Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A slice by request

The creation of the most simple is the most difficult. Take for example piecrust, which if judged by the ingredient list should be no problem. Then why is it so hard to find a good one? One that is flaky but does not crumble, or firm enough that it holds together yet does not tip over the edge to cardboard. With most endeavors the more seemingly simplistic, the fewer places you get to hide any mistakes. This could not be clearer then with a piecrust.

For so long I avoided making this dough leaving it in the hands of my pastry chef friends, and then I would go begging for some. I was finally force to attack this foe and with offered help of a pastry chef I got the support and coaching I need. I have a feel for food, and can execute that delicate balance been solid technique with a feathered touch. But I had in my mind an aversion to this most basic dough. It must have been my second term pastry instructor in culinary school who declared I would never make a pastry chef. And, he was correct. I knew that I had no feel for making marzipan roses or inscribing “Happy Birthday” in a fluid, wispy fashion with a paper cone filled with melted chocolate, and really had no desire to fiddle with that. I did know I have a palate that loved to explore, and a mind that could figure out the science of a problem.

Piecrust is a fast moving technique, well if you are in this century and are using a food processor. Everything in the ready, and once the flour has been spun for a minute the butter bits, and water following promptly and are done before I think. I always add an egg yolk to the dough in order the thwart the amount of shrinkage many of us have suffered – the add fat from the egg prevents the gluten structure from stretching too much and subsequently contracting – I have ended up with a disk as opposed to the pie shell I was trying to achieve.

I can whip out a pie-dough in minutes now, and using a rolling pin was never an issue. I also enjoy baking cakes and other confectionaries, though don’t confuse me with a baker for I will never pipe a greeting across the top of your cake or decorate it with anything then edible flowers I snip for the garden.

Pecan Pie – yields 10-inch pie
Pastry dough
3-cups all-purpose flour
1/8-teaspoon salt
6-ounces unsalted butter – cut into small pieces and chilled
2 egg yolks
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

To make the dough in the bowl of the food processor, fitted with a plastic blade add the flour and salt. Let the machine run for a minute then through the tube, with the machine running, start dropping in the butter pieces. Then add the egg yolks and cold water. As soon as the dough starts to pull together shut off the food processor. Turn the dough out on to a piece of plastic wrap, and tightly wrap up the dough. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before using.

2-ounces unsalted butter
2-tablespoons honey or agave
2-cups dark brown sugar
1-tablespoon water
¼-cup half-n-half
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
2-cups pecans

To make the filling place the butter, agave, brown sugar and water in a 2-cups saucepan, and over a medium heat let the butter and sugar melt. Stir every so often to make sure everything melts evenly. Once the butter and sugar is completely melted, remove from the heat and stir in the half-n-half and vanilla.

Beat the eggs until voluminous and pale yellow in color. Slowly stir in the butter/sugar mixture into the eggs to completely combine.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface roll the piecrust out to about ¼-thick, and line a 10-inch pie pan with the dough. With the tines of a fork poke the bottom of the piecrust.

Place in the oven, and cook for 10-minutes. Remove from the oven. Place the pecans in the piecrust and then pour over the egg mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes, and then reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Continue baking until the center of the pie is set, approximately 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool. Once the pie has cooled refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

when sleep takes over…..

Inspiration strikes me in so many different ways – I could be walking through a farmer’s market and spy something utterly seductive, and I know am going to play with it. I have been overseas, and encountered an unknown fruit or vegetable then I hear it whispering to me, telling me what needs to be done. Of course, every client is a source of ideas for everyone has their own particulars and I love to figure how to work within them. Then there are nocturnal visions. I am not one who has vivid dreams working out the daily crisis during what should be a time of rest – I rest. But I will say, many a recipe or germ of a recipe has occurred while I slept. More amazing to me is that I wake fully conscience the idea and I can carry the memory for days before I actually get down to work. It has always been a sign that I am in the profession I was meant to be in for no math problem was ever solved, by me, either when I was awake, or dead to the world.

