Sometimes you get an idea in your head that you just need to make a reality. This was one of those times. I already had alphabet cookie cutters from another project and a good slab pie recipe. I didn't have any leaf cookie cutters, but those were easy enough to freehand cut out of the dough.
For the filling I used up fruits that had been accumulating from my Boston Organics deliveries and ended up using 3 pears, 2 apples, and 4 oz. of cranberries, which I think ended up being about 5-6 cups of chopped fruit. I liked how the cranberries added a little tartness and color to the otherwise simply sweet filling. (If you want to add more than 4 oz. of cranberries, I would also up the amount of sugar to account for the additional tartness.)
I cheated a little and didn't make a bottom crust, but in the end I think that was a good call because it saved a lot of time and aggravation and really, no one likes the soggy bottom crust right? That meant I could make the top crust a little thicker and have plenty of dough left for the cut outs. If I had had the time, I would've added more leaves, but for my first attempt at pie dough decorations, I think it went pretty well. =)
Pear Apple Cranberry Slab Pie makes a 9" x 13" slab pie
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
3 tablespoons ice water, more as needed
3 pears, peeled and chopped
2 apples, peeled and chopped
4 oz. fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
Remove a heaping tablespoon of flour from the 2 cups and reserve for the filling. Mix the remaining flour, sugar, and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the butter has been cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the water and pulse to combine. Add more water if needed, a teaspoon at a time, just until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the chilled dough on a large piece of floured parchment paper or Silpat and roll the dough out to a 9" x 13" rectangle about 1/6" thick. You should have enough leftover dough to make cut outs from. Cover and return to the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
Mix the sugar with the reserved flour and cinnamon, Toss with the chopped pears, apples, and cranberries. Pour into a 9" x 13" baking pan.
Decorate the pie dough as you like and place it over the fruit. Make an egg wash by mixing the beaten egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the entire crust with the egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown.
During my stint as a vegan (which became vegetarianism and then pescetarianism until I finally gave up this year and became an omnivore again), I would often crave Bon Chon chicken. That gloriously crispy, thin-skinned chicken with the amazing soy garlic glaze would haunt me, and I'll admit that I sometimes gave in. It was just too good to give up.
I wish I had had this recipe for Korean fried cauliflower back then, but to be honest, this substitute is so good, I might even prefer it over the real thing. I adapted the recipe from Serious Eats' well researched recipe and just reduced the amount of vinegar and upped the garlic in the glaze according to my own taste preferences. If you don't have the sesame seeds and/or finely shredded coconut to add to the batter, you can omit them, but they add some great texture to the cauliflower.
Even though they're meant to be an appetizer, I ended up eating them with rice like I would with sesame chicken. And if you want to save any as leftovers, I would refrigerate the cauliflower after they're fried and drained. The next day, heat them up in the toaster oven and then toss them with the sauce; that way they will still be crispy.
Soy Garlic Glazed Korean Fried Cauliflower (adapted from Serious Eats) serves 4-6 as an appetizer or 2 as an entrée
For the Soy Garlic Glaze:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons mince garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
Combine everything except for the cornstarch in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and 1 1/2 teaspoons water. Whisk into sauce and bring to a boil. Cook until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
For the Korean Fried Cauliflower:
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/3 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup vodka
1 head cauliflower, cut into 1/2" - 1" florets
Pour enough oil into a Dutch oven or large pot for it to reach at least 2". Preheat the oil to 350°F.
Combine the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, sesame seeds, coconut, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until homogeneous. Add the water and vodka, and whisk to form a smooth batter.
Add the cauliflower to the batter. Fry the cauliflower in batches, letting the excess batter drip off each one before you lower it into the oil. Remove with a slotted spoon when golden brown and let drain on a paper-towel lined plate.
Toss the fried cauliflower with the soy garlic glaze and serve immediately.
My friend Christine and I took our annual gorgefeststuffing of the faceseat all the things road trip up to Portland, ME on Labor Day and hit all our usual spots. First was The Holy Donut for their Maine potato donuts. Here we have the sweet potato ginger glazed, sea salt chocolate, pomegranate, maple bacon, fresh lemon, and triple berry flavors. I think my favorite was the maple bacon.
Since it was such a beautiful day, and we had some time before dinner, we took the ferry over to Peaks Island to see if there was anything interesting there. There wasn't. But Christine did find this awesome piece of sea glass there!
After dinner at Duck Fat, we decided to grab some dessert from The Honey Paw, a new fusion restaurant next door to Eventide. We tried the caramelized honeycomb soft serve with magic shell and honeycomb candy.
It might have been the best thing we ate that day and is definitely going on our to-eat list for future trips!
