Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Basic Pie Dough

Of all the culinary treats that the great state of Wisconsin provides its residents, neighbors, and friends, fruit might not come to mind. Cheese, beer, brats, oh well hell yes, that's easy. And quite integral to the proper function of human adults, in my opinion. Fruit?

I've had a jar of blueberry pie filling hiding in the pantry for a while just waiting for the opportune moment. Apparently that was Sunday, and with the 3-2-1 easy pie dough, it was near effortless to have a delicious, fresh-baked pie in no time.

The orchards of Door County are numerous and teeming with blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, apple, strawberry, and their flagship- the tart cherry. The main strip into town is lined with Ma and Pa fruit stands, some larger enterprises, even a little strip with a hotel, eatery, and general store that has an Irish theme and looks like a bad Hollywood backdrop.

At the roadside stands you can find all sorts of pick-your-own, fresh, and processed items like jellies and jams, salsas, mustard, butter, etc. It's like Costco, you can't do it without spending $75. But this is local, yokel. The people that grow and handle this food are standing right in front of you. Unless you DIY, I don't think you could get that much closer. I don't have to tell you this is the way to go for your taste buds, health, and wallet.

The ratio for the basic pie crust is, by weight 3-2-1 of flour-fat-liquid.

If you use a liquid batter for this shell, blind bake it first.

Pate Brisee
enough for one 9" pie shell and top

12 oz AP (yes, always weigh) flour
8 oz butter, large dice and very cold
2-4 oz ice water
1/2 ts kosher salt

Combine the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl by rubbing the butter between your fingers, until you have pea sizes chunks of butter and smaller beads. The mixture should resemble coarse meal. Add 2 oz of ice water and the salt, mix gently until just combined. You might need 1-2 more oz. ice water, just use enough until the dough comes together without working it too hard.

You can also use your food processor to combine the dough, it's just more shit to wash. Add the salt and the the water gradually, while pulsing quickly until it looks like coarse meal.

Split the dough in halves, you can weigh or eyeball this. Shape into 1/2" discs and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before rolling out.

Those chunks of fat will melt in the layers of gluten and create a light, flaky pastry dough. Mmmm...fat. Mmmm...cheese, beer and brats.

That sucks you get your
butt kicked by a girl, Stan.

I would NEVER let a woman kick my
ass! If she tried anything, I'd be
like 'HEY! You get your bitch ass
back in the kitchen and make me some

Friday, April 23, 2010

Prosciutto, Caramelized Onion Mac and Cheese with Bacon Fat Crumb

Michael Ruhlman's book Ratio was the inspiration for the easiest pie crust I've ever done. Which in turn kept me in the kitchen to make something fun, I guess you could call that a treat or something, as we are all just animals salivating at the next milkbone. Soy yogurt and granola when you shit on the carpet and mac and cheese when you bring the slippers. Good boy!

The book is exactly what the title suggests-ratios of fat to liquid and flour for all sorts of culinary delights- breads, doughs, cakes, cookies, pastries, etc. Consider the ease of remembering the ratio for a roux- 1 TB of butter, 1 TB of AP flour, will thicken 1 C of liquid. Scale up as desired. Even that deer-in-headlights looking pasty ass Sandra Lee could do that!

Prosciutto, Caramelized Onion Mac and Cheese with Bacon Fat Crumb
6 servings

1 lb cavatappi, cooked al dente
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
5 TB butter
1/2 C AP flour
5 1/4 C whole milk, warm (can be a mix with heavier dairy if desired)
1.5 ts kosher
fresh black pepper
1/2 ts nutmeg, fresh
8 oz. sharp cheddar, freshly grated
4 oz. Gruyere, freshly grated
1 C oz. fresh parm-reg, freshly grated, reserved
6-8 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced then diced
1/3 C caramelized onions
1 TB bacon fat
1/2 C panko breadcrumbs

Coat the pasta with EVOO to prevent sticking once cooked al dente. Done as in still slightly firm, not cooked limp. Fire up the hotbox to tree seven five, rack in lower third.

Panko breadcrumbs work best for this-regular would probably do, but this is something you should have on hand, like a small tub of bacon fat in that little dairy compartment in your fridge, right next to the butter and cream cheese. I mean, you don't really have to 'make' bacon fat. Melt the fat and toast the crumbs in small saute pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes until toasty. Then them sit for 30 second increments to toast nicely without burning.

In a large skillet over medium, melt the butter and add the onion, cooking and stirring for 3-4 minutes or so, just until softened a bit. Add the flour and whisk into a roux, cook for 2 minutes to a light roux, just enough to cook out the flour taste and retain most of the thickening power.

Gradually add the milk while whisking constantly, incorporating all of the roux. Whisk for about 3 minutes, it might take another couple minutes of stirring until thickened after that. Remove from heat, add S&P, nutmeg, and then add cheeses (reserve 1/2 C parm) 1 C at a time, allowing the cheese to melt before each addition.

Combine the pasta, prosciutto, and caramelized onion with the bechamel (a mournay, technically) sauce, stirring well to incorporate. Place into a large, buttered glass casserole dish and spread evenly. Top with remaining parm-reg and then the bacon fat crumb.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown. You could broil for a few minutes at the end too, if you like it well done.

