Monday, October 24, 2011

Three Words: Bourbon - Chocolate - Pecan

It's been awhile since I've made a pie from scratch. Ever since I rewatched Waitress with Keri Russell I've been itching to make a pie with a catchy name like, "I Hate My Husband Pie" or "Earl Murders Me Because I am Having an Affair Pie". It's actually hard to think of cool pie names that aren't negative though. I like to call this pie, "Three Shots for Pie One Shot for Me" Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. I mean come one its what Julia Child would do.

Roll with it.

While my pie-naming skills may need some work, this recipe from David Lebowitz will make anyone look like a pie wizard. The crust is the hardest part of this recipe. But fear not ladies and gentleman with the help of a food processor anyone can make this pie. (NOTE: I made a little extra dough, because I like THICK crusts and I cannot lie.) You essentially throw flour, a spoonful of sugar, salt, a stick of cold butter, and cold water into a food processor and bam - pie dough is made.

The trick with the pie dough is keeping it cold enough so that the butter doesn't melt while you roll it out. After at least 30 minutes in the fridge you roll it out and place it in a pie plate. Then you refrigerate it again for at least 30 minutes (or until firm). You want the crust pretty cold when it goes in the oven, so the butter doesn't melt and your crusts look like blobs. I skimped a little on the time and you can see my crusts are a little flat (I mean RUSTIC). Seriously though, if your pie crusts fall a bit, just tell everyone you prefer the rustic aesthetic. People love that stuff.

I be up in the fridge just workin' on my chillness.

Mmm toasty.

Isn't that pumpkin just perfect for this still life.

While your pie crust is getting firm you can start on the filling. The most time consuming portion is toasting the pecans. Be sure to watch those nuts, you don't want them to burn! Make sure to toast some extras for snacking. It will go great with the shot of bourbon. For the filling you whisk together a lil bourbon (I used Bulleit Bourbon, but you don't have to go fancy as you're baking this), dark brown sugar, eggs, corn syrup, salt, and butter. Don't forget to give yourself some bourbon! Then you stir in the pecans and some bittersweet chocolate chips. You pour the filling into the pie crust and then pop it in the oven for 55 minutes or so on 375.

Bourbon, chocolate, pecans - oh my!

If you're like me and you're bringing this pie to a party or event, a long car ride is the perfect amount of time it needs to cool down. Your pie will still be warm on arrival, and everyone will thank you for your procrastination. Consider it for your Thanksgiving dinner you will be the hit of the party (or at least your pie will be).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy Birthday AJ! - Funfetti Cupcakes

Funfetti Cupcakes with pink vanilla buttercream and chocolate buttercream.

Wow it has been awhile. I have been seriously absent from blogging, which I'd like to blame on a couple of things: work, school, and wedding planning. But I'm not one for excuses, so I will just say it's good to be back.

I think it is rather appropriate that my first entry after quite some time involves cupcakes. I have posted a number of cupcake-related entries. Magnolia, Sprinkles, and Georgetown Cupcake brought about a cupcake resurrection as it were - making cupcakes not just for kids, but for adults too. For awhile it seemed that cupcakes were all the rage, you couldn't go anywhere without some bakery or restaurant peddling their version of the cupcake. I don't know about you, but for a little while I was "cupcaked out." But in recent months I've found myself looking at cupcakes with fresh eyes and a fresh tummy. There's a reason cupcakes are popular - they're individual sized, cute, and when done well they're just the right amount of fat and sugar to send you on a dessert high.

Fresh from the oven - those sprinkles sure are pretty!

If you think it's been awhile since I blogged, it has been even longer since I baked a cupcake (perhaps AJ's last birthday?) But with another birthday on the horizon I felt inspired to make cupcakes. I thought about doing something traditional (red velvet) or maybe something gourmet (mexican chocolate), but decided to just go with fun (fun-fetti that is)! I had never made a funfetti cupcake from scratch. I think most of us have just resorted to the Pillsbury box cupcakes. But a birthday for someone as special as AJ deserves homemade (I know I'm a snob).

I think I managed to get frosting and sprinkles all over my clothes.

AJ loves chocolate so I knew I would do a chocolate frosting. But to me funfetti cupcakes need pink frosting. My friend Kim used to make funfetti cupcakes all the time in high school and they were awesome. And guess what she always had pink frosting! So, I divided the frosting in half and added unsweetened chocolate to one half and red dye to the other.

Birthday Boy!

The funfetti cupcake recipe was from a blog called Sweet Tooth, which is rather appropriate. I substituted cake flour for AP flour (just add an extra 2 tbsps for every 1 cup). In her recipe she forgets to tell you where the milk should go. My mother taught me well, so I remembered that you alternate flour and milk, beginning and ending with flour.

The cupcakes turned out well and were a hit at our bbq. I think the cake was a lil dry, but overall these were a lot of fun to make and eat. The chocolate frosting was pretty awesome (go Joy of Baking), I ended up eating the cold leftovers out of the bowl the next day. Almost like a quick fudge. NOMS. Happy Birthday AJ, Jenny, Natalie, Cammy, and Mom - love to my September favs!

