Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brown Derby Pieshake

Tonight is the 84th Academy Awards, a celluloidal ceremony celebrating the glamor of Hollywood, the size of Harvey Weinstein's checkbook, and the lasting impact of George Clooney's sexy salt-and-pepper hair.

There's drama - will The Help sweep it all away? There's intrigue - will Woody Allen actually show up? There's worry - will James Franco and Ricky Gervais attempt to oust Billy Crystal in the world's most glassy-eyed Host-Off?

For me, the yearly Oscars allow me an evening to sit on the couch, eat unhealthy food and snarkily comment on the clothing, acceptance speeches and overall production (am I the only person who actually liked when Pilobolus shadow-spelled out the nominees? Can we get them back? Or at least to my next birthday party?)

It is therefore with great pride that I'd like to thank the Academy, my parents, God, Oprah, and you, my lovely readers, for reading and tasting with me week after week. You have given this humble pie blogger a voice. A reason to bake. An excuse to eat too much pie. As I stand on this stage, looking out at all of you (oh hey Meryl! Lunch on Tuesday? Lemme check my sched.) I think of that day so long ago four months ago when I was plucked from obscurity and thrust into this crazy, exciting, and altogether delicious world of pie, and I can't believe what an amazing journey it's been. Who knows what the future will hold (although I'd really like to do an indie project that matters) and I can't wait to share my journey with you (of which you'll be able to watch every waking moment on my new Bravo-produced reality show). What's that? Oh! They're telling me I have to wrap up! But there's so many people I forgot to thank! NOW THEY'RE TURNING UP THE MUSIC?? THEN THANK YOU ALL AND HERE'S MY RECI-

Brown Derby Pieshake
*Brown Derby = a chain of restaurants in Los Angeles that became synonymous with the Golden Age of Hollywood
*Derby Pie = a popular pie in Kentucky, named for and made to celebrate the Kentucky Derby
*Milkshake = a sweet drink made with ice cream and other flavorings; a fun treat to make for your Oscars celebration
***Brown Derby Pieshake = my recipe of the week, created in the guise of Jeopardy's Before And After category. Yes, it's a stretch. Just go with it.

Ingredients - yield: 2 pint-sized shakes
4-5 healthy scoops butter pecan ice cream
1/3 cup skim milk
1/2 cup Kentucky bourbon (I used Jim Beam)
2 oz. chocolate chips
2 oz. chopped walnuts
Hershey's chocolate syrup
2 handfuls graham cracker crumbs

How To
Scoop the ice cream into a blender. Add milk, bourbon and chocolate chips. Blend on LOW until everything is mixed and/or you achieve your desired milkshake consistency.

Decoratively squeeze the chocolate syrup onto the inside of the glass; I found that spinning the glass (not the syrup bottle) helps to get a fancy swirl pattern. Sprinkle a handful of graham cracker crumbs into the glass and, while standing over the sink or garbage can, roll the glass so that the crumbs stick onto and cover the chocolate sauce. Let any remaining crumbs settle to the bottom of the glass.

Pour the ice cream mixture into the glass. Top with chopped walnuts. Add a bendy-straw. Comment on the Red Carpet Show in a terrible southern accent. Blame your accent on the bourbon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pie Blogger for a Day, Phat Man Running

What do baking pie and short-distance running have in common?

Well, nothing.

Nothing, that is, until two friends who write completely dissimilar blogs decide to combine individual interests into one action-packed day that results in two fantastic articles posted on each others' respective website.

It's a crossover-post, like that episode when Steve Urkel helps Stephanie learn to love her new glasses. Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.

Read Sean's take on the day's pie baking below; my post on running appears on his blog HERE

From The Desktop of PhatManRunning
Inviting a pie blogger into your home always sounds like a great idea. There are expectations of course, and they aren't unreasonable. The first expectation of course is that you'll be eating pie. Not stopped at the very closest bar to the train station drinking beer (though admittedly, that was at least partially my fault). The other, perhaps more important assumption that I made, is that when I asked, should we make a blueberry pie and she said yes, that she would follow with at least mostly the right directions, but I digress.

