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Nov 29 2011

Thankful for Crack

This past week I was lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving in my home state of Michigan.  I am so thankful to have such an amazing and large family, wonderful friends, good health and happiness. But enough sentimental crap, let’s get to the good stuff: DESSERT.  I was in charge of our holiday’s sweet treats and decided to get creative this year.  My dad thinks these desserts are “fancy.” I call them fun!   I made triple chocolate drizzled fudge brownies, raspberry, pistachio and vanilla bean French macaroons, as well as crack pie.

Crack Pie is an addictive pie created by accident at Momofuko Milk Bar in NYC.  The taste is really indescribable – somewhere between dulce de leche and pecan pie filling (minus the pecans) baked into an oatmeal cookie crust.  Sweet, custardy and delicious, it was one of my favorite indulgences when I lived in The Big Apple. So when the cookbook went on sale last month, I was first in line to pre-order. The results did not disappoint. I’m hooked once again.  If crack pie is a drug, I need another hit.

Many of the recipes in the book may be a little complicated for the average home cook, requiring specialty ingredients like corn powder and glucose.   Fear not, Bon Appetit did a story last year on this pie (THAT’S HOW GOOD IT IS) with a simpler version for all of you at-home bakers. So for everyone asking for the recipe, here ya go….

CRACK PIE

Ingredients

Oat Cookie Crust

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt

Filling

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)



Preparation

Oat Cookie Crust

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13×9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.
  • Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

Filling

  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.
  • Dust with powdered sugar.

*I have not tried the above recipe, but I know several people who did with great results. But if you want it to taste most authentic, I encourage you to buy the book and go for it at home like I did!  There are so many other incredible recipes in this book it is definitely a worthwhile investment. And email me with any questions on method or where to source ingredients.

Happy Baking!


Oct 23 2011

Trick or Treat?

It’s that time of year again…. the leaves are changing colors, the air has become crisp and bowls of candy are everywhere. Fall has arrived!

And what’s a more fun Fall activity than carving pumpkins and baking some delicious pumpkin seeds?

The secret to making perfect pumpkin seeds: Boiling them in salted water before you bake. This helps infuse the seeds with flavor.

And for a new twist on an old classic, how about some nacho cheese pumpkin seeds using the very delicious Kernel Seasons. Its not just for popcorn anymore!   A tasty treat for kids and adults of all ages:

Kernel Seasons Nacho Cheese Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:

One medium sized pumpkin

Kosher Salt

Non-stick cooking spray

Kernel Seasons Nacho Cheese

1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut open the pumpkin, fill the inside with water and use your hands to pull out the seeds. Separate the seeds from any stringy core and rinse.

2 In a medium pot, bring water and salt to a boil (4 quarts of water and 1 Tbs salt for every cup of seeds). Add the seeds to water and let simmer for 10 minutes. Drain.

3 Spray a sheet pan with non-stick coating. Spread the seeds out over the pan, all in one layer, being careful not to overlap. Bake on the top rack until the seeds begin to brown, approximately 12-15 minutes.

4   When browned to your liking, immediately place seeds in a bowl and generously spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Add KS Nacho Cheese seasoning (2 tsp for every cup of seeds) and mix until the seeds are well coated.  Cool and eat whole.


Oct 10 2011

Part II: Let’s Party

A beer and cheese tasting showcasing the wonderful cheeses I brought back from Wisconsin and paired with local craft beers:

5 cheeses – Upland’s Pleasant Ridge, Bleu Mont Dairy Alpine Renegade & Bandaged Cheddar, Hook’s Baby Boy Blue, Crave Brothers Petite Frères

Figs, grapes, apricots, walnuts, cherry spread

Strawberry, mint and mozzarella salad

Les Frères bake with mushrooms and port wine

Baked cavatelli with white truffle and Hook’s 10 year aged white cheddar

Beef sliders with 4 year aged Hook’s cheddar on brioche bun

Individual trifles with milk chocolate ganache, chocolate cake, and Crave Brother’s mascarpone whipped cream

8 Craft Beers, in order of drinking

#1 Fly Wheel was our first beer;  light, fresh and local. Offered nice balance to the rich Mac N Cheese.

#2 5 Lizard is a Belgian-style white American ale with passion fruit, lime and coriander notes. It was very refreshing and had an almost fruity quality. Extremely versatile and paired well with everything, a great complement to the strawberry salad.

