Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Home Sweet Home...and Pie

Home sweet home. I finally picked a day to drive to Minnesota that was not smack dab in the middle of a snowstorm. The past few years for Christmas and Thanksgiving, whenever i decide to make the drive, old man winter decides to throw a ridiculous snowstorm at me. I am not sure what he has against me going home, but I showed him this year. Though, it was intensely sunny and when I opened up my sunglasses case, one of the screws was missing, so I spent the entire 7 hour drive squinting into the setting sun....I can't win.

It is wonderful to be home, I am sitting in my pj's, dad cooked me truffled eggs for breakfast, we are bracing for the storm of the century, and the smells of thanksgiving dinner are beginning to waft through the house. Onions caramelizing, sage frying, homemade turkey broth bubbling, it all has me salivating for tomorrow's feast. It is just a lovely way to start the day.

Are you ready for thanksgiving? Is all your shopping done, and food prepped? The nice thing about coming home is that all I have to do is drink wine and chop/stir/plate where needed. I already had my effort-heavy thanksgiving meal last weekend, so this time around I just get to kick back and enjoy it. I was in charge of dessert last weekend, and, though most of us were too full by the time we got there, it was a tasty ending to a fun and friend-filled day.

I made this pumpkin pie from the Thanksgiving Bon Apetit Magazine, substituting my very favorite pate brisee crust. It is a beautiful twist on the plain whipped-cream topped pumpkin pie we are used to seeing around this time of year. Toasted nuts with crystallized ginger creates a pretty border and adds that crunchy extra-something to the creamy pie and buttery crust.

Pumpkin Pie with Glaze Ginger-Nut Topping
adapted from Bon Apetit Magazine

1/2 batch pate brisee (or pie crust of your choice), rolled out to 1/4 inch thick disc and chilled


1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons pepitas
2 tablespoons brown sugar
large pinch of salt
2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger


1 - 15 ounce can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Transfer crust to a 9-inch pie pan, pressing the dough into the corners. Cut off excess dough, and crimp edges with thumbs. Freeze for 1 hour before baking.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat the butter over medium high heat. Add almonds, pecans, and pepitas and saute until nuts begin to brown slightly, just about 2 minutes. Sprinkle brown sugar and salt over and stir and cook another 2 minutes, until sugar has melted and nuts have been coated. remove from heat and stir in ginger. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, with rack in center position. Line the pie crust with tin foil, and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans. Bake crust for 25 minutes, remove weights and tin foil, and bake for another 8 minutes. Remove crust from oven, but leave the oven on.

While the crust is blind baking, in a large bowl combine the pumpkin, both sugars, molasses, flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Whisk together until combined. Add the eggs, yolk, and cream. Whisk until smooth.

Pour filling into warm crust and bake for 20 minutes. remove pie from oven, and wrap strips of foil gently around the exposed crust to prevent it from becoming too dark and/or burning. Return to oven and bake for another 40-55 minutes, depending on how deep your pie pan is. Mine is very deep so it took close to 55 minutes for middle to set. It may still jiggle a bit in the center, but if you touch the center with your finger, and it is tacky, but not liquid-y, the pie should be good to go.

Transfer to pie rack and sprinkle the nut topping around the perimeter of the filling, leaving a circle in the center exposed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cranberry Wild Rice French Toast

Pie dough is chilling in the fridge, cranberries are popping on the stove, sugared nuts are toasting in the oven, coffee is brewing....uh, in the coffee maker. Its only 9:30 and I am well into a mad dash to get everything made for Thanksgiving #2 this afternoon. I am not hosting this year, so the turkey was passed along to someone else, but I have plenty of other items to share with the party.

I am so looking forward to this feast (and of course the one next week as well) especially after spending last weekend not eating. At all. My boyfriend and I came down with the stomach flu on Saturday, and it pretty much put me out of commission the entire weekend and the beginning of the week. What started out as a nice, relaxing Saturday morning with a pot full of coffee and some delicious french toast, turned into a nightmarish 48 hours. I was at least lucky enough to get one last meal in before the flu set in, the boyfriend wasn't so lucky.

A few months back I was watching the Food Network, and they were profiling a diner somewhere in Minnesota whose specialty was their french toast. This was no normal french toast however. They made it with bread, cooked in house. Sound delicious? I'm not done yet. The bread has cranberries and wild rice baked right in. YUM. I knew I had to make this soon, and just happened to pick up a bag of Minnesota grown wild rice last time I was up visiting my family. Game on.

