Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Family dinners have always been one of my fondest memories growing up. Every night we would gather around the table and poke fun at one another. Dad would always leave a souvenir on his shirt and one of the family members would be the butt of almost every joke for the evening. It was a time for us to connect together and leave our day behind us.

Thanksgiving was always a heightened version of these hysterical events. Adding more people in the mix only added to the playful bickering and the laughter grew louder the more we ate. You could always tell a new-comer by the various shades of red they would turn.

Mom would always make too much food and there was always room left for Key’s (that’s me) Pies. This year I wanted to do something different so I tried this recipe from Gourmet. I mean, how can you go wrong with cheese and apples???  Enjoy!

Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust
yield: Makes 6 servings

active time: 40 min
total time: 5 1/2 hr (includes chilling dough and cooling pie)

For pastry:
·         2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
·         1/2 teaspoons salt
·         1/2 pound extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably white), coarsely grated (2 1/2 cups)
·         1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
·         1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening (trans-fat-free), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
·         6 to 8 tablespoon ice water
·         1 tablespoon milk

For filling:
·         1 1/2 pound Gala apples (3 medium)
·         1 1/2 pound Granny Smith apples (3 medium)
·         2/3 cup sugar
·         3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
·         1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
·         1/4 teaspoon salt
·         1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

Make pastry dough: 
Stir together flour, salt, and cheese in a large bowl (or pulse in a food processor). Add butter and shortening and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Drizzle 6 tablespoon ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful: If dough doesn't hold together, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.
Turn out dough onto a work surface and divide in half, then form each half into a 5-inch disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Make filling and bake pie: 
Put a foil-lined large baking sheet in middle of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.
Peel and core apples, then slice 1/4 inch thick. Toss apples with sugar, flour, lemon juice, and salt until evenly coated.

Roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining disk chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Roll out remaining piece of dough into an 11-inch round.
Transfer filling to shell. Dot with butter, then cover with pastry round. Trim edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Press edges together to seal, then fold under. Lightly brush top crust with milk, then cut 5 (1-inch-long) vents.

Bake on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 375°F and bake until crust is golden-brown and filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes more. Cool to warm or room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.

Cooks' note: Dough can be chilled up to 2 days or frozen up to 3 months.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cornish Game Hen with Garlic and Rosemary paired with Champagne Risotto

With Thanksgiving around the corner, everyone is gearing up for the one night when they succumb to the gluttonous pleasures of one of the biggest meals of the year. Though the thought of seeing my family excites me to no end, the thought of stuffing myself with turkey (yet again) was somewhat less than exciting this year for some reason. I want something different!!! Why is always the same thing?

Now please don’t get me wrong, Thanksgiving is a tradition in my family and I have been making it by my mother’s side my whole life. Sipping wine, trading secrets and throwing pie dough is one of our favorite pastimes. Though the amazing meal is always due to my mother’s epic cooking skills, I am always in charge of the pies.

Because traditions are sacred, I decided to try something different for one of my Sunday dinners. I thoroughly enjoy duck when I come across it but I wanted to try something I’ve never had before. (Big surprise!) So I called my local grocery store and had them set aside some fresh Cornish Game Hen for me. My friend, Navanjali, gave me the idea for champagne risotto to pair with it. Well, that and I wanted to have an excuse to buy a bottle of champagne for myself. What?! 

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! 

Cornish Game Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

  • 2 Cornish game hens
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 24 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

1.      Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
2.      Rub hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 sprig rosemary in cavity of each hen. Arrange in a large, heavy roasting pan, and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes.
3.      Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pour over hens. Continue roasting
about 25 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 10 minutes.
4.      Transfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm. Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, and serve.

Champagne Risotto

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 2/3 cup arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
  • 1 cup dry Champagne
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can (or more) low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions; sauté 1 minute. Add rice; sauté 2 minutes. Add Champagne; simmer until almost all liquid evaporates, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1 can broth; simmer until rice is almost tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Stir in Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Just remember…..I’m in charge of the pies! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Winter Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves

Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s NPR podcast “The Splendid Table” is by far one of my favorite guilty pleasures. The amount of knowledge that woman has about food never ceases to amaze me and I always learn something from every podcast. A few episodes ago, a caller asked Lynne what she could do with her overgrown sage plant. Lynne, as always, spouted out tons of mouth watering recipes that had me running home to try. One tip in particular that caught my ear was frying the dried sage leaves in olive oil and mixing them with blanched green beans with balsamic vinaigrette. I made this recipe for a few of my guests at my last pot luck and was complimented on my use of the intoxicating plant.

Having found a new passion for fried sage leaves, I was naturally excited to have stumbled upon a winter squash soup recipe that featured them. This recipe is painfully simple and extremely delicious. I altered the recipe a bit by adding pancetta to the hot oil after I took the sage leaves out then starting the stock from that same oil. I also find that blending thick soups like this makes for a smooth consistency and allows for the flavors to blend just a little more. This recipe is perfect for those bitter fall nights when you need something extra to warm those chilly bones. 

Winter Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves

  • 2 ½ to 3 pounds winter squash
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for the squash
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 12 whole sage leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • Chopped leaves from 4 thyme sprigs or ¼ teaspoon tried
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Salt
  • Freshly milled pepper
  • 2 quarts water or stock (I only used 3 cups instead of 4)


Preheat the oven to 375° F. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Brush the surfaces with oil, stuff the cavities with the garlic, and place them cut sides down on a baking sheet. Bake until tender when pressed with a finger, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the 1/4 cup oil until nearly smoking, then drop in the whole sage leaves and fry until speckled and dark, about 1 minute. Set the leaves aside on a paper towel and transfer the oil to a wide soup pot. Add the onions, chopped sage, thyme, and parsley and cook over medium heat until the onions have begun to brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Scoop the squash flesh into the pot along with any juices that have accumulated in the pan. Peel the garlic and add it to the pot along with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. If the soup becomes too thick, simply add more water to thin it out. Taste for salt.

Depending on the type of squash you've used, the soup will be smooth or rough. Puree or pass it through a food mill if you want a more refined soup. Ladle it into bowls and garnish each bowl with the fried sage leaves, add pepper, and serve.

You can find this recipe at Epicurious.com