Monday, November 30, 2009

Hungry and grumpy

Today was a weird day. As I am writing this I am feeling hungry and unsatisfied that reminds of the way I felt often before the project started, but not so much since. Hungry, despite having eaten what should be a reasonable amount of food.
For breakfast I had cranberries and corn grits with pecans, which was great. Mid morning I split a banana with Baby J, so far everything was fine. For lunch I had some leftover turkey, gravy, dressing and potatoes, and a shortbread cookie which was fine. Then I met a friend for coffee where I had a cappuccino. When I got home I was starving and the power was out on our block. We had candles lit, but it was very hard to see in the kitchen, especially the refrigerator and nothing could be heated up since there was no electricity. I had some salad that my husband had made at that point, and a couple of bites of the open-faced turkey sandwich with gravy he made before the power went out. After I put the baby to bed and the power came back on, I microwaved a cup of bean soup that I made before Thanksgiving. After that I just felt more hungry, so I ate the last cornbread muffin, then another cup of the soup. I still feel weirdly hungry. It's 11:10pm. This sucks. I guess I'll just go to bed.

Poultry Seasoning

1 Tablespoon each:
Dried Rosemary
Dried Sage
Dried Thyme
Dried Majoram
Celery Seed

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns or 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Grind ingredients together in a mini-chopper, spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Makes about 1/3 cup.

Pilgrims Pie

This is from the Wednesday, November 25, 2009 Food Section of the Los Angeles Times. It is a simple and delicious way to use up a lot of leftovers.

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning (I made this myself)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
4 cups combined diced leftover turkey and vegetables, at room temperature (We used brussel sprouts and a potato dish I made in a misguided panic that we didn't have enough food.)
2 cups leftover stuffing, more as needed, at room temperature
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes, more as needed, at room temperature

Leftover cranberry sauce, served on the side

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart casserole (about 10 by 8 inches) and set aside. 2. Place a medium heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. Melt the butter, then add the onion and celery and cook until the vegetables begin to soften and color, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Stir or whisk in the flour and poultry seasoning,  making sure to eliminate any lumps. The roux will pull together. Continue stirring frequently until the roux begins to toast and color, about 3 minutes.

4. Slowly whisk in the milk and broth, whisking to combine. Once the mixture begins to bubble, turn the heat down and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

5. Add the leftover turkey and vegetables, stirring to combine. Taste, adding more poultry seasoning, salt and pepper if desired. (Like I said, I made the poultry seasoning, and then accidently dumped the whole thing, about 1/2 cup, into the mix. I managed to get most of it out, but needless to say, I did not add more here.) Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

3. Use a spoon or an ice-cream scoop to alternate small scoops of stuffing and mashed potatoes on top of the vegetable mixture. Don't worry if the topping sinks slightly into the mixture. (Our stuffing wasn't the kind that could be made into scoops, so I just poured a layer of it over the turkey vegetable mix, then put scoops of mashed potatoes over that.)

Place the dish in the oven and bake until the vegetable mixture begins bubbling up and the stuffing and mashed potatoes are heated through and just beginning to brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and set aside for several minutes before serving. Serve in a bowl with a scoop of cranberry sauce on the side.


That's all I've been eating since Thursday, with the exception of the new pie (Paper Bag Apple Pie with Sour Cherries) that our friend Elizabeth brought over on Friday.

DR came up with a brilliant use for the leftover cranberries for breakfast. On Friday he just added them to oatmeal, which was pretty delicious, but on Sunday he made corn grits with cranberries and chopped pecans. We had it again this morning. I think that was finally the last of the cranberries...very sad.

On Friday I was too tired to be very creative, so we just heated up plates of leftovers as is for various meals. But on Saturday night I made Pilgrim's Pie. This is a recipe from Wednesday's LA Times, and it had that perfect, comforting, Thanksgiving leftovers taste. It was exactly what you imagine when you dream of eating leftovers. We ate it in warm bowls with cranberries on the side, so good. All along we've been doing our best to get through the desserts. On Saturday EM came over and did what she could for the cause. She even helped drink some of the wine that was open, and ate a shortbread cookie for good measure.

We finished off the pilgrim's pie last night, and the apple pie. We also made a salad of turkey, beets, celery and red onion, because it's good to throw some raw veggie's in the mix in these circumstances. Also, I don't have the luxury of falling down on the veggie eating front for too long. The CSA box requires you keep it up all week long or the guilt will destroy you. The pilgrim's pie finished off the mashed potatoes and dark meat turkey. We still have almost a full turkey breast, some stuffing/dressing, pumpkin pie, peach cobbler and buttermilk pie to go.


This is from Bon Appétit, November 2007. It is for the cornbread to accompany the Cornbread Dressing. But it could be used for just eating too.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Generously butter 9x9x2" metal baking pan.
Whisk together in a large bowl until well blended:
13/4 cups buttermilk. (I made the butter milk by combining milk and 13/4 tablespoons lemon juice.)
5 large eggs
2 Tablespoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1.5 teaspoons baking powder (I'm still using what I have. But I plan to make some soon.)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Then whisk in 21/4 cups cornmeal
Then 3 Tablespoons melted butter.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until top is golden brown and tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 23 minutes. (It took about 35 minutes for me.)
Cool cornbread in pan on rack.

If you make this one day ahead, cool completely then cover and store at room temperature.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Fall Vegetables

This recipe is from Bon Appétit from November 2007

1 10 ounce bag pearl onions (if you can get multi-colored ones it is really beautiful)
2.5 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices (about 3/4lb)
2.5 cups peeled and sliced parsnips (about 3/4lb)
2 cups 1/2 cubes peeled rutabagas (about 3/4lb)
2/3 cup olive oil divided
1 pound crimini (baby bella mushrooms) stemmed, caps halved (I don't like mushrooms so we didn't use any.)
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
1.5 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
6 cups 1/2 inch cubes Cornbread
3 large eggs, beated to blend (I forgot to beat them, just cracked them over the mixture and stirred... it was fine.)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 cups chicken stock

Position one rack in the top third and one rack in the bottom third of the oven; Preheat to 425ºF. Cook onions is a small saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes. (This will take the tearing burn out of them.) Drain.
Cool slightly, trim and peel. Place onions, carrots, parsnips and rutabagas in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 1/3 cup oil over and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; toss to coat. 