It is a lot of work, obviously you want to make the bread ahead of time, and use any leftovers to make some sublime french toast. Unless you want to do it all in one day and eat breakfast for dinner, which is totally allowed in my book. The bread on its own is delicious, smeared with a bit of butter, or used as sandwich bread.

Cranberry Wild Rice Bread
makes one large loaf, or one small loaf and 6 rolls
recipe adapted from A Bread A Day

2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups water, room temperature
2 tablespoons molasses, room temperature
1 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup wild rice, cooked and cooled
1/2 dried cranberries, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flours, yeast, and salt. Switch to the dough hook attachment, and add the water, molasses, and olive oil. Mix on low until a shaggy dough forms, then increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 7-8 minutes.

Turn the speed back to low, and add the cranberries and wild rice, and knead until evenly distributed throughout the dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled glass or metal bowl, and tossed the dough around to coat the entire ball with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (if you are making rolls) or spray a loaf pan lightly with oil (if you are making a loaf). Lightly deflate the dough and either divide it into 12 pieces, shape into round rolls and place on baking sheet, or place the entire dough ball into the loaf pan.

Cover with a oiled piece of plastic wrap and let rise again for about an hour. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 400F if you are baking rolls, 375 if you are baking a loaf. Brush the tops of the rolls or loaf with melted butter and bake until golden brown. The rolls will take about 20 minutes, the loaf will take about 45-50 minutes.

Let loaf cool in pan for about 30 minutes then remove and let cool completely on wire rack. The rolls you can move directly to the wire rack to cool.

French Toast

1 cup half and half
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for about 20 seconds
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 - 1/2 inch slices cranberry wild rice bread
4 tablespoons butter

Mix together the half and half, eggs, honey, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Pour mixture into baking dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a wire rack.

Dip each piece of bread into the egg mixture and let soak for 30 seconds. Flip, and soak for another 30 seconds. Transfer each piece to the wire rack and let wit for 2 minutes before cooking.

Melt one tablespoon of butter in a skillet of medium low heat. Place two slices of bread in the pan at a time, and cook 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and place on wire rack. Repeat with the rest of the bread, adding more butter to the pan as needed. Bake on wire rack for 5 minutes.

Top with maple syrup or whipped cream, serve hot.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Winner!

Sorry for the delay on this, its hard to work on a food blog when you are in the middle of dealing with stomach flu...But here it is!

The winner of the $45.00 gift certificate to CSN store online is.....

Mollie : "CLEARLY I would make that Shepherd's Pie, in honor of your fabulous blog!"

Congrats Mollie! Please send me your email address (thesepeasarehollow @ gmail dot com) so that CSN can contact you soon with your certificate code, let us know if you make anything delicious with what you decide to purchase! Thanks to everyone who entered, and all those who are followers!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Truffled Potato & Portobello Tart

**Reminder, Giveaway ends this Friday, November 12th (that's tomorrow!) Go here to enter!**

It has recently occurred to me that I am obsessed with tarts. Big tarts, little tarts, sweet tarts, savory tarts. Line some goodies with pastry or a crust of some sort, and I am in. Such an easy sell. Mashed potatoes? Sure I like them, but mashed potatoes baked inside a pastry dough? Give it to me right now.

This tart may contain everything I want out of comfort food. Creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes, crispy, buttery filo dough, earthy, hearty mushrooms, fresh chives, and a drizzle of truffle oil. Oh yes, that's right, I played the truffle oil card. My older, wiser sister is a firm believer that, like bacon, truffles make pretty much everything better. If that is her conviction, I think I would like to join the faith. Think there is a truffle worshiping church somewhere in Italy? There should be.

I don't know what took me so long, but I finally bit the bullet and bought a bottle of black truffle oil. I need to restrain myself so I don't put it on everything I eat for the next two months. I cannot wait to try making my own slow fried eggs with a little of the oil drizzled over the top for breakfast this weekend. Or maybe for dinner tonight, I don't know if I can wait that long.

I saw a version of this tart on Jamie Oliver's show on the cooking channel last week, and knew instantly that I had to make it. Unfortunately, it is no longer asparagus season and there is little I detest more than asparagus spears that are an inch in diameter. I am very discriminatory when it comes to asparagus, I only like the skinny ones. Maybe someday I will learn to love all asparagus spears as they are, but for now I am set in my ways. This is coming from the girl who only used to eat the 'tree tops' off the broccoli and leave the rest. I have come a long way since then.

