Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cookies I haven't Been Making Lately, Alas

Well, it's 2 weeks till the holidays and I have yet to make a single cookie. Heavens. Well, I have plenty of excuses as to why, but since this happens more often than not, I guess it all boils down to the fact that I am a procrastinator. At nearly 64, it seems this is one lesson I  may never learn. That's okay. It will get done when it gets done.

Double Chocolate Pecan Pie

Meanwhile, my husband had hernia surgery. I could use that for an excuse for my procrastinating, but it hardly put him out of commission at all. We had our friend Rich visiting, in case of any help needed with my husband after the surgery. I spent a lot of time cooking again, as Rich loves to eat as much as my husband and I do. I am always trying things out.

I made a Double Chocolate Pecan Pie for Thanksgiving. I had been wanting to try my Chocolate Pie Pastry for a while, and this was the perfect time. I also added grated unsweetened chocolate to the Pecan Pie recipe. I read at Food 52 about a new twist on making pie pastries, so I wanted to try that out. Basically it uses ice cold vodka for half the liquid called for in the recipe (see the article here). I must say it gives beautiful texture to the dough and the finished crust. The pie filling itself didn't look as pretty once baked. Again, I forgot that the eggs should not be whipped, and the rest of the ingredients are folded in gently. Then, the pecans, so prettily placed on top of the unbaked pie actually stay on top of the pie once baked. Mine fell in, again. It in no way inhibited the excellent flavors.


The pie, before baking

Double Chocolate Pecan Pie


Makes one 10-inch pie

CHOCOLATE PIE PASTRY: 10-inch Pie:
1½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup shortening or lard
4 tablespoons ice water
4 tablespoons ice cold vodka (or use all water)

PIE FILLING
3 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely grated
1 cup dark corn syrup
1½ cups pecan halves

Make Pastry: Stir flour, salt, brown sugar and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. With a pastry blender or fork, cut in shortening or lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add most of the water or water/vodka and toss with a fork until all flour mixture is moistened and starts to form a ball. If necessary, add remaining liquid to the crumbs in bottom of the bowl. Gather the dough in your hands and gently shape into a ball, then flatten. Chill for 1 hour before using. (If blind baking is needed, preheat oven to 375 degrees, or 350 on Convection Baking. Partially freeze the formed shell, then line it with foil and pie weights. Bake the partially frozen shell for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and pie weights and prick the crust all over with the tip of a knife. Place in oven for 13 to 15 minutes more, until the crust is well set.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fit pastry into a 10-inch pie plate and crimp edges. Gently mix the eggs with the salt, then with a wire whisk, slowly stir in the sugar along with the grated chocolate. Do not over beat. Mix the corn syrup with the melted butter and fold into the egg mixture. Pour into prepared pastry shell. Place the pecans, flat side down, onto the filling. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until set and crust is browned.

Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
I mentioned some French Toast my daughter told me about once, using thicker sliced bread, making a pocket and stuffing the bread with a mixture of cream cheese flavored with things I cannot recall. I decided to try this out, though I did not even write a single thing down. Basically, I whipped up some eggs with heavy cream (just because it was in the fridge) and some Grand Marnier (just because it tastes so good). Separately I mixed a block of cream cheese with some honey and cinnamon, mixing it together with a hand mixer. I sliced some of my Pizza Dough Bread (if any pizza dough is left over, I roll it into a long baguette shape and bake it - yum!) I had made a few days prior. Slicing it into about 2 1/2 or 3-inch thick slices gave plenty of room to take a small knife and cut a pocket into the slices. I stuffed in about 2 tablespoons or so of the cream cheese mixture, then soaked them in the egg/cream/Grand Marnier mixture. I fried them in the remaining bacon grease on my griddle, allowing a bit longer time for them to cook, so the insides would be creamy and warm. They were just so amazingly good!