Place mushrooms and garlic on another rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with remaining 1/3 cup oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat. Roast mushrooms and garlic on top rack until tender, stirring once for about 30 minutes. (Since I was not using mushrooms I didn't use as much oil and only roasted them for about 15 minutes). Roast root vegetables on the lower rack until tender and brown around the edges, stirring every 15 minutes for about 1 hour. (I gave them an extra 15 minutes). Add mushrooms, if using to root vegetables in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mash garlic with a fork until it's pureed. Add pureed garlic and herbs to vegetables and toss to coat. (I accidently mixed the herbs with the pureed garlic, which made it hard to toss with the vegetables, but I think it turned out OK.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

**You can do up to this point and make the cornbread a day ahead, which is a good idea because it is time consuming. Just let it cool, cover and stick in the fridge. Bring mixture to room temperature before continuing.

Place cornbread cubes on large rimmed baking sheet. Let bread cubes stand at room temperature to dry slightly for about an hour. 

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter 13x9x2 inch oval baking dish. Add cornbread cubes to vegetables; toss to distribute evenly. Add eggs, toss to coat. Drizzle with melted butter, toss to coat. Add chicken stock and stir to combine. (Mixture will be very moist) Transfer to prepared dish.

Bake uncovered until lightly browned and crisp around the edges, about 45 minutes. (We put this in the oven as soon as we took the turkey out. The timing worked out perfectly.)



Shortcut Turkey Stock

In a large saucepan, combine:
8 cups chicken stock;
2 scrubbed unpeeled carrots cut into chunks (I used all the carrots in our stuffing recipe, so we didn't use any)
2 celery stalks cut into chunks
1 rinsed unpeeled onion, quartered
Stems from 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
Reserved Turkey neck, heart and gizzard
Bring to boil. Reduce heat to very low; simmer gently until gizzard is tender about 90 minutes. Transfer neck, heart and gizzardto plae. Strain stock into medium bowl and cool. If adding giblets to gravy, pull meat from turkey neck. Chop neck meat, heart and gizzard. (We did not do this.)
You can do this up to three days ahead of time. Just cover the stock and wrap the giblets and put it all in the fridge.

Lemon-Herb Turkey with Lemon Garlic Gravy

This is from Bon Appétit November 2007.

Lemon Herb Butter
1 large lemon
1 small head of garlic
3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian Parsley
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh fennel fronds
1 small shallot, chopped
1 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large pinch of powdered saffron or saffron threads

Make 4 long 1/2-inch deep cut in lemon. Place in a microwave safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes. (This is a quick cheat for making Moroccan-Style "preserved" lemons, which usually takes from one week to one month to cure.)

Place garlic head in medium microwave safe bowl; add enough water to cover garlic. Cover bowl and microwave on high until soft, about 3 minutes. Transfer garlic to work surface: cool and peel.

Pour any lemon juice from bowl into small cup. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into same cup; reserve juice for gravy. Scrape all fruit and pith from inside peel halves; discard insides. Chop peel. Blend peel and garlic in mini-processor until finely chopped. Add butter and all remaining ingredients: process to blend.
**This can be made 2 days ahead. (We did it on Thanksgiving morning because we didn't read this ahead of time... I'm just glad it didn't require being made a day ahead - that happens to me sometimes)
Transfer to bowl. Cover lemon juice and lemon butter separately: chill. Bring butter to room temperature before using.

1 18 pound turkey, rinsed, patted dry inside and out: neck, heart and gizzard reserved for Shortcut Turkey Stock
3 lemons, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
10 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
6 fresh sage sprigs
6 fresh fennel fronds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Shortcut Turkey Stock or water

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 325ºF. Transfer 2 tablespoons lemon herb butter to small bowl; reserve for gravy. Sprinkle main turkey cavity with salt and pepper and spread with 2 tablespoons lemon butter. Starting at neck end of turkey, carefully slide hand between skin and meat of breast, thighs and upper drumstick to loosen skin.

Spread lemon butter over thigh and drumstick on both sides. Arrange a few lemon slices under skin. Spread remaining butter over breast meat; place lemon slices atop butter under skin.

Fill main cavity with any remaining lemon slices, parsley and sage sprigs, and fennel fronds. Tie legs together loosely to hold shape. Tuck wing tips under. (We could not get the wings to stay "tucked" so we pinned them with poultry pins.

Place turkey on a rack set in a large roasting pan. Rub outside of turkey all over with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. (My husband was doing this. He had a lot of left over butter, so he rubbed the outside of the turkey with butter instead of oil... I did pour a little oil over it before I put it in the oven.)

Pour stock into pan. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh reads 165º to 170ºF, about 3.5 hours. Tilt turkey so juices from main cavity run into pan. Transfer turkey to platter. Tent very loosely with foil; let rest at least 30 minutes. (internal temperature will raise 5-10º) Reserve pan.

2 cups (or more ) Shortcut Turkey Stock
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup creme fraiche (optional) We did not use this because I would have had to make it.

Scrape juices and browned bits from the reserved roasting pan into a large glass measuring cup. Spoon off fat, reserving 2 tablespoons. Add enough stock to juices to measure 12/3 cups.

Heat reserved 2 tablespoons fat in heavy large saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic and shallot; sauté 2 minutes, Add flour; whisk until golden, about 4 minutes. Add degreased pan juices and 2 cups stock. Bring to boil, whisking until smooth. Reduce heat and simmer until gravy is reduced to desired consistency about 4 minutes. Whisk in 2 tablespoons reserved lemon juice, lemon peel, and sugar, then herbs. Whisk in creme fraiche, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


We hosted Thanksgiving at our house for ten people. It was a fun and delicious event. We made the Turkey, stuffing and gravy. Our guests brought everything else. My adorable brother Mike brought Bacon Wrapped Dates for the cocktail hour. Rich and delicious.

Jan Smelk brought Smashed Potatoes, I was thrilled that she went so far as to make her own Sour Cream. It's a good friend who is willing to indulge your craziness to that extent.