Wine with your mac-n-cheese? Mmmmmokay. Might was well pour the most food friendly grape there is, the pinot noir. This find was a 2008 from the Eola Hills range in Yamhill County, Oregon. I've always liked you, Oregon.

Now that combination makes one a happy human.

The amount shown here is from doubling the recipe for plenty of leftovers. Serve with a few ribbons of parm-reg.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Philly Schlie's Steak

I can't really pinpoint the reason why after spending a gorgeous, culinary-focused weekend in Manhattan, the hankering for a cheesesteak came out of nowhere and quickly became something I could not stop thinking about, like a song in your head while you're in the shower that can't be removed. Once I scarfed this meat-torpedo down however, everything was back to normal.

Some folks like to say you can't get a Philly cheese steak outside of a one-hour radius of said city. Perhaps that's a valid statement, but I can claim some roots there too, hence the slight play on words of this dish's title. A true Philly cheese steak would probably have cheese whiz on it anyway, which this steak does not. The options while ordering vary a bit according to whose joint you're at. Now here's a quick tip for all you young eaters out there- It doesn't matter which city you're in-it's the same situation; the well-known local spot serving delish treats from tiny storefront, street carts, walk-up stands, etc. You gotta know what the hell you're doing and quick, otherwise it's to the back of the line with you and plenty of snickering.

Oh, you didn't know the origins of the Philly cheese steak?

Philly Schlie's Steak
two generous servings

3/4-1 lb rib-eye steak
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 bell pepper, sliced thinly
4-6 slices good provolone
2 large sammich rolls

You can probably find thinly sliced rib-eye steak at your local grocer, eye of round, sandwich steak, all that will work. If sliced thin, stack all on top of each other and roll it up tight. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes, this will help firm up to slice thinly. You want to then slice as thinly as possible, shaving would be a more appropriate descriptor.

Get a griddle or large saute pan going over medium heat. Get the peppers and onions going first, and shrooms if you'd like. I sauteed some fungi in butter with a couple smashed garlic cloves. I know not everyone is a fan of mushrooms, I've been a recent convert depending on preparation.

Once the veg is done, start toasting the rolls and throw on the meat. Using a couple spatulas, keep the meat moving and chopping into little pieces as best you can. I didn't want to tear the shit of out my non-stick griddle, so you might want to approach carefully. This will cook up quick.

Assembly- cheese on bread, then meat, then peppers and onions, then shrooms.

There's no dainty way to eat this- get after it!

Herbs for oven fries-

Some onions and peppers on the griddle

Spatula-chopping up the thin slices of meat is key

The sammich with some oven fries-taters with some EVOO, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, garlic- slice them thin and bake for about 20 at 375F. Shake pan halfway through, keep an eye on em towards the end, skinny fries can toast up quick.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Lamb Burgers with Feta

I welcome you spring with a beaming smile and open arms, as you are my favorite time of year! The trees are getting some little green buds, a good healthy dose of needed greenery after another long Chicago winter. It was 81F last week and it might snow later this week, but those temp swings will start to even out eventually. Like July maybe.

It's time to find some ground lamb at your grocer, start with a basic lamb burger and create your own signature burger. Perhaps next time topping with an olive tapenade or roasted red peppers. Maybe you'll throw on a cucumber-yogurt sauce. Maybe some smoked paprika or curry, although you will find less than one curry dish on this blog. Curry, cats, and lazy people do not get along with BLT.

Lamb is much more delicious than regular ground beef and it's actually easier to work with than ground beef, as it will form patties without any added elements like egg or bread crumbs. You're not buying preformed beef patties, are you? That's nasty. Get in there with your hands and TOUCH your food. You gotta get familiar with the stuff you're cramming in your pie hole.

Lamb Burgers with Feta
makes 3

1 lb. ground lamb
2 TB shallot, finely diced (onion is fine too)
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 TB parsley, finely chopped
1 TB butter
1 oz. feta or top as you wish

In a small saute pan, sweat onion in a touch of EVOO, stirring often over medium-low heat until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir, remove from heat and set aside to cool. In a mixing bowl, add lamb, parsley, and onion garlic mixture. For 1/3 lb patties, well, you'd make 3 burgers. If you want bigger or smaller, get out the slide rule and do the math.

Once formed, throw in the fridge for 5 minutes to slightly cool down and tighten up the burgers. You can tell when your kitchen/hands are warm and you need to do that, you don't want fat starting to melt. Multiple heat sources can denature this protein- the grill, griddle, frying pan, broiler, campfire, etc. Obviously, grill is preferred. I used the frying pan with lil knob of butter. (grill has not been cleaned up from last time and it's nasty in there) About 3-4 minutes on each side, lamb is pretty lean and you don't want to cook the shit out of it.

Grab the carriage of your choice, like a nicely toasted wheat bun, top with feta. Some spicy mustard and a few homemade dill pickles fo sho.

Get a glass of 60F pinot noir, contemplate what you've just done and the results. You've got all spring and summer.