I tried to recreate it at home using one of Jeni's recipes as a guide, but I wasn't able to get that pure honey flavor that was the reason I loved the original version. But then I realized it reminded me of Toscanini's burnt caramel ice cream, which is a very, very good thing. I also liked how the honeycomb candy--also made with one of Jeni's recipes--added a unique texture when layered in with the ice cream.
For the honeycomb candy:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup corn syrup
1 tablespoon baking soda
Bring the sugar, water, honey, and corn syrup to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When it reaches 300°F, remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. Pour into a parchment-lined baking sheet and let cool. Break into small pieces. You'll only need about half the amount that this recipe makes for the ice cream, but it's great eaten on its own or coated with chocolate. Store in an airtight container.
For the ice cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup honey
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Make a slurry with the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the milk and set aside. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
Caramelize the honey in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in about 1/4 of the cream to loosen it up and then stir in the rest of the cream. Add the remaining milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 4 minutes, then whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Chill the mixture in an ice bath or in the refrigerator until cold.
Churn according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, mixing in the honeycomb candy as you go. Freeze in your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
I only needed one bite of the Portuguese Chicken Rice from Double Chin to know that I needed to figure out how to make it at home. I hadn't even ordered it myself; my friend Alvin was nice enough to let a bunch of us try his, and I'm so grateful he did. Sadly, it's not a very photogenic dish, but once you try it, you won't care.
It starts with a layer of chicken fried rice topped with a mild coconut curry sauce and finished with a sprinkling of shredded cheese. Then everything goes under the broiler until it gets all bubbly and gooey. I know it's kind of strange to have cheese on an otherwise Asian dish, but it works so well in this case. I think the key is to use a mild, melty cheese so that it doesn't overpower the rest of the dish. I ended up using a mix of mozzarella and provolone. I thought it was interesting that when I was looking for recipes on-line to use, a lot of them just listed "shredded cheese" as the ingredient without any reference to what kind of cheese. Perhaps in Asia there is just one kind of shredded cheese available!
I ended up referring to Lady and Pups' version because I love everything else she does, and it seemed the most similar to what I had at Double Chin. The modifications I made were that instead of fish I used chicken and marinated it beforehand. I used chicken breast because I prefer white meat, but feel free to use chicken thigh meat if you prefer dark meat. I also made a couple of other modifications to her recipe based on what I had on hand (less scallions and water instead of milk) and taste preferences (half the amount of shallots).
Please note that this makes quite a bit of food. Mandy's original recipe said that it serves 2, but it would probably be more like 6 Joy-sized servings. And if you're wondering why it's called Portuguese chicken rice, I think it has to do with the fact that Macau was a Portuguese colony up until the end of the last century. Apparently this dish is very popular in Hong Kong cafes, and I remember seeing something similar at one of my favorite eateries in Taiwan.
Macau-Style Portuguese Chicken Rice (heavily adapted from Lady and Pups) serves 4-6
For the chicken:
1 lb. boneless chicken, cut into 1" pieces
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Mix all the ingredients except for the oil and marinate for 20 minutes.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the chicken until lightly brown. Save 2/3 of it for the fried rice and finely chop the rest for the sauce.
For the fried rice:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 eggs, beaten
3 cups day-old cooked rice, refrigerated
1/2 cup chopped scallions
Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large pan and add the eggs. Immediately add the rice and mix to coat. Once the rice is heated through, add the scallions, salt, and white pepper to taste. Add the reserved chicken and mix until even. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the coconut curry sauce:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
13.5 oz. can coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups mix of shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese, divided
Use a small blender to puree the oil, shallot, and garlic cloves. Mix with the grated ginger and butter and cook over medium heat in a saucepan for a few minutes until very fragrant. Add the curry powder, onion powder, coconut, and flour continue to cook for a few more minutes to toast the spices. Whisk in the coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5-7 minutes until thickened. Stir in the chopped chicken and 1 cup of the cheese.
Preheat the broiler. Transfer the fried rice to a buttered casserole dish or oven safe pan. You can also use multiple smaller dishes. Pour the curry sauce over the rice and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Broil for a few minutes until browned in spots and bubbly. Serve immediately.
I'm ashamed to admit that one of my all-time guilty pleasures is Totino's Party Pizza. There's just something I love about the extra crispy crust, the barely there tomato sauce, and even the painfully artificial cheese. It's probably a good thing that it's not sold anywhere near where I live, otherwise I'd probably be eating it way too much.
In order to get the tortilla extra crispy, it's cooked first on the stove top in a skillet that has a diameter the same size as the tortilla. You'll want to use one that can be transferred to the oven, like a cast iron skillet, because it's going under the broiler next to get the cheese all melty.