I had made cornbread when I made chili one day, and I also made the leftover cornbread into French Toast, and that was pretty darned good also.
My large All Clad Braising Pan

Then we got talking about dinner and I mentioned that my Mom sometimes made stuffed pork chops. I really loved those things, but not every store has such thick cut pork chops all the time. I got regular pork chops instead, and made my Better Than Mom's Stuffing. I had planned to make it just as I make it for Thanksgiving, substituting chopped fresh sage for the mace. Ultimately, I added the sage, and completely forgot about adding the apple and nuts. I quickly seared the pork chops on each side in a hot pan with just salt and pepper. I set one pork shop in a large All-Clad braising pan, piled some stuffing mixture on it, set another chop against the stuffing, then added more. My large braising pan is round, so I went round the pan this way, but they could be made in a rectangle baker also. The braising pan has a nice high lid, so I covered the pan while baking at 300 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours. It was mighty fantastic. Again, I completely forgot to get photos! I will be making those again, so eventually I will get the proper documentation and photos.

Better Than Mom's Stuffing

Better Than Mom's Stuffing


Makes one 13 x 9 inch casserole

1 extra-long loaf sandwich bread, in cubes, or torn
1 onion, chopped
¼ pound bacon, cut in thin strips across
¾ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
¾ teaspoon mace
¾ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 - 2 Granny Smith apples, grated
3 eggs
1½ cups chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, chestnuts)
1½ cups milk
1 - 1½ cups turkey or chicken stock

In a very large bowl, place all the bread cubes. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until mostly rendered, but not quite done. Add in the chopped onion and continue to fry until the onion is nicely browned. Pour the contents of the skillet over the bread in the bowl, bacon grease and all. Add in the parsley, mace, pepper, apples (these may be peeled and then grated, or skin left on), eggs and nuts. Toss with hands, gently until well combined. Do not pack together. Add in the milk and toss again until combined.

In a very large bowl, place all the bread cubes. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until mostly rendered, but not quite done. Add in the chopped onion and continue to fry until the onion is nicely browned. Pour the contents of the skillet over the bread in the bowl, bacon grease and all. Add in the parsley, mace, pepper, apples (these may be peeled and then grated, or skin left on), eggs and nuts. Toss with hands, gently until well combined. Do not pack together. Add in the milk and toss again until combined.

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish with cooking spray, and place the stuffing mixture into the casserole, patting gently, but not pressing. Pour the turkey stock over all and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and the center springs back when pressed lightly.
 

I love my Pizza Dough recipe, and Rich wanted to make some pizzas for us. I made the dough and made a couple of pizzas for myself. The guys had every cold cut known to man on their pizza with pizza sauce. I made one of mine a Spinach Pizza and another one with potatoes, bacon and Gorgonzola cheese on it. Both were excellent. 

Spinach Pizza

Spinach Pizza


Makes one 15-inch pizza

Pizza dough, of choice
¼ cup olive oil
2 - 4 cloves garlic, minced fine or through a garlic press
1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated fine
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups grated mozzarella, more if desired

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (400 on Convect-Bake). Pour the olive oil into a very small saucepan and put in the garlic. Set this on the stove at the lowest possible setting, even to keeping it partly off the burner. (I have a "warming" burner that truly just keeps things barely warm). Allow the garlic to steep in the oil over just warm but not even simmering for at least 15 minutes. At this point, you may strain out the garlic or leave it in, as desired.

Lightly grease your pizza pan. Roll the dough to fit the pan. Using a pastry brush, coat the pizza dough in the garlic infused olive oil. You may use just the oil, oil with a little of the garlic, or the oil with all the garlic if desired. I used mostly just oil with a few bits of garlic here and there. Sprinkle the Pecorino Romano evenly over the garlic oil. Sprinkle on the spinach as evenly as possible and then cover with the mozzarella. Bake the pizza for 10 to 12 minutes, or until browned to your taste. I prefer the cheese not too brown.
 
Needless to say, we had leftovers of leftovers, but it was a lot of really good food made in these last couple of weeks. Hopefully I can get myself motivated to make cookies now... sigh.




My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.  

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