Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: A different kind of pie

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums. The recipe was originally chosen by Sher from What Did You Eat who passed away unexpectedly in July. This post is in memory of her.

The challenge this month was to create pizza dough using following the recipe (with the allowance of going gluten free if desired) and to toss at least two of the pieces of dough. Included in the tossing challenge was the requirement of photographing the high-flying fun.

The rules were pretty simple -- follow the dough recipe as written and top with both sauce and toppings. What sauce and what toppings were entirely up to us. How fun!

Now, I must admit that I was nervous about flinging the dough into the air never having done this move before. But in the end, it was rather fun! Thanks to Matt, my wonderful boyfriend, for taking the photos of me throwing the dough ... and for encouraging me to "throw it higher!"

One thing I definitely learned from this challenge is that I tend to make some pretty silly faces when throwing food in the air:

I was so paranoid about dropping it on the floor. I guess I was concentrating really hard because I kept sticking my tongue out without even realizing it! What a weirdo!

Some other things I learned from this challenge are:
1. Dry active yeast is not the same thing as instant yeast but will still produce a decent crust.
2. Develop gluten more by kneading longer. This will allow the crust to stretch more.
3. 6-7 oz portions are single serving size unless you go quite thin. I will divide into 4 pieces next time.
4. Only put semolina under the pizza, otherwise the extra will burn and smoke your house up. I had to stand waving a kitchen towel at my smoke detector trying to keep it from going off and pissing off my neighbors.
I was quite surprised that it didn't go off considering the billowing smoke clouds floating through my living room ...

All in all, I really enjoyed this challenge. It was my first attempt at pizza dough but it certainly will not be my last! I am excited to try out different recipes and other techniques. Although, I must say that this was a great recipe. Matt does not particularly care for pizza but expressed several times how great the crust tasted!

Basic Pizza Dough
Source: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches)

4 1/2 cups (20 1/4 ounces) unbleached bread flour, chilled
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil or vegetable oil (optional but tasty)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold (40° F)
1 tablespoon sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

Day one:
Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. (For those of you without stand mixers, check out Rosa's page for instructions.)

Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well with the paddle attachment on low speed until the ingredients come together in a sticky ball of dough. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes. (Longer may be better for good gluten production.) The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F.

Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil the paper.

With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap and put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to three days. (For long term storage, pour a few tablespoons of oil in a medium bowl and dip each of the dough balls into the oil, so that each is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate zippered freezer bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.)

Day two:
On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F). (If you don't have a baking stone, you can use a cookie sheet or pizza pan -- just don't preheat them like you would a stone.)

Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan or pizza
peel with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take one piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. If you have trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches for a 6 ounce piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan or peel, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan/peel.

Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

Using the peel, shimmy the pizza onto the baking stone or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes. After 2 minutes, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly roll pan to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly roll pan.

Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Pizza #1: Red pepper pesto sauce with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella

Red pepper pesto sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 beefsteak or plum tomato, sliced
Fresh mozzarella (amount to your liking)

Spoon a small amount into the center of the pizza dough and smooth with the back of the spoon covering most of the crust in a thin layer of sauce -- leave the edge plain. Lay a few thin slices of tomato on top of the pesto and then top with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Follow baking instructions above. (This is a bit wetter than the rest of the recipes I tried so you may have better luck moving it closer to the heating element in your oven.)

Red Pepper Pesto Sauce
Source: Rachael Ray as seen on
Two Novice Chefs, One Tiny Kitchen
1 cup drained, packed roasted red peppers
2 small cloves garlic
1 (3-ounce) jar pignoli/pine nuts
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, a couple of handfuls
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it

Combine roasted peppers, garlic, pine nuts, parsley, salt and pepper and cheese in a food processor. Turn the processor on and stream in the extra-virgin olive oil to form a thick, pasty sauce forms. Adjust seasoning and transfer sauce to a large bowl.

The pesto is delicious and a nice variation on a classic. This pizza was a simple but crowd pleasing combination.

Pizza #2: Mexican Pizza

Mexican Pizza
Salsa (homemade or from a jar)
Black beans
Roasted chicken, sliced or shredded
Mexican cheese blend
Scallions, sliced on the bias
Sour cream, for topping
Guacamole, for topping (homemade or store bought)

Spoon a small amount of salsa into the center of the pizza dough and smooth with the back of the spoon covering most of the crust in a thin layer of sauce -- leave the edge plain. Sprinkle on a small amount of black beans and then lay on the chicken. Top with the cheese and bake according to the instructions above.

Once removed from the oven, top with the scallions. Top individual slices with a small dollop of sour cream and guacamole.

Pizza #3: White sauce with bacon, bleu cheese, ground beef, and onions

White sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 medium onion, cut into half moons and sauteed
3 sliced thick cut bacon, cooked, drained and chopped
1/4 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1 to 2 ounces bleu cheese
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Spoon a small amount of sauce into the center of the pizza dough and smooth with the back of the spoon covering most of the crust in a thin layer of sauce -- leave the edge plain. Add the sauteed onions in a thin layer then top with ground beef and bacon. Next, sprinkle on the bleu cheese and Parmesan. Follow baking instructions above.