 EM made brussel sprouts and cranberries, both of which were tasty and fresh.We forgot to put the brussel sprouts out until we sat down, and I had already photographed the food, and I am a terrible blogger and picture taker, so I apologize for that. But they were good. Here are the beautiful cranberries.

We used a recipe for a Lemon-Herb Turkey we found in Bon Appétit Magazine. It was very good, but not the most amazing turkey I've ever had. I think simple might be more the way to go with turkey, as I have discovered with roast chicken. Next time I think we will try just brining the turkey overnight. This was a pretty beautiful bird, however.

We also did a lemon herb gravy. I liked it, but my husband thought it was too zesty. So again, I think simple can be better in these circumstances. It's fun to jazz things up with the traditional meals, but it's not always better than the traditional staples. I didn't get a picture of the gravy, again because I am the worst at taking pictures. Both of my sisters are great about things like that, and I wish they had been here because it would have been beautifully documented. But you are stuck with me, so it is hapharzard and incomplete.

I think the Roasted Vegetable and Corn Bread Stuffing was a top notch entry into the menu. I guess technically it is a dressing and not a stuffing since it was never stuffed into the bird. But I just can't get my head around calling it dressing because that makes me think of buttermilk ranch or thousand island, not a bread and vegetable side dish.

Of course I forgot to take a good picture of the finished project, so this one of the buffet will have to do. You can kind see how autumnal and beautiful it looks. Behind the stuffing are the cornbread muffins my friend the Yam Queen made for the festivities. She is a certified Southern Belle and these are her specialty. They were a great compliment to the meal.

Now for dessert!

It's kind of obscene how much dessert we had, and still have. I've been working hard to get through the leftovers, but it is a daunting task. Jan Smelk brought shortbread sugar cookies. Our cousin Tammy brought a buttermilk pie with strawberries AND a peach cobbler. My friend Lex, who just came back from Paris brought a Clafoutis. And Ben brought a pumpkin pie and real whipped cream to keep us from loosing site of tradition. Jan Smelk had the brilliant idea of adding whipped cream to her coffee and many of us followed suit, for just a little extra dose of decadence.

Here is a photo of our party right before eating. I am so thankful for every person at that table and everything about that meal. We ate so much delicious food, and sat around the table laughing and talking for hours after eating. To have such entertaining, generous and loving friends and family is no small thing and to have the time and resources to make and share so much good food is such a luxury I couldn't ask for more. It is a happy life I am leading and I hope I can always remember how lucky I am.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Smashed Potatoes

Hi all! Jan Smelk here with the potato recipe! Ok, so I kept on finding these awesome recipes for potatoes that all involved cheese. Since the process of "single ingredient" was encouraged (read: demanded), my BFF, cheese was not invited to the party. I had to figure out another way to attain rich dairy satisfaction. The answer: sour cream. But I had to make it! Shock, horror and disbelief were heard at the Smelk household when this was announced. But it was the easiest thing ever.

1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. buttermilk (turns out you can make that in five minutes!)

Put both liquids mixed in a jar (or a pint glass, like me) cover with lid or plastic wrap and leave in a warmish place for 24 hours. Then refridgerate. OMG it worked. And was tasty! And had no xanthum gum or gelatin. Wowza.

So that was done.
To make my potatoes, I read a whole bunch of recipes then made it up with stuff I thought would be good. I roasted two heads of garlic with olive oil in tin foil for an hour at 350. Sauteed a big shallot in a stick of butter for a bit, then added the roasted garlic by squeezing the heads in a rather disgusting and messy display of immaturity, giggling madly. They made farting noises, and plopped into the butter! I couldn't help it! I put that mixture in a tupperware, my sour cream in a tupperware, and 2 bunches of chopped green onion in a tupperware. I took these guys and a bag of yukon golds to CCA's house.

Boiled the potatoes for an hour, strained, then mashed with all the stuff in my tupperwares, adding the green onion last. I will admit, there were more potatoes than I had originally planned for, so I did add another half stick of butter and (don't tell CCA)a big splash of 1/2 and 1/2. But that evened the texture out to nearly perfect then we ate the heck out of them.

Everything served was delicious. The only thing that was better than the food was the company.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Round Two - Day 19 & 20

Yesterday began the preparations for Thanksgiving dinner, which we are having at our house. I will chronicle all the efforts to make it from scratch on Friday. In the meantime I will try to sum up the last couple of days. Tuesday I soaked some beans for a bean soup I made yesterday. I threw in the left over bones from the pork chops I made last week, and cut up a couple of the saltiest pieces of bacon. I thought this might be enough salt, but actually it wasn't. I ended up having to salt it when I served it, which never works as well as when you are cooking it. But that's a good lesson. Also, the recipe I used calls for chili powder, which I don't have, so I used curry powder instead. It didn't have the kick that I would have preferred. I'm going to have to learn how to make chili powder. I also had some bread with butter and some of the cookie pieces.

For lunch we had some left over roast chicken from Tuesday night with broccoli and bread. I am pretty excited about this chicken. I have been reafing the Julie/Julia blog, and she mentioned when she made Julia's roast chicken that she (like me) didn't find it worth all the turning and basting work. She said that she makes a roast chicken by rubbing it with olive oil, salt and pepper and putting it in the oven "for a while". So this is what I did and I think it was the best one I have made so far. I cooked it at 450º for about an hour and twenty minutes. Finally, the skin was almost crispy! I think if I had left it in for another 5-10 minutes the skin would have crisped up even more without drying out the meat. I can't believe that roasting a chicken has become the easiest dinner I can make. Two months ago this was something I would have to psyche myself up for for a few days and think about all day. This time I decided right before I put it in the oven. It worked out perfectly because I set Baby J up in his high chair with his dinner, and prepared the chicken and cut up some potatoes and carrots to roast underneath while he ate. I put it in the oven and then started the process of putting him to bed. By the time he was asleep it was almost ready, all I had to so was sauté some beet greens with olive oil and garlic to serve with it and a real grown up dinner was ready.

I apologize for skipping around. Yesterday morning, we had cornmeal pancakes and bacon. We made our own buttermilk for the first time for these pancakes. As promised, it couldn't be easier. A cup of milk, and a tablespoon of lemon juice, left to sit for five minutes. It fermented just like buttermilk! This kind of thing is one of the best parts of this project, seeing science at work! I wish I had paid more attention in school. Perhaps I will have a strong understanding of all of this chemisty and biology by the time Baby J is studying it.

