Monthly Archives: July 2010

Easy as Pie

“That’s a pie crust promise: easily made and easily broken.” – Mary Poppins

If you stop and think about it, the phrase “easy as pie” doesn’t really make that much sense.  Kind of like “falling head over heels” because, aren’t you always head over heels?  So really the expression should be “heels over head”.   But I digress.  I never thought that pies were particularly easy to make.  Peeling, slicing, rolling the crust and somehow not tearing it and then there is weaving a lattice.   See?  Not that easy.

BUT- None of the above applies if you are talking about key lime pie.  Which, I discovered, is actually easy.  VERY easy in fact.

I used this recipe. Joe’s Stone Crabs is a famous Miami restaurant known for their regional foods, so their recipe seemed like a good bet.   Also this recipe gives you the option of using key limes or “regular” limes, and honestly, I didn’t know if that would be important.

In case you’re curious, a key lime is smaller, lighter in color, has less seeds, and is more acidic than a “regular” lime.  Key Limes are one of those ingredients I only occasionally see in flyover country and only when in season, so I did use “regular” limes.

The crust for key lime pie is your basic graham cracker crust.  Crushed graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter.

Graham Crackers and Butter: a healthy start

Press it into your pie pan and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until its golden brown and set.  And yes, I realize its tricky to know when a golden brown cracker is baked to a golden brown.  I think mine was slightly overdone.  Ooopsies.

Egg yolks and lime zest

The filling is made with 2 eggs yolks, zest from two limes whipped together.  You slowly add a can of sweetened condensed milk and then slowly add 2/3 cup of lime juice.  I used fresh lime juice as well some bottled key lime juice, to try and get some of the authentic key lime flavor in there.

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Facing Possible Deflation: The Souffle

“The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.” – James Beard, American chef and food writer

For a long time I knew two things about soufflés: 1. they are French; 2. they are likely to break your heart.

They come out of the oven full of steam and beauty and then quickly deflate, dashing all hope of impressing your guests.  They will seem exotic and beautiful, then pretend not to speak English to make you feel foolish.  They are considered a finicky dish prone to failure, thus scaring off plenty of cooks.

I don’t know the details, but I remember my mom’s story about laboring over a soufflé for guests, only to be thwarted while it was cooling.  She swore them off.  And thus, the fear was passed on to the next generation.

BUT– my stalwart American Flyover eaters, we shan’t be shaken from our quest.  Even by the French.

We’re going to prove the skeptics (and my mom) wrong and create a soufflé.  I found this recipe in my Barefoot in Paris cookbook by Ina Garten and it seemed straightforward and delicious.  Also, it had tips and detailed instructions, which will be vital in this crusade.

My trust accomplices for this mission

You start by making a sauce on the stove top with butter and flour, slowly add in hot milk, salt, nutmeg, cayenne, and pepper.  Now remove from heat and whisk in egg yolks one at a time.  Whew- we’re already on the heat, off the heat, on again.

Technical term: peaks that stand on their own.

Now the cheeses, Parmesan and Blue, get added and everything goes in a 2nd bowl.

Next a step most of us recognize: beating egg whites.  Do this with your mixer until they make lovely peaks.  Note that the recipe says “glossy” peaks.  I’m not sure how to judge glossiness in food.  I usually just go for peaks-that-stand-on-their-own.

Folding in egg whites...with a certain je ne sais quoi.

Now take these lovely French peaks and slowly fold them in with the cheese/egg/seasoning mixture gently.  This part was sort of amazing…I mean, I could feel how light everything was getting as I was mixing it together.  There is undoubtedly a sexy French word for this phenomenon.

Now spoon this into a soufflé dish that’s been buttered and sprinkled with Parmesan.  Take your spatula and draw a ring in the mixture on the top of the soufflé.  This helps it to rise as well as form that little puff on the top that makes it look, oh-so soufflé.

Then into the 375° oven for 35 minutes.  This part is CRITICAL.  Even more critical than knowing how to say “without ketchup” while in France.   Ok, here goes:  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.  DON’T DO IT.  No, not even a peek.

Turn on your oven light and make sure nothing has turned en flambé, but otherwise leave it alone.  The steam in the oven is vital to your success and opening the door releases all of it.  So leave it alone and wait.  If you were French, now is when you would have a cigarette.

Nothing on fire...no reason to open the door.

After about 35 minutes the soufflé will be brown on top and puffed up.  When you take it out, make sure people are watching, because, my god is it beautiful.

Like an impressionist painting you can eat.

Serve it with a big spoon and enjoy.  Other than cotton candy, it will be the lightest thing you have ever eaten.  I think I squealed, “It’s like eating buttery cheese air!”.

Les incompetents.

Handsome Husband and I ate the souffle with nothing but a glass of white wine.  Which may be part of the reason we ended up with this:

Vivé la France!

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. Lest you be concerned, I adore the country of France and its lovely, snobbish people and devotion to food.  The Flyover Household has great memories in France and just this week we were scheming a way to get back there!

All Press is Food Press

Look at that title….I’m getting seriously good with puns.

So fun news here in Flyover country…I’ve been published!  A big “thank you” to the good folks over at Metromix for letting me write a short column about, what else, eating.  It was an exciting morning as I got to see myself in “print” for the first time.

The world is my oyster on the half shell.

Check out the article here on Metromix: Flyover Foodie’s Favs

I was 2nd in their new series where local foodies talk about their favorite local “craving” spots.  While you’re on their site, check out some of the other great food and drink articles.  Plus, they have tons of lists for local restaurants.   And you know I LOVE a good list.

xoxo The Flyover Foodie

p.s. Special thanks to Joe Lawler for the article and Eric Rowley for joining me for a delicious oyster lunch/photoshoot!

Casseroles: Feeding Flyover Country for God-knows-how-long

“The remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served us nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” – author Calvin Trillin

What is it about casserole that so permeates Midwestern culture?  I’d guess it has something to do with the fact that every ingredient for a whole meal is contained in one dish.

I have this theory that most people who grew up in flyover country could name their favorite casserole without hesitation. I also think most of the answers would fit in the following template:  “My mom’s ______ casserole”. Contrary to this theory, I don’t have a favorite casserole.  So, I solicited favorites from you.  Credit to my friend Alison for sharing a recipe from her grandmother.  And the recipe does indeed include enough ingredients for an entire meal.

Casserole Ingredients

Her grandmother’s Chicken Asparagus Hot Dish recipe includes 15 ingredients, plus salt and pepper.  15 ingredients!

Sidebar: can we talk about how awesome the phrase “hot dish” is?  I feel like its so clever, I mean, not only is an apt description but also a subtle compliment.  Example: “That is one hot dish you brought”.

I’m pretty sure I just made casseroles sexy.

Anyway, our list of ingredients: cooked chicken, asparagus, cashews, celery, mushrooms, pimento, onion, green pepper, black olives, cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, mayonnaise, egg noodles, and the granddaddy of them all: Velveeta.

You didn’t think I would make a casserole without Velveeta, did you?!

Making the casserole is just a matter of assembly.  First, chop up the asparagus, cooked chicken, celery, cashews, onion, green pepper, and Velveeta.  Then arrange all the ingredients listed above (except the creamed soups, mayo, and chow mein noodles)  in layers in a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Now mix the two cans of soup and the mayo together.  Season with salt and pepper and pour over the layered ingredients.  At this point, the dish will weigh about 5 lbs.  Honestly…it’s  A LOT of stuff in a single pan.  Take a deep breath, heave it into the oven and bake at 350° for an hour.   Toward the end of cooking, sprinkle the chow mein noodles on top so they don’t burn.

That's a heavy dish!

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The Polenta Search or “How I learned about an Italian staple”

“She did not so much cook as assassinate food.” – Author (Margaret) Storm Jameson

DISCLAIMER: If you are an experienced Italian chef, or have traveled Italy extensively,  or (just to be safe) if you are a part Italian, it’s probably best if you do not read the following post, lest you lose all faith in me.

A Healthy Reminder

A Healthy Reminder

Last night I was writing a grocery list while standing in front of the list of 30 Before 30 list taped on our fridge.  I have fallen slightly behind, so I wanted to buy ingredients for several dishes.  One of those dishes being polenta.

I had a basic idea of what polenta was and I’ve eaten it once.  Strangely enough, I do feel like it shows up on “Molto Mario” or even “Top Chef”  more often than it shows up on the average menu in flyover country .  Hence, my knowledge is limited.  That being said,  I couldn’t  find polenta at the grocery store.  I looked in the Italian section. Nothing. Then I looked by the grains and flours.  Nothing. I even asked the assistant manager where it was, saying, “Polenta….it’s like cornmeal”.

(Some of you are now shaking your heads.  I told you!)

Not only is polenta “like cornmeal” , um, it IS cornmeal. Riiiiiight.  Teachable moment: do your research.

Polenta is made from cooking cornmeal slowly with liquid until it becomes creamy.  It is very clear from even this (questionable) source and is pretty damn obvious from a cursory glance at this basic recipe.  (Shakes head).  Seriously.  I bet even the “Jersey Shore” kids know how to make polenta.

Ok, now I’m being hard on myself.

The elusive Polenta

SO: The good news is that I already have all the ingredients, so I can make polenta without further embarrassment (I hope).

The bad news is that I didn’t even make it 6 months on this blog without a Jersey Shore reference.

xoxo The Flyover Foodie