Sunday, October 26, 2008

Buy The Book #2: Sweety Pies

I realized that my last post could have been a part of this series. I was too excited about mastering biscuits to think about it. Oh well.
For my second post in this series, I wanted to use one of my newer cookbooks. I was so in love with Sweety Pies last year, I gave it as a gift. I like a good story with my recipe and this book delivers!
Let me back up. I was home last week for a funeral and someone brought over a homemade egg custard pie. You would not believe the excitement this elicited from Aunt Carolyn, me and later my big brother. This woman put her foot in that pie! My dessert-loving Uncle Herman later agreed. Needless to say, I was willing to make another attempt at this pie until I got it right. I had a few books to choose recipes from and I chose Sweety Pies because it was newer.
Since the filling was so simple, I tried to go for a more difficult traditional pie crust. I chose the one in Baking Illustrated. Y'all know pie crust has been my nemesis. I wanted to venture away from my beloved Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough. Not the smartest move I've ever made, but practice makes perfect.
Pie crust first. The best-tasting crusts have butter and shortening. Make sure they are both well chilled.
Take the flour, salt and sugar for a spin. Add the shortening and process. The mixture should look like wet sand. Evenly distribute the butter on top.
Process until the butter is the size of peas.
We'll now fast forward. Dump the mixture into a bowl and add cold water. Shape into a disc and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll it out and get it into the pie plate.
Moving on to the filling. Cream the sugar, butter and eggs. I gave the butter and sugar a head start and then added the eggs.
Look at Sparkle go! Don't be confused; you know I named most of my appliances. I didn't call the food processor by name, but you already know Miracle.
Add your flour, buttermilk and extracts. The recipe called for lemon and vanilla. I think I want to go for just the vanilla next time. The buttermilk made the eggs curdle. Curdled batters always make me nervous.
Here's the result -- a little more golden brown than I planned on, but still good. Do you know how hard it was to wait on the pie to chill so I could taste it?!! I had to go to bed to rid myself of the temptation.
Although good in it's own right, this is not the pie I tasted in Little Rock last week. I just called my Aunt Myrt to see if she can get the recipe!
Tools of the trade:

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Warning: This is a long post.
For many years, I've lived in fear that someone would come and snatch my Southern card. My shameful secret was that I could not properly maintain cast iron nor could I make biscuits. I could hear Paula Deen and many an unnamed black cook from back in the day making their way to my front door. No amount of sweet tea and fried catfish could save me. Most recently, I had my Negroness questioned because I don't know how to play bid whist, but that's another story. (I stand on the fact no one under 40 knows how to play bid.)

I digress. Lodge threw me lifeline years ago with their pre-seasoned cast iron. To date, I've only messed up one pan and that's because I was using it for something I should've picked another pan for and then I forgot it was in the oven. It was a 6" skillet, so I'm mot even worried. As long as the 8" (cornbread) and 10" (fried catfish and chicken) are okay, I'm cool.

When I bought my pieces, the brand was Lodge Logic. It has become so popular that Lodge stopped making unseasoned cast iron altogether. I think Lodge dropped the Logic brand name and just made the line its entry-level product. I know, too much marketing for a cooking blog. Hey, I do live in both worlds.

Now to the biscuits. For those who live in the South and have been graced by Bojangles, it is the standard to which I hold all biscuits. Even Sunny Anderson had to give it up for the Bo'. These are the fluffiest melt-in-your-mouth biscuits you will ever taste. Back in day in Little Rock, you could get one of these biscuits sliced in half with a spicy chicken breast in the middle. Oh my damn. (And yes, it was way better than the Chic-Fil-A version.) Sometimes, I got a plain biscuit with cheese. Yum.

After many failed attempts, today I achieved biscuit perfection! I can hold my head high as a woman of the South and go back to longer vowels and dropping the g off words! This is truly a momentous occasion. What a wonderful birthday present to myself. I'd like to thank Cook's Illustrated, White Lilly Flour and wherever I read that biscuits needed to be cut thick.

Walk with me now ...

This recipe is from Baking Illustrated. I'll give you some helpful hints along the way. First, start with a food processor. (This was Miracle's first showing in our new home.) Dump in all your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. The sugar surprised me. I figured it was thrown in for moisture and browning. Pulse the stuff a few times to aerate and mix everything well.

A note about flour. White Lilly is the way to go. CI recommended half cake flour and half AP. The AP was for a crisp crust. Who in the hell wants a crisp crust?!! I think that's pure Yankee foolishness or as my quite foolish co-worker would put it, dancing for French fries (don't ask.)

