CHOP CHOP SUEY

My bf and I have recently moved in together, and while it has its challenges, it also has its excitement and thrills.  One of these challenges comes in the form of meal planning and cooking for each other and, also, together.  We have done fairly well with the meal planning so far and cooking, when we have the time, also goes really well.  Between the bf’s gym time and my scrapbooking and later work nights, we try to have a balance between having leftovers and cooking, and also going out (or ordering in) every once in a while.  Although if I’m perfectly honest, meal planning is almost a skill in itself and one that I’m (we’re?) not very good at, but I’m trying to make us better at it!

When we do get to cook together, we like to try new things.  I am pretty adventurous in the kitchen and I like to think I have rubbed off on him a little…although he may disagree with me a little on that one…  We had enormous success with our Pad Thai recipe and we have recently been on an Asian kick.  Perhaps as a result?  Quite possibly!  After having Chinese takeout one evening, we decided that since chop suey was one of the best dishes we ordered that night, we needed to try making it ourselves.  I would like to note here that, while I take pride in my cookbook collection, I am lacking a good Asian cookbook for stir fries and such.  So, my search for a chop suey recipe turned to the internet/Pinterest.  Pinterest turned up a few recipes, but a Google search ultimately gave us the recipe that we tried – from here.

With a few modifications, we came up with something that we ended up devouring.  Literally.  It was so tasty – absolutely better than take out!  One of the beautiful things about stir fries is that you can modify the ingredients and add things that you like, in place of others that you don’t. For example, this particular recipe calls for mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts, among many other vegetables, but we are severely anti-mushroom in this house, and bamboo shoots and water chestnuts have never really been my faves.  It’s easy to add carrots, red pepper, broccoli, or cauliflower instead, if those are more to your taste.  For our testing of this particular recipe, we didn’t play with the sauce too much – if anything I added more chicken broth, because I like my dishes saucy!

So, there’s a few steps to any stir fry: marinate the meat, chop the veggies, decide on a starch (rice or noodles), cook said starch, make a sauce and then, of course, cook everything.  I know, I know, it seems a little daunting, but this makes it a great two-person job.  Also, some of these things don’t require a lot of time and once they are done, you can kind of leave them to do their thing.  The bf and I have a pretty decent system going – I do the chopping and prep, he pours the wine and does the frying.

I would start with chopping the veggies:

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We added:

1/2 green pepper, chopped into pieces
1/2 onion, sliced
2-3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
a healthy handful of snow peas or snap peas (I prefer snap peas – more crunch!)
a healthy handful of fresh bean sprouts

Next, do the meat:

Marinade approximately 1 pound of meat (chicken, pork, or beef: the marinade works for all!) in:

1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce

You can leave the meat to marinate for about 15 minutes – or longer.  Basically until you are ready to cook the meat.

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The first time we made it, we used leftover roast chicken, which reduces overall cooking time.  We have also used raw meat from the beginning, so both work really well.

Once the meat is marinating and the veggies are chopped, it’s time to start cooking the veggies, which is really most of the hassle.  At least for this recipe.  The recipe requests that you cook each vegetable one at a time, and then transfer them into a bowl as you cook them.  Eventually you’ll end up with bowlful of steamed/cooked veggies that looks like this:

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Once you’ve got a start on those veggies, you can start noodles (something thin – I buy something similar to chow mein noodles), if you decide on noodles.  If you want rice, now would be a good time to start that as well.  While the bf is frying and steaming the veggies and in between scraping out the wok, I’ll mix together the sauce.  All you need is:

1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp corn starch

If you prefer a saucier stir fry (like moi), then do maybe 1/3 cup of chicken broth.

Once the veggies are done, cook the meat.  This should take about 10 minutes.

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While the meat is cooking, the noodles will cook as well, so drain those when they are finished and then set aside. If you’ve chosen something like chow mein or thinner noodles, it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.

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Once the meat is done, it’s time throw everything back into the wok and finish everything up.  This means add the veggies back to the wok, stir and add the sauce that you made.  Then add the noodles and stir everything together.

