Saturday, September 21, 2013

MmmmPie (Part 2)

(This is a 2nd half of a post because Google is being evil!)

So I go through all the apples with varying degrees of success. Some of them I had to fix by hand with a knife, but overall it was still faster and better than peeling them all by hand. And speaking of hands.....I made it through 5/6 of the apples, and on #5, I was pulling the core off the spike, hand slipped, and I cut my hand on the core-er.
For anyone who actually EATS this pie: No blood got near the ingredients, fear not!
I was so close.....and yet so far. And by now, my kitchen is looking a royal MESS.

On the plus side, apple skins make a tasty snack
So I toss sugar and cinnamon on the apples and 1/8 teaspoon of salt per the recipe. They don't MAKE 1/8 teaspoon measurement because it's too small.  But every recipe must have salt. It's the LAW.

So I bust out the dough from the fridge and start rolling. It rolls BEAUTIFULLY (Crisco for the win!) I'm doing a dance because the dough is so perfect. I flip it onto the pan.....only to realize I hadn't put flour on the mat first.
I'm too afraid to peel back and look

Oh the humanity!

So I basically resort to "patching" as best I can. By the end of it, my crust looks like a Frankencrust, having been butchered to save itself......especially after a similar problem happened with the top crust (I remembered the flour but botched the dismount from the mat to the pie tin)

So I use a fork to try and mash the crust into looking presentable. Overall, in the end it wasn't too bad looking (I added slits to vent after this pic).  Joy of Cooking suggested I could do cut outs to decorate the top.....I laugh at this. Just what I need on my Frankencrust is deformed Santa hats or whatever cutouts I can find.


Um, well my kitchen looks like THIS:

And it took me.....well I'm not going to admit that, but it was an afternoon endeavour to say the least. But the pie looks okay. The crust burnt a little.....and so did my hands because at my Mother's suggestion, I took the pie out halfway through and tried to wrap tinfoil around the crust to protect it. I tried with mitts, I tried with was just an epic fail of an attempt. So burnt crust it is. We'll see tomorrow if the boy likes it.


The title was inspired by a vanity license plate I saw once.

Anywho, this week was the boy's birthday. We celebrated Wednesday, but his family shindig is tomorrow. So I decided to try and make him an apple pie (his favorite).  Because we all know that the way to a man's heart is through his clogged arteries.

Now, I made him one earlier this year, but my mother supervised (to the point of physically holding my hands) so I felt that didn't count. On this one, I was GOING ROGUE!

So, a lesson I have yet to learn, is to pick a recipe before I start buying ingredients. I bought a 5lb bag of apples, only to find out I needed less than half that (Damn you Joy of Cooking and your tiny font!) I also had no Crisco, but I caved and bought some. (Suggestions of what the hell to do with the rest of it are welcome)

So first I chilled the crisco and butter. Not sure why you're supposed to do this, BUT YOU ARE!
This reminded me that I really don't know what the hell containers you're supposed to use for this. I end up using tupperware....plates....whatever I can get my hands on.

So I bust out my new food processor to make the dough. Toss in the flour (I don't have a sifter so I just shook it a bunch) After letting my fat chill, I start mixing it in. Joy of Cooking (JOC) tell me to put in half the crisco.....THEN (and only then) put in the OTHER half. What the hell difference does that make?!

Problem is, I didn't listen to my mother and got the smaller food processor. The following convo illustrated how this happened:

Mom: (in store trying to talk me out of smaller one)  But you'll only be able to make ONE pie crust at a time!"

So yeah, long story short, there was room for the pie dough, but it didn't "stir" well because it was so full.  I had to keep opening it and manually flipping it, which kinda defeats the point of having a food processor.
The dough kept picking sides

But shockingly, the dough turned out okay.
So I toss those into the fridge to chill (at this point I realize I have no wax paper, so make do with tinfoil) Now, onto the apples

My mother was kind enough to give me an apple peeler/corer that looks like an ancient torture device, but is super awesome.  Basically you impale the apple on the spikes, start turning it, launch this blade at JUST the right moment as you keep cranking, and it peels, slices, and cores the whole apple. IF YOU DO IT JUST RIGHT. Fortunately I'd practiced with it when my Mom supervised my last pie.
What it looks like when it's perfect (Product Ad Pic)



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Guest Edition: Let them eat cake!