I already told you about Tuesday's dinner, for lunch we finished off the mediocre pumpkin stew from book club night and for breakfast eggs and bacon. Throw in some broken cookie pieces and bread with butter and perhaps a banana or two and that should about cover it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 17 & 18 - Broken cookies are the best

Oh it is getting hard to do this. I think working backwards will help me... I just had some broken cookie pieces from a zip lock bag. I had a meeting last night at my garden about our holiday pot luck, and someone brought them from another event. She said they were samples from a "freelance baker" who was next to her at a neighborhood arts event.  She insisted I take them home, and since my brother was coming over for dinner and I figured they were homemade by this baker... I was trying to be helpful.

Before that I had Beet Salad, some of the mediocre Pumpkin Chowder from book club night, steamed broccoli and bread with butter. It was a rather nice meal. I love that beet salad. I also had it for lunch with the last of the lentil, meatball, bacon, salsa thing. That was a great combination when they mixed together on the plate. I was sad I didn't have more of both, it was kind of like the chocolate and peanut butter discovery in old Reeses commercials, except not as weird as eating from a jar of peanut butter while walking down the street or at the movies.

I think I also had parts of three bananas, all of which I shared with Baby J. He likes to act like he's eating the whole banana, and won't eat little pieces that are broken off, but he will only eat about a quarter of a banana in a sitting, so the rest is up to me.

For breakfast I had two eggs scrambled and some fried potatoes and coffee. Yesterday I left off at about midday so going back... for dessert I had some of the broken cookie parts and a glass of milk. Dinner was pumpkin stew in a pot and sautéed kale with garlic and oil, and bread. Before dinner, at the meeting I ate a whole cookie and some more of the broken cookie parts. I think that takes us back to where we left off.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Round Two - Day 16 and Beer

Are you as bored as I am with the daily report of what I am eating? It's just not as fun as it once was... There isn't much left in my house that would be considered contraband and when a lot of it is the same thing day after day it just get's too monotonous. I think I will have to work backwards this time. I just ate a banana. Before that I had some left over lentils cooked with salsa, onion, green pepper, bacon and mashed up meatballs I had made for Baby J. I made the meatballs almost a week ago and he really loved them, but I was afraid they would go bad if they didn't get eaten, and he only eats one per meal, so we finished them off. They were very good. I think I will post the recipe, as with a lot of the recipes for him, grown people would enjoy them as well. For breakfast I had oatmeal again, and coffee.

Last night I had a slice of pumpkin pie from Thursday night, before that we went to Wurstküche for dinner. This is a sausage and beer restaurant in Downtown LA. For obvious reasons it is a favorite of mine. In fact when I first read about it I felt as if it was created with me in mind as it's target demographic. Judging from it's popularity, I am not alone in my love of sausage & beer. The menu is simply that, about 20 different and exciting types of sausage (I had rabbit, veal and pork seasoned with white wine), your choice of two toppings from Carmelized Onions, Sauerkraut, Sweet Peppers and Spicy Peppers (I had onions and sweet peppers) and Belgian Fries and an assortment of dipping sauces (Bleu Cheese Walnut and Bacon). There are also about a hundred different beers, and they all come in the appropriate glass. I had the Floris Apple Ale, a witbier fermented with apples. It was sweet and autumnal tasting. We were inspired to go there because we were downtown at a beer making workshop.

We walked away with a half gallon jug of Winter Spice Ale. It is fermenting in our kitchen as we speak. If we don't carbonate it, it will be ready on December 5th, which is the official end day of this project. It is fitting to have some beer to drink, since we haven't had any in the house the whole time.

It looks like moonshine, which I love. The process was easier than I had imagined. The only ingredients you need are yeast, sugar and water. If I got it correctly you just have to bring one gallon of water to 140º, then add grains (must be at least 1/3 barley) and slowly raise the temp to 160º. Strain out the grains (which have broken down into sugar at this point). Then add your flavorings, spices and hops, etc. (I did learn that hops came into popularity because the Protestant Church of Germany required they be used exclusively because the majority of other herb growing was controlled by the Catholic Church - I might need to check the exact facts on this, but it was intriguing). Then you cool down the wort - that's what this mixture is called. When it gets to about 130º you can add a few gallons of cool water, which will bring the temp down even further. When it is about 95º, you pitch your brewers yeast. (Pitch means add). Then you cork it and put an airlock on it. Fill the airlock with some cheap high proof booze, like vodka, and wait 2 weeks for it ferment. At this point you have what Donny (Fella in the pic above) calls "alcoholic tea". He said they drink it this way all the time. But if you want to carbonate it, you can pour the mix into empty, clean beer bottles and cap them. They had a little device that puts caps on. If you leave it a few more days it will create the carbonation from the CO2 that naturally occurs. You can also sprinkle a little sugar into each bottle before capping to help the carbonation process along. The other alternative was to get a 5-gallon keg and a CO2 compressor. I'm not planning on doing that, so I didn't pay that much attention to that part. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Makin Bacon

This is probably the most exciting item I have endeavored to make so far. I am a very serious pork lover in all forms. The idea of a breakfast of my own home cured and smoked crispy bacon fills me with an anticipated sense of pride that is pretty profound. I started this project on Monday, November 9th when I ordered the pork belly from my favorite local grocer, Figueroa Produce. I got 5 pounds at $1.99/lb, which seemed like a good price since the guy on the blog I was following paid $3/lb and he lives in Iowa where pigs outnumber people. I went in to pick it up on Friday, November 13th. This is a family owned establishment, and it so happened that nearly the entire family was in the store at the time. They were all abuzz with the news that I was going to make my own bacon and made me promise to bring them some to try. The pressure is on for it to be good.

On Saturday I began the curing process. I used the instructions I found on this blog. I chose this one because it didn't use curing salt, which contains sodium nitrate or nitrite. These are two things I was told to steer clear of when I was pregnant. My thinking is that if it isn't good for you when you are pregnant, it is likely not good for you other times too. Of course bacon isn't exactly a health food no matter how you prepare it... but I do what I can.