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The recipe is not based on any spicy ingredients, so when you serve, feel free to garnish with sriracha (or another hot sauce) and perhaps some green onions – these add a nice touch as well.

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It’s a wonderful recipe that is also versatile – feel free to change up the veggies and even the meat.  Any of your standard proteins will stand up nicely to the flavours and ingredients.  The best part of a stir fry is that you can find what works best for you, if you aren’t necessarily as adventurous.

Thanks for reading! Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

 

FRIDAY THAI-DAY

A new year. A new beginning. Maybe? Every year brings with it a renewed sense of optimism for the year to come and the opportunities it represents. Each year, I try to get out ahead and make something out of it. I try not to use the word “resolution” for a couple of reasons, but mostly because I feel that there is so much hype surrounding it that you are almost setting yourself up to fail. I like to think of the new year as a chance to do something different, to be different, or to do more of something that I didn’t do the previous year. In this case, I made a deal with myself that I would do more blogging this year, to make up for all the posts that never got written last year. And this brings me to my first post…

PAD THAI!

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First a little background on the name: my bf goes to this tiny little Thai place with some buddies from work pretty much every week. On Friday. Thus, I dubbed it Friday Thai-day, partly because I can’t understand why someone had never thought of it before me, but mostly because it sounds fun and it’s fun to say. Having said this and despite going there every week to eat lunch, he had never once tried Pad Thai. Something I fail to understand to this day, so please go ahead and shake your head for me, because my neck hurts from doing it so often.

Anyway, after repeatedly bugging him that he had to try it and finding various Pad Thai recipes on Pinterest and in one of America’s Test Kitchen’s (ATK) cookbooks, we attempted it – a couple of ways. The first time, we found the sauce too sweet, due to the ketchup based sauce and large amounts of additional sugar. Also, the noodles got clumpy when we added everything together in the pan, as we cooked them the traditional way. The second time, we altered the sauce slightly to make it more spicy and to limit the sugar, but used America’s Test Kitchen method of cooking the noodles, which was to use hot tap water, pour it over the noodles, and then let it sit for about half an hour. Ultimately, this resulted in a rather too al dente noodle for my taste, and for me that meant the whole dish turned out a little disappointing.

The most recent, and most successful I might add, time that we made it, we altered the sauce yet again, based on two different online recipes, as well as the info we read in America’s Test Kitchen. And, as we were inspired by the noodle method in ATK, we boiled the water like one usually would, took the pot off the heat, and added the noodles and let them sit for 25 minutes. I would recommend that you stir. AND STIR OFTEN. Otherwise the noodles stick together and no one wants that. NO ONE.

So, here is our best version of Pad Thai to date:

We used traditional rice noodles. You will need half a package for this recipe. It served the two of us, and gave us 2 leftover meals, for lunch the next day.

First, prepare the chicken. For this, you will need:

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 egg
2 tbsp corn starch
salt, pepper to taste

Cut the chicken into approximately 1 inch pieces and mix together with the egg, cornstarch, salt, and pepper.
Meanwhile heat a large pan, or a wok, on medium heat and add 1 tbsp canola/vegetable oil.

You may also want/need, depending on where your preferences lie:

1 egg
2-3 green onions
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
some bean sprouts

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Next, prepare the sauce.

1/2 tsp chili flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
~1 inch-sized ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
2-3 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce or oyster sauce
1 tsp peanut butter

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By this time, the pan/wok should be hot and you should be good to start stir frying the chicken.

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The chicken should take between 5 and 10 minutes to cook. Once the chicken is fully cooked, take it from the wok and put it in a bowl and set aside.

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Once the chicken is cooked, you can scramble an egg to incorporate into the final dish. You don’t have to do this, but it tastes good and is reminiscent of Asian cooking. If you don’t want to, ignore this step, and you can simply add the noodles to the pan, with the chicken, and finish the Pad Thai.

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I realize at this point, the dish is looking a little albino, but it shouldn’t last too long. Once you’ve added the noodles and given everything a good stir, pour the sauce over the chicken and noodles and stir until coated.

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You can chop some green onions and peanuts to put on top. The green onions add some freshness and the peanuts add some crunch and bit of saltiness. You can also top with bean sprouts, which is more of a traditional addition. You can however eat it without the toppings straight from the pan. Tempting, I know!

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A couple of minor adjustments can be made if you like – you can make the whole dish a little spicier (or less spicy) by adding more or less sriracha. My bf likes to have spice leaking out of his eyes when we do Asian food, so the 3 tbsp of sriracha may be a bit much for some. The sauce could also be made with chicken broth, if you don’t like soy sauce.

Otherwise, I hope you enjoy our version of Pad Thai!
Thanks for reading! Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

CHRISTMAS CAME AND THE GOOSE GOT FAT…

The Christmas season has come and gone yet again! It’s amazing how much prep we do for those two or three days and how fast they are over…almost unbelievable. Personally, this year, I struggled with finding the Christmas spirit and keeping it – it seemed to be just beyond my grasp more often than not. In my family, we changed our traditions a little this year – something I found myself to be strongly resistant to. Christmas Eve is spent with my dad’s immediate family, and Christmas Day with my mom’s immediate family. Christmas Eve remained the same, but Christmas Day’s dinner changed from the typical chicken and meatballs, to a GOOSE, with meatballs and ham. The goose was something I was definitely not enthusiastic about, considering my previous experience which involved a very fatty, yet remarkably tough at the same time, goose. Who knew both these characteristics could exist simultaneously.

Nevertheless, the hunt for a decent, not too complicated recipe commenced and I was comforted by the knowledge that there would be ham! We settled on a roasted goose recipe from Martha Stewart and on Christmas Day, we began the prep by rinsing and pricking the skin, but not pricking the meat underneath, which proved to be difficult, as the skin is rather thick and knowing what you have pricked or haven’t pricked is hard. Hence the use of our kitchen poultry scissors.

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The recipe is pretty standard – one thing about cooking poultry is that the basic principle of roasting is the same. Some fresh vegetables and herbs and some salt and pepper shoved inside the bird will do the trick.

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The goose was ready for roasting after a healthy sprinkling of salt and pepper all over!

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We started roasting the goose at about 440F for approximately 20 minutes, and then reduced the temperature to 325F and checked it every half hour or so. The good (?) thing about geese is that they don’t need any extra fat rubbed on them; the pricking of the skin at the beginning allows the goose to self-baste as it cooks, which produces a lovely crisp, golden skin. However, the ridiculous amount of fat that pads a goose’s shoulders can be a little concerning for those who would like a bit more of a health conscious meal. Having said that, however, Christmas may be the worst time to be thinking of having a health conscious meal. After the first 20 minutes, the goose looked like this:

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And had produced this much fat (or, liquid gold, as my aunt fondly refers to it): (I should note that she used this goose fat to brush her hasselback potatoes, which produced a lovely crispy, crunchy skin on them)

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We roasted the goose for approximately 3 to 3 1/2 hours, which we determined during dinner, that it was too long. As it was all of our first times actually COOKING the goose, the point of doneness was very unclear. We aimed for an internal temperature of 180F, but perhaps, this should have been reduced slightly, because juices were running clear with an internal temp of about 170F-175F. It looked fabulous, but still seemed to be tough.

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(Thanks to my aunt for the final picture in the post! Follow her on Instagram for more food pictures @finns_church).

So, with the experience/experiment of cooking a goose now behind us, the question still remains: would we ever cook a goose again? My answer is still no (previous experience notwithstanding, goose is NOT my favourite poultry). However, my mom begs to differ – she maintains that another goose experience is worth it, if only to better learn how to do it, and if she were to do it again, perhaps it would NOT be at Christmas time. The overall verdict of the meal that day, seemed to be rather inconclusive. No one seemed to vouch for the goose, one way or the other. Perhaps the jury is still out!! ;)

Thanks for reading! Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

PS: If anyone is looking for a place to buy a good looking goose for a special meal, try http://www.interlakemeadowsfarm.com!

INTERNET (and other) FOOD SHENANIGANS (Part I)

I realize that this, being Part I, is supposed to come before Part II, but I decided to do things a little differently.  The reason being that while I was writing Part II, it made sense to introduce the idea of finding recipes in alternate places (ie; newspaper, magazines, online/Pinterest…) and THEN delve into one particular example, that just so happened to work really well for us, and happened to be from the newspaper.