Note: I've been all over the place this month, so I probably won't have any updates for a bit (*hears crickets*) So in lieu of my usual wit, I'm letting my co-worker KK post about her cake adventure. Enjoy!
Inspired by this blog, I decided to create my very own guest entry.  Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve always considered myself a quality baker. I really enjoy baking cakes, breads, name it! I come from a long line of women who have recipes memorized like the Pledge of Allegiance – so I have have some pretty big shoes to fill.

In my recent attempt to bake a simple butter cake with pudding filling and chocolate frosting for a summer intern’s birthday, I thought to myself “this will be a piece of cake” (I’m hilarious...I know). Turns out, it wasn’t a good idea to use a full cake recipe for each of the individual rounds of the cake (see picture below).  The cake literally looks like it was attacked by a toddler at their 1

I was so horrified by the appearance of the cake that I decided to serve the cake from a distance to save myself the ridicule from my co-workers. After much internal, self- deprecation came the dreaded moment when my co-workers took their first bite. Turns out, everyone thought the cake was delicious!

An old lesson re-visited...never judge a book by its cover!

Kinda gives new meaning to the term "Hot mess"

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Adventures of Target Chicken

I'm personally not a huge fan of chicken. It takes on whatever flavor you put with it, which is great, but so does tofu and I don't have to sanitize my counters for salmonella and god knows what else.  But the boy is rather fond of it (the chicken, not the salmonella) so I've been trying to get familiar with cooking it.

So I bought a bag of frozen chicken strips from Target.  I googled a Honey Mustard chicken recipe (as the boy and I both love honey mustard) and set to it. I knew people always raved when my Mom brines her meat (marinating in a salt and sugar water mix) so I did this overnight. In the tupperware, it looked more like an alien life form that was going to eat me as opposed to the other way around.

So the recipe was pretty easy. Mix Dijon mustard and Honey (both of which I had!!!!) and pour over chicken and bake. Unfortunately, in my brine enthusiasm, I think I marinated too much chicken. Oh well. I crammed it all in the pan as best I could.
As Tim Gunn would say, Make it work! 
Then all I did was pour the honey mustard mix this point it looked kind of like sewage. Hooray! That has to mean I'm on the right track....right?
And the recipe didn't call for cheese,  but I decided to try it on half. So after baking, it looked like sewage with a cheese blanket on it.
As far as was the SALTIEST DAMN THING I'VE EVER EATEN! I knew I'd used the same brine recipe my Mom did, so I checked the Target bag only to find the chicken has been pre-treated with a "flavor solution".......which translates to salt. So I basically had soaked salted chicken in salt water. 

The boy was a real sport and just mowed it down without complaint, although when I mentioned it was a little salty he looked as relieved as if I'd mentioned that yes, I too had taste buds and he didn't have to pretend.

I tried to reheat the leftovers the next day, and somehow it got even saltier. There were like, salt veins in it.

So it was easy to make, but sadly, still an epic fail. Perhaps if if I'd wrapped them in bacon like the recipe suggested.....

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Aren't you a peach?

So apparently my co-workers have discovered my blog (Get back to work slackers!) and so at their request I decided to dedicate my Saturday to another entry.

Yes, one act of cooking consumes my entire day. Don't judge.

So when I lived in NYC, I lived near a bakery that made these awesome open tarts called "Galettes". Per Wikipedia: Galette is a term used in French cuisine to designate various types of flat, round or freeform crusty cakes. Here in the states, we'd call them fruit tarts. But I like saying "galette", so I'm keeping it.