Not all ideas are prompted by the high and esoteric. I obsessed recently about a container of yogurt -- we had a house of full of guests a few weeks back, and in an effort to be inviting I bought morning food. For me, that usually means 3 cups of steaming motor oil edged with a splash of soy milk. But I know not everyone can handle my daily java jolt, and I realize people actually wake up hungry where I wake up ready to satisfy hunger. The eggs became a frittata and the blueberry bread quickly disappeared but that container of yogurt remained, and a week later I was still staring at it. I thought I would whip a batch or two of flatbread; they freeze well and clients love them. I dawdled clearly I was not inspired. Then night fell and an adjunct to the usually bread bloomed during a REM cycle. The next morning I got down to making patties.

Chicken Patties – yields 8
2-cups non-fat yogurt (not Greek-style)
1-teaspoon baking powder
½-teaspoon salt
2-cups all-purpose flour

In a large work bowl mix the yogurt, chickpea flour, baking powder, salt and 1-cup all-purpose flour until it forms a sticky dough mass.

Place the remaining 1-cup of all-purpose flour on a clean work surface, and knead the dough mass for 5 minutes incorporating the flour. The dough should be slightly tacky to the feel. Put in the dough in a work bowl, and cover with a clean towel. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

¼-cup tamarind paste
¼-cup coconut vinegar
1-whole boneless and skinless chicken breast
1-teaspoon turmeric powder
2-whole black cardamom 
1-tablespoon coriander seed
½-teaspoon cumin seed
1-teaspoon whitepoppy seed
½-teaspoon celery seed
½-teaspoon mace blades
1-medium onion – chopped
3-garlic cloves – minced
¼” piece ginger – minced
1-tablespoon coconut oil
2-cups chopped greens (such as Swiss chard, spinach, mustard)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼-cup raisins
¼-cup olive oil

To make the filling soak the tamarind in the vinegar for 10 to 15 minutes and then push through a fine sieve to collect the seeds and any fibrous debris. Coat the chicken with the tamarind/vinegar paste, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees and cook the chicken breast for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow the chicken to cool. Then shred the chicken and reserve in a work bowl.

In a spice grinder pulverize the turmeric, cardamom, coriander, cumin, poppy seeds, celery seeds and mace.

Heat an 8-inch saut̩ pan over a high flame, and add the coconut oil, onion, garlic and ginger. Low to a simmer, and allow the mixture to caramelize Рstirring occasionally (should take about 20 minutes). Once the mixture has browned stir the pulverized spice mixture, chopped greens, salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant and the greens have started to wilt. Stir in the raisins and remove from the heat allowing the onion mixture to cool completely. Combine with the chicken, and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, and on a clean work surface roll each piece into approximately a 6 to 7 inch circle. If the dough is sticking to the work surface lightly oil the area – avoid using any flour.

Place an eighth of the filling mixture in the center of each circle and fold in half to create a crescent shape. Crimp the edges with the tinges of a fork. If your patties are prefect and don’t have any “tears” create a vent hole with a small knife.

Place the patties on a lined baking tray. At this point, you can hold the patties in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking.

Pre-heat the oven to 475-degrees. Brush each pattie with olive oil and cook in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Not yet a new equinox
 and summer rentals have ended...
...I want to keep the heat alive

Chili Sauce – yields 2½ cups

¼-pound yellow or red Thai chilies
1-inch piece of ginger – peeled
1-tablespoon turmeric
1-tablespoon amchoor powder
2-tablspoons kosher salt
10 clove spikes
1½-cups white distilled vinegar

Trim the stems from the chilies. Place all the ingredients in a blender, and process until very smooth – keep it running for a few minutes. Shut it off and run it for a few minutes longer.

Place in a clean glass jar, and refrigerate for about 4 weeks before using.