I give you: SLOW COOKER LASAGNE.  Brilliant.  And tasty.  My one dislike about it (if you can even call it that) was that it lacked the crispy, crunchy cheesy goodness that accompanies traditional lasagne that’s been baked in the oven.

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I digress…the recipe is actually quite brilliant, as I stated before.  Like many slow cooker recipes, it’s designed to save time and I think it does – needing only 4 hours for the actual cooking process, where other recipes tend to need 6-7, depending on the heat setting.  It also calls for a pre-made sauce – which if you ask me, is a personal preference.  If you have the time (and perhaps fresh garden tomatoes), I would definitely make a fast, tasty homemade sauce, as opposed to using pre-made.  Also, something different to traditional lasagne, this recipe calls for a pound of ground Italian sausage, as opposed to ground beef.  I quite liked the change, as the sausage gives it a bit of spice and flavour that you don’t get from ground beef alone.  If (or should I say, when, as the bf was quite enamored with this test) I/we make it again, I would possibly consider browning the meat before putting it in the slow cooker.  There was a lot of liquid in the slow cooker once all was said and done, and I’m curious to see if tweaking something like that would make a difference.

And now, to the good stuff: the droolworthy pictures and the actual recipe.

Courtesy of Winnipeg Free Press website, however, originally, we must say thanks to America’s Test Kitchen for their version of the Slow Cooker Revolution.  To start, you’ll need:

~8 lasagne noodles – regular, not the no-boil ones (more if you like it to be extra noodle-y, like me!)
1-15 oz container of ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
salt and pepper
1 egg
1-24 oz bottle pre-made tomato sauce (see above re: notes about making fresh tomato sauce)
1 lb ground Italian sausage meat
4 cups grated mozzarella cheese

First comes the noodle cooking.  I find just boiling water for these suckers takes the longest.  You want them to be about 97% cooked.  They’ll be nice and juicy and soft after being in the slow cooker.

While the water is boiling/noodles are cooking, mix the ricotta, egg, 1 cup of parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and basil together.  I don’t believe we used fresh basil, as we were in the deep in the recesses of winter when we made it and anyone who lives in Winnipeg knows, fresh basil is a hot commodity approximately 2 months of the year.  We did use a blend of dried oregano, basil, and perhaps some Italian seasoning and it was just as tasty.

Next comes the layering fun!  First, sauce the bottom of the slow cooker with about a half cup:

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Then some noodles:

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(the bf’s slow cooker is round, and ancient, so we had noodle fitting issues, but in a newer and oblong shaped cooker, you won’t have this problem)

Then clump some of the ricotta mixture in:

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And some meat right on top of that:

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Then mozzarella:

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And your first set is done. You want to do that twice more: sauce-noodle-ricotta-meat-cheese, sauce-noodle-ricotta-meat-cheese.  You should have noodles, sauce and cheese left over.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan to your remaining mozzarella.  Finish the lasagne by pouring in the rest of the sauce, covering it with noodles and the rest of the cheese.

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Turn that puppy on to low for 4 hours and you will have a delicious, hot mess when you are ready to eat!

For me, lasagne is definitely one of those things that I could probably eat for the rest of my life without getting tired of it (provided there is unlimited garlic bread, salad and wine) and was very satisfied with the idea of putting it in the slow cooker and enjoying the smell of it as it cooked.  I’m not saying you should join me in my lasagne-eating obsession (you are more than welcome to however…), but I hope this take on it might inspire you to try a classic dish in a new-ish and more accessible way!

Thanks for reading!  Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

 

INTERNET (and other) FOOD SHENANIGANS (Part II)

One of the best things about having a bf who loves food as much as I do is that he has no problems with cooking more and trying new recipes.  It doesn’t usually take much to convince him that it’ll be a good idea, haha, but don’t tell him that.  He has recently been sucked into the Pinterest world which, despite it’s addictive and addicting qualities, has a vast resource of recipes, among other things.

