THESE GUYZ

Pie Now, Pie Forever

We’ve got a nice backlog of holiday projects to share with you. Some turned out. Some didn’t. Some are SFW. Some aren’t. The holidays are weird.

THESE GUYZ

THESE GUYZ

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to make this Mini Cranberry Meringue Pie recipe. Or, at least since 2006, when the recipe was originally published. Finally, I got my act together in 2014 and turned out these adorable packets of delight for Thanksgiving dessert.

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Ceramic pie weights came in very handy.

The process was actually fairly simple, for someone who is not super new to baking, anyway. The crust was nice (although I rolled out my last roll-out of it too thin, and those were a little overdone when they baked), the cranberry part was easy enough, and the broiler browned up the meringue with no problem. I did screw up the meringue by over-whipping it at first—distracted, no doubt, by whatever episode of Serial I was listening to. But it was easy enough to make more. The teeny tiny results were gorgeous and tart and my life’s pride.

Delicious cranberry filling!

Delicious cranberry filling!

A few days prior to Thanksgiving, my brother frantically emailed to make sure there would also be pumpkin pie. I said, “If you insist…”

Two pie dough recipes, having an awkward frenemy moment in the fridge.

Two pie dough recipes, having an awkward frenemy moment in the fridge.

His response was: “Insist.”

Well HAPPY THANKSGIVING, siblings. I made your dang pies. So many! For a pumpkin pie, I referred to Cook’s Illustrated, my secret, actual love, as they are foolproof and impossible to make fun of. I highly recommend subscribing to their website–it’s pricey but a frigging trove of useful cooking shiz. The pumpkin pie was fairly standard, except it involved candied yams in addition to pumpkin, and it all had to be cooked on the stovetop first. Oh, and of course the crust involved vodka–my favorite pie crust recipe ever.

What a beautiful pic of a perfect pie!

What a beautiful pic of a perfect pie!

JK the other side looked like  a mud puddle.

JK the other side looked like a mud puddle.

It ended up being fine, because the teeny tininess of the mini-pies needed some supplementation. And a big orangey-brown slice of pumpkin next to the maaaaybe overly cute cranberry pielet looked pretty rad.

Christmas came and went, with an enormous baking fail followed by a questionable baking success (more on that later). I received from my sister-in-law:

THE PIE AND PASTRY BIBLE!!!!

Rose Levy Beranbaum is I think contractually unable to publish a recipe that won’t work perfectly. And her contract is with her creator, maybe. I dunno, either way, she is reassuring and great and sometimes comments on Amazon reviews of her own books, giving tips and stuff. I have been using The Bread Bible and The Cake Bible for years. It’s accurate to say that they are the only Bibles I care about. UNTIL NOW.

Oh, Rose!

Oh, Rose!

A couple of weeks later, my friend Lauren mentioned that she could probably handle an apple pie for her birthday, so I turned to that, the newest of my Rose Levy Berenbaum tomes. And the All-American Apple Pie was born from the very womb of my oven.

Ugh, sorry, that is disgusting. I baked this pie, is what I’m trying to say.

Oh, Rose! : Part II

Oh, Rose! : Part II

It took me a lot longer than the average “cut up apples, mix with sugar, stick in pie shell” variety, but the results were an A+. I want to use cream cheese and sherry vinegar in all my crusts! Even sandwich crusts! Sorry, kid! That taste that’s screwing up your mouth right now is called “sour.”

So 2015 is the year of pies, I think. I’ve been on an ice cream kick for the past few years, but maybe it’s time to move along. After I finish making Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream recipes for every single person I know.

Applesauce is back in my life

I’ll cop to the second item on Susan’s list of excuses reasons for our silence: “New Baby.” That’s right. James and I made a cute little human, and thus, applesauce has returned to my life.

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Cute Little Human/Excuse to Not Post in Over a Year

Even after years of not eating the stuff, I still can’t tolerate store-bought applesauce, because our mom always made it from scratch (and still does). Georgia would probably not know the difference (not YET anyway), but I enjoy hanging with her in the kitchen, she in her high chair banging wooden spoons on the tray and terrorizing the cats, and me in my apron, making ridiculous faces at her while coring four pounds of Galas.

Bonus benefits: it makes the house smell wonderful, and gives James hope that, after all these years, I am finally into cooking.

I have now made 5 or 6 batches of applesauce, all with different types of apples. Here is what I’ve learned:

  • Jonagold apples produce the sweetest applesauce in the land.
  • Pink Ladies aren’t bad either.
  • Peeling apples sucks, so don’t do it (more on that later).
  • Gala apples make boring applesauce.
  • A food mill is something you should invest in.
  • Adding sugar to this naturally sweet goodness is just overkill.

Essentially, after some experimentation, I’ve taken Martha’s Classic Applesauce and combined it with my mother’s recipe to produce something we’ll call “My Mother’s Applesauce with a Hint of Lemon.”

You’ll Need:

  • 3 pounds of apples (Jonagold, Pink Lady, McIntosh, Braeburn are good. No green ones, please, unless you’re into that kind of thing.)
  • A giant pot like a dutch oven
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Lemon
  • Cinnamon
  • Food mill or wire sieve

You’ll Do:

  • Core and chop apples into one inch chunks, LEAVING THE SKINS ON.
  • Throw chunks into dutch oven with water over medium heat. Make sure no seeds make it into the pot.
  • Squeeze in some lemon. Watch out for those seeds, too.
  • Simmer uncovered. When water boils, lower heat and let cook down, uncovered, until apples are soft and falling apart (about 45 minutes).
  • Stir occasionally. Play with baby.
  • Once apples are soft and falling apart, turn off heat and whip out the food mill. Place that thing over a bowl using the finest setting, and spoon in the apple chunks. This is how you remove the skins from the apples. 
  • This part is a little tedious, but you’ll get the hang of it. The payoff is the most beautiful, crimson colored applesauce that tastes and looks way better AND you don’t have to peel the apples.
  • Add cinnamon to taste.

These photos are of a batch made with Galas, and it didn’t turn out as perfectly pink and sweet as I wanted it to. Don’t use Galas!

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It’s all happening!

OK OK, it’s been an unacceptable amount of time since we’ve posted. But hear me out! 2013-2014 were crazy years for both of us, including some but not all of the following:

– Divorce
– New baby
– Commercial space travel
– A mild but annoying case of the hiccups
– New job
– Collapse of a personal enterprise
Orange is the New Black
– An intense freelance project
– A regrettable lapse in subscription to Martha Stewart Living (for ONE of us, anyway)
– A regrettable lapse in interest in cooking, crafting, being cheerful, mocking a well-known celebrity, or anything at all, except watching our kids grow and drinking a lot of wine after they go to bed

But now, life has settled down. and we’re ready to get really mediocre about being domestic again, beginning with the certifiably insane October 2014 issue of everyone’s favorite magazine.

Halloween, as everyone’s supposed to know, is Martha’s favorite holiday. Each year, she attempts to motivate the rest of us to do ourselves up in fantastical costumes. Or, if we have things to do that take up our precious costume-making time, we can just use whatever we have around us. We won’t look nearly as cool, but you don’t get Martha points for showing up costume-less.

My son, Archie, will be a little builder, and I, Susan, will be Woman Who Travels With This Little Builder, Furtively Taking Candy Out Of His Bag. I like costumes that involve throwing things together from already existing objects in your house. Full disclosure: I did buy Archie a tool belt about a month ago with the intent to use it for this costume, but it’s become one of his favorite toys. That’s exciting, as it is not a truck. Anyway, it now counts as one of the things I have thrown together with the rest of his outfit to turn him into a bonafide miniature construction worker. Joke’s on him when I give him a list of things I need done around the house.

The October issue isn’t all about fake spiders and spray-painting pumpkins in lacy patterns. Gosh, no. It also involves Kevin Sharkey as a masked phantom and a big feature on homemade applesauce, which is one of my favorite things. (I scoff at the idea that Martha thinks she can top my mother, though.)

It also just barely includes some recipes! Such as this one for Spanish Rice with Ground Beef and Eggs!

 

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Eggs on top of dinner

I’ve got a real thing for eggs on top of dinner. I don’t know what it is. The idea should be so gross, but it’s incredibly delicious, especially when the yolk runs into everything else. Guys! I don’t know!? Humans have weird tastes!

Of course, I substituted brown rice for white and veggie crumbles for the beef, but the results were great, easy, and lasted me through several days of meals.

If you do plan to eat this meal as leftovers, just only do the egg step for the amount you’re going to eat tonight, save the rest of the rice mixture in the fridge. Then, heat up the rice by itself, or throw it into the oven with an egg on top. Bing, bang, boom!

To substitute brown rice, parboil the rice for 12 minutes beforehand. Then, use as directed! Much better for you and tastier too, if you ask me. Which you did, by virtue of reading this far.

We’re back, Martha! I mean, I guess you’ve always been back, but here I am, back also!

Birds of a…

[Editor’s Note: I drafted this three weeks ago but forgot to publish, because FALL IS CRAZY AND NO ONE CAN ENJOY IT PROPERLY.]