So I cut the pork belly into three strips and cured each one a little differently.
1. Brown Sugar and Kosher Salt
2. Brown Sugar, Kosher Salt and diced Apple
3. Brown Sugar, Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

The blog recommended using a half cup of salt and and a half cup of brown sugar on each section. His pork belly was 12lbs, which is more than twice the size of mine, so I used a half cup of each total and felt that I probably overdid it at that.

After rubbing them down I put them in double ziploc bags and put them in the refrigerator. Every day for the next five days I turned them over. On Thursday, November 19th I rinsed them off and set them uncovered on a broiling pan in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This step is meant to "form the pellicle", which is a layer of sticky goo that the smoke adheres to in the smoking process. I didn't particularly notice this layer, but maybe it was a very thin layer.

Next came the smoking. We have a Little Chief smoker, and we used hickory smoking chips. It is necessary to put it in skin side up. This is because the smoke rises, and you want the meat to cook under the protective layer of skin, and the fat under the skin bastes the meat as it cooks. I had no idea how long the smoking process was meant to take, and my husband was convinced it was only about an hour or two, so I checked the temperature about every 30 minutes at first. The meat is supposed to reach a temp of 150º. It ended up taking about seven hours. In fact, it had only reached about 130º by that point, but DR was very concerned that it was turning into jerky and insisted we take it off. Since I had already used some off the meat before smoking it I wasn't afraid of getting sick or anything, so I gave in to him.

Here is the smoked meat. It looks pretty good, I have to say. But not as good as the picture on the blog. I have a feeling Mr. Iowa has more meat-making experience than I do, and is probably a more confident user of his smoker. We sliced off a few pieces and fried them up right away. The result was very much like bacon, but a very, very salty bacon. I could almost feel my fingers swelling up after the first bite.

We ended up dicing up a couple of pieces and sauteing them in with some lentils, ground beef, onion, green pepper and salsa that we were having for dinner. The saltiness was more welcome in that situation where the blandness of the lentils might otherwise overwhelm. I think this first foray into bacon making might be best suited to use in the making of soups and other recipes, rather than as a stand alone dish.

That being said, we had the apple bacon this morning for breakfast with eggs and potatoes.

It wasn't the most delicious bacon I've ever had, but it was totally decent and edible. I think I can even say good. I mean it is bacon after all...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pan Roasted Pork Chops with Creamy Cabbage and Apples

This recipe was in the December 2009 issue of Food & Wine Magazine

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp olive oil
4 Thyme Sprigs (I used Rosemary because I have a ton of it)
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
4 12oz bone in pork loin chops
3 thick slices of applewood-smoked bacon cut into 1/2" dice (I used unsmoked, cured pork belly because that's where it was in the process)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 head Savoy cabbage thinly sliced crosswise
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2" dice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
3/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a large, shallow dish combine 1/4 cup olive oil with thyme (or rosemary) sprigs and garlic. Add the pork chops and turn to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight. (I didn't read this ahead of time - so they marinated for almost 2 hours)
2. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until browned, about 4 minutes; pour off the fat. Add the butter and cabbage to the skillet, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occaisionally, until the cabbage is tender, about 7 minutes. Add the apple and vinegar, cover and cook, stirring occaisionally, until the apple is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard and cream and simmer uncovered until the cream has thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, cover and keep warm. (This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight. Gently reheat)
3. Preheat the oven to 325º. In a large, ovenproof skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil until shimmering. Remove the pork chops from the marinade; discard the thyme sprigs and scrape off the garlic. Season the chops with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat until richly browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chops for about 12 minutes, turning once halfway through, until just pink in the center. Transfer the pork chops to plates and serve with the cabbage.

Round Two - Days 11, 12 and 13

I've gotten a little behind again, we had dinner guests last night and the night before so I was more consumed with the cooking than the writing about it. I can't exactly remember now what the breakfasts and lunches were for the last three days, but if I had to put money on it I would say breakfast was either eggs and hasbrowns or oatmeal, there's little chance of it being anything else. I do know that we used the runny yogurt to make a smoothie. I think that was on Tuesday. It was runny yogurt, frozen mango, frozen strawberries and apple juice concentrate. This was great because all of that had been in our freezer for ages, so I was happy to have a use for it. The runny yogurt was perfect for the smoothie, creamy without requiring juice to thin it out. It was delicious.

Otherwise we probably ate leftovers and vegetables, nothing terribly memorable. On Wednesday night we had DR's cousin Tammy over for dinner. I found a great recipe in Food and Wine for Pan Roasted Pork Chops with Creamy Cabbage and Apples served with Potato Puree (fancy name for mashed potatoes). I was pretty pleased with how this turned out. The cabbage recipe called for bacon, which I mentioned I was in the process of curing, but not finished. I ended up cutting off a strip of the pork belly and frying it up.

It's only missing the smoking, so it's essentially salt pork. It doesn't have the red color that bacon usually has, but I think that is because I didn't use any nitrates in the curing. But maybe the smoking will redden it up... we'll see.

We had a pumpkin pie for dessert. This was my first time making a pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin. I had heard that it can be stringy, but luckily we didn't have that problem. The pumpkin was a bit on the small side, so the pie was a little shallow. I should have used a smaller pie pan. And the crust was really salty, which was strange. I used a different pie crust recipe than my previous two attempts. It didn't seem like it called for a lot of salt... I have gotten a little better at rolling out the dough, but it still falls apart when I try to move it. However, I watched a video on making pie crust this morning, and I think I have been "overworking" the dough when I cut in the butter and shortening. Also, I think a pastry cutter would help. I've been using my hands which might be warming the fats up too much. (Do you like that? "warming the fats up").  I will conquer this eventually. The girl in the video was able to fold the rolled out dough into fourths and unfolded it onto the pie pan, like it was a piece of fabric... AMAZING!