Trying new recipes has always been exciting for me, so I’m happy to have someone to do it with.  We’ve been quite adventurous these last couple months, trying new recipes from, mostly from Pinterest, but also one from our local newspaper, as well as a Jamie Oliver experience.  I say adventurous, because well, with internet recipes, you can never be too certain whether or not you are going to have a winner on your hands.

If you’re familiar with Pinterest, you know that you have a home page feed that shows what has been pinned by like-minded souls since your last Pin binge.  My feed is predominantly food.  And shoes.  But mostly food, and I’ve gotten into the habit of sending the bf anything that looks remotely droolworthy, because I like to make him want to eat his phone.  Especially when he’s busy at work….heee heee….yes, I am cruel and undeserving of his love.  ANYWAY.  Our first adventure was Easy Sesame Chicken, from a rather useful blog about eating on a budget (click here for more).  This one was kind of a two part adventure for me because I finally nailed cooking rice in a pot.  I know it sounds a little silly, but it IS harder than it sounds and I always tended to have a rather large amount of rice stuck to the bottom of the pot, which is annoying.  I could probably go on about cooking rice in a pot for a whole blog post, so I will simply say this: if you are like me and have issues cooking rice in a pot, simply add a little bit of oil or butter (perhaps 1 tbsp) before putting the rice in and using the approximate ratio 1-1/2 cup water to 1 cup rice, you should be golden.

Having had such a successful first experiment, we went a little further afield and tried something that I had seen on Instagram.  Posted by Jamie Oliver on his Instagram feed, I had seen it and was overcome by the look of its tastiness and decided that it was something I wanted to try.  Don’t get the wrong impression given by the name…ahem…*Hungover Noodles*…even though I can imagine how fantastic they would be whilst hungover…especially with the fried egg on top.  With a little tweaking and a healthy squirt of Sriracha sauce, we had another fabulous winner on our hands!

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We soon broadened our horizons and looked at more recipes on Pinterest: Greek Souvlaki, more stir fries, pasta, spicy blackened chicken…

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Spicy Blackened Chicken with Garlicky Alfredo Noodles

 

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Spicy Sriracha Shrimp Stir Fry 

Now, I know that this post doesn’t have a specific recipe that means something special to me, but I recently read a blog post about bringing our food blog posts back to the passion and creativity that started them in the first place.  For me this is my attempt at doing so.  I love to cook and bake and I love being in the kitchen.  Even more so, I love doing it with people that I love and people that enjoy it as much as I do.  Cooking with my bf is fun and stress-less and it (he) lets me be silly.  We all have our reasons for doing what we love, and there’s never just one reason why we do it.  For me, it’s not only the passion of actually cooking and baking, but it is being able to share it.  If sharing some of that passion in this blog makes others think about why they blog, then it is even more rewarding.  I hope this can inspire you to share why you started your blog.  Let’s bring it back to basics and be in the kitchen simply because we love it!

Thanks for reading!  Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

FISHY FRIDAYS

This past summer was really exciting for me.  One of my very best friends in the whole world (and I do mean the whole world) came to visit me for a month.  She and I have been friends for approximately 10 years; we met in high school when we both participated in a German-Canadian exchange program, which was one of the best experiences in my life.  I learned so much.  About everything.  As a result, we’ve kept in touch these past years, sometimes sporadically, sometimes regularly, and our friendship has definitely endured time and distance.

This summer marked the 10 year anniversary of her coming to stay with us and we celebrated by visiting, cooking, traveling, shopping, talking, and laughing.  Her visit was not without challenges, though, as she had become vegetarian in the past year since I had seen her last.  For the purpose of the blog, we’ll use the term “vegetarian” loosely as she did stray a few times, simply because we also found it a challenge to cook vegetarian for a whole month.

One of our more successful (and tasty I might add) endeavors was when we grilled a whole salmon.

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Mmmm, yummy!  No worries, we did cut the head and tail off before throwing him onto the fire ;) That was the first thing we did:

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That’s better.  The fish comes gutted, so the really nasty stuff is already taken care of.  As a result of the fish being gutted, it leaves a prime slit in which to stuff it with a whole bunch of goodness.  First though, give it a good rinse to make sure all the leftover intestinal stuff is gone.