Since I don't usually have pizza sauce on hand, I've been using ground peeled tomatoes and then adding a sprinkle of kosher salt and a drizzle of olive oil. The original recipe calls for fresh basil as a final topping, but I tried using some of the fresh oregano I got in my Boston Organics delivery this week, and I found that it makes the pizza taste even more like Party Pizza.
Extra-Crispy Tortilla Pizza (adapted from Serious Eats) makes 1 small thin pizza
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 (eight-inch) flour torilla
1-2 tablespoons pizza sauce
Small handful of shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh oregano or basil leaves
Preheat the broiler to high.
Add the olive oil to a cast iron pan with an 8" diameter and heat over high heat. Once it shimmers, reduce the heat to medium and use a folded paper towel to coat the bottom of the pan with the oil. Wipe the excess oil onto the rough side of the flour tortilla. Place the tortilla rough side down in the pan.
Spoon on the pizza sauce and spread all over, right up to the edge of the tortilla. Sprinkle on the cheese and top with a few oregano or basil leaves.
Move the pan to the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly, just a few minutes. Use a spatula to check if the bottom is crispy enough to your liking. If not, return to the stovetop and continue to cook until crispy enough.
Transfer to a wooden cutting board, slice, and serve!
I tweaked the recipe (which is originally from Jim Lahey of no-knead bread fame) a little by using my favorite pizza crust instead of the one in her post because I already had some on hand. I also tossed the breadcrumbs in a little olive oil for a little extra crunch and to protect it from burning too fast.
I wasn't really sure about having to buy the Gruyere cheese and even made it for the first time without the cheese and substituting with some minced garlic and olive oil (which, by the way, ended up being pretty darn good and worth trying if you don't eat cheese). But then I caved in and got a small block of Gruyere. And boy oh boy was it amazing. Divine. Glorious! In the oven, the cheese melts and binds the shredded zucchini together in a holy matrimony of texture and flavor. It's simply perfect.
Zucchini Pizza (adapted from Jim Lahey by way of Smitten Kitchen) makes 1 pizza
8 oz. ball of pizza dough
1 medium zucchini or summer squash, about 1/2 lb.
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 oz. Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
1 generous tablespoon breadcrumbs
Drizzle of olive oil
Place a pizza stone on an oven rack set at the top 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Trim off the round end of the zucchini and using the other end as a handle, shred the zucchini on the coarse holes of a box grater. Squeeze the shredded zucchini in your hands to remove the water and transfer a fistful at a time to a small mixing bowl. Add the salt and mix well. Let sit for 20-30 minutes so that more water is released. Squeeze the zucchini again until you get out as much water as possible. Mix with the Gruyere cheese.
Mix the breadcrumbs with a little olive oil, just enough to moisten and clump them together a little.
Stretch the dough onto a parchment paper-lined flexible cutting board. Top with the zucchini-cheese mixture then sprinkle on the breadcrumbs. Slide the pizza (still on the parchment paper) onto the pizza stone and bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the breadcrumbs are golden. Use tongs to slide the pizza with the parchment paper from the pizza stone onto a cutting board. Slice and eat!
This is one of the original recipes in the cookbook that I made for my mom's Christmas gift 8 years ago. I would've shared it earlier, except I thought I'd shared it already! It's a classic dish to order from a Chinese restaurant--velvety strips of marinated beef stir fried with tender crisp broccoli in a flavorful brown sauce--and perfect served over steamed white rice.
To keep the beef tender and not chewy, it's important to slice the strips against the grain. The addition of cornstarch in the marinade further helps improve the texture of the beef. Since the broccoli takes a lot longer to cook than the beef, it is cooked separately while the beef is marinating and then added back in at the end. You'll want to use a large pan with a lid so that you can steam the broccoli after a quick stir fry.
My favorite part about this recipe is the marinade which ends up becoming the sauce upon stir frying with the beef. It is already quite fragrant due to the soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil, but my mom adds a secret ingredient that really brings it over the top: cinnamon! Only a tiny amount is added that you can't really taste it, but the aromatic spice somehow boosts all the other flavors in the sauce in a way you wouldn't expect.
Whisk together the soy sauce, cornstarch, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, minced garlic, and cinnamon. Toss with the sliced steak and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on high and add the broccoli florets. Season with salt and stir fry until bright green. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Steam until the broccoli is done. Transfer the broccoli to a bowl, and wipe down the pan.
Add another 2 tablespoons of oil and heat on high again. Add the steak and marinade to the pan and stir fry until the beef is just done and no longer red. Add the broccoli back into the pan and continue to stir fry for another minute or two to combine. Serve hot.