#3 Tank saison farmhouse ale. This is an overall great food beer, as it complements spice and cleanses the palate.

#4 Golden Monkey. This tripel strong golden ale was my personal favorite.  Its a Belgian-style brew, similar to Delirium.  Medium bodied and goes well with big cheeses.

#5 Burning River is a pale ale that went really well with the cheese plate, yet is versatile enough to pair with a lot of other foods. Hoppy!

#6 Matilda is a great choice for both beer and wine lovers, as it has a fruity aroma and slightly spicy flavor. Another Belgian-style pale ale.

Can you tell I like the Belgian-style beers?

#7 Dragon’s Milk is an American strong brown ale, aged in bourbon barrels which really contributes to the caramel, sweet, oaky & vanilla flavors. Unreal with the blue cheese.

#8 New Glarus Belgian Red, brewed with cherries and hand carried back from my trip (this is only available for purchase in Wisconsin, sorry!) was a perfect way to end the tasting. And what could be better than cherries and chocolate?

While the consensus was clear: Wisconsin has some damn fine cheeses that pair beautifully with beer,  there was some disagreement over the favorites of the night. To each his own I suppose?  So I challenge all of you to write in with your personal favorites and encourage you to host a beer/cheese party (or hire me to do it for you)….a perfect Sunday Fall Football activity.

*Note: For the strawberry salad and Les Frères bake recipes, please visit the Crave Brothers website: http://cravecheese.com/recipes.php


Aug 30 2011

The Last Course

Last year I took the biggest risk of my life – moving to a new city and leaving a successful career to attend culinary school. It could have ended badly (i.e. penniless, or worse, with a self-amputated finger). Thankfully, (fingers intact) as I reflect upon the past year, I know without a doubt, it was the best personal and professional decision I have ever made.  I followed my dream and greatest passion in the world: all things food….not many people can say that…

Most people (of sound mind) would not leave a safe job making great money to pursue the difficult lifestyle and low wages the food industry often brings. But life is short, and we only get one, so shouldn’t we be doing something we love everyday? I am beyond grateful that I had the means to pursue my lifelong passion, in addition to the support of family and friends.

Despite the 5 am schedule, brutal back pain and long hours, I would wake up every day for school with a smile on my face, excited for the next adventure.  I did not miss one day of cooking class in fifteen months (I wish I could say the same for undergrad).  As a business major in college, can I argue that the financial cost of culinary school was worth it? Probably not in pure financial terms (I’m waiting to break even).  But, in terms of pure personal joy, I can honestly say this was the most fun I’ve ever had.

I will spend the rest of my life making other people happy with my cooking – which is what makes this investment the investment of a lifetime.  And let’s not forget about the duck confit, maple pot de creme, salmon quenelles, sole a la meuniere, braised oxtail, steak with green peppercorn sauce, duck a l’ orange, thai crab cakes, miso cod, italian sausage, duck liver pate, fruit tarts, fresh pasta, almond croissants, etc. etc. etc…

So what’s next you may be wondering? The plan is to merge my business background and kitchen skills to start earning a salary again (i.e. I’m for hire)!  I’ll keep you updated via this blog….

The good news is, I know I’ll never starve!

And to finish, some final highlights of my last semester:

Sole Doria

Veal Scaloppini with mozzarella and prosciutto rotolo over polenta

Spinach and artichoke ravioli w/ fennel fondue & a buttered spring ramp and lemon broth

Miso black cod with sauteed baby bok choy

Maple pot de creme with hickory nut brittle

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never know we have the key”

-Already Gone Lyrics by the Eagles


May 16 2011

What’s “Cooking” Today

Salads, but these are anything but boring:

La Quercia Prosciutto with wilted spring greens, sweet and salty pine nuts & saba

This is some of the tastiest prosciutto I’ve ever eaten and it’s made right here in the United States! Iowa to be exact. These farmers of La Quercia were inspired to make the best prosciutto after taking a trip to Italy and sampling some of the finest cured meats in the world. They certainly have succeeded, so if you can get your hands on some, I promise you’ll thank me.

Shaved local asparagus with cracked hazelnuts and "Sofia" goat cheese

House smoked trout with beets, mache and preserved lemon creme fraiche

Warm potato terrine, crispy pig's ears, wild watercress & grilled ramp gribiche