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Once you’ve patted it dry, you can start filling it.  We chose to fill it with some fresh lemon, fresh herbs and garlic.  Start with the lemon:

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Then layer the herbs; rosemary:

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Oregano:

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Thyme:

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Keep filling it till you can’t anymore:

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Do another layer of lemon:

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Then throw some seasoning on there.  Add some salt, freshly ground pepper:

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Peel some fresh garlic and add that too – if you can!  Ours was getting a little fat and the garlic was a bit of an afterthought:

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And you’re done!  Fish full of goodness!

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To cook, fire up your BBQ and wrap the fish in some heavy duty grilling foil:

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And it’s ready!

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The fish doesn’t need more than half an hour on the grill. You’ll want to keep a fairly close watch on it and you could even pull it off the grill a few minutes early to let it rest.  Unwrap it just before you’re ready to eat.

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The hard (fun?) part comes when you have to peel the skin off.  Don’t worry too much about the skeleton – that will come off easily.

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Start taking the meat off the top of the fish.  It should just flake off.  Once the top layer of meat is gone, you can pretty much peel the skeleton off the fish.  And you’re left with a lovely piece of jewelry.  Not that you would want to wear it anywhere.

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I will be the first to admit that I am not the greatest fish lover.  I find that in my food history the fish I’ve eaten (that wasn’t battered and deep fried and then served over hot and crispy french fries) often smelled and had a not very appealing texture.  These unfortunate associations have turned me off fish and made me reluctant to eat it again.  However, I’m happy to say that fresh fish doesn’t smell.  Yay!  And after learning about unique ways to cook it (this in part thanks to my aunt, see here) I am slowly, SLOWLY, coming around to it.  Very slowly.  I must say that grilling a whole salmon on the BBQ is almost becoming a favourite.  Not only because it’s so tasty, but because it usually means that we are having people over to share it with us.  A whole fish is a bit much for just me and my rents, so the brother and fiancee will come over, as well as my bf and perhaps an aunt, it’s sure to be a fun time and that is always just as much fun as the cooking part.

I hope you find inspiration to stuff a fish with whatever you want, and to share it, or anything, with those that are closest to you.

Enjoy!

Thanks for reading! Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

 

THE WEDDING PIE

Our family (recently – as in this past April) had some lovely news!  My brother is getting married!  His fiancee is wonderful!  We all love her, and are happy for them!  Given my baking history and obvious love for all things sweet and cake-like, not to mention chocolate-y, I seem to vaguely recall offering to bake their cake for them.  I was very excited at the time, not only to bake their cake, but for their upcoming nuptials.  For those of you who know me, it’s no secret that my brother and I have had our differences, so I was surprised that my excitement was for BOTH of them, not just my brother’s fiancee.

As their wedding plans have evolved, my job as wedding cake/dessert-provider has also evolved.  I love cake; what’s more is that I love baking cake.  Probably more than my bf (but don’t tell him!).  My brother’s fiancee, shall we call her Madelaine, is a pie person.  My brother, Matthew, is a cake person, having been raised in our house where cake was our dessert of choice.  Having learnt that Madelaine prefers pie, I started to read about pie and, hell, oh I don’t know, baked a couple as well.  Not something I do very often, I needed to know that I had the basic ability to do so.  I took this past summer as a very good opportunity to practice – especially with the fruit that would be in season for their wedding, because otherwise, tell me, what would be the point?  I had to have this skill more or less down pat, because this was the main dessert for the wedding, that they would be serving everyone.

So, like any project that I’ve undertaken in my life, my research began in earnest.  With our house being the house of cookbooks, I was bound to find SOMEthing in at least ONE of our books.

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After reading through books, recipes, magazines and countless snippings, I settled on a strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe from good old Joy of Cooking. 

I find that pie has many components – crust (potentially a double crust), filling, and the possibility of a non-crust topping, something like streusel or crumbs.  I like to start with the crust partly because it needs to rest, more than once, for a good length of time.  Also because it is the part that makes me most nervous and am scared I’ll overwork the dough and end up with a biscuit instead of crispy, flaky, light pie crust goodness.

