Monday, November 19, 2012

Pecan Pie

I'm a savory cook, not a baker.  The one exception to that rule is pie making, particularly pecan pie. To both bake and eat it feels so familiar and comforting.  Having grown up going to the back country of Idaho every Summer for vacation, with no TV or electricity, we kids had to find things to do - baking pies and riding horses were my chosen sport.  I made all kinds of pies, from fresh rhubarb to apple and berry pies --  made one just about every day. And it always takes me back to being that ten year old girl -- baking for my family, feeling so useful and proud as everyone ate their slice of my days work.  And I always knew it was one of my better pies when my Father would eat it for breakfast, when all traces of pie were gone.  But, I digress...

I've used many different recipes throughout the years but quick and easy pie crust recipe from the Joy of Cooking married with the tried and true Karo corn syrup filling recipe are by far the best.  I've tried many variations including adding chocolate but I prefer the simple pecan-only execution.  One change I have made and insist works best is that in lieu of using half cup of butter for the crust, which the recipe calls for, I use 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup Crisco.  It makes the crust ever so light and crisp.  Here's the recipe:

  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1/4 cup Crisco
  • 4 Tbsp ice water
  • 3 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C Karo light or dark corn syrup (I prefer light)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 1/4 C pecan halves
For the crust: begin by filling a glass with water and several ice cubes, set aside.  Then mix together the first two ingredients. The recipe calls for a mixer but since I never had one, I do it all by hand and it's just as good if not a little more of a workout.  Add the chilled butter and Crisco and take a fork or a pastry cutter to the mix.  Make sure to get all the butter and Crisco clumps out with the fork so that there are no large pieces. Then add a tablespoon of the reserved ice water and add one by one, mix as you go.  The recipe calls for 4 Tbsp but I tend to need five.  It varies by elevation.  Once the mix begins to stick together, form into a ball.  Once ball is formed, wrap with wax paper and refrigerate for at least two hours.  This will make it easier to roll out.  You can even make the day before or even freeze if you really want to get a jump start.

For the pie filling: preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl add the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and melted butter.  Mix so there are no clumps.  Then add the pecans.  Cover and set aside.

The last step is rolling out the pie dough.  My trick is to put two sheet of wax paper down: one vertical, one horizontal.  Add some flour on top and grab your pie dough from the fridge.  You want your pie dough to roll out to be at least 14."  Once it's rolled, put the pie dish on top of the dough and scoop underneath the wax paper with one hand and flip the pie dish over.  Then simply peel the wax paper away from the pie.  Easiest transfer ever!  I like to make the edges pretty.  Fold over any excess and make a waffle like weave with your index and middle fingers.  You can also use a fork.  Whatever you think looks pretty!

I've read many articles on cooking pies at different temperatures.  My most successful attempts have been cooking a bit longer on a lower heat: 15 mins on 350, bringing the heat down to 300 for about 50 - 55 mins. that way you don't burn the crust and the filling will still crack (which you want to happen).  You know it's done when you see cracks in the filling or when you stab the area between the middle of the pie and the edge with a knife and the knife comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 1 hour.  Reheat for 10 mins on 300 before serving alla mode. Have fun and enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Oscar's Cerveteca
A neighborhood joint
Oscar Hermosillo had been doing something very right over at Venice Beach Wines for years. That his lamb panini, pots of heated milky cheeses and charcuterie boards could have come out of a kitchen of it's size was mind boggling.  What started out as a small neighborhood wine store quickly sprung into a hot spot wine bar turned restaurant where waiting for a coveted spot on a bench could take well over an hour.  Going to VBW always means battling for a spot but you know the payoff is worth it.  And just when VBW hit it's pinnacle of popularity, Oscar decided to open a full service restaurant next door and call it Oscar's Cerveteca. To Venetians it's simply Oscar's. And it's good, damn good.
Breakfast is a smart if not delicious way to go at Oscar's.  Since breakfast service is relatively new, you'll beat the throngs of Venetians who begin swarming the place by late afternoon.  You must order the bacon, in fact order it straight away.  I've never experienced bacon quite like that at Oscar's. In fact, you can hardly call it bacon as it's  really more like pork belly, thick with the perfect ratio of meat to fat and a nice maple infusion. And perhaps some tator tots as well  -- if just to absorb that last sazerac from the night before. The machaca is excellent: light, fluffy eggs with lean shreds of beef and bell peppers. Even the tortillas are homemade. The frittatas arrive in cast iron skillets and are also very good. I didn't have the chance to try the chillaquilles but hear they are wonderful. And since I am not a sweets-in-the-morning type person, I did't try the pancakes or waffles but would imagine they are stunning as well.

Onto dinner: the must-have starter is the peruvian sashimi in an aji, key lime and corn sauce. I've been known to lick the plate. I cannot go to Oscar's without starting my meal with the sashimi and a draught IPA. They have a great beer selection, both draught and bottles.  The wines by the glass are mostly South American or European and very good yet to me, unfamiliar.  I stick to beer at Oscar's as it seems to compliment the Mexican spices quite well. For entrees my go-to is the churrasco flank steak.  It is seriously good -- albeit a bit on the expensive side at $24. When in a lighter mood, I like the fish tacos. They're reminiscent of trips down to baja -- beer battered and lighty fried with the proper Bajian sides. The quinoa and kale side is very good and a nice healthy addition to a table typically piled high with carnage and booze. 

