for what we do have, which is more than so many others (but less than we had a month ago), I'm keeping my mouth closed and focusing on food.

I think the only thing I can say I am thankful for without any negative qualifier is the future.  The good thing about going through a bad period is that eventually it ends.  And I know that there are huge opportunities coming our way.  After all, I'm probably about 18 months from having a degree AND experience.  Take that, 21-year-olds!  And Scott... well, I expect great things from that guy.

Time to wrap this up.  I've got food prep to do.  Happy Thanksgiving...I hope you have something to not be bitter about this year!

11 November, 2012

Low & Slow Sunday

When I get the cooking bug, it's pretty inconvenient with the working and the studying and the exercise... ok, mostly the working and the studying, but I digress.  I have a handful of "low and slow" recipes - ones that take a little prep and then a lot of cooking time.  I went back to chicken and dumplings a few weeks back, and though that recipe ended up being a PITA, it got me back into the mood to cook.

And so, it was decided that we'd have short ribs for dinner.  These short ribs, in fact.  I've made them at least 5 or 6 times now, which is enough to know the ingredients by heart.  It helps that this is a "Five Ingredient Fix" recipe!  The only change I really make is throwing in a bag of baby carrots to the pot before putting it in the oven.  There's something awesome about "drunken carrots" with beef. Trust me.  Oh...and really, the jus is sort of a lost cause.  Sometimes Scott tries it, but most times we're happy to go without.  I think the last time we cooled it, skimmed the fat, and then used the remaining liquid for couscous or something similar a few days later.

I wasn't in the mood to have brown rice or noodles with tonight's meal, and really wanted crusty bread.  We spent too much on groceries this week (pro tip: only buy short ribs when they are on sale. even the $5 bottle of wine couldn't save me) and I frankly didn't feel like going back to the store, so no baguette.

Who needs a baguette?  I can make bread.  And really, the ingredients are basically yeast and flour.  I have those in the house!  So instead of regular bread, I'm trying out a new recipe for pretzel rolls.  My dough is currently on its first rise, and I have it timed pretty closely to the time the meat comes out of the oven.  Hopefully that means I'll be having a short rib sandwich on pretzel bread with a little deli mustard in a little over an hour. 

Who's hungry?