I had to think of something that would go well with the cheesy mashed potato base, but wouldn't put me into carbohydrate or starch overload. Many of the vegetables that are in season right now would probably have that effect. I instead decided to use thinly sliced portobello mushroom caps in place of the asparagus, and add a little Gruyere, chives, and of course truffle oil to the mix. It was wonderful. The smell was heavenly and I have been thoroughly enjoying eating all the leftovers this week.

The best part is, it was really easy to assemble. Filo, or Phyllo dough can be intimidating because it is so fragile and thin, but this tart is pretty rustic, it looks better that way. You don't have to worry about tearing the sheets of dough, just slather on some more melted butter and patch it up with the next layer. You could substitute puff pastry dough for a thicker and less fussy crust, but I like how light the crust was with just five or so layers of filo.

Or you can forgo the crust all together and just bake the filling, for a gluten free version. Almost just as good. Almost.

Truffled Potato & Portobello Tart
adapted from Jamie Oliver
serves 4-6

1 1/4 lb. (a little more or a little less if just fine) of russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3-4 medium portobello mushroom caps, thinly sliced
5-6 sheets of filo dough
1/2 stick of butter, melted
3/4 cup white cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced chives
truffle oil for garnish

Place cut potatoes in a pot filled with cold water and boil until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Take whatever dish you are planning on using, I actually used a 8 X 8 in cake pan that I lined with parchment paper (but you can using a baking dish, or a tart pan as well) and brush with melted butter to coat.

Take one sheet of your filo dough (keep the rest covered with a slightly damp paper towel so it doesn't dry out) and gently line your pan. Brush melted butter all over the filo, and repeat with 5-6 sheets of dough. You can leave the edges of the filo draped over the sides of the dish for now. Cover with a damp towel or paper towel and set aside.

In a small bowl beat the eggs together with the cream with a fork. In a large bowl, break up the potatoes with a masher, then add the cheeses and mash until combined. Add the cream and egg mixture and mash and mix until smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Pour potato mixture into filo-lined baking dish leaving at least 1/2 inch room from the top of the dish. Spread into an even layer and top with your sliced mushrooms. Sprinkle with a little extra ground black pepper and the chives. Gather the extra filo dough that was draped over the edge and crimp it together around the edge of the potato mixture. Brush more butter all over the filo crust, and bake for 20-30 minutes until middle has set and the filo is golden brown. The time will vary depending on the size and depth of your baking dish. Mine took a bit longer since it was so deep.

Let the tart set up for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Drizzle with a bit of truffle oil and sprinkle with fresh chives before serving.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pumpkin Tartlets + A Giveaway!

** First and foremost, don't forget to enter the giveaway for a $45.00 CSN Stores gift certificate HERE. Just leave a comment on the linked post to enter before this Friday (11/12) at midnight! **

The Thanksgiving season has officially arrived. As of now, I have  four Thanksgiving celebrations to attend this November, and checked one of them off the list this past weekend. The hosts of the party were nice enough to provide the main meal, and just asked guest to bring a dessert and drinks. There ended up being about 20 different desserts at a party that had about 30 people at it, but somehow I managed to be the only one that brought some sort of pumpkin pie. What is thanksgiving without pumpkin pie?

I confess I am not really that into pumpkin pie, but it is just one of those things that has to be there on the table at the end of the meal. It's tradition! It's iconic! It's like the much neglected cranberry sauce, Thanksgiving just wouldn't be right without it.

This is a pretty standard, no frills pumpkin pie. I used my now-favorite pate brisee recipe for the crust, and Paula Deen's recipe for the filling (surprisingly it only has 1/2 stick of butter in it! Well the filling at least). Oh yes, and of course I made them miniature, I couldn't help myself. I liked them this way because there was a higher crust-to-filling ratio than a full sized pie. If you are one of those people that typically eats all the filling out of the pie and leaves the crust behind (not that there is anything wrong with that) this may not be the recipe for you.

Pumpkin Pie Tartlets
adapted from Food Network and Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook
Makes about 24 3 1/2 inch tartlets

1 batch pate brisee, rolled out to 1/8 inch thick sheets and chilled (see recipe here)
1 cup pumkpin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, beaten
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 stick of butter (2 tablespoons) melted
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Using a 4 inch round cutter, cut 20-24 circles out of your pre-rolled pate brisee. Line each one of your tarts shells with one of the circles, being careful not to stretch the dough. Freeze lined tart shells for at least 20 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar and salt and beat again until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and yolk, butter, half and half, and beat until combined. Add the vanilla, ginger, and cinnamon and beat just until incorporated.