Indulge your inner child - make some funfetti cupcakes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter! (Don't call it a comeback)

Roasted sweet potatoes; garlic, lemon, herb lamb chop; roasted asparagus with parmigiano reggiano

Every so often it's fun to cook a special meal, and Easter is the perfect occasion for such an endeavor. Some of you are probably surprised to see lamb chops were on the menu, but I DO eat meat. One of my coworkers asked me if I even eat meat and just last week my best friend requested that we eat meat when she comes to visit! Actually, I love meat! Which is why my vegetarian stint lasted just a little over 1 month...

Lamb chops browning up in the pan.

Now, it is true that I tend to cook vegetarian at home. It's a nice way to eat more vegetables. But I saw a recipe for lamb chops in last month's Bon Appetit mag, which inspired this meal. I headed down to my local Whole Foods and got some nice grassfed lambchops. I riffed on the recipe and put together a rosemary, thyme, lemon zest, garlic, olive oil marinade. The nice thing about this marinade is that the meat only needs to marinate 30-60 minutes at room temperature.

While the lamb chops were bathing in their herby blanket, I got started on the sides - roasted sweet potato wedges with rosemary and roasted asparagus. The sweet potatoes get cut into nice wedges and tossed with olive oil, salt, and fresh rosemary and roasted at 400 F for 30 minutes (tossed halfway through). In retrospect, I would turn up the temperature to 425 F for a crispier exterior. The asparagus got the same treatment minus the rosemary which I cooked in my toaster oven to make room for the lamb chops.

Browning on the other side!

The cooking method I employed is really an easy one that will give you perfect results every time. You get a little oil in a saute pan and heat it up until its practically screaming. You want that heat high to get a nice brown crust. This will ensure that the juices stay in! You brown the chops for 2 min on each side and then pop 'em into the oven for 8-10 minutes (8 for rare).

Sweet pots.

Asparagus children who are insecure about the smell of their pee (anyone get that movie reference?)

Final product!

These lamb chops were perfectly cooked if I do say so myself. Nice and tender with great flavor from the herb crust. The asparagus were topped off with some nice parm and the sweet potatoes rounded out the meal. A lovely Easter meal that made me feel a little closer to my family (even though I'm 3,000 miles away). Happy Easter everyone!

That's some tasty meat.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mardis Gras - Shrimp Creole

I am a little late posting this recipe, since Mardi Gras has come and gone, but I think it would still be a great meal any night of the week, especially now that Lent is upon us, as this is a meat free dish.

Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, is the culmination of the the Mardi Gras season, traditionally celebrated by consuming copious amount of alcohol and fatty foods in preparation for Lent. Mardi Gras varies from city to city, with Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Fastnacht in Dusseldorf and Carnevale in Milan, but all have ties to the religious obligations and fasting period of Lent that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday, lasting forty days. While Lent is a Christian tradition practiced by Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Anglicans to remember -- Mardi Gras has become a celebration that can be embraced by all. In the United States, Mardi Gras has its strongest associations with New Orleans, Louisiana. The tradition of Mardi Gras was brought to the area in the 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville to lay claim on the French territory of Louisane (now the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Lousiana). The residents of New Orleans pride themselves on their French heritage and embrace the slogan of Mardi Gras, Laissez les bon temp rouler, meaning "let the good times roll".

Shrimp Creole

New Orleans has made a name for itself by upholding the spirit of Mardi Gras and integrating those traditions and the cultures of their mixed southern and french, spanish and carribean heritage into everday life. The mixture of cultures is evident in the people and the cuisine in Louisiana, and creole food is just one great example. Creole food is centered around the idea of the "Holy Trinity": chopped onions, celery and bell peppers. This shrimp creole recipe relies heavily on the "trinity" and the freshest, plumpest shrimp you can find. You can definitely play around with this recipe and add in chicken and sausage or chorizo for a heartier dish, as well as adjusting the heat factor to your liking. I added more hot pepper flakes to mine! My little sister Veronica and I really enjoyed this dish with a class of pinot grigio and some crusty bread to soak up the sauce with. Rice would be great, we were just ready to dig in and didn't have the patience for the cooking time!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Valentine's Day Pancakes - Quinoa Beet

Nothing says I love you like quinoa beet pancakes and scrambled eggs.

Wow it has been quite a while since I have posted. To the few people that read this blog, I apologize for the long absence. I have been taking night classes recently, which has cut down on my free time for blogging. However, I have still been eating, cooking, and baking (just a little bit). :)

I don't make a huge deal about Valentine's Day, but I do love a reason to celebrate or cook something a little special. My friend, Katy, recently got me a whole grains baking book, and I had been intrigued by the quinoa beet pancake recipe. What better day to serve beautiful pink pancakes than on Valentine's Day?!

These pancakes take a little more effort than your standard buttermilk recipe, but if you roast the beets the night before these come together rather quickly! Also be sure to buy the quinoa flour ahead of time because if you're like me you probably don't have quinoa flour on hand. The flour is worth the investment, as it imparts a unique sweet, almost grassy flavor to the pancakes, which really compliments the sweet earthy beets. It took me a couple tries on the griddle to cook these to perfection. Overall, I really enjoyed the flavor profile - just a little something different. Try serving these to people without telling them what is in the batter - you might be surprised how much people like them! Plus, the presentation is just stunning. I don't think I've ever had a more beautiful pancake.

If this recipe intrigues you, why not consider picking up "Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours" by Kim Boyce. I have also made her whole grain choco chip cookies, which were a big hit with some of my coworkers.

Happy Belated Valentine's Day! (1 month late)