Sunday, November 29, 2015

Super Salad Sunday: Caesar Salad

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is over and done with, we all feel properly bloated and somewhat terrified about the fact that this is just the beginning of the holiday eating season, with office parties, fancy dinners, and more holidays. In between all the festivizing, I plan on eating light at home. 

This Caesar salad is adapted from Harold Dieterle's Kitchen Notebook cookbook (link is not an affiliate). It's tangy and very delicious. J grilled up some chicken for us to toss on top of this salad, so it was a complete meal in and of itself. If you have the ingredients in your pantry/fridge, this is a very easy meal to throw together after working late. I will give this disclaimer: There are no croutons, because I do not like them. But you could add them, of course.

Total prep time: 25 minutes

Total cook time: None, unless you are making a protein

What you will need: 

1+ heads of romaine lettuce (you can buy it pre-shredded if you prefer)
2 large egg yolks (which requires you to separate the eggs)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (I did not have a lemon in my fridge, so I used the substitute. It still tasted good)
2 anchovy filets (preferably packed in oil)--get a good tin of anchovies. The difference is noticeable.
2 small garlic clove
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 blended or neutral oil (Canola is my oil of choice)
1/2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/3 cup freshly grated/shredded parmesan/reggiano cheese
kosher salt and plenty of black pepper, to taste

Useful equipment: Mini food processor or blender. 

Shred your romaine and place to the side in a large bowl. Dieterle's recipe calls for 4 cups of shredded romaine, which is one decent sized head of romaine, but when I made the dressing recipe, I found that this really overly dressed 4 cups. So you can either reduce your measurements on the dressing, or add more romaine. I chose to add more romaine, because let's face it, after a tough day of work, who wants to do math? 

Next, in a small bowl, separate your eggs. Here's trick: Make sure you separate them in to separate bowls. The last thing you want is to mess up your first egg by breaking the second egg into a separated bowl. Also, some people are able to separate an egg using their hands or the eggshell itself. I applaud those people, but I am certainly not one of them. I use an egg separator, which also happens to make me smile.

In a food processor or a blender, combine the egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, garlic (you should roughly chop the garlic cloves), mustard, lemon juice, anchovy filets (also roughly chopped) and a good dash of black pepper. 

Start combining until it turns into a liquidy-ish paste, then start adding your neutral oil. 

Dieterle says you should add it in a slow stream so as to allow it to emulsify, but the food processor I was using doesn't have a way for me to add mid-chop, so I just stopped it every few seconds and poured a little more oil in.

As the oil is added and you continue to blend/process, the dressing thickens up and becomes very delightfully creamy. You should start taste testing at this point and see what you think needs to be added. For example, I add way more lemon juice and garlic and black pepper than Dieterle calls for because those are the flavors I really like in my Caesar dressing. But it's all up to you!

Mmmm, thick, creamy dressing. Lightly toss your romaine dressing in it, plate, and top with an abundance of fresh cheese (you could also add cheese while you blend the dressing to make it extra cheesy).

Serve (if you're going to serve with protein, add that now), and enjoy!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bailey's (Bourbon) Pecan Pie

It's the most wonderful holiday of them all. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Whether you are making your own holiday feast, or you have been commissioned to "bring something small" to someone else's gathering, this pecan pie will surely please everyone and is VERY impressive.

I will admit that I approach pie-making with some trepidation. Baking is not my forte; there's too much of a need to be "exact" with measurements, and quite frankly, I think it takes too long. But I know that having a good pecan pie in one's repertoire is important, so I commissioned my friend Bailey to teach me how to make this delightful treat. She even makes her own crust!

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 45-55 minutes

Cool time: 30 minutes

Total time from prep to pie-eating: 2-2.5 hours. Like I said, not for the quick gourmand at all.

What you will need:

*Pie Crust Ingredients: 
2 sticks of unsalted butter
10 1/2 oz  (dry) all purpose flour
2 oz (liquid) buttermilk
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 oz (dry) white sugar
(optional: 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

*Note:  This recipe theoretically makes two pie crusts if you are using shallow pie tins. Shallow tins are not as awesome because they don't allow you to have a very filling pie. So I say this makes enough crust for one decent sized pie, and you have some left over you could use for a lattice top if you were ever making a lattice-topped pie. 

**Pie filling Ingredients: 
5 eggs
5 oz (dry) light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and somewhat cooled
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup light corn syrup
8 oz. pecan pieces (you can buy them ready in pieces or you can get pecan halves and chop them yourself)
Reserve some pecan halves for the top to decorate
1 "glug" of bourbon (optional)

**Another Note: This is supposed to fill two pies. Again, if you're using shallow pie tins. It filled one deep dish pie tin and it is absolutely delicious so I really recommend going that direction. 

I would also like to point out that you can completely ignore all of the directions for the pie crust here and you could just buy frozen pie crust from Pillsbury. I'm a big believer in "let the experts do their work," but Bailey's pie crust seemed pretty manageable if you have the time.

To make the pie crust: 

Cube your butter into small manageable pieces:

Put the butter and the flour in the bowl of your Kitchen Aid, or some large mixing bowl.

In a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the paddle attachment, start mixing them on the lowest speed for about 1-2 minutes

In a pour measuring cup, combine the 2 oz. buttermilk with 1 tsp kosher salt and .25 oz of white sugar, and stir, letting the salt and sugar dissolve

Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour/butter mixture and put it back on the lowest (1-2) speed for about 2-3 minutes. You will have to hold the mixer down probably as it mixes the butter.

You will know when it is ready when all of the dough sticks together and comes cleanly off the sides of the mixing bowl. There is no dough left in the bottