Friday, November 18, 2011

Apple Pie

Miss El, my middle daughter, called me a few weeks ago and asked if I would be able to come to Wisconsin to see her and my oldest MS. R in their play. They live in a town of about 500 their school is a couple of miles from their home and serves several towns in the area. MS R has been active in her school's theater since they moved up there five years ago, her first roll was a table in Beauty and the Beast, but she quickly moved on to bigger and better rolls. When Miss El called she reminded me that she had a small roll in this one too, the play Jane Eyre A Musical Drama yes you read that right. MS R played Mrs. Fairfax the almost deaf matron of the home, she has a knack for stealing any scene she is in and did well. Miss El was the young Jane Eyre, from her talking I expected her to have a couple of minutes on stage she really was really the only character for the first 10 minutes of the show.

The town they live in (go figure) doesn't have a hotel so I stay in a nearby town, this time I had these luxury accommodations.*

Luxury Suite

complete with Spa

and a downright bacchanalian breakfast buffet
The drive from my hotel to their house is about a half an hour over undulating roads cutting through pine woods, small farms and a bevy of apple orchards. It was the right time of year so I wanted to stop and get some apples this trip and maybe a little fresh apple cider. On the suggestion of MS R I stopped a Sunrise Orchard to pick up a bag of Honeycrisps. If you aren't familiar with them they are a really rockin' good apple a little on the sweet side and have a great crisp texture. I bought maybe a little more than was prudent so it was time to make pie.

This year I am learning how to bake dammit! I enjoy baking, I love baked goods but breads have never been my thing the whole process is too precise for me. I have spoken about my love/hate/therapeutic relationship with well flour and basically all leveners anyway I can probably count on my fingers the number of times that I have made a pie I can count on one finger the number of times I made a crust, so I threw it all in there and made this little baby.

The Crust
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
10 TBLS (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces I put mine in the freezer for about an hour
4 TBLS (about) ice water

The Filling
About 3 pounds of Honeycrisp apples peeled and cored, sliced thin
3/4 cup sugar
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBLS all purpose flour
1 TBLS butter

For the crust
Whisk flour and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and shortening and rub in with fingertips until coarse meal forms try not to be like me and over work, for the love of god stop. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons water; toss until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; divide in half then flatten into disks about the size of . Wrap in plastic, chill at least 1 hour (can be made 1 day ahead). Keep refrigerated, Soften slightly at room temperature before using.

For the filling
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl mix apples, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Let stand until juices form, about 15 minutes then mix in flour... set aside.

Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Place dough in prepared pie dish, spoon in filling, dot with butter. Roll out second dough disk to 13-inch round. Drape dough over filling. Seal top and bottom crust edges together; trim to 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang under then crimp. Brush pie with milk and sprinkle with a little with a little more sugar. Place pie pan on a baking sheet and place in oven. Reduce temperature to 375°F. Bake pie until crust is golden brown, apples are tender and filling is bubbling thickly, if it starts to get too brown around the edges cover with foil. This will bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Let cool for at least an hour before you cut into it... I know it is hard but well worth the wait.

*I tease a little about the accommodations but I do have to admit that since I make these journeys alone and the only thing I do at the hotel is sleep I tend to find the least expensive place that I can. This hotel though lacking in luxuries is a clean place owned by a nice family.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Grilled Salad

We finally broke down and got it, yesterday Kris picked up the new desktop (we still think the laptop may be recoverable). The desktop however was never that great to begin with. I replaced the graphics card three times in the 5 years that we had it, plus it was doing all kinds of crazy stuff... every few mornings I woke up to find a blue screen taunting me and if you bumped the tower the entire thing would shut down and take about 25 minutes to boot up again.

Wow computers have changed in the last few years, I had to look up what a terabyte was, plus this thing has a wide screen and speakers that are a little bigger than a couple of dry erase markers but sound great! and the color is as good as our TV. So I am spending some time learning the ins and outs of this fancy pants new technology. So my plan over the next couple of days is to visit all of my blogger friends, and get a post in. I feel like I have been out for so long and I have found that work computers don't always play well with blog websites, I swear if I see that flippity flappin Barracuda logo again I am going to scream.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was on my typical summer grilling bender, grilled meat, grilled sweet potatoes then grilled dessert. I made a joke about having grilled everything except salad... well this is it:

Grilled autumn salad (serves 2)
2 Romaine Hearts cut in half
1 Small head of radicchio quartered
1 Fennel bulb halved
2 Apples cored and diced*
Sprinkle of shredded Cheddar

1 Cup Croutons

Apple Cider dressing

For the croutons
Dice up some French bread (I keep a bag in the freezer but if you are just making this dice up a cup of it)
1 TBLS butter
1 clove of garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat, add garlic and cook until translucent. Put in the cubed bread and toss until coated. Add salt and pepper and continue to cook stirring occasionally until crispy (took me about 15 minutes)** While they are still hot add the Parmesan cheese and toss again

For the dressing
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/3 cup Apple Cider*
1 TBLS Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic minced
1 TBLS fresh fennel frond cut up

Put into a cup and hit with your handy emersion blender, set aside. This can be made a day ahead if you like.

Now here is how it all goes together light your grill and put the halved fennel bulb on, after that has been going for about 10 minutes add the radicchio then the Romaine hearts grill until everything is a little charred around the edges.

To serve:
Place the Romaine heart halves on your plate the top with sliced radicchio and the sliced fennel. Add the diced apples, fresh hot croutons then the cider dressing and cheese. I used cheddar because that is what i had in the kitchen but I think feta or goat cheese might have worked better.

*I used Honeycrisp apples and cider (next entry will explain why) but any crisp sweet apple will work
** You could make the croutons ahead but let’s face it warm croutons are sexy and you know it!