Line tart shells with tin foil and fill with pie weights (I use beans or rice, whatever I have on hand). Par-bake your shells for about 10-12 minutes until they are just barely starting to brown and have dried out a bit.

Remove from oven, and take out the pie weights and tin foil and add a large spoonfull of the filling into each tart. Reduce oven heat to 350 F and bake for 40-45 minutes, until filling has set and the crust turns a golden brown.

Let cool completely on wire racks before un-molding from tart pans. Serve with fresh whipped cream, or nothing at all.

Here's to many more thanksgiving feasts to come!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Greek-Style Shepard's Pie & A Giveaway!

I wish I could give away a dutch oven to each and every one of you. Seriously, I do. I love these things. To me, dutch ovens absolutely symbolize cold weather cooking. Though they are very heavy pieces of artillery, my two LeCrueset's have become an incredibly vital part of my kitchen. As soon as the weather turns brisk, my mind starts scheming to come up with new things to make in Big Red (that's what I call my 13-quart red Dutch oven, and yes I realize I am a huge nerd). 

Alas, I cannot give you a dutch oven, but I can do something to help those of you who are in need of one (or anything else in your kitchen artillery that you find you are missing). I am giving away a $45.00 gift card for CSN stores online! They have a huge selection of cookware and kitchen gadgets, and you can use this gift towards any of it. 

All you have to do is:

Leave me a comment on this post, telling me what your favorite thing to make in your dutch oven is? Or, if you don't have a dutch oven, what would be the first thing you would make if you did?

You have until next Friday, November 12th at midnight to enter. I will pick a winner at random, and you will be contacted by CSN stores to redeem your gift! 

Now, lets get on to the goodies. This may not be the most beautiful or photogenic dish, and it may not be the most fancy dish, but it is so so delicious. Tender eggplant and big chunks of beef, tons of oregano and a pecorino-garlic spiked mashed potato topping...I can barely handle it. I spied this on the cover of bon appetit about two years ago, and finally got around to making it this week, I can't believe I waited this long. It is chocked full of vegetables, tender cubes of braised beef, and topped with a creamy, starchy topping, it has all the things you want out of a traditional shepard's pie, with a few twists. 

I found my favorite way to eat this particular dish is in a mug. Preferably with a snuggie on. (I almost tried to smuggle home the snuggie I got my parents as a gag-gift for Christmas) Yes, I am ashamed. You can curl up on the couch and let this pie warm your hands and your belly. 

Greek - Style Shepard's Pie
serves 8-10

1 1/2 - 2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
coarse salt
6-7 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 pounds beef, cubed into 1 inch pieces (I usually just buy the 'stew beef', pre-cut into small square pieces)
All-purpose flour
5-6 carrots, diced
3 cups chopped onions (I used about 2 1/2 large vidalia onions)
1 cup dry white wine
1 - 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese (if you can find the Greek Kasseri cheese, use that, I couldn't find any)

Spread the eggplant on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a small handful of coarse salt. Let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour, to pull the excess moisture out of the eggplant. Rinse eggplant with water to remove salt, and pat dry with paper towels. 

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy pot over high heat. Add eggplant, and saute until tender and browned, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer to bowl, and set aside. 

Season beef with salt and pepper, then toss with enough flour to lightly coat all the pieces. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the same large pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, if necessary, brown meat on all sides, about 8-10 minutes for each batch. Transfer beef to a bowl, and set aside.

If pot is dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil then add the onions. Saute the onions until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the wine to the pot and scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes, until most of wine has evaporated. Add tomatoes with juice, beef broth, garlic, and oregano, and bring to a boil. Add beef with any accumulated juice and carrots to pot, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer over low heat for another 45 minutes.

While the filling is simmering, place your potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat the two tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute just a minute, until fragrant. Add milk and bring to a simmer and turn off heat.

When the potatoes are cooked through, drain and return to pot, cooking over medium heat for a few minutes until excess water has evaporated. Crush potatoes with a potato masher, and add the milk, mashing until smooth. Stir in the cheese, season with salt and pepper, and keep covered until filling is done. 

You can either bake the pie in the dutch oven the you prepared the filling in if it is oven proof, or you can transfer the filling into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Top the filling with spoonfuls of the mashed potatoes, and spread gently into a even layer to seal in the edges. 

Bake until filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes. 

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