In November, Kevin Sharkey recommended stuffing some stray feathers and nuts into a bell jar to decorate for Thanksgiving, like so…

Feather Centerpiece

Cut to my dining room sideboard, which sported a VERY SIMILAR feather ‘n glass thing long before Sharkey’s piece.

My Feather Centerpiece

Bell jar. Wine carafe. Whatever. The thing is too heavy for me to lift, so it gets feathers (apologies to Mike and Ritsuko. It’s still a great gift!)

Point is, Sharkey and I – in addition to using the same skin care products – are basically related.

Gluten is bad; Brownies are good.

Last night, Someone Who Will Remain Nameless (whose name rhymes with Romenick) hollered, “Gluten is the Devil!” as I reached for a mini biscuit at a fancy event that rhymes with Mystery Makers, to which I replied, “I just made gluten free brownies this weekend, so back off bub and pass the cheese balls!”   And those brownies were damn good. Possibly because they contain loads of sugar and cornstarch, but not ONE IOTA of gluten. No sir.

Romenick meant well. He really did. I forgive him. Make these today and get in on this gluten hate-fest.

Gluten-Free Fudgy Pecan Brownies

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Whisk together cornstarch, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter and chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring each time, until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Stir in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add cornstarch mixture and stir vigorously until mixture is smooth and begins to pull away from side of bowl, about 2 minutes. Stir in pecans.
  2. Pour batter into pan and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Using paper overhang, lift cake out of pan and cut into 16 squares.

The Kitchen Is Back!

I’ve been taught a lesson about blaspheming Martha. 

After all my chastising of Living for veering away from food in recent years, hold onto your whisks, everyone… April 2012 contained the perfect recipe. And I would have posted about it in the elapsed time between now and then, but I’ve been too busy making it over and over again. Guys, I may never make anything else ever again! 

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It’s a game-changer!

The magazine section involved seems to be a mad, mad mash-up of the old Cooking 101 and the (I GUESS) old What’s For Dinner, since I suppose we have to accept that the pull-out card section is now an entertaining feature. The new section is “Cooking. What’s for dinner?” or, more accurately, “COOKING what’s for dinner?” I can only surmise that the all-caps is meant to draw you in while the italics emphasize the giant hole in your heart where the good old days used to be.

 

I must admit, my bitter tears did nothing to water down my instant interest in this new Cwfd? section. Pasta is my favorite favorite comfort food, and I would happily lie atop a bed of angel hair at night and then eat the entire thing in the morning for breakfast. This article, “Rethink Your Pasta Routine” outlined the method of cooking pasta that sticklers for genuine Italian cooking insist upon: boiling it while you make the sauce, then finishing it in the sauce skillet so that the pasta can absorb the flavors (bonus: no colander washing and you can spoon pasta water directly into the sauce from the pot instead of throwing tap water in because you forgot to save some of it before you drained the pasta, which I would NEVER do, Martha).

All of the recipes looked good,* but the showstopper was Bucatini with Red Clam Sauce and Hot Pepper.

 Here is a metric I never knew existed until recently: This dinner takes less time to make than it will take your spouse to feed the baby and put him to bed. Wait, wait, let me go one better. This dinner takes less time to make than it does for your very capable spouse to put the easiest baby on Earth to bed. I speak the truth! I actually had to slow down my cooking process so that this delectable dish wouldn’t be ready too quickly.

 BUT CLAMS! Gross, right?

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That’s a lot of clamz

 Not at all! What’s more, they come in a can and are inexpensive, and if they’re on sale, I recommend stocking up. Because you’re gonna want to make this again. Bucatini (or perciatelli) is just like hollow spaghetti, which is good for a runny sauce like this because it allows the sauce to collect. But if you can’t find it, regular spaghetti will have to do (peasant).**

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Garlic and friends!

 Here’s my rundown:

  1. Sauté garlic and oregano in olive oil/boil pasta
  2. Add canned tomatoes, their juice, and juice from the canned clams
  3. Add clams and capers
  4. Add pasta
  5. Dunzo

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Saucin’.

Literally anyone can do this. And when I say “anyone,” I mean “It’d be cool if someone made this for me once in awhile although I guess I’m actually not all that resentful since it takes no effort.”

 Anyway, I’ve made it thrice, per my husband’s request (a rare and wonderful thing, as he cheerfully accepts everything I put in front of him and doesn’t give too much feedback).

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Like I said, dunzo.

In conclusion, I have clipped this recipe and added it to my binder of “recipes I would make again,” which now contains three recipes. You win this round, Martha.  

*I did try the Fusilli with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms, which was satisfying yet bland.

** JK. Kroger’s “Private Selection” makes perciatelli for like $0.99. It’s not the Rockefeller pasta or anything.