Thursday night I had my book club over. We had read Farm City by Novella Carpenter. It's about a woman who lives in a rather rough part of Oakland, CA (redundant, perhaps) where she creates an urban farm, complete with pigs, turkeys, chickens, ducks, bees and a garden all in her backyard and the abandon lot next door. I enjoyed it for many reasons, the least of which not being that I was reassured that this woman was way crazier than me. For this event I made the Pumpkin Chowder with the other pumpkin I had left from my CSA. I was excited about this because it was so good the last time I made it, and it was a chance for me to use the curry powder I had made again. It was very disappointing this time. I made the mistake of using the original recipe I had printed out, and not the one I wrote up here after having made it. The original recipe forgets to mention where to add the flour and curry powder, so I think I added them too late. Also I used a much bigger pumpkin, so I think it needed more curry powder, as well as more bacon. I was very conservative with my bacon since it was still in process. It probably also needed more milk, and less chicken stock, I used about twice as much chicken stock as it called for on account of the pumpkin being so much bigger... so you learn... but kind of bummer in the showing off department. Another disappointment was the bread didn't cook all the way through. Seeing as I have made a loaf of bread every 3 days for almost two months now, this is a surprising miscalculation. I did make it with entirely whole wheat flour this time, instead of half white flour. I don't know if this affects the cooking time. It was a slightly larger loaf as well. When it's gooey in the center it kind of makes me gag, but my guests seemed to like it. They were very lovely about the whole meal. I didn't wash the lettuce until about 45 minutes before people were due to arrive, and I don't have a salad spinner, despite this being a consistent issue. Four paper towels, and quite a bit of shaking didn't quite get it dry enough, but I had to move on, so the salad was a little wet, but I still thought it was pretty good. I had a yellow heirloom tomato, an avocado, red onion and a green pepper all from the farmer's market and in the end I also added a red tomato from the grocery store because I felt it needed a little more color. I think the crowning achievement of the meal was the salad dressing, which was super simple, but really good. 1/4 cup olive oil, a splash of white wine vinegar, a shallot chopped, a clove of garlic chopped, salt and pepper. I think it will be my go-to dressing from now on.

For dessert I went back to the high maintenance apple pie, which was pretty good. Again, I had an easier time with the crust, but it was still a bit of mosaic. I have to say that this pie also wasn't as good as my first pie. I feel like the whole evening was a bit of humble pie. This was the biggest audience I have had since the project began, and I would have liked to wow everyone with my new found culinary skills. Instead I feel I made an impressive effort that resulted in a mediocre meal. The most disappointing element of that is it makes me seem even more imbalanced, if I'm going to go to so much trouble with all this food and it's not even that good. Oh well...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Round Two - Day 10

A third of the way through the second month. It is starting to feel like this is my life now, rather than an experiment. The main problem I am running into is how many recipes have already assembled ingredients in them. Bacon and cheese are the main ones. For instance, we are having a dinner guest on Wednesday, and I am planning to make what looks like a fantastic recipe I found in Food and Wine magazine for pork chops with cabbage and apples. The only problem is that the cabbage is supposed to be cooked with bacon. I am curing bacon as we speak, but it won't be ready until Thursday at the earliest. I can just go without it, but I'm sure it won't be the same. I'm trying to figure out if there is a solution that will add the bacon taste without violating the rules. Perhaps I can just use some of the pork chops... ugh! This is a bummer!

Anyway, yesterday was a pretty easy day. I started off as usual with oatmeal and coffee. For lunch I finished off the Depression Gruel from Saturday and had some grapes, and a piece of bread with butter. For dinner we ate the rest of the Tabouleh from some time last week and broiled black cod with brown sugar and honey. The only thing I really made yesterday was a rather improvised cherry tart. I had a little bit of dough left over from the cherry pie, and one of my goals here is to waste a lot less food. So I rolled it out and was able to cover the bottom of a small pie tin. I also had about 3/4 of a bag of cherries left, so I added some sugar and corn starch to them, poured the mix into the pie shell and baked it for about an hour. It was kind of a sad, flat, little dessert, but it was tasty. We have a little more than half of it left, and it will serve as the pie ration for the next couple of days.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Round Two - Day Nine - Train Adventure

Not much cooking today. In general for this month I am trying to avoid eating in restaurants. The idea being that I don't want to give myself the opportunity to say, "I don't feel like cooking today, let's go out for Chinese." But as I have mentioned before, I also don't want to turn myself into someone who is no fun, and I don't want to miss cultural experiences that are timely in nature. Both of those situations presented themselves today.

Baby J finally got his sleeping back in order and slept all night until 7am. A huge relief! All of this is easier to handle on more than five hours of sleep. For breakfast we had scrambled eggs, hashbrowns and coffee. Then I headed out to a Bachelorette brunch at Pop Champagne Bar for the beautiful Megan who is getting married on New Years Eve. I had already had breakfast, but that was several hours earlier, and I think it falls into the category of being no fun to go to a party at a restaurant and say, "Oh I make all my food from scratch, I can't order anything." How obnoxious! So I ordered the Lemon Soufflé pancakes, and they were delicious.

After the brunch I had planned a train adventure with DR, Baby J, and my brother Mike. After nine years of planning and five years of construction the six mile light rail extension of the Metro Gold Line opened yesterday. This train stops a short walk from my house, so we have been eagerly anticipating the extension for a long time. It goes into East LA, which is not an area I've had much reason to visit in the 13 years I've lived here, but I think the existence of this train will change that. So yesterday it was free to ride, and there were little festivals at many of the stops. Also there was an article in the Food Section of the LA Times about good restaurants along the route. It was kind of a madhouse, and I couldn't look out the windows on the ride as much as I wanted to. But I was excited to see so many people riding the train, and it was a perfectly beautiful Los Angeles autumn day. We rode the train to the end of the line then walked to a fish taco joint called Tacos Baja. It was nearly a mile away, which I wouldn't say was off the train stop. I don't mind a walk at all. As I said it was a beautiful day, but in the circumstances it was further than I wanted since we wanted to try a bunch of places on the route, and we had gotten kind of a late start. But that being said, it was worth the effort, the fish was crispy, the sauce creamy and the cabbage and tomatoes fresh and tasty. If you are out that way and have the time, I would recommend checking it out.

After the tacos we walked back to the train, and decided to walk along the route for a bit as the next two stops were very close, and we could get a better feel for the neighborhood that way. The next stop was the East Los Angeles Civic Center, which sits on beautifully landscaped park with a lagoon and ducks and farmer's market. Unfortunately we got there as the festivities were winding down and all the vendors were packing up. So after wandering around for a bit we moved along to the Maravilla stop. Here the LA Times recommended a little strip mall restaurant right next to the train, La Chiva Loca.