I started with the Joy of Cooking‘s FLAKY PASTRY DOUGH (makes a double crust for a 9-inch pie):

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Then I added:

1 cup vegetable shortening (you could also use 1/2 cup shortening with 1/2 cup cold butter)

I cut the fat into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter, but 2 knives work well.  Use the knives and cut in opposite directions creating smaller and smaller pieces of fat in the flour mixture.  It should look like a mixture of coarse crumbs and pea-sized pieces.

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At this point, you want to add 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water.  I find the best way to get ice water is to run the tap really cold and then add a couple of ice cubes.  Let it sit for a few minutes and you should be all set.  Use a large rubber spatula to gently fold the water into the fat-flour mixture.  You want it to be moistened and you want small balls of dough to form.  Once these balls stick together then you’ve added enough water.  If they don’t then add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of ice water.

Once your dough is done, it’s best if you handle it as little as possible, which is hard sometimes.  Split the dough in half, form into discs and then wrap in saran and rest in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes, up to 3-4 hours.  The longer the better; I had mine in for about an hour.

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Now is a good time to start preparing the fruit.  I decided that the first pie I would make would be Strawberry-Rhubarb.  Classic summer flavours that complement each other well, and would coincidentally be in season for the wedding next summer!  I started with equal amounts of rhubarb and strawberries – 2 1/2 cups each.  The rhubarb should be washed and then cut into 1/2-inch pieces.  The strawberries should be in small pieces as well – my mom had picked fresh strawberries, so they were fairly small to begin with and didn’t require too much cutting.

Combine the fruit in a bowl with:

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup sugar (depends on how sweet or tart you like it; we like it tart, so I stayed with a smaller amount of sugar)
1/4 cup tapioca
1/4 tsp salt

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Let it stand about 15-30 minutes.  When the fruit is standing in the bowl, it is usually a good time to roll out the crust.  Begin with the bottom and roll out to about a 12-inch round – it’s okay if it isn’t round.  Mine rarely are!!  While you’re on a roll (pun intended!), do the top crust as well.  Just make sure you don’t put them together right away.

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Once it’s rolled out, roll it loosely back onto the rolling pin and spread it over your pie plate.  This also might be a good time to turn the oven on.  Preheat to 425F.

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When making pie, it would be ideal to keep everything cold all of the time, but sometimes this can be difficult.  My biggest problem is that in summer it’s hot out and there’s no room in the fridge for awkwardly shaped items.  In the winter, it may be bloody cold and insane out, but I take advantage of it whilst baking and call it nature’s fridge.  However, I digress…for this pie, I had no such nature’s fridge so had to slide pie crust into the fridge at weird angles.  After the bottom crust has rested about 30 minutes, feel free to pour the fruit in and finish the pie up.

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Once the fruit is good and in there, dot the top with butter – about 2 tablespoons worth.

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Now you can loosely roll that top crust right over the fruit and seal the pie.

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Most recipes say to trim overhang from the dough one at a time, but I like to trim both the bottom and top at the same time when I seal and crimp the edges.

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You can trim with a pair of kitchen scissors.

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Once you have sealed the pie, cut 5 slits in the top crust with a sharp knife, which will allow steam to escape.  Brush the top with milk or cream and then sprinkle with some sugar.

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Your pie is now ready to go in the oven!!!  I like to bake mine on a cookie sheet to catch any juiciness that may bubble up during the baking process.

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Throw the pie in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  After these 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350F and bake approximately another 30 minutes.  The crust will be a lovely golden brown and the juices inside should be bubbly and thick.

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I have to say, by now I’ve made about 3 pies for practice – all from different sources, and this is definitely my favourite.  The fruit is the epitome of summer – you can never go wrong with strawberries and rhubarb; the crust was flaky and light.  If you need to change the ratio of strawberries and rhubarb to suit one’s particular taste, it’s easy to do.  I don’t have much bad to say about it – the only thing is that I might recommend would be to wait until it’s completely cool if you don’t like the juiciness.  However, what fun is it if you can’t get a little messy?!

Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!  Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.