Let us start from where all great stories do (and most completely shit stories start as well); the beginning.

When I starting blogging (Phat Man Running) it was in large part inspired by Mary's similar adventures in blogging in this very spot. I was a few weeks into beginning a new running regimen and I thought blogging might be a fun way to keep myself going. I hadn't expected the results to be a sweaty photo of me being the first images to now come up when I Google stalk myself, but this is what happened. Mary and I have been remotely comparing notes on blogging, constantly checking our website traffic, and commenting on how "big" we seem to both be in Russian. While our blogs seem diametrically opposed, it also seemed like we would have to do a blog cross-over sooner or later. So, we set the plan that Mary would come to Always Sunny Philadelphia (Killadelphia as it's been called lately) bake some pie and run a little bit.

The date was set, and on a brave Sunday morning in February she took the bus down. Again, to be fair, the bar was my idea. Also, skipping the whole running/pieing/blogging thing and just going on a bar crawl that would involve eating pie (and possibly running from cops) may have been my proposal. But rather than doing less, we chose to do more. Rather than make a pie, we chose to make a pie meal.  Mini quiche appetizers, Shepard's pie, and blueberry pie (someone once told me antioxidants were good for running, I don't remember why, but this is the kind of healthy advice you are used to if you've read my blog before, I'm assuming I don't need to hyperlink to it again.)

After a short trip to Trader Joe's, we returned to my home to make the pie crusts. While Mary clearly had a better idea of how to make the pie crust than I did, she didn't speak up. Rather, she chose to just passive aggressivly tweet at me--made worse because she didn't tag me in the tweet, nor use the official Pie Running Cross Over Post hash tag, #PRCOP. 
I believe you Mary, it's okay.

The pie crusts were put in the fridge before we got all did up and ready to run, which you'll have read about on Phat Man Running. Needless to say, she didn't find the fun.
When we got home, we started boiling some big peeled russet potatoes. Afterwards, we created the filling of the pie which started with four chopped carrots and a large onions sauteed in olive oil with salt and pepper. Once they were softened, a pound of lean beef was added and browned.

After draining the excess fat, we added a tablespoon of butter, quarter cup of tomato sauce, a glass red wine, and two tablespoons of flour before letting it cook down. Once it cooked down, a cup of chicken stock and half a can of corn was added, then cooked down again, finishing the filling.

The filling was added to a pie crust, mashed potatoes with butter and buttermilk was piped onto the top of the pie, coated with a beaten egg and sprinkled with parmesan before it was placed in the over at 375 for 20 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

Shepard's Pie
  4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 842.3
  Total Fat 48.4 g

  Saturated Fat 25.0 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat 2.4 g
     Monounsaturated Fat 16.9 g
  Cholesterol 151.5 mg
  Sodium 1,145.8 mg
 Potassium 1,274.7 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 68.4 g
     Dietary Fiber 6.5 g
     Sugars 2.4 g
  Protein 28.9 g
I expect this is the first time--and likely the last time--nutritional information is ever discussed on Pies Etc. It's not what the blog is about, and I wouldn't expect it to be. But my blog is, at least superficially, about fitness, I've lost nearly 25 pounds since starting it four months ago, so I'm not without any authority on the topic. And its from that position I can report, this wasn't a healthy pie. It's wasn't HORRIBLE and you really could have gotten six or eight serving out of this if you had to. But, I'm also going be gracious by saying we only ate a quarter each.

The good things about the pie though, is that there was plenty of protein (but really I'm just stretching at straws to say that.) What I don't have to stretch to say, is that it was a delicious pie, that it was easy to make, and will be scrumptious come St. Patrick's day, just a few days a way (you will be able to tell this when a grass hopper pie appears on the blog shortly I'm guessing.)

This is already a really log blog post isn't it?

Well we also made some puff pastry mini quiches for apps and runny blueberry pi--though I guess it was thematic-- which most pie bloggers would call a failure, but Mary's ability to forgive anything that comes in a round shape and a buttery crust seemed to save it from the bin. We scooped it in to bowls and licked them clean.

How did my experience as a pie blogger for a day go? Well, having Mary come and visit is always a pleasure. Cooking with her? Not so much. But I will say, while finishing a 5 miler race, or even a 5k twitter road race with a record time might give a sense of accomplishment, it's nothing compared to coming home to fridge packed with leftover Shepard's and blueberry pie just waiting to be eaten.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Presidential Pie

This Monday is President's Day. I know this because that's what the mattress commercials tell me, and nothing makes me think, "yeah, I guess I DO need a mattress at 40% off!" like a holiday to celebrate our nation's leaders.

And because it is the American thing to do, I've made a pie in honor of this sacred day.

I know what you're thinking: oh, she's going to make a blueberry pie and dot it with red berries and whipped cream because it'll be all red, white and blue. Or: oh, she's going to make a cherry pie because George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and could not tell a lie.

Amateurs. I would never be so obvious! (and those are really good ideas for the 4th of July pie. please remind me of that sometime around June 30th.)

A history lesson, if you will:

Zachary Taylor, America's 12th president, was a man's man. Known as Old Rough n' Ready (an early precursor to his later nickname, New Pop n' Fresh), Taylor served in the military during a bunch of those wars you learned about in grade school that used dates like 1812 and vaguely racist Indian names. He was also from Louisville, KY, a town where you can drink copious amounts of bourbon and then sober up the next morning with a plate of Bourbon Ball French Toast. During his presidency, for which he was the second-to-last person to successfully run under the Whig party, Taylor hung new curtains and organized the Department of the Interior, told the inhabitants of that area they were calling California to apply for statehood, and established a policy that forbade both the US and Great Britain to control any canals being built in Nicaragua. Known as the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, it is thought to be Taylor's most lasting foreign policy move. Sadly, Teddy Roosevelt superseded that policy 51 years later in a fit of manifest destiny with the equally well-known Hay-Pauncefote Treaty.

Zachary Taylor, though a true stalwart in the oval office, had an unfortunately weak digestive system. After the Washington Monument groundbreaking ceremony on July 4, 1850, he sought refuge from the swampy DC summer heat by consuming cold milk and cherries - too many, that is. He quickly came down with a horrid stomach ache, which turned into cholera and ultimately, death. He had been in office only 16 months. [Disclaimer: I hastily threw this summary together after quickly reading the Zachary Taylor wikipedia page.]

All this is to say - here's my great recipe for Cherry Pie!

Crust - I doubled my usual recipe and added sugar to compensate for the tartness of the cherries
2 cups flour
2/3 cups Crisco shortening
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Iced water for mixing

2 pounds pitted cherries - I used Dole frozen cherries because it's February and I live in New York
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon, allspice (combine to taste)
1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 egg for egg wash

Bowl of frozen cherries

Cinnamon/Allspice/Salt, Cornstarch, Sugar, Vanilla

Slivered Almonds

How to
Prepare the dough as normal; cut in half and form into two balls, wrap and refrigerate each ball for at least 30 minutes.

If using frozen cherries, defrost them in a large bowl. If using fresh, rinse and dry the cherries.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, allspice and vanilla to the cherries, mixing thoroughly until all the cherries are evenly coated. It won't look too pretty.

Roll out one of the balls of dough and neatly place in the bottom of your pie tin. Pour the cherries into the tin, sprinkle with the almond slivers, dot with butter, and brush the exposed edges with egg wash.

If you're pressed for time, you can add the top crust as you normally would, covering the pie and sealing the edges. I chose to attempt a lattice crust, or that woven-crust-look that all the pretty pies get to wear.

Here's how that happens: Roll the second ball of dough as normal. With a pastry cutter, cut an equal amount of strips, each about 3/4" wide.

Ok so my strips aren't equal in width. It was my first attempt at this. Don't judge.

Lay half the strips vertically on top of the pie. Peel back every other strip, (the "even numbered strips") lay the first horizontal strip, then replace the vertical strips. Repeat this process, switching between the even and odd strips until you've laid all the horizontal strips.

Step 3.1 of Lattice Pie Crust

Seal together the edges of both crusts by rolling them underneath the outer edge. Brush the top crust with the egg wash.

Unbaked cherry pie

Bake for about 30-45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Be careful though - the juices from the cherries WILL run over the edges of the crust. Thanks to the suggestion of my roommate (who frankly is getting quite tired of my cooking experiments exploding all over our NOT self-cleaning oven...sorry, Amanda), I covered a cookie sheet with tin foil and put the pie on top of that for baking; this way all the juices ran onto the foil and made for a pretty easy cleanup. 

Cherry Pie

Also -  I'd like to take this most presidential of holidays to shamelessly plug a great project. If you or anyone you know is part of a theater company and still figuring out the remainder of your 2012 season, or if you're a teacher and looking for a fun way to teach your class about this election year check out 44 Plays for 44 Presidents - it's an exciting mash-up of short theatrical pieces performed all over the country that culminates in one giant ball of theater fun on Election Night. Do it for your children. Do it for your country. Do it for Zachary Taylor.

Presidential Cherry Pie

For this recipe I sought the advice of the Queen of Baking, Martha Stewart. Thanks M!

She's my cherry pie/Cool drink of water, such a sweet surprise
One more picture? Oh, ok.

Tastes so good, make a grown man cry/Sweet cherry pie

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Romantical V-Day Pie Pops

This recipe will be useful to you if:

A.) You want to show your sweetie how much you love him/her this Valentine's Day by showering him/her with sweet, bite-sized treats that are cute, heart-shaped, and every other cloying adjective that can be used to describe the Feb. 14th holiday.

B.) You're (still) single (again) and need an unhealthy dessert to accompany the bucket of Chinese food you'll be consuming while wearing black and watching Fatal Attraction at such a high volume that it drowns out the sound of your roommate making heart-shaped french toast for her "romantic blinner date."

C.) You appreciate the food-on-a-stick genre. Examples include shish-kabobs, lollipops, popsicles, and anything found at the Wisconsin State Fair.

3-4 oz. fruit spread/jam/jelly/preserves. I used Hero Strawberry Preserves because frankly, it's the best out there
Unbaked pie crust (Here's my recipe!)
Flour to use in dough-rolling process
Wooden sticks/skewers to use as popsicle sticks, these will get baked in the oven with the pies
Cookie cutter - heart-shaped if you're in a relationship, pentagram shaped if you're not and all sorts of bitter
    **I discovered too late that I did not own any cookie cutters, so I cut a heart out of a thick piece of posterboard and used it as a stencil.
1 egg, for egg white wash

4 oz. white chocolate chips
2 tbs. milk
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

How to
Roll out your dough to about 1/8" in thickness. I suggest spreading more flour than usual on the rolling surface, this will help to lift the cut dough without it breaking. Using the cookie cutter (or stencil) cut out an equal number of shapes.

Strawberry preserves, rolling pin and flour, pie crust with heart stencil

Place half the hearts on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press the wooden skewer into the bottom of each heart. Add a dollop of the fruit spread in the center (but only a small dollop! A little goes a long way), then top off with the second half of the hearts. It helps to run a little water around the edges of each bottom piece before sealing with the top half, as you want to make sure to firmly press the two edges together. Use an extra skewer to press a decorative edge around the heart.

The Four Stages of Pie Popdom

I found it best to work assembly-line style, performing one step to all the slices before moving on to the next step. Once you're close to finishing the last of the pops, preheat the oven to 375 degrees (there's no need to preheat the oven at the beginning of the process, I found the first few pops to be a bit time-consuming as I was still figuring out my system and finding my groove.)

A Pie Pops tryptic

Brush a coat of egg white wash over the top of each pop and bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the pops are cooling, make the glaze - whisk together the chocolate, milk and sugar until creamy. Drizzle over the pops in a fun, decorative fashion.

If you're feeling creative, you can add a bow, glitter, paint or sparkles to the sticks. The amount of flair you add to the pops is in direct corelation with the amount of love you have for the recipaint of the pie pops. My pie pops did not have any such embellishments.

Pie Pops!

I got my inspiration for this post from three different sources - the William-Sonoma catalogue, my roommate who flipped through said Willam-Sonoma catalogue, and this site, which apparently came up with the idea for heart-shaped pie pops before anyone else.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Superbowl Sunday Funday - Chili Pot Pie

Whether you're ecstatic that the Giants are playing, still crying about that devastating Packers loss two weeks ago, or one of those few who live hermetic lives and aren't really sure what this "big game" is all about, one thing is clear - you'll probably end up consuming some sort of chili this weekend.

Not being one to ever shy away from a national trend, I am here to add but one more recipe to the ridiculously-sized pile of "Super Bowl Sunday Chili Recipes" by giving you the Pies Etc. version - the Chili Pot Pie.

Disclaimer: I put together this recipe by pulling from a bunch of different sources - Guy Fieri's Dragon Breath Chili (he seems like a guy who knows his chili), the drunken frat-boy sounding Fritos Pie Remix (which I considered making, but then realized that I am not in college anymore and that some things just aren't appealing when you're not drinking entire fishbowls with names like "red" or "blue") and a recipe my mother sent me simply titled "Steve's Chili." I'm not too sure who this Steve is and why my mother is so devoted to his chili, but that's another story. 

2 tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped green peppers
1 clove garlic, diced
1 lb. ground beef
8 oz. tomato sacue
8-10 oz. diced tomatoes - I used Del Monte with Zesty Jalapenos
8-10 oz. red kidney beans
6-8 oz. beer - I used Coor's Light. Because that's what was in the fridge. 
Spices to taste:
***There are millions of combinations one can use for chili; I threw in a few handfuls of each of these:
- Worcestershire sauce
- Paprika
- Crushed red pepper
- Mrs. Dash Fiesta seasoning
- Black pepper
- Cumin
8 oz. Elbow macaroni
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
Unbaked pie crust, enough for bottom and top of 5-in. oven-safe pot pie dish (see my recipe here!)

How to 
Heat butter in a large pot, add onions, garlic and green peppers until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add ground beef and fully cook until brown

Add the spices. This is where you get creative! My system consists of adding spices until I like the smell of what's cooking. Smarter, more well-trained chefs might not agree with this lax level of consistency, but so far it's suited me well.

Stir in the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.

Carefully pour in the beer. Drink the rest of the can.

Add the beans, stir completely. Cover, simmer on low for approximately 90 minutes or until the dish is reduced to taste (it'll be pretty liquid-y at first.)

While the chili is simmering, cook the macaroni and prep the pie dough.

When the chili is reduced to your liking, remove from heat and add the cooked macaroni.
   ***Note of interest - I grew up in a household that put macaroni in our chili. I have since learned that this is an oddity amongst chili connoisseurs, but trust me - it's good.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the bottom crust in the oven-safe pie pan and pierce with a fork.

Add the macaroni/chili mix

Cover with shredded cheese

Top with remaining pie crust, seal edges of both crusts together. Use any leftover dough to cut out your team's logo to add as decoration. If you like, brush the top crust with an egg. For this particular experience, I brushed the top crust with a little juice from the remaining chili (I only made one pot pie and had quite a bit of extra meat).

Cook for about 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown

Please know that I am fully aware of the ridiculousness of this recipe. It's not healthy. It's like seven different dishes in one. I don't even want to think of the calorie count. However, sometimes it's fun to celebrate silly things like Super Bowl Sunday with new and delicious recipes, and this chili pot pie is pretty tasty.