Pizza Blanca Sauce (White Pizza Sauce)
Source: Shawn's Recipe Kitchen

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

In a saucier, melt butter. While whisking, add flour and cook for a couple of minutes (to get rid of flour taste). Slowly whisk in milk, adding gradually to make a sauce. Stir in spices and cheese.

Pizza #4: Sausage, apple, and sage pizza with cranberry sauce

1/4 to 1/2 cup jellied cranberry sauce, warmed
4 fresh sage leaves, chiffonade
1/2 apple, sliced wafer thin (a vegetable peeler does a great job) and tossed in lemon juice to prevent browning
1 link sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casing and browned
Cheddar cheese, shredded (amount to your liking)

Spoon a small amount of sauce into the center of the pizza dough and smooth with the back of the spoon covering most of the crust in a thin layer of sauce -- leave the edge plain. Sprinkle the sage over the sauce and top with the apple slices. Add sausage and cheese. Follow baking instructions above.

Be sure to check out the blogroll to see what the other Daring Bakers came up with!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sausage, Cheddar and Apple Strata

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Matt, however, is not a fan and doesn't care for most breakfast foods. Eggs? No thanks.

It is for this reason that I will often try new breakfast recipes on weekends. I want my Sunday breakfast to be slowly savored while sipping coffee. He wants it over with already.

I've been reading Eggs on Sunday for a couple of months now, and this is the first of Amy's recipes that I've tried. It was a great combination for a fall morning. I enjoyed the apples and sausage together but the bread was definitely the best part!

This makes a lot of food -- far too much for two people. I will cut it in half next time, but I found that it was even better left over, so I won't reduce the recipe too much!

Sausage, Cheddar and Apple Strata
Source: Feelgood Eats, guest post by Amy of Eggs on Sunday (adapted from Cooking with Shelburne Farms)
(Serves 6-8)
¾ pound (5 to 6 cups) cubed crusty bread, such as sourdough or multigrain
4 medium shallots, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 pound Italian-style sausage, removed from casings if in links
4 eggs
1 quart (4 cups) half-and-half
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the bread cubes on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.

Meanwhile, saute the sliced shallots in the olive oil in a skillet until translucent and starting to brown. Add the sausage to the skillet and cook until no longer pink, breaking up into pieces with a fork. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Whisk together the eggs and half-and-half in a bowl with the salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and set aside.

Lightly grease a 9×13 (or equivalent) baking dish. In the bottom of the baking dish, spread half of the sausage/shallot mixture, half of the cubed apples, and half of the cheddar cheese. Top with the toasted bread cubes. On top of the bread cubes, layer the remaining sausage/shallot mixture and the remaining cubed apples. Pour the half-and-half mixture over the dish, pressing the bread cubes down gently so they all get moistened. Top with the remaining grated cheddar.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown on top and set.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

I, along with what seems like the entire food blogging community, consider fall to be my favorite season. I love wearing long-sleeve shirts or sweaters while leaving my coat behind. I love the crispness in the air and the beauty of the leaves changing (and living in New Hampshire, I see some amazing foliage). I love apple picking and trick-or-treating - oh, how I wish I wasn't too old for trick-or-treating! I also love cooking foods that seem most appropriate in the fall. Things like apple crisp and pumpkin bread warm my kitchen and my heart.

I recently made some lovely pumpkin-spice filled cupcakes and was left with quite a bit of pumpkin to use. I remembered seeing a black bean and pumpkin soup on Smitten Kitchen and decided it would be the perfect use for my leftover pumpkin.

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
Source: Gourmet, November 1996 (as seen on Smitten Kitchen)
Three 15 1/2 ounce cans black beans (about 4 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained (I used only one can and found the soup to be plenty beany)
1 cup drained canned tomatoes, chopped (I omitted)
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup minced shallot
4 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
4 cups beef broth
a 16-ounce can pumpkin puree (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup dry Sherry
(I omitted)
1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/8-inch dice (I omitted)
3 to 4 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
Garnish: sour cream and coarsely chopped lightly toasted pumpkin seeds
(I omitted the pumpkin seeds. I did include the sour cream which was, in my opinion, the best part)

In a food processor coarsely puree beans and tomatoes.

In a 6-quart heavy kettle cook onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown. Stir in bean puree. Stir in broth, pumpkin, and Sherry until combined and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Just before serving, add ham and vinegar and simmer soup, stirring, until heated through. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Serve soup garnished with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A perfect send off

This October is full of celebrations, especially when it comes to my office. One co-worker is retiring, one got engaged, four have birthdays, and one is getting married. To celebrate, we put together a lunch-time celebration on Wednesday.

My contribution to the party were some special wedding cupcakes for the bride-to-be. I wanted a beautiful white cake and a fluffy white frosting to match. And because the bride is such a fan of everything pumpkin, I filled them with a pumpkin-spice pastry cream.

Perfect Party Cake
Source: Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk (I used whole milk)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (I omitted)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract (I substituted 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-x-2-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet. (For cupcakes: line two muffin tins with paper cups.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. (If you don't own a sifter, you can toss them in your food processor and pulse a few times.)

Wisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixes and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. (For cupcakes, fill each paper liner about 3/4 full.)

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch -- a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. (For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes.) Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.) (For cupcakes, let cakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.)

Pumpkin spice pastry cream
Adapted from: Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch, sifted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan (be careful not to let the milk boil over).

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (or saucier), whisk the yolks together with the sugar, cornstarch, spices, and pumpkin until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk -- this will temper the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly, put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

To fill the cupcakes, put the pastry cream into a piping bag or a zipper storage bag with a corner cut off. Insert a paring knife no more than one inch deep at a 45 degree angle halfway between the edge and the center. Gently turn the cupcake against the knife until you have cut all the way around. Remove the center cone you've cut and set aside. Pipe the pastry cream into the cavity. Cut the cone end off of the cupcake plug reserving the top as a lid. Place the lid on top of the pastry-cream-filled cavity. Repeat for each of the remaining cupcakes.

Buttercream frosting
Source: Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I omitted)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle or separate -- just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. you should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the butttercream until ready to use.

I'm excited to send out a big congratulations to the newlyweds, Michelle and Rick! If you're interested in reading about their journey to the alter, you can visit their wedding blog.

Friday, October 10, 2008

So good!

Macaroni and cheese is one of my all-time favorite foods. I grew up eating the boxed stuff and that was a-okay by me!

For my birthday when I was about 12 years old, my grandmother, knowing how much I like macaroni and cheese, gave me a huge box full of the blue boxes and a double boiler so I could prepare them the way that she did. I was in mac and cheese heaven!

As I got older, I was introduced to baked macaroni and cheese. I find it to be so rich and delicious but quite a bit more work than the box so it's not something I make often. Most of the time, I just look to my good friend, ol' blue.

This version may have me changing my ways and setting aside extra time. It is so good!

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
Source: Ina Garten, as seen on Brown Eyed Baker
4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi (As suggested by Brown Eyed Baker, I used gemelli. Matt really liked this noodle choice.)
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled (As suggested by Brown Eyed Baker, I substituted Fontina)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed (I substituted 1 cup Panko mixed with 3 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves (I omitted)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes (I used a 2 quart casserole dish).

Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top. (This only took 20 minutes for me, so check early and often!)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A go-to winner

When I first moved into my own home, I wanted to find a dish that I could serve to guests that would impress them. This dish does exactly that and, best of all, it is quick, easy and only uses one pan! I've made this one so many times that I have actually committed it to memory.

Blackened Salmon (serves 2)
Source: I copied it down four years ago from the Food Network website but cannot find it there now. I believe it was Sara Moulton, but I can't be sure.
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound salmon fillet, skin removed
Blackening spice, recipe follows
1 12-ounce can black beans, drained
4 cups fresh spinach, washed and dried
2 Tablespoons butter

First things first, turn your stove hood fan to high! Heat oil in a heavy non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat.

Coat salmon fillet well on both sides with blackening spice. Place in pan and cook on the first side until the fish is cooked about halfway up the height of the fillet, about two minutes. Gently flip the fish over.

Add the black beans to a corner of the pan. Pile the spinach on top of the fish and beans and top with the butter.

Cook for two minutes more or until the thickest part of the fillet is cooked through. Cut the fillet in half.

To serve, take the spinach off the top and place it on the bottom of a plate. Place a piece of the fish on top of the spinach and top with the beans.

Blackening Spice
5 tablespoons Kosher salt
5 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in a spice jar or tin.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Pie for dinner

The debate: is it Chinese Pie or Shepherd's Pie? What the heck is the difference anyway?

Chinese Pie, known as pâté chinois by the French Canadians, contains beef, corn and potatoes. Shepherd's Pie, on the other hand, contains the same beef and mashed potatoes but also includes peas, carrots, onions, and beef stock.

Being a New England girl, I grew up eating Chinese Pie but my family, of English decent, always called it Shepherd's Pie. So you can imagine my confusion when Matt called his mother's version Chinese Pie! We've been debating this issue for years (not intensely ... we're not that lame!). I've always resisted changing what I call it, but now I see that they truly are different ... and I've been eating Chinese Pie.

Chinese Pie
1 pound ground beef
10-ounce box frozen corn, defrosted
8-ounce can creamed corn
Mashed potatoes (prepared your favorite way, using 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Brown ground beef, drain and spread evenly in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Layer defrosted corn on top of the ground beef. Pour creamed corn on top of corn layer. Spread mashed potatoes evenly over the top of the dish. Be careful not to squish your filling as you apply the potatoes or it will spill over the edges of the pie plate. Sprinkle the potatoes with freshly ground black pepper.

Place pie plate on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Allow the pie to cool for 10 minutes before digging in. (This will allow it to firm up a bit and make it easier to slice and serve.)

So here's one last question for you: cheese or no cheese?

Personally, I say ick to cheese ... well, in this recipe anyway. Any other time I'd say, "cheese? Yes please!"