Monday, May 23, 2011

Cherry pie with no fancy equipment

Yesterday I went to the Lagunitas beer circus in Petaluma for my friend Natalie's birthday.  On the way we stopped at a roadside fruit stand for a snack: super sweet delicious cherries.  Earlier today with the remaining cherries I decided to make a pie.  Waste not want not as my dad would say; it would be such a shame to let them go bad.  This pie satisfied every craving and pushed me into a massive pie coma.  Needless to say I'll sleep well tonight.

Cherry filling:
enough cherries to fill a pie, pitted
1/2 vanilla bean, insides scraped
2 TB corn starch
(optional sugar to taste if your cherries are not sweet enough)

Pie Crust:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
6-8 TB ice water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Here is the part where I feel like Suzie homemaker.  I don't have a robocoup or a cuisinart to make the pie crust so I had to find a way to mix it by hand with really cold butter (cold butter and pie dough is key to a flaky crust).  I did research on the internet and came across some good advice:  Stick the butter in the freezer till hard (about an hour) and when ready to make the crust grate the butter on a cheese-grater.  Mix the grated butter in with the dry (flour salt sugar) by hand, clumping it with your fingers.  Add the ice water 2 TB at a time mixing inbetween with your hands.  It's ready when it all sticks together when clumped with your hands.  Knead it a little so it becomes one solid mass, don't worry if there are chunks of butter it will make the crust flaky.  Divide in 2 and put in the fridge for at least an hour to chill.  An hour later roll out half the dough 1/8 in thick and conform it to your pie dish.  I stick the empty pie dish with dough in the freezer while I work on the next step.

Put the pitted cherries in a sauce pan, heat on low till some of juice comes out.  Mix that juice with a little warm water, the cornstarch, and the insides of half a vanilla bean and pour all into your pie crust (taken out of the freezer).  Roll out the other half of the dough, place on top of your pie, smush the edges together, trim excess dough and crimp with a fork.  Brush egg on the top and sprinkle with sugar (for a nice golden crust).  Bake at 375 for 50 minutes.

**If you do have fancy equipment you can pulse the cold butter and dry together till course and then add the ice water 1 TB at a time until it comes together.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Impromptu chicken braise with white wine and preserved lemon

Feel free to not forget your chicken in the oven and remember to turn it over occasionally.

I have a lot of chicken and I have to cook it before it goes bad: Ready, go!

Last week the sous-chef taught me how to break down a chicken and subsequently he and I went to Sur La Table and picked out my first boning knife, Wusthof Ikon.  At the moment we have a fair amount of chickens to break down for a small restaurant.  We get shipments in two to three times a week, using them for a daily chicken stock and for one of the main entrées on the menu -  chicken cooked sous-vide and then deep fried.  I can't wait to expand my role as kitchen prep to occasional butcher and to continue honing my skills.  Butchery is definitely one of those must-have skills to succeed in the industry and it simultaneously makes you feel a little bit hardcore.  Though today, after buying three whole chickens at the market primed to practice what I'd been shown - I realized that I couldn't find the wishbone and I had forgotten how to dislocate the shoulder.  Nevertheless I managed  to get the breast, legs, and thighs off the chicken with a small to medium amount of waste.  Nothing quite like the bare carcass the sous-chef demonstrated to me, but I assume it will only get better from here.  All this practice is leaving me with quite a bit of chicken on my hands.  Tonight I pan fried some shnitzl, a childhood favorite, and threw an impromptu braise together for the dark meat which turned out prettttty tasty and was quite simple.  Feel free to try this at home and add anything that might make it tastier - vary up the citrus, add another spice, etc.

dark meat
1/4 preserved lemon, roughly chopped
a couple cups of chicken stock
a miniature bottle of white wine
1/4 onion
1 bay leaf
a shake of chili flakes
3 cloves garlic, whole

Sear the chicken skin side down in a pan until the skin is golden and a little crisp; turn over and sear the other side a little less.  Remove the chicken and put it in a casserole.  Add the onions to the chicken grease left in the pan to sweat.  Add salt, pepper, garlic, preserved lemon, and a shake of chili flakes and sautée a little.  Deglaze the pan with white wine and add the chicken stock.  Pour the liquid and onions over the chicken to just cover or almost cover it.  Add the bay leaf and bake around 325 for 4 hours or so, turning the chicken occasionally.