Friday, November 24, 2006

Paradise Pie

Just a brief follow-up to the divine Pumpkin-Pecan Pie post: It tastes even better the next day, as does the Whiskey Butter Sauce. How perfect is that? A dessert that really is better made ahead!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Sum Is Greater Than Its Parts

The Pumpkin-Pecan Pie with Whiskey Butter Sauce, from Epicurious, was a Thanksgiving Day hit. It richly deserves every single 4-fork rating it has received. I'm not crazy about Pumpkin Pie, nor about Pecan Pie, but this pie was fabulous --succulent, light, flavorful, warm with spices and pecan, yet not cloying. The Whiskey Butter Sauce lent a sophisticated air, a definite step up even from freshly whipped cream. I think it would be equally delicious with rum.

Of course, as per usual, we didn't follow the recipe exactly, instead following some of the advice from Epicurious readers and doubling the amount of pumpkin. The bottle of what I thought was Karo syrup in the pantry turned out to be rice wine vinegar, so we used maple syrup instead with great success. Given the results I see no need to try the corn syrup when the maple was so splendid. The eggs from the Henbogle girls are never small, so we used two extra large eggs. We also used whipping cream rather than heavy cream in both the pie and the whiskey sauce, as that was what I had on hand. The result was divine.

The recipe that follows includes the changes Holly and I made.

Pumpkin-Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Filling
2 c cooked pumpkin purée
1/4 c firmly packed light brown sugar
2 T sugar
1 extra-large egg, beaten until frothy
1 T heavy cream
1 T unsalted butter, softened
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 t salt

1/4 t cinnamon
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of nutmeg

Pecan Syrup

1/2 c sugar
3/4 c maple syrup
2 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 T unsalted butter, melted
2 t vanilla
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cinnamon
3/4 c pecan pieces

Whiskey Butter Sauce
4 T unsalted butter
1/3 c sugar
1 extra-large egg
1/2 T very hot water
1/4 c heavy cream
1/4 c bourbon whiskey

Pumpkin Filling
Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl; set aside.

Pecan Syrup
Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Using my Butter Pie Crust recipe, prepare a 9 inch pie plate with an uncooked crust.

Spoon the Pumpkin Filling into the pan, spreading evenly to distribute. Gently pour the Pecan Syrup on top. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Cool and serve with Whiskey Butter Sauce.

Whiskey Butter Sauce
Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler set over gently simmering water. Beat the sugar and egg in a small bowl until blended. Stir the egg mixture into the butter. Add the hot water and stir until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 7 minutes. Remove from the double boiler and let cool to room temperature. Stir in the cream and whiskey. Tastes better when made 24 hours in advance of serving.

Happy Thanksgiving One and All

8:15 and the cooking palette is clear, ready for the days' cooking projects to begin. Holly and I have already been out to collect the eggs and are ready to start on our 14 lb. turkey.

We'll be making Roast Turkey with Sausage Cranberry-Apple Stuffing. The turkey is rubbed with butter and seasoned with salt and pepper before going in the oven. Extra stuffing goes into my fabulous yellow Pyrex refrigerator dish, a gift from Dan's mom.

Turkey in the oven, we move on to Dinner Rolls. Lacking a biscuit cutter, Holly makes do with a wine glass.

Uh oh! The turkey is done early!! Even allowing 40 minutes for the turkey to rest, it is still way early. We spring into overdrive.

Amazingly, things come together. Dave mashes the potatoes, Dan steams the carrots, Holly and I work on the pies, I make the gravy.

The gravy turns out to be some of the best I've ever made. Was it the homemade stock, or the generous splash of tawny port at the end? Dinner is served buffet style, and we dine at the kitchen table overlooking the back yard.

Later, we'll have some pie. Pecan Pumpkin Pie with Whiskey Butter Sauce, and Deep Dish Apple Pie with Cheddar Cheese Crust.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Feasting Begins

Holly and Dave arrived this afternoon for the holiday. It is great to see them both, they haven't been up to Maine in a while. We celebrated their arrival with a spicy Mexican meal, Chile Cheddar Pumpkins Souffles and Smoky Tortilla Soup with Shrimp.

Everything was YUMMY, but spicy....seems although I halved the recipes, I forgot to halve the cheese and the chipotle peppers. Don't worry, the recipes below are correct!

Chile Cheddar Pumpkins Souffles

2 cups pumpkin puree
3 eggs, separated
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 oz. Cabot Habenero Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/8 t baking soda
2 t flour
finely pulverized breadcrumbs

Butter 6 individual souffle dishes or custard cups. Coat the bottom and sides with bread crumbs.

Mix the pumpkin, egg yolks, flour, salt and soda together. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Stir about 1/3 of the egg whites into the pumkin mix to lighten, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide batter among the souffle dishes. Bake at 350˚F for 15 minutes or until firm and lightly browned on the top.