While you're assembling your dry team, preheat the oven and put the buttermilk and flour in the freezer. I like these to be extra cold. Warm biscuit dough, like warm pie dough is not a good look at all. Go ahead and flour your board too.

Cut the butter into cubes. (I always use a bench scraper for this.) Distribute evenly on top of the flour mixture. Toss the cubes in the flour to help keep them from clumping together.

Take everything for spin via a few quick pulses. That looks perfect.

Pour the buttermilk evenly over the top. Pulse it just until you get some clumps. Gluten is the enemy here. Over mixing will give you some tough, chewy biscuits. Dump everything on your board and bring it together as quickly and gently as you can.
I wanted to shape the dough by hand (this had nothing to do with the fact I had no idea where my rolling pins were.) The recipe yield was 12, which certainly calls for more surface area than I had here.
Move quickly! You do not want the butter to melt. My dough was getting warm by the second re-rolling and cutting. For the third pass, I just picked up the scraps and shaped them. Yeah. These are some thick, country biscuits. I can hear folks miles away looking for some sausage gravy!
Y'all know I discriminate against dark-skinned baked goods. These were probably pulled too early for most folks, but this was perfect for me. This also makes sure they don't get too brown when I reheat them. If I had the butter to spare, I would've brushed the hot tops with melted butter.
Something told me this was going to be a triumphant biscuit day, so I rocked some maple glazed turkey bacon and turkey sausage with scrambled eggs. The meat was easy; I cooked it in the oven on the baking stone.

Lightly oil a skillet. Place the bacon and sausage in it. I added a little extra oil to sausage. I made sure my links were well coated. Slather the bacon with maple syrup. Coat the sausage evenly with the syrup. Place on a hot baking stone. Turn the sausage periodically for even browning.

Look at what cha get.

Now that's a breakfast! My Daddy would be proud, as would my biscuit and syrup eatin' uncles. I'm a purist. Unless it's a biscuit sandwich, all I want on mine is butter. Syrup, jelly and gravy (especially gravy) are gross.
And yes, that's sunlight streaming through my kitchen. How happy am I?
Tools of the trade:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I'm Back -- sort of

I missed this blog! And thank you to those who've been waiting patiently (and not so patiently) for me to update. Well, I'm all moved in, but not unpacked. I do have the kitchen in working order. As soon as I figure out some storage options for the things with plugs, I'll be good to go!
Anyhoo, here is the last blog-worthy meal I prepared in the old joint. I was so inspired by Giada De Laurentiis' Artichoke Gratinata one weekend, I made it that day. I paired it with the best non-cornmeal-fried fish I'd ever made. Here's how I did it:
Lots of garlic. For real. You need it for the both dishes.
Warm your olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant. Add the artichoke hearts, parsley, salt and pepper.
Don't forget the red pepper flakes! Spicy is good.
The recipe calls for the artichokes to brown on the edges, which should take about three minutes. A. I had a wimpy stove and B. I wanted more color. Here's my attempt:
Moving on. Throw in some chicken broth and Marsala. I love any recipe with liquor. Aah. The bargain that is Trader Joe's chicken broth.
Now cook all of this juiciness down for a bit.
The recipe calls for transferring to a baking dish. The beauty of my All-Clad Petite Braiser is that it's stove-top and oven ready. You're also supposed to melt some butter and make some bread crumbs. Enter my frozen homemade bread crumbs. I try to always have some on hand.
Toss with some Parmesan cheese and sprinkle on top of the artichokes. Bake until golden.
Giada paired this with cod, so I thought I'd give that a try too. She rocked hers with Lima beans, yuck. My love for anything garlic, capers and kalamata olives goes deep. Why not slide all of that goodness on some fish?
I grabbed a nonstick skillet and added some olive oil.
I seasoned the cod very simply -- Greek seasoning, black pepper and a touch of kosher salt.
Now, I know this makes me suspect, but I love well-done fish. I know the rule says that if it flakes, it's overcooked. My rule is: if it doesn't flake, keep cooking! Anyway, look at that gorgeous color. I browned it this well on one side.
Remove the fish from the pan and get thee to some foil and make a pouch for the fish. Let the fish rest while you prepare the adornment. Here's the fish after resting. See? It wasn't dry.
Using the fishy nonstick skillet, add a little olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant. Throw in the olives, capers, a little butter, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Place this on top of the fish, reseal the pouch and get thee to a barely warm oven (225 degrees or maybe I used 300. I can't remember.) Here's what you'll have when it's done. I'm looking at the monitor doing my food dance because I have to admit it looks good. Plate and eat, Baby!

Tools of the trade: