Most of what I’ve presented over the past year has been from life models, or paintings based on previously rendered drawings. Tonight’s post consists of two drawings freehand, from fantasies and memories. Enjoy
I don’t like pumpkin pie. At all. Neither does my youngest sister. Not a fan of pumpkin spice lattes or any of the other ways that flavor combination was pushed into processed foods this year. Once a year though, I’ll eat pumpkin willingly and its in this recipe.
I like the Cook’s Illustrated double crust recipe, but there’s a few things I don’t like about it, so I made some modifications.
2.5 cups of A/P flour in the food processor, with 2 tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Pulse to blend completely. Get 8oz of a good European style butter out of the freezer and cut it into quarter inch cubes. Pulse that in the food processor until it looks like that grated parmesan you get at the deli counter with pea-sized chunks of butter still standing out in the mix. Get out your quarter-up measure, and go to the freezer and find that vodka you keep in the back. If you don’t have a bottle of vodka in your freezer, I’m tilting my head sideways and looking at you with disdain right now. Yes I am. Disdain.
In that quarter cup measure, fill it halfway with freezer-cold vodka. Fill the other half of it with filtered water from the pitcher you keep in the fridge. In the food processor, stream in the liquid while the food processor runs. you’ll start to see the dough spin in a single mass. Stop processing.
On some cling film, dump out the dough. It will look a crumbly mess. Trust me and keep it moving. Divide the dough into three piles. Get a sheet of cling film for each of the little piles. Now this is the magic part. Wrap up the little piles of crumbs and use the heat from your hands to form the piles into little flat disks. Once they are barely formed, put the wrapped disks on a plate in the fridge and let them rest for at least an hour. This will allow the dough to rest and make it easier to roll out your crusts.
I have a spice grinder. Likely you do too, but you may not know it. If you have a coffee grinder that has metal blades and a metal base to it, you can use that to grind spices. Just make sure you wipe it out with a dry paper towel and be careful of those blades. I’ve cut myself a few times trying to play cute with the coffee grinder and not paying proper attention.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Fresh ground spices have more character and body than the already ground ones. If you have an Indian Grocery near you, there’s a good source of affordable spices. You might get odd looks the first few times you go in there (like I did), but folks will help you find what you need if you have a good list. For a good pumpkin pie, you’ll need 3 cloves, 1 star anise, 2 allspice berries, about a 3 inch length of cinnamon bark. From the already ground spices in your collection, get a quarter teaspoon of ancho chili powder, and quarter teaspoon of cayenne chili powder. Put it all in the coffee grinder or spice grinder and let it do its job until everything in the grinder is a fine powder with maybe a few pebbles of nutmeg. Throw out the pebbles and set your pumpkin pie spice aside.
Dust your work surface with flour and at 1/8 turns, roll the pastry into a round big enough to overlap your pie pan by at least an inch. Fold the overflow over and crimp the edges. Get a sheet of aluminum foil and put it in the pie pan gently on top of your pie dough. In your cupboard, you likely have a bag of dried beans you’ve had up there forever for chili or soup or something. Pour those in your pan on top of the aluminum foil and put your pie shell in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the aluminum foil with the beans in it. That process is called baking a blind. That 20 minutes in the oven has made those beans no longer suitable for soup. Pour them into a mason jar or other container and label the jar “Pie Weights – DO NOT EAT.” They’ll come in handy the next time you want to bake a pie.
As for those other two pie crusts, put them in your fridge and bake a pie later this week, or put them in your freezer and take them out the night before you’re ready to bake.
In a large bowl, put in two packages of Neufchatel cream cheese. Its a little lower in fat and will whip up nice and light. Break in 4 eggs and a cup of sugar. Add a couple teaspoons of the bourbon vanilla we talked about a few months back. If you don’t have any, put in a teaspoon of bourbon, and split a vanilla bean with a sharp knife. Scrape the seeds into your mixture. Now take another vanilla pod, split it with your sharp knife. Get a mason jar or old jelly jar out and put in half a cup of Kentucky Bourbon. Put the pod, seeds and all along with the pod you just scraped out into that jar, seal the lid, and put it in your spice cupboard, wayyyyy in the back. in about two weeks, that will be Kentucky Bourbon Vanilla extract. You’re welcome.
Now, you know a couple weeks ago for Halloween when you turned your nose up at those little pumpkins in the store because you wanted a big pumpkin to carve into a jack-o-lantern? Yeah. Those little pumpkins about the size of a cereal bowl are perfect for pie. PERFECT. Next time you see them in the store, two of them will give you enough pumpkin puree for a pie. How? Get out your chef’s knife and split them into quarters. Get a metal spoon and scrape out the seeds into a colander. Later on, you can rinse off the fibrous orange stuff, spread them out on a baking sheet, sprinkle them lightly with salt, and bake them in a 425 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes. You want them toasted but not burnt, so keep an eye on them.
Now, the leftover rind of the pumpkin, put into a pot with about a quarter of that spice mix you just made in your coffee grinder, and put on a lid. The pumpkin needs to steam for about 15-20 minutes. Then let it cool down and get a metal spoon. The flesh of the pumpkin will come away from the skin the same way you take the meat from an avocado.
Put the pumpkin into the bowl with the cream cheese mixture. Add the rest of the spice mixture from the coffee grinder. Add either a quarter cup of brown sugar, or a quarter cup of blackstrap molasses, or a quarter cup of maple syrup, depending on your preference of flavors. Blend until smooth. Pour into the pie shell, and put it in the 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, then back the heat down to 375 for another 30 minutes.
While the pie is baking, you’ll need the whites from three eggs, a cup and a half of pecans, a cup of brown sugar, and a cup of cane sugar. Organic preferred, but plain cane sugar will do just fine. Mix the brown and the white sugar. Pour the pecans into the egg whites, then with a wire strainer, drain off most of the liquid and dump the pecans into the sugar mixture until they are covered in sugary, egg white goo. You should have about 15 minutes left on that pie. Take the pie out, spread that pecan goo on top, and quickly put the pie back in.
What you just did was add a praline pecan topping to your pie. The egg whites will combine with the sugar and make a hard crack candied topping.
When you take the pie out, the topping will look foamy. DON’T TASTE IT. DON’T TOUCH IT. Hot sugar burns are not to be messed with. Let that pie sit for at least an hour before you try to cut into it. As it cools the foam will harden and caramelize around the pecans.
You could make the other pie in the picture with those two crust portions you made earlier. Its 6 granny smith apples, and 6 jonagold apples, peeled and cored, a cup of sugar, the zest and juice of a lemon, a quarter cup of flour, the spice mixture we made earlier, a teaspoon of Kentucky Bourbon Vanilla, a teaspoon of Apple Brandy, and 1/8 teaspoon of Orange Blossom Water. Mix. Put in the pie crust. Brush lightly with milk. Dust with turbinado sugar and a pinch of the spice mixture you made earlier, plus a shake of cayenne pepper. 400 degrees for 30 minutes. 375 for 30 minutes.
And the drink. 1 jigger Campari, 1 jigger Sweet Vermouth, 2 jiggers gin. two shakes of bitters. Orange bitters if you have them and a slice of orange.
That would be a Negroni.
Since there was a smaller group planned this year to come to my house for Thanksgiving, and the group set to come isn’t completely stuck on the same dishes served year after year, it gave me a chance to edit the menu a little bit and try out some new techniques.
I’m not a fan of cutting up the bird at the table. Its a lot of work after a long day of cooking and generally a bird big enough to feed a crowd takes up an awful lot of real estate on the dining table. This year’s solution: preparing individual boneless portions.
Prepare a clear work surface somewhere near the kitchen sink. When working with raw meat and knifes and mallets, you don’t want any accidental splatter contaminating ramekins of kitchen tools or other brick-a-brack on that counter top. Clear it away.
I bought an 11 lb (5kg) fresh turkey breast from Harvey’s, a local butcher here in the Washington, DC area. Since making the decision to eat less meat, so I can spend more money on quality cuts, developing a relationship with a knowledgable butcher is a must. As for why only a breast portion, those who come to my table rarely seem to be interested in eating the turkey legs and since I’m not a huge fan of turkey soups or making stock from them, I decided to forgo them this year, and just get the breast cavity. With a very sharp knife, I cut down the center of the cavity and along the contour of the rib cage, scraping along the bone while holding the meat away from the knife. I was able to come away with the two breast portions with the skin intact. I then took the sharp knife and removed the skin in a single piece per half and put that in a plastic bag with some water to keep it pliable.
You can save the carcass and make turkey stock from it. I don’t. Not a fan of the amount of collagen and that wibbley jelly-texture that always seems to set up on the cooled stock. You can also save yourself some trouble and ask your butcher to de-bone the breasts and leave the skin on them for you. (Develop a good relationship with your butcher and you’d be surprised at all the stuff they can do for you)
The reason I took the skin off, is I’m cutting the breasts into 8 individual portions about the size of three decks of playing cards stacked on top of each other. Each of the portions went into a ziplock back and was flattened down to about a quarter inch thickness with a good tenderizing mallet. If you leave the skin on during this process, its a lot more likely to tear and because you want the skin in one piece, its best to remove it and set it aside in this part of the process.. Glancing blows work best – thats where you hit the piece of meat in a diagonal blow and rotate the meat as you do it to create a nice wide, flat cutlet. Put the bags in a 9×12 pan and put them in the fridge.
In a sautee pan, melt some butter in olive oil, and sautee diced celery, onion, herbes de Provence, thinly sliced garlic, dried sage, and some fresh parsley and rosemary, cut up fine (chiffonade). Set aside and let cool.
Slice up half a brioche or challah loaf into half-inch cubes, and put them on a sheet pan to toast. Crack 3 eggs into a bowl containing a cup of heavy cream and a few pinches of cayenne pepper and a few pinches of salt and whisk together.
Combine your toast cubes, the contents of the sautee pan, and the savory custard mixture and let stand for an hour in the fridge to allow the bread to absorb the fats and liquids.
To assemble, get some butcher’s twine and cut 12-2 ft long lengths. Take a flattened turkey cutlet and put it on your clean work surface. With an ice cream disher, scoop out a serving of the dressing and place it slightly off center on the cutlet. With a rubber spatula, spread out the dressing to 2/3 of the area of the cutlet, leaving one third uncovered. Sprinkle a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and some dried sage over the surface, fold in the ends and roll it up, then place it seam side up on your work surface, From the reserved turkey skin, cut a portion big enough to cover seam and the top surface of the roll. Then secure your package with butchers twine.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Once you have two left to roll. put a skillet on medium high heat with olive oil and butter. it should be smoking slightly by time you are finished rolling your turkey. Brown all sides of your rolls in the skillet.
Add some more butter and olive oil to that pan so you have about a quarter cup of fat bubbling away. Then get yourself a quarter cup of flour and sprinkle it over the fat. Get out your whisk and scrape the good brown stuff off the bottom of that pan while the flour browns. When the flour reaches the color of coffee with a lot of cream in it. Add a cup of stock and keep stirring with that whisk until the contents form a paste. Add a second cup of stock. This will smooth out and thicken into a very nice pan gravy. Drop it down to simmer and add a quarter cup of white wine, and let it simmer, covered, while your turkey roasts away in the oven.
There will likely be dressing left after you finish with your chores. Put that in a buttered baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Nestle the turkey into the washed 9 x 12 baking pan. Sprinkle each of the packages with olive oil, and bake uncovered for about an hour. Check with a meat thermometer to make sure the core temperature is no lower than 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees celsius). Make an aluminum foil tent covering for your pan, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes under cover before you serve them. Cut the twine away and plate up.
I made a green salad with seeded, peeled cucumbers and sliced campari tomatoes, dressed in a ginger orange vinaigrette, a baked macaroni and cheese, a slice of the baked dressing, mashed potatoes, and my youngest sister bought along some spicy glazed carrots and garlic cream green beans.
Next up – dessert and drinks.