Smoky Tortilla Soup with Shrimp

2 T olive oil
1 c finely diced onion
1 c finely diced carrot
1/2 c finely chopped celery
3 clove garlic, minced
1/4 t oregano
1/2 t cumin
7 c chicken broth
2 15 oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 c canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
2 t minced canned chipotle chiles

1 lb uncooked small shrimp
1/4 c minced fresh cilantro

Lime wedges
Avocado wedges

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, cumin, and oregano. Sauté until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Add chicken broth, pinto beans, crushed tomatoes and chipotle chilies; bring to simmer. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add shrimp and cook until opaque in center, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Stir in chopped fresh cilantro. Serve soup, garnishing with avocado. Pass lime wedges and tortilla chips separately.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Grow Your Own Thanksgiving

In an earlier post, I listed the proposed menu for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Wow, I had a giant brain cramp when I wrote that, forgetting that I had been saving treats from our garden, namely carrots & delicata squash, for the holiday. We'll also include some of the veggies we froze, swiss chard and green beans, to round out things, and will scratch the Roasted Squash with Chile Vinaigrette, we'll try that recipe later with some locally grown squash.

As much of this meal as I can will be made from homegrown or local produce, and cooked from scratch. I'm not alone in jumping on the eat local bandwagon. "Locavore" groups are springing up all over, and I think it is great, and maybe it will work to our advantage, encouraging local producers to diversify winter produce offerings, and encouraging retailers to seek out locally grown produce.

It is no real challenge in the summer to buy local -- farmer's markets, farm stands and CSAs abound. Neighbors sneak extra tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini onto your porch when you aren't at home. But come the first frost, and all that local goodness vanishes. Oh sure, CSAs can provide a seemingly endless stream of potatoes, beets, kale, carrots, onions, turnip, and rutabaga (and what IS the difference between turnip and rutabaga anyway?), but I find the parade of root vegetables uninspiring and worse yet, overwhelming for just 2 people. Clearly the answer is to get to work on my year-round greens production a la Eliot Coleman. It's just a matter of time --or the lack therof.

Well, time for planning post-holiday (although my Pine Tree Garden Seeds catalog has already arrived to tempt me), I've got to ready the homestead for guests and feasting. Check back for updates on the lovely and lovingly prepared local foods.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Beautiful Bread

Now that we've put the garden to bed, its time to crank up the oven, and one of my favorite things to bake is bread. I saw a recipe recently in the New York Times that intrigued me: No Knead Bread. (Any by the way, the Times has had some really interesting pre-Thanksgiving holiday articles. See the Heaven in A Pie Pan article.)

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind kneading bread, or making it, especially in my big KitchenAid mixer. What appealed to me about this recipe was the baking method. The bread is baked in a pre-heated cast iron or enamel pan, which was supposed to create a wonderful crust. I had to try it.

I didn't actually follow the recipe --those who know me well won't find that surprising. No, I wanted to use a sourdough starter I have going, so I boldly plunged right in and adapted, using my recipe and the article's baking method. My recipe:

2 c warm water
1 t yeast (scant)
1 t barley malt powder

Stir the above together, and let sit until the yeast is creamy looking. Add

1 c starter
2 t salt

Stir together, then add

2 c stone ground whole weat flour
3 c bread flour

Mix then knead in the mixer. The dough should be sticky enough to cling to the bottom of the bowl, yet pull away from the sides. Knead for 8-10 minutes, then put into an oiled bowl to rise until doubled.

Punch down dough, knead and shape into a tight ball. Let rise in a bowl lined with a well-floured towel, until doubled, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 450˚F, preheating a 6-8 quart cast iron or enamel casserole dish at the same time. No grease or oil is necessary in the pan.

When dough is ready to bake, carefully remove casserole dish from the oven. Gently turn dough into the pan; it will deflate a bit but don't worry. Cover the casserole and return immediately to the oven, bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 15-30 minutes until browned and pulling away from the sides of the pan. Mine needed only 15 minutes.

Remove from casserole and cool, then dig in. It is delicious! The crust is crisp and chewey, not too thick, just right and with a real brick oven taste, with a perfect crumb. MMMMM.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hello.... anybody home?

Apparently I'm well on my way to the deep south, as my road is well paved with good intentions, but still it has been far to long since I posted to Henbogle. Well, I'm still here, just feeling challenged by the intricate balancing act of job, home, garden, and other life. Whew, where does the time go?

Much of my sense of discontent I attribute to the short, dark days of late fall and winter. It is still light out when I drive off to work, but it is dark when I arrive home, and soon will be dark when I leave in the morning. Today I arrived home in the dark and gingerly felt my way back to Henbogle Coop to check on the girls and batten down the coop door for the night and say hello and goodnight. With all the rain we've been having lately --nearly 5 inches this week-- the entire back yard is soggy and muddy. Although they don't seem to mind the rain, I feel bad for the girls. I am sure they are missing the lovely grass and good eats of the summer.

Fortunately for us humans, the holidays are looming, and I'm enjoying planning for Thanksgiving and our holiday cookie baking extravaganza, when my student workers will join Dan and I for lunch and an afternoon of holiday cookie decorating.

My friend Holly and her partner Dave will be joining Dan and I for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm finalizing the menu now. Holly has promised to make a visit to
Trader Joe's for me, to stock up on the yummy treats they offer that can't be found in my area. On the menu: Turkey with Cornbread and Apple Stuffing, Roasted Squash with Chile Viniagrette, Butter Browned Brussells Sprouts, another green vegetable as yet to be determined, and of course, a pie or two, mince? pumpkin? apple? The New York Times had an interesting story today on pie crusts. I'm still sold on my butter version, but it was interesting reading. While I'm sure I'm not going to be ordering rendered duckfat for my piecrust, the menu may change yet between now and a week from today.

Yikes, a week from today? I'd better get motivated.