Thursday, April 9, 2009

In Miniature

I may perhaps be a little out of place, as I don't live in Seattle, and it's been months since I prepared anything more involved than cereal. I have an excuse, though, as I'm still in school and spend the vast majority of my time in the library basement, unlike these layabouts who have nothing better to do than flambe things. Not that flambeing is not wonderful, last year I had an excuse to caramelize a ramp leaf with a kitchen torch, and it was one of the greatest moments of my life.

I did have lots of time last summer, though, being menially employed, and that meant lots of time in my friend's kitchen with improbable baking projects. The major discovery of the summer was the jar pie. They were a bit of a thing on baking blogs, and -loving pie and agreeing that everything is better in miniature- we had to make them. I think Not Martha figured the technique out best, and between her and Cook's Illustrated, it went swimmingly.

First, you need jars. We actually used jar-like short drinking glasses that we knew were oven safe, but if you actually want to store these (because you can just screw on the lid and stick them in the freezer, if you want, which is wonderful) you need straight sided jelly jars, NOT the kind that narrow at the top.

Next, you know that rule about not touching pie crust with your hands? Forget it. When you're putting pie crust in a jar, and trying to get it reasonably even, you're bound to be poking at it and smoothing it constantly. It probably shows, but we didn't even roll out the bottom crusts, and just pressed them in instead. We still managed to have perfectly flaky pie crusts, though, because we used the Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough recipe, which is the only one you'll ever need. The trick is that it uses vodka instead of part of the water, which moistens the dough to hold it together without interacting with the flour to create the gluten that makes pie crust tough. Or something. The vodka evaporates in the oven, but we both have a tendency to eat the pie dough and discovered that it will, in fact, get you a bit loopy.

{+} Foolproof Pie Dough

{+} Cherry Pie Filling

Make sure to leave some space from the top when filling them, so you can put the top crust on, cut vents in the top, and don't let them all fall on the floor from your slippery baking sheet when you take them out. We baked ours at about 375 until the bottoms had browned a little bit. How long depends on whether or not you froze them beforehand, just keep an eye on the first one.

I'm excited to try these again this summer, once I have liberated myself from the library. I'm thinking marionberry, blueberry, and maybe a version of that really excellent lemonade-peach pie with a crumb topping I made a while ago. Obviously, the field of tiny pies is ripe for research.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

R2R March

As a man with a near boundless appreciation of acronymic abbreviations (current favorites: LOLLUVIT, FTFY, GTFO and ROTFLMFAO), I was happy to join R2R or Recipes to Rival, a loose association of food bloggers which is more or less the post-1998 equivalent of a web ring. Each month, the members of R2R all cook the same recipe and release their success/failure to the blogosphere on the same date. Today is that date. This is no April fools. This month's challenge was something called "Steak Diane Flambe." If we go ahead and take a quick look at the name of the recipe, we realize very quickly that this is something that is way out of my zone: steak? No. Flambe? Hardly, I'm a Francophobe. Diane? Never 'eard of 'er. Then it came to me: Flambe = open flames. OPEN FLAMES. This realization reawakened within me the pyromaniacal thirteen year old that lit a plastic monster truck on fire and then sprayed it flame-thrower style with a can of WD-40 (sorry mom, but the ten year rule on this one is up!). I've got to be honest, the pictures we took of the flambe are not nearly as cool as the ones that I took of the flaming monster truck (those must be somewhere, right?), but I decided that Jim Beam probably tasted better than oil-based multipurpose lubricants.

Anyway, Kibbee stepped up to do the original version of the recipe with steaks while I went the ol' portobello-substitution route. Rachel and Angel stood by, fire extinguisher at the ready (this is false). Safety always comes first in my kitchen (also, apparently, false as I nearly relived the near-catastrophic paella incident). At the very least we ended up with some smiling faces:

{+} Here's my FTFY version of the recipe:

If you're interested, the official R2R post is here. Also, I can't resist signing off with a few more pictures:

Kribs lights the steaks:

Flaming mushrooms:

The sprouts we had with it:

Flame on,