Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tuesday: The countdown has begun....

You and I both know it's coming! You know what I mean...when the heaters start clinking, and the skies turn gray, and we all start digging around for hats and scarves, we all know it is getting to be that magical time again when we celebrate! I think the beginning of November is my favorite time of year, because I love the anticipation of Christmas and things haven't gotten busy yet. I can plan and plan and plan. Oh yes, this year, I'll be making dozens of cookies and homemade stockings and write an incredibly witty newsletter (unlike last year); and in early November I actually DO think that I will be able to get it all done! I love it! Because I love the idea of the upcoming holidays so much, I usually start playing with Thanksgiving dishes well in advance. I have so many recipes to try and I'd rather try out a new dish on my husband Shane than try it out at the Thanksgiving table, when it just wouldn't be cool to mess up the mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, or heaven forbid, turkey!

So, last weekend, after watching the rain fall for long enough, I decided this was the perfect kind of day to fill the house with the wonderful aromas of fall celebrations...

First off, dessert. We're going backwards here. Pumpkin pie is something I think everyone should know how to make. One of those essentials. Here's my favorite recipe:

As Cortney so kindly mentioned (I'm still blushing from her kind post), I have had a quest of becoming a pie master (this pie is #99) and there are a few things I've learned on this journey. May I now take this opportunity to talk about the art of the pie crust. Whenever I tell people that I like to make pies, I always get questions about the crust, so here we go...
I used to try different pie crust recipes and in all the lessons I've learned after making 99 pies, the biggest lesson of all is to never stray from my trusty recipe. I get it from my cooking bible, pictured here:

I love this cookbook so much. Besides my son Peter and my wedding album, it's what I would grab if there was a fire in the apartment. Ok, and I'd grab my laptop too, I suppose. And Shaner. But, hopefully, he could just get himself out of there. Anyway, I bought this book right when I graduated from college with some happy graduation money, and I've never regretted it. I'm just a bit sad that the binding is becoming a bit tattered.

So, enough of that. Here's my crust (it's on page 862, Deluxe Butter Flaky Pastry Dough....how could this not be good, right?!):

The key element of pie crust is the temperature. I cut up 2 sticks of UNSALTED butter and stick it in the freezer. Martha says to also put the flour in the freezer, which I guess could be helpful on really humid days, but seems to be just a tad much. You know how Martha can be sometimes...

I then get 1/3 cup ice water ready to go.

Next, I put 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon white sugar, 1 teaspoon salt in the food processor and pulse until mixed.

Then I put the butter and 1/4 cup of Crisco in the food processor, and pulse it just a few times until the butter is in pea-sized clumps.

I add the water next. This is the most tricky part of the whole process and can make or break your crust--too much water, and it's totally soggy, too little, and it's like eating flour. I remove the ice from the water, turn on the processor and stream the water in through the top until I hear what I call the crust rumble. It really is a rumbling sound that is the sound of the crust binding together. Here's what it looks like:

I take the dough out of the processor bowl and put it in 2 saran-wrapped disks. I stick it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I roll out the first crust, put it in the pie dish, and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. There's kind of a tricky way I transfer the crust so it doesn't fall apart on me during the move--I roll it around the rolling pin and unroll it into the dish.

In the meantime, I made the filling. Here is another pie lesson I've learned: no matter how cute the sugar pumpkins look at the market, and how homemade you would feel by seeding, peeling, roasting, and mashing the pumpkin pulp yourself for your 100% homemade pumpkin pie, I have some news for you--it really doesn't taste very good. Seriously, I've tried it, and guess who was REALLY disappointed while forcing herself to eat yucky pie that took way too long? Yep, I have been there, my friends.

Might I recommend instead, using Libby's good ol' prepared pumpkin in the can? And maybe you can make those homemade stockings with all that extra time on your hands:)

Ok, sorry, enough digressing. Here is the filling recipe:
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 425. In a small bown, combine sugar, salt, and spices. Beat eggs in mixer. Stir in pumpkin and evaporated milk.

Pour into pie shell.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes; reduce temperature to 350 and bake for 45-50 minutes or until firm.

And, wow, did my house smell like autumn all day!

Next up, I tried a new green bean dish. My family never did the green bean casserole for Thanksgiving, but since I've had it here, I'm really not a fan. I don't really like food that makes a squishing, slurping sound when I dish it on a plate. Instead, I found a lighter green bean dish in my favorite food magazine, Everyday Food:

1. Bring one inch of water to a boil in a large pot fitted with a steamer basket.
2. Place 2 pounds green beans, stem ends trimmed, in basket. Cover; steam until crisp-tender, 5-8 minutes. Rinse under cold water. When cool, drain; pat dry with parper towels. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. In a small bowl or jar, whisk 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 taqblespoon white-wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon course salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper until thickened and combined. Pour over beans; toss to coat.

And, lastly, this isn't a Thanksgiving dish, but it was a lovely autumn dinner to eat on a chilly Sunday afternoon, so I thought I'd throw in my favorite pot roast recipe:

3 pound piece beef for pot roast
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces (or cheat like me and use baby carrots)
4 medium new potatoes, cut into quarters
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 dried bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 can Campbell's Tomato Soup (secret ingredient...I never expected this to be good!)

1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Place carrots, potatoes, and onion in a Crock-Pot. Season with salt and pepper. Add bay leaf and thyme.

2. Place meat on top of vegetables. Add soup. Cover, and cook on low heat for 8 hours (high for 6 hours)
3. Remove meath to a cutting board. Transfer vegetables to a platter. Slice meat, and add to platter. Pour sauce into measuring cup and skim fat. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables, and serve. Or skip this step, like I did, and just plunk the crock pot on the dinner table:)

Happy fall, everyone!


Kristy said...

And yes, it was a delicious meal! Thanks for sharing!

Deanna said...

Thanks for the great recipes! Pies is seriously my weakest area of baking. I've made so few of them in my life. I'll definitely be working on your crust to try to perfect the process.

Scott, Heidi and clan said...

that was a fabulous post! i loved it! you so have the magic touch of what will make this so great! can't wait to purchase the joy of cooking for christmas.