You can use any fruit really, but I choose peaches since I haven't had any this summer and I assumed they were cheap.  I figured I'd add blueberries too (see above example of perfection)

I recently moved, and my old roomie had 90% of the kitchen equipment, so I'm still in the fun "gradually realize the essential tools you're still missing after 20 trips to Target" phase. I knew I'd need a rolling pin for this, so I ventured to Walmart. Grabbed a whisk too, peaches, blueberries, and a few other baking essentials.

Consulted my mother and the internet before baking. Most recipes called for food processor, but as I have none, my mother assured me this was a "free form" dough and I could just use my hands.

First step, mix dry ingredients. It's at this point I realize I have no mixing bowls or scissors to open the new kitchen supplies I just bought. Give up? NEVA! I improvised.
It was awkward to stir this way....

Recipe said to cut up butter into little cubes and freeze them for 30 mins. Cutting the damn stuff made me feel like I was using a Ouiji board the way it kept sliding everywhere, but I did it.  Then it said to "pulse" with your food processor until butter was pea sized. I mangled it with my hands, but frozen butter does not want to "pea" itself through sheer handpower alone.  I decided little cubes had to be good enough.

At this point you were supposed to "pulse" in 4-6 TBS water. I did this with one hand while mashing it with the other. At 6 TBS it still looked dry as hell, so I did another 2 TBS. Still looked dry. Didn't want to overdo it, so I transferred it to a non-stick surface (read: a placemat) and tried to make it into a ball. Everything time I got it together, one side of it would spew out flour like a defective volcano.

MOM CALL #2: She said since I didn't have a food processor, the butter wasn't spread out enough so I"d have to really really mash it together until it blended and held. She said patiently and said 8 TBS was "MORE" than enough.

I followed her instructions, and sure enough it blended the point of being too wet :-/
Ah well. Chilled it for 30 mins. Rolled it out on the sheet/placemat.....but forgot to put flour down first, so when I tried to transfer it to the baking sheet, it stuck and botched the landing.

Nothing I could do to fix it at that point, so I tried to arrange the peaches in the beautiful spiral pattern of the picture.

Problem is, it's hard to cut peaches in perfect wedges due to the pit. Despite this, I'd say I nailed it.
Notice how I perfectly followed the instructions to make the crust look "accordion-like"

All that's left to do is coat the crust with some whisked egg. I have no brush, so I improvise with a paper towel.....which honestly did fine in a pinch (though it obviously absorbs a ton of egg, but you don't need the whole thing).  Last thing to do is add a few little butter cubes on top.  At this point I'm pretty tired and distracted, so I pour the rest of the egg on top, not processing in my brain that this yellow liquid is egg and not melted butter.  I realize it too late, and decide worst case scenario it will be a peach quiche. (Yay Rhymes!)

It took 10 minutes more in the oven than recommended (I think my oven is a little low, and there was lots of juice), but the result.......


The crust was light and flakey, but with patches of chewy-ness to make it moist and savory. The peaches were perfectly cooked and you couldn't taste the egg on top (if anything, maybe it made it better!) Very happy. So worth the effort, especially if I'd had a food processor. Next time, I'd add more fruit though (I rightly assumed half the peaches I bought at Walmart would be awful once I cut them open, so even buying double the recipe amount wasn't quite enough) .....

Speaking of which, now I have to figure out what the hell to do with all the blueberries I forgot to add........


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The adventure of the leftovers

So as I stated in the last post, I accidently bought an extra eggplant for the recipe yesterday. Those suckers aren't cheap, so I was determined to use it. I did a bit of googling for what I had in the cupboards, and an eggplant/polenta casserole dish came up care of Martha Stewart.  It looked fairly simple. Fry up some onions and garlic, stir in peeled tomatoes and spices. Lightly Fry (unbreaded) eggplant in another skillet, then pop it all in a casserole dish and bake.