This place is known for it's tortas ahogadas, which is a sandwich soaked in tomato sauce. I know that the newspaper industry is suffering, but somebody must still be reading it because they had run out of sandwiches by the time we got there. They said it had been a really busy day. The only thing they had left were taquito's, which were little cheese filled tortillas, deep fried, covered in shredded beef, cabbage, onions and tomato sauce.

Based on the tastiness of this little snack I am looking forward to going back to try the torta.
By this time it was getting late and cold, and with a baby there is only so much you can do in a single outing before it becomes abusive, so we got back on the train and headed home. The three stops we visited were said to be the least exciting in terms of food, so we are planning a second train adventure for perhaps next week. Since it won't be the opening, we are hoping it will be a little less hectic as well.

Cherry Pie

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup chilled vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

4 cups fresh sour cherries, pitted (include juice produced during pitting), or 4 cups frozen unsweetened sour cherries, unthawed
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Make dough:
Combine flour and salt in processor and blend. Add butter and shortening and process, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 5 tablespoons ice water and toss or pulse just until combined. If necessary, gently mix in additional ice water, a little at a time, until mixture forms moist clumps. Gather dough into ball. Divide in half and flatten each piece into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until cold, at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

Make filling:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line heavy baking sheet with foil and set on middle rack of oven. In large bowl, combine cherries, sugar, and tapioca or cornstarch; mix well and let stand while rolling out crust.

On lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll out 1 piece dough into 11-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick). Fit dough into 9-inch (1-quart) pie pan, leaving 3/4-inch overhang. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

On lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll out second piece dough into 11-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick).With sharp knife or fluted pastry wheel, cut into 1-inch-wide strips.

Remove pie pan with bottom crust from refrigerator and pour in filling. Top with pieces of butter. Brush rim of bottom crust lightly with water.

Make lattice top:
Lay 5 pastry strips vertically across pie, spaced evenly. Fold strips 2 and 4 back halfway, and insert new strip across center of pie, perpendicular to other strips. Drop folded strips back over inserted strip.

Fold back strips 1, 3, and 5 and add another cross strip, leaving room between strips for filling to show through. Lay folded strips flat again. Continue from center out to edge of pie, weaving lattice top. Repeat process on other half, again working from center out. Gently press ends of strips to edge of bottom crust to adhere. Trim lattice edges flush with rim of pie plate.

Roll overhanging dough from bottom crust up over edge of lattice top. Press to adhere and crimp decoratively. Brush lattice with milk and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar.

Place pie on baking sheet in oven. Bake 20 minutes. Cover crust edges with foil collar to prevent over browning. Continue to bake until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown, about 25-30 minutes longer. Transfer pie to rack and cool at least 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Round Two - Day Seven & Day Eight

I've gotten a little behind so I'm gonna do two days together here. Yesterday was another early morning for Baby J. He's gotten into some bad sleeping habits lately and waking up at 5:45 AM is one of them. I took the early shift this time, even though it's usually DR's job, but I felt guilty because he got up at 5:30 the day before. I was rewarded for my good dead because when he did get up around 7:30 he made a delicious breakfast of eggs overeasy, hashbrowns (purple and brown potatoes, salt & pepper) and toast.

For lunch I just had some left over chili and grapes. In my past life I wouldn't have dreamed of eating chili without cheese grated over it. It's funny how the sacrifices don't seem as great in this project as they would in any other scenario. If you had told me that I couldn't eat cheese for a month for any reason I would have considered it some kind of torture, it would have consumed my thoughts and I would be constantly trying to devise a way around the rules, an exception, a reason I needed to eat cheese. But I didn't even miss it. It didn't occur to me until much later that it was odd that I didn't have any cheese on my chili. I think it comes down to the fact that it is not a restriction. I can have cheese if I want to, I just have to make it. Of course, it would take me roughly three months to make cheddar cheese to grate over my chili, and that being the case, I might not consider that a worthy expenditure of three months work... but I could, and that is the whole point. I have a book on cheese making that I took from my friend EM's house while watching her cat. (Can I borrow your cheese book EM?) She is out of town on business and the cat has not given any indication that she was going to make a goat's milk chevre in the meantime. I have read the introduction, but have not gotten to any actual recipes. I have to admit I am a little gun shy after the Queso Blanco incident back in October. That has to be my least successful venture thus far, and I am not eager to repeat it. But a life without cheese cannot go on indefinitely, I fear it would change my whole personality and not in a good way. So I will make it my goal in the next week to investigate the world of cheese making again.

For dinner I made Pasta Bolognese for my little guy. He loved it. I served it with little shell pastas that he could pick up with his fat little hands so he was delighted to eat independently like a real big guy.

I made a very large batch because I wanted to cook the ground beef before it got suspect, so I thought I should eat it too, since he won't get through it in a reasonable amount of time. It was pretty good and fresh tasting... a little bland, I added salt and pepper to my portion, but that works better if it's cooked in. However, I think it is probably better the next day anyway.

I finished up the day with my ration of apple pie. Still delicious a day later, cold and without whipped cream. That crust really is flaky.

On to today, Baby J escalated his nighttime antics by waking up at 9:30pm, 12am, 3:30am, 4:30am and finally 5:45am. DR took the shift this time, and I slept until 9am, because I am a selfish bum. I had a breakfast of oatmeal with banana and sugar that DR had made hours before.

In an effort to prove myself valuable to the family, I made a Cherry Pie. DR was hosting the first read through of the next play he is directing, The Sidhe. There is a lengthy discussion of cherry pie in this show, so we thought it would be a fitting snack for the read through. Cherries are out of season, so I had to use frozen, but I think it turned out well. I did go back to the temperamental starlet, the crust made with shortening. This time I used half the amount of shortening though. Also, It was the only thing I was making at the time, and it wasn't 400º in the kitchen. So it was easier, but still difficult. I couldn't get it to roll out nicely into a wide enough single piece to cover the pie pan. That is if I could have picked it up and moved it to the pie pan. The pieces were bigger, and less crumbly, but I still had to piece it together on the bottom of the pan. For the top I did a lattice, and that part actually worked out well. Though I was on the phone when I was placing the strips and I kind messed up the under-overs, but that is beside the point. Anyway, the crust didn't quite match the flaky-perfection of the apple pie crust, but it was easier to work with, so I think the trade off was fair.