Another great thing about Oscar's is they take reservations online, on their own website:  Make a reservation, grab your buddies and go have a great night on their amazing patio.  It's a place to gather with good friends in a relaxed, unstuffy atmosphere.  It won't win a Michelin star but it's much more fun than a restaurant that will.  I can't stop going back.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chicken in Hatch chile sauce

I've owned a slow cooker for almost two years and until yesterday, had never been taken it out of the box. I wasn't proud to admit this as it was a gift from my Step-Father. Every time he or my Mother would ask if I had used it, it was with horrible shame that I'd issue the same response, "no, not yet."  It took a recent trip to New Mexico to garner the proper motivation to unpack the poor, neglected kitchen tool.  I was blown away by the flavor of Hatch chiles I'd have every morning over my huevos rancheros on our trip. My Mom insisted that when we returned home, I must dust off my slow cooker and make her shredded chicken in Hatch chile sauce.  We bought several pounds worth of Hatch sauce on our way home and lugged them back to LA. Being that I am on a cooking spree, I finally attempted the impossible: I unpacked the Hatch sauce and the slow cooker! That I could just leave the slow cooker on and go about my day was almost the best part -- but the flavorful, yummy chicken trumped the simple cooking process. Here's all you will need:

This recipe requires three things, 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, one can of Hatch chile sauce and a slow cooker. Another important lesson, if you can't find a seemingly obscure ingredient, always check whole Foods before lugging 5 lb's of sauce home.  Low and behold, Whole Foods had the same exact cans of Hatch sauce.  There is no fat in this recipe and you can do so many things with the shredded chicken. I made soft tacos with some shredded lettuce, shredded Mexican cheese from Trader Joe's and low fat sour cream.  You can also make enchiladas, tostadas or even eat plain, it's so flavorful and dare I say, moist. Pour the Hatch sauce into the slow cooker, set on low and add the chicken breasts. Cook on low for 3.5 to 4 hours. When done, remove the chicken only from the cooker and shred with two forks. Return chicken to the sauce once shredded.  Two chicken breasts will easily feed 4-5 people. I'll have plenty for the week!  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Barefoot Contessa's Bolognese

Making Bolognese can be a long, arduous process requiring hours of reducing, simmering and stirring -- but this is the quickest ragu or bolognese recipe I've come across. I'm not going to lie, it isn't going to be a speedy kitchen endeavor. Ina calls her recipe "Weeknight Bolognese" but as you can see from my title, I omitted "weeknight" as the only thing I'm doing on a weeknight is reheating! Mrs. Garten suggests 45 minutes total prep and cooking time whereas it took me a good hour and half.  But it's easy and totally worth it and the red wine in the sauce makes it taste like it's been simmering all day. The recipe serves 5-6 people so it's perfect for a Sunday family meal or even an intimate dinner party.  Here's the recipe:
  • 2 Tbsp good olive oil, plus extra to add to pasta water
  • 1 lb. lean ground sirloin (I bought grass fed, 93% lean at Whole Foods)
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 Tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cup dry red wine, divided
  • 1 28 0z. can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano (Trader Joe's carries Cento brand)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 lb dried pasta, such as orecchiette or shells to hold up to the thick sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshy grated Paremesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5-7 minutes, until the meat loses it's pink color and turns brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Pour 1 cup of wine into the skillet and then add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 Tbsp salt and 1 1/2 Tsp ground pepper stirring until combined. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat, simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, splash of oil and the pasta and cook until desired doneness. While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce: Add the cream and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for another 8-10 minutes.  Stir the sauce occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and stir in the 1/2 cup of parm.  Add basil to individual portions and have some parm on the table. One can never have too much parm!  Guess what I'm eating all week?



Monday, August 6, 2012

 Etta's Salmon


I knew it would take an absolutely stunning recipe to motivate me to update my little blog. I'm not quite sure how time slipped away or how I have failed to update for over a year, but I have made some seriously yummy dishes as of late and am hoping to get them all uploaded.  Since I have a tendency to become "obsessed" with certain dishes, so much so that I make them OVER and over, I may at times refer to these dishes, ingredients or even restaurants as my obsession of the week -- a saying perhaps borrowed from Mr. Andy Cohen.   So here is what I am obsessed with this week:

I went to a friends for a dinner gathering recently and they prepared what tasted to be the most excruciatingly laborious salmon preparation, as if they had slaved over the dish for an entire Sunday, it was THAT good.  Turns out all they did was get fresh wild caught salmon from Whole Paycheck and a rub made my one of my favorite Seattle chefs which also happens to be on the shelves at Whole Foods. Tom Douglas makes a series of rubs called Rub with Love. There are rubs for meats and shellfish, etc. Rubs for everything really.  I bought the rub created specifically for salmon called Etta's Salmon, Etta's being his seafood restaurant in Seattle, one of the five wonderful Tom Douglas establishments. I thought it would pair nicely with the carrots with dill recipe I posted last year (see 2011) but my friend whom I was cooking for loves my roasted brussel sprouts so that's what we had.  Here is the recipe:

  • 1 1/2 lb salmon fillet, wild caught if possible
  • Rub with Love salmon rub by Tom Douglas

Remove salmon from the fridge twenty minutes before heating, in fact, always do this when cooking a protein.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat salmon with rub, 2 teaspoons per 7-8 ounces. I used 8 teaspoons.  When the oven is ready, cook the fish 18-20 minutes using a fork to check it's doneness. It really is the easiest protein preparation I have ever encountered. The ingredients in the rub compliment the flavor profile of the fish so well, sweet and savory at the same time. I didn't even want any lemon squeezed on top.  Delish!