Mistake #1:

I bought canned tomatoes cause I'll be damned if I'm peeling 2 pounds of grape tomatoes by hand. I wasn't really thinking and poured the excess water out, though to be fair, that was like an inch in each can.

Mistake #2

Burned the garlic.....just had the skillet up too high I guess (See last entry!) I figured with all the other stuff in it this wouldn't be too bad though.

So then I added the tomatoes:

So far so good. On to fry the eggplant. I turned the skillet WAY DOWN to avoid a repeat of the Eggplant Inquisition Burnings of the night before.

Mistake #3: Undercooked eggplant
So apparently the only options on my stove are BURNT or Slightly warmed. The eggplant ended up the latter.

Ah well. So even though the recipe didn't call for cheese, I had some fresh mozzerella leftover from the night before. I took it out with the intention of adding it on top at the end before baking. Problem was, the tomato base had to cook for 30 minutes. That's a long time when you're hungry. So this is how much mozzerella I had left after 15 minutes:


So the sauce cooked down WAY too far, even after I added water. I even stopped short of 30 minutes. Recipe said to spread a layer of sauce, then eggplant, then sauce, then polenta, then sauce.....I had this much to work with (well, slightly less after picture):
NOWHERE near enough for the pan size recommended (9x9)

Suggested result:

My result:

And I assure you the other layers were comparably skimpy. 

As a bonus, I also burned my hand THROUGH the (albeit cheap) oven mitt. It wasn't a bad burn though.....until I accidently dropped and grabbed the leftover bread I'd heated up in the oven :-/

Not too bad.....although typing this hurts.

Not really.  There wasn't a ton of flavor, but it wasn't awful. Needed some cheese and clearly lots more sauce. I'd also replace half the onion with some other veggie.

Kitchen Damage: Not too bad....two skillets and a cutting board.

I live! thanks to my cooking abilities

So after casually mentioning this blog at work and, to my horror, finding out people actually wanted to see it, I've decided to update.  Grad school is now officially over, so in theory, I have time to learn to cook again. This weekend was also "the boy" (as my one friend calls him) and my 6 month anniversary, so I decided to engage in a home cooked meal.

The boy is a big fan of eggplant parm, so I decided to give it a go.  Googled a few recipes, got the general consensus, and went to it.

"Sweating" the eggplant was easy. (Salt it, let the moisture draw out, dab away moisture) although I think I used a tree's worth of paper towels.  This was also the point where I realized I'd bought one eggplant too many (the recipes all said two were required!) I can only assume Albany has mutant eggplants.

So I lightly floured them, dipped in egg, and did the breadcrumbs. This worked fine for the first half, but by the end the breadcrumbs were getting clumpy and not cooperating.

Put some oil in the skillet and set to frying them up. I figured the first few would burn a little til I got the temperature just right......

                                                                   NAILED IT!

The rest weren't too bad, but the crumbs kept falling off and burning. Before long my apartment was full of smoke. I had to cover all the fire alarms. As this is going down, I'm also trying to heat up some bread and make a fresh salad as the boy was set to arrive at any minute. Eventually, managed to get things under control. Added fresh basil and poured the sauce into the pan

Popped everything in. Added fresh mozzerella on top (mmmm).....It took way longer to bake than the recipes said, but overall, it turned out okay. Apparently the boy likes charred eggplant, so that worked out well.

I also made chocolate chip cookies! Halfway through I realized I didn't have a mixer, so I did it all by hand. All things considered, they came out okay. A little grainy, but for not having a mixer what can you do. I did try my roommate's old hand mixer from the 1960's, but the batter got so thick it nearly pulled the hand mixer down into the cookie-quicksand, so I abandoned that.

However, the recipe explicitly states it should have made 60 cookies....I got the moral of the story is, either I'm a cookie monster, or recipes cannot be trusted EVER.


The Eggplant Parm: The boy liked it, so I'm going to say yes, but I don't think I'd ever bother with it just for me. Especially with a kitchen that looked like this afterwards: