Monday, September 28, 2009

A is for the Agony of the Actor AND All About Grannie

I was sitting around this evening, puttering, doing nothing much, basically waiting to be told the outcome of last week's audition, when I decided this was as good a time as any to explain about Grannie.

Grannie is not my grandmother. I've never met her. Given that she's my husband's ex-wife's grandma, it seems likely I never will. Nonetheless, I highly respect this woman and owe her a debt, because I have been gifted with her recipes.

Reading them is a delight. They're the work of a woman who's been cooking for a houseful forever and will graciously make room at the table for any family or friends who happen to be by when dinnertime comes. And working with them is fun because they contain the vague-eries of someone who really doesn't use a recipe but is making a stab at it as a favor for an eager grandson-in-law; so you have to curl up with them and read intently before you begin, and then you need to ready to do some in-process interpretation.

Here's her recipe for Pie Crust Mix:

(no need to refrigerate)
7 cups Flour
1 lb Crisco
1 Tablespoon Salt

Measure flour, add salt, then sift together into a large bowl.

Add about 1/2 the Crisco, and cut in until like coarse meal. Add remaining Crisco. Cut in, but not too fine.

Store in covered container.


For a 2 crust pie - (Our size 10 1/2 to 11 inches)

3 1/2 Cups Mix
8 Tablespoons Cold Milk

Mix in a bowl, with a fork, until blended. Knead slightly until mixture forms together. Use 1/2 for each crust. Roll out on floured board or cloth.

Bake pies at 450 degrees for 10 minutes; Lower to 375 degrees until done.

A is for Dutch Apple Pie

Back when I was working as a full time actor I spent a September/October as a pig race emcee at an apple orchard. I made friends with the ladies in the bakery, which was great, 'cause they would offer me a slice of something tasty every morning and an entire pie to take home most afternoons. The “Dutch” treatment emerged as my favourite.

Here’s what I did today:

- Crust -
3 ½ cups flour
½ TBLspns salt
½ lb Crisco
4 TBLspns cold milk

- Filling -
2 Granny Smith apples
2 Gala apples
1 Green Tomato
½ cup sugar
½ teaspn cinnamon
dash of lemon juice

- Topping -
1 stick of unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
¾ cup flour

0.5) Preheated oven to 425 degrees.

- Crust -
1) Mixed flour and salt together in the food processor

2) Cut Crisco into cubes and added to processor. Pulsed seven times to blend.

3) Left 1 ½ cups of the resulting mixture in the food processor and mixed together with the cold milk.
*** The remaining mixture I put in a covered container and set aside for future pie action. More on this later.

4) Shaped the resulting dough into a rough ball, placed on wax paper on a flat surface and flattened a bit. Placed a second sheet of waxed paper on top and rolled the dough out until it was big enough to place into my (new!) 9 inch pie dish.

*** Full disclosure: I tried rolling the crust out on a floured board first, but this led to much swearing. In this my time of need I turned to Mr. Interweb, and he gifted me with a full page of Pie Crust Troubleshooting advice.

- Filling -
5) Peeled, cored and sliced 4 apples. Sliced 1 green tomato. Placed all the slices on top of the bottom crust in the pie pan.

6) Sprinkled ½ cup sugar and ½ teaspn cinnamon evenly over the apples. Added a dash of lemon juice.

7) Chopped the stick of butter into chunks and added it and the sugar and flour to the food processor. Blended.

8) Sprinkled topping over the pie.

9) Baked the pie 10 minutes and then lowered the temperature to 400 degrees. Cooked for 35 more minutes.

How’d It Go?
I think it turned out very very well. Crispy where it should be, soft where it should be, tasty all the way through. I’ve been bellowing “Behold! I have made pie!” at random intervals throughout the remainder of the evening. This may have something to do with this being my first baked crust from scratch. Mr. Husband is tolerating this very well, probably because he agrees that the pie is replete with tasty goodness.

I built this recipe with help from Grannie's Pie Crust Recipe (more on this in a later post), this Dutch Apple Pie Recipe at Cooks dot com and, drat, I'm forgetting where I first read about using green tomatoes in an apple pie; I'll get back to you on that bit.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

SundAy, SundAy, SundAy

- Last night was the first concert in our season tickets to the Seattle Symphony, so we ate at The Brooklyn. Best known for their oysters, but every darn thing there is so decadent that I always expect the mob of angry peasants to come carry me off while I'm eating. On my plate this time: Quail stuffed with sweetbreads and fuji apples.

- Woke up this morning to see an old high school friend had posted a link to lots of apple recipes on my FaceBook wall. Huzzah! If you know me, you know my attention was especially caught by the Apple Bacon Pancakes.

- And now off for a little field trip to secure tickets for the local Alton Brown book signing October 16th.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A is for Unexpected Apple

There's a new QFC in the 'hood where I work. It's fun to go there for lunch right now because part of the Grand Opening Festivities is the Gauntlet of Free Samples (lunch appetizers, yum!).

Having gotten past the pineapple and sliced meats I reached my actual goal: the Soup Bar. It's getting Fall-ish here and I was jonesin' for some butternut squash soup. Curious, I checked out the ingredients, hoping for bacon, only to discover it was a vegan-safe, gluten free soup featuring a puree of apples? Wha-hunh?

I'm not a vegetarian of any sort, but went ahead and got the soup anyway. And it was good, not too sweet, which was my fear. I was guessing the apples were in there as a thickening agent, but poking around online, most butternut squash soup recipes out there don't seem to need that. So I guess they just like what it does to the taste.

Perhaps this calls for a side by side taste test when I get to S; apple vs. bacon. I'm betting on the bacon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Can Haz Pie Pan

And there was much rejoicing. (Yay.)

A is also for Audition

I didn't get home until after ten due to auditioning, so dinner was a simple affair: steak, tots and manhattans. I'm not proud: The George Foreman Grille got involved. No apples today. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A is for Baked Apples

Full disclosure: I wanted to start with an apple pie but discovered the horrible fact that I do not own any pie pans. How in the name of god is this possible??!? Anyhoo, it threw me back on a simpler idea, which may've been for the best.

Baked Apples
The first time I had these was actually last October. My family and I were spending a week keeping the New Dungeness Lighthouse and my Aunt Cheri made us "Baked" Apples (microwaved, actually); they were wicked awesome.

Unfortunately she lives in the central time zone and I'm in pacific standard, so I didn't feel comfortable calling her for the recipe at 9:30pm my time. (Note to self: Cook earlier.) So I cobbled together a game plan from recipes at AllRecipes, Food Network and The Joy of Cooking.

Here's what I did:

3 apples
dash of bitters
dash of lemon juice
3 tsp white sugar
5 tblspns of unsalted butter
4 tsp brown sugar
shot of whiskey
2 shots of water

0.5) Preheated oven to 375 degrees

1) As mentioned in the previous post, I started with three different apples (Gala, Elstar and MacIntosh), which is a pretty solid baking no-no. I sliced the top 5th off of each and put them in a loaf pan.

***I ate the tops to get a feel for the apples at hand. My fave was the Gala, a nice balance between the other two; Elstar was sweeter, MacIn was tart-er.***

2) Dug out the core of each with a spoon. Basically worked down until just past the seeds.

3) Added a teaspoon of white sugar to the core of each apple.

4) Dashed lemon juice on the top of the Elstar, bitters on the other two.

5) Divided the butter into 3 equal-ish sized chunks and put this in the core of each apple.

6) Sprinkled enough cinnamon to somewhat cover the top of each apple.

7) Added whiskey and water to bottom of pan.
7.5) Accidentally got a little whiskey on the Elstar. Whoops.

8) Added a teaspoon and a pinch extra of brown sugar to the top of each apple.

9) Baked for thirty minutes. (Checked at twenty; not done.)

The Outcome:

I felt a bit like Goldilocks and the 3 Apples: The Elstar was too hard, the MacIn too soft (it kind of 'sploded...on the left there) and the Gala was just right. They all could've used a touch more sugar and cinnamon, but were tasty nonetheless.

What I would/will change next time:
- Use all the same apples, probably Galas. Baking is delicious but fascist; it likes uniformity.

- Make the middle holes a bit wider to a) aid in baking and b) hold more of the good stuff

And of course I was watching Top Chef,...

...because it was Wednesday and I'm addicted.

After slogging through the early eps, I feel ready to make a top 3 prediction: Jen, Bearded Kevin, and Michael of the V(enture) Brothers.

I've never done better than one out of three calling it this early, but I'm feeling good abut this one.

A is for Apple

Yeah, yeah, I know, kind of an obvious choice here. I'm feeling out the format and I promise to get weird later on, mmm'kay? Good.

What the Heck is it? It's a fruit (culinary definition here, i.e., sweet) that grows on a tree. Roundish. Matures in the autumn so it's (huzzah!) in season now.

left to right we have Gala, Elstar and MacIntosh apples. Organic, from my local Greenmarket. Closing in on them we have some "love apples," or tomatoes, from my garden. These are everywhere in my kitchen right now and if I thought I could've conned you and myself into thinking they were spelled "Atomato", we'd be playing with them right now.

Random free associating:
- The Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden tends to be represented as an apple, pretty much everywhere in pop culture, except in the Bible where it's just called a fruit.

- Golden Apples are all over mythology. My fave is the story where Paris (Orlando Bloom in Troy, if you've seen it) giving one to Aphrodite leads to the Trojan War, which I like because those are pretty massive consequences for an after-school snack. (Paris would've done better to take Athena's bribe (wisdom), but if he'd been smart enough to do that, he probably, you know, wouldn't've needed to.)

- There's an episode of the GI Joe cartoon from the 80s where the Joes kill a giant all-consuming blob with the toxin in an orchard's worth of apple seeds. I still remember it after all these years and, hey, apple seeds do, in fact, contain cyanide. Knowing is half the battle!

- I like Fiona Apple's music but not her album titles. Not good cooking music necessarily, but good for driving or working out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wot's all this, then?

Let's face it: Culinary school is not in the cards any time soon. Maybe not ever.

But why be down hearted? I have full access to a kitchen, several grocery chains and Mr. Interweb. Surely I can teach myself quite a bit homeschool-style. Maybe someday I can be Token Self-taught Cheftestant on a cooking reality show and get cut in the fourth or fifth round when I choke in the face of all that advanced training.

A girl can dream, can't she?

Here's the game: I'll work my way through the alphabet, picking an ingredient for each letter and playing with said ingredient for a "week". (Week being in quotes because I'm a theatrrr person, and coming up with seven days of consecutive free time is hard to do.) No other constraints. If, having made it to Zed, we're all not thoroughly sick of this, I'll start over at A with new ingredients.