Month: January 2014

Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust

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Ready to take your pie-making to the next level? Game on, kids.

This pork and apple pie is a show-stopper, but really not all that difficult. The flavors and textures are really fantastic together. If you don’t like sage — which personally is not my favorite — feel free to omit it, and you’ll still have a really flavorful dish.

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This is a basic butter pie crust, with some cheese folded in. Get the butter really cold (try putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes after you cube it) and don’t let the dough get too warm.

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When choosing apples, go for larger fruit in varieties that will hold their shape, like Granny Smith or Pink Lady. Slice them thinly for easy arranging.

Serve the pie warm or at room temperature, and store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust

Adapted from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook

Serves 8-10

2 1/2 cups (350 g) flour, plus a little more
2 tsp dried sage, finely crumbled (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3 oz (85 g) sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
6-8 TBS ice water
2 pounds firm apples (4-6 large) – try Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Jazz, Golden Delicious, or other firm fruit
2 TBS vegetable oil (or other cooking oil of your choice)
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground pork (15-17% fat)
1 TBS firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 TBS plain breadcrumbs
1 egg blended with 1 TBS water
Fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sage, and salt until well-combined. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour mixture and use your fingers to work them in until the mixture looks like cornmeal with some pea-sized bits of butter remaining. Stir in the cheese with a fork. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and stir with a fork until the dough begins to come together. If needed, add an additional tablespoon or two of ice water. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead three times. Gather the dough into a ball, then divide into two portions, making one slightly larger than the other. Press each portion down into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Core and thinly slice the apples to no more than 1/4″ thickness (no need to peel). In a skillet over medium-low heat, cook the apples without any oil, stirring gently, until they just begin to soften, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a dish and set aside. Add oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add pork, brown sugar, salt, and spices. Cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat, until it is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let the meat mixture cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a food processor. Add the breadcrumbs and pulse five times until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand. Set aside.

Unwrap the larger disk of dough and put it in the center of a large sheet of wax or parchment paper. Cover with another piece of wax or parchment paper. Working from the center, roll outward to a 13” circle. Peel off the top piece of parchment and transfer the dough to a pie plate, peeled side down. Peel off the remaining parchment and press the crust into the sides of a 9” deep-dish pie plate. Peel off the remaining parchment and press the crust into the sides of the pie plate, draping any excess over the edge. Repeat the process with the smaller disk, making an 11″ circle. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and set a rack to the second to bottom position. Pour the meat mixture into the bottom crust and gently smooth the top with a spatula. Arrange the cooked apple slices over the meat, pressing down to make the whole construction as smooth and neat as possible. Peel the top sheet of parchment off the top crust. Transfer to the pie, then peel off the remaining parchment. Using a sharp knife, make two 3” slashes in the crust to allow steam to escape. Fold the edges of the bottom crust up over the top crust and crimp the edges to seal. Brush the crust with the egg wash and decorate with sage leaves, if desired.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake until the crust is golden brown, 25-35 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool 25 minutes before serving.

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Trying, and failing, at biscotti

After a couple of years without real winter in DC, it’s back with a vengeance this year. During the latest round of winter weather I tried to quell my boredom by playing in the kitchen. Problem was, the storm hit the morning after I returned from a business trip and there wasn’t a whole lot going on in my kitchen.

I did have all the ingredients to make what looked like a delicious pistachio and dried cherry biscotti recipe. While I’d never tried it myself, it seemed simple enough.

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The dough was fragrant and a beautiful yellow hue, and I liked the flavor combination of pistachio, sour cherry, almond and orange. But, the recipe itself just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t an outright failure, but it just didn’t meet my expectations.  There was not nearly enough dough to follow the directions and make two logs of dough, each 16″ long, 2″ wide. The cookies are very difficult to slice. Chopping up the cherries before folding into the dough might help the slicing go more smoothly, as well as reduce the likelihood the cherries taste burnt.

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Anyone else have a favorite biscotti recipe to share? What tips would you provide to a biscotti newbie?

Citrus-Marinated Chicken Thighs

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Chicken thighs are the unsung heroes of economical, healthy cooking, and this simple citrus marinade makes them really shine. I come back to it again and again.

This dish is fairly quick, flavorful, and versatile. I’ve used this recipe with both bone-in and boneless varieties, although bone-in hold up a bit better — especially if you decide you’d rather grill outdoors than broil, which works well too!

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A few tips for marinading: you want both an acid (citrus) and an oil. Use a glass container or plastic bag, not metal, and keep the meat in the refrigerator. With chicken, don’t marinade longer than 2 hours.

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The chicken and reserved sauce are fantastic served over roasted spaghetti squash or pasta and  a large helping of broccoli, or try it with a bed of your favorite greens. Next time, try a double batch of the marinade and use it for grilled or roasted vegetables.

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Citrus-Marinated Chicken Thighs

From Bon Appetit

Makes 4 servings (2 thighs per person)

1 bunch scallions (green onions), white and light green parts only
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems only
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 chicken thighs, preferably bone-in, skin-on (about 2 pounds)

If you like raw scallions, finely chop them and set aside 1/4 cup.

Place all ingredients except chicken into a food processor or blender and pulse until a coarse purée forms. Set aside 1/4 cup marinade; place remaining marinade in a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken, seal bag, and turn to coat. Chill at least 20 minutes, but no more than 2 hours.

Preheat broiler. Line a broiler-proof baking sheet with foil. Remove chicken from marinade and place skin side down on baking sheet; discard marinade. Broil chicken until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Turn; continue to broil until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 165°, 12–15 minutes longer.

Serve chicken with reserved marinade and scallions, if desired.