November 26, 2009

Texas Pecan Pie

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith


Something to be very thankful for! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Texas Pecan Pie

Makes One 9-inch pie

1 deep dish pie crust-unbaked
1 cup light brown sugar 250 mL
3 large eggs 3
1 cup light corn syrup 250 mL
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted 45 mL
2 tsp vanilla extract 10 mL
1/4 tsp salt 1 mL
1 cup finely chopped pecans 250 mL
1 cup whole pecans 250 mL

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll the flaky pastry on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch round cake pan with 1-1/2-inch high sides. Trim to align with pan edges. Freeze 15 minutes.
2. Combine the sugar, eggs, corn syrup, butter, vanilla and in a large bowl. Add in the chopped pecans and mix until just combined. Pour into crust. Arrange the whole pecans decoratively on the top.
3. Bake pie until set, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

November 18, 2009

The Pie Alternative-Pumpkin Pecan Bars

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith

Pumpkin Pecan Bars

Don’t get me wrong, I love pie. I love to look at pie. I love to smell pie. I love to eat pie. What I don’t love is to make pie.  Even though I make a mighty fine pie. I know, this time of year, with Thanksgiving looming, being down on pie is culinary heresy. The fact is, it’s a mess. I don’t mind the filling, but the crust is another matter. Now please don’t send me your favorite recipe for pie pastry. I’m sure it’s great, but I already make a good pie pastry. I just hate to do it. It’s an added step that only creates havoc in my kitchen. Why can’t I be one of those adorably perky pastry chefs on TV that can toss their bench flour onto the work surface with such accuracy that nary a speck lands on anything but the intended area? (Those of you that know me are no doubt thinking “adorably perky’ was the deal breaker in that last sentence. On a good day I might be adorable, but perky? Hmmmm…) My bench flour ends up all over the floor, the dog, the kids, and yes, the counter, which then takes a ten step process to buff back to it’s previously shiny state. Not worth it…unless it’s a holiday (next week’s post-Texas Pecan Pie) or someone’s broken heart can only be consoled with something deliciously golden, round and flaky.

But what does one do when the need for something sweet, spicy and pumpkin arises? One turns to the incredibly easy and absolutely delectable Pumpkin Pecan Bar. This dense, moist and aromatically cakey bar is just the thing for when you feel the need to bring a little fall into your kitchen. And the best part is that they can be done in a snap. Packed with pumpkin, spices and crunchy pecans, these versatile treats are just as wonderful on a Thanksgiving table as they are in a lunchbox.

Kitchen Counter Point- When I’m baking with nuts, unless the nuts are going to sit right on top and be exposed to the full force of heat from the oven, as is the case with pecan pie, I always toast them first. This brings out the full flavor of the nut and takes whatever you’re baking to new heights.

Pumpkin Pecan Bars

Makes 24 bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4cup unsalted butter
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13-inch x 9-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add in the pumpkin and stir to combine. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely. Cut into 24 squares. Dust lightly with the powdered sugar and serve.

November 11, 2009

Sweet Potato Chowder with Browned Butter and Crispy Sage

Filed under: Soups — by Carla


 As a chilly November rain fell yesterday, I decided it was a good day to stay home and  forage for ingredients “in house” for our supper. While rummaging around in the potato/onion bin in the garage, I found a few home grown sweet and white potatoes a friend had dropped off. I’d also just been poking around at the sage in my herb patch, wondering if I would be able to use it up before the big winter frost. And that, my friends, is how we came to dine on sweet potato chowder with browned butter and crispy sage leaves. The freshly dug potatoes were so velvety smooth and sweet.  It wasn’t much work  to make the soup taste fabulous.  As for the fresh sage, herbalist and chef Jerry Traunfeld of the Herbfarm in Woodinville, Washington thinks that it has a much better flavor if cooked first in a fat before added to a dish and I heartily agree. I just adore sage when it is fried in a little butter (or a lot) and it makes for a lovely garnish as well. But, what to do with the remaining sage flavored browned butter? So simple yet delicious, it would be a crime not to just drizzle it over this plush chowder.

Kitchen Counter Point: One of the basic skills taught in cooking school is how to season soups and sauces. The usual suspects such as kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper play a large role, but soup can go from good to sublime with the addition of a touch of nutmeg, cayenne, acid and fat. I keep a whole nutmeg and a grater close to the stove so that I can grate it fresh. It adds spice and a warm nutty note which makes a huge difference in soups that contain dairy or greens. A touch of cayenne, not so much that you make the dish hot, but just a dash, will add interest. The acid can be in the form of lemon juice, sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, orange juice, wine, etc. It doesn’t take a lot, just a teaspoon or so, but the acid helps to elevate or bring up the flavors. Notice in this recipe that I’ve used a bit of sherry (acid) and reduced it early in the recipe and then added some lemon juice (acid) at the end. Fat helps to carry flavors, so when making a vegetable soup I often add a touch of heavy cream, butter or olive oil at the end just to make the flavor of the basic ingredients sing. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, acid and fat one ingredient at a time and taste with each addition. It’s a good way to teach your palate to taste and you will be amazed by the increased depth of flavor in your dishes.


Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil
18 sage leaves, 10 thinly sliced and 8 left whole
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry sherry
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock or a blend of the two
2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the sliced sage leaves and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook another minute or until the garlic is fragrant.

Add the sherry to the pan and cook until it has reduced somewhat, about 3 minutes. Add the stock, potatoes and salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Transfer about 2 cups of the potato to a bowl, mash it and return it to the soup to thicken it. Season the soup with the lemon juice, cayenne, nutmeg and pepper. Add the heavy cream. Taste again and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper, nutmeg or cayenne pepper.

Just before serving, heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the butter sizzles, add the sage leaves and cook them in the butter on both sides until crispy and browned, about 1 minute. Transfer the sage leaves to a paper towel lined plate and pour off the browned butter into a heatproof bowl (so that it doesn’t over brown).

Ladle the soup into heated bowls and top each with a drizzle of the sage butter and two fried sage leaves.