For lunch I had some left over Bean Soup and of course a piece of bread with butter. I had a piece of pie with whipped cream after the actors left.

For dinner we had what we like to call Depression Dinner. It's a pretty simple stir fry of ground beef, lentils, onions, potatoes and tomatoes with garlic salt, salt and pepper. It would probably have been an outrageously luxurious meal in the Depression with all that meat, but by our spoiled 21st Century standards it has an old-fashioned gruel-like quality. But it's actually remarkably tasty and filling.

After dinner I made some meatballs for future Baby J meals. Then I began the one week adventure that will be Bacon Making. I am so excited about this. My local grocery, Figueroa Produce special ordered a 5 pound pork belly for me. I cut it into three pieces and right now they are curing in slightly different brines in the refrigerator. In a week when the curing and smoking process is complete I will write a whole post about it. For now I am going to eat my nightly ration of Apple Pie and watch a movie.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Round Two - Day Seven

Today I ate the spoils of yesterday's labors. For breakfast I had the yogurt I made. I mixed it with wheat germ and baked apple peels. (The peels from the apple pie - I covered them in cinnamon and sugar and baked them at 200º for about an hour. I think they would have benefited from cooking longer, but this was after the pie finished baking and I wanted to go to bed.) Anyway, they were tasty, but would be better a little crispier. The yogurt was really runny and thin. It was only slightly thicker than milk, even runnier than the last time I made it. I let it sit for 9 hours this time, rather than just the recommended 7 hours. I thought this was supposed to make it thicker, but that is not the case. Or I am doing something else wrong that I haven't figured out. I found a site that sells cultures so that you can make yogurt at room temperature. I think I'm going to try it. It says to culture your yogurt in glass, not metal, so maybe leaving it in the metal pan has been part of my problem...

For lunch I had some of the left over Tabouleh. About an hour later I had a cup of Bean Soup that I had been making. I used the recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill 13 Bean Combo. In place of the hamhock I used the Salted Pork I bought in a moment of weakness at Whole Foods a couple days ago. I think the main difference between the salted pork and bacon is that it hasn't been smoked... so it is one step closer to legal... Anyway, I sliced off three strips, fried them up and cut them into pieces and added them to the soup.

Also, I used fresh diced tomatoes, instead of canned. Unfortunately tomato season is nearly over, and these were some anemic, dry Roma tomatoes. I don't think they added as much flavor as canned tomatoes would have. And the last problem was the chili powder. We used the last of it last night in the chili. I added the last little bit of oregano I had left, and some cumin, but I don't have any powdered chilies laying around. So the sample cup of soup I had in the afternoon was pretty bland. I planned to have this for dinner so I let it simmer down for a few more hours, added some crushed red peppers, more salt and pepper, and I added the remainder of the salted pork - another four slices. By dinner time the soup was thicker and definitely tastier. In fact it was quite good with a hunk of wheat bread with butter. (The Organic Pastures Raw Butter is $9 for a pound, which is obscene, but this butter is SO GOOD! It reminds me of reading books set in the depression when kids rave about eating bread with butter as though it is a great luxury... it is.) We also had a salad of Romaine lettuce, tomatoes from the CSA (which did have a lot of flavor) avocado and red onion with the balsamic dressing DR made last week. And we finished off the bottle of Christopher Creek Zinfandel we opened last night. This is a wine we have had laying around for a long while.

For Dessert we had the Apple Pie I made last night. This was intended for my book club, but we ended up rescheduling for next week, so the book ladies loss was my husband's gain. As I mentioned, I struggled mightily with the crust for this pie. When I was complaining last night about the crust being impossible to work with as a result of the shortening, DR asked me why I used it. I replied that it was supposed to make for a flakier crust. "Flaky and Impossible to work with, like an actress." (DR is a theatre director) "Well the flaky ones have to be worth it or they wouldn't work."
He was right. Usually with an apple pie I eat around the crust, if it isn't covered in fruity goo I leave it on the plate. In this case I would have been happy with a plate of just crust. In fact I had to cover it up so that I wouldn't go in there and pick all the crust off the top of the pie. Even if it demands it's own dressing room, shows up late and never learns it's lines, I will cast the shortening crust again because when it counts she delivers.

Classic Double Crust Apple Pie

I found this recipe on Epicurious.  This is the first time I have made pie crust using shortening and butter. I have always made crust with just butter. It is my understanding that the shortening makes for a flakier crust. I found the dough really difficult to deal with. It was difficult to roll out, and broke apart when I tried to pick it up. I tried re-rolling it with more flour, but that didn't seem to help. I ended up just piecing it together in the pie dish, like a dough mosaic. It worked out ok, but my pie is not going to win any prizes for beauty.

Makes 8 servings

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons (about) ice water

For crust:
Whisk flour and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and shortening and rub in with fingertips until very coarse meal forms. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons water; toss until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Flatten into disks. Wrap in plastic; chill at least 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Soften slightly at room temperature before using.)

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 3/4 pounds sweet apples, such as Spartan or Golden Delicious, peeled, cored, thinly sliced (about 5 1/2 cups)
1 3/4 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Pippin, peeled, cored, thinly sliced (about 5 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon plus large pinch of ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 tablespoon whole milk

For filling:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray 9-inch-diameter deep-dish glass pie dish with nonstick spray. Stir all apples, 3/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Let stand until juices form, about 15 minutes. Mix in flour.

Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Place dough in prepared pie dish. Spoon in filling; dot with butter. Roll out second dough disk to 13-inch round. Using small bottle cap, cut out ten 1/2-inch-diameter circles from dough for decoration; discard circles. Drape dough over filling. Seal top and bottom crust edges together; trim to 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang under; crimp decoratively. Brush pie with milk. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and large pinch of cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle over pie.
Transfer pie to baking sheet; place in oven. Immediately reduce temperature to 375°F. Bake pie until crust is golden brown, apples are tender and filling is bubbling thickly, covering edge with foil if browning too quickly, about 2 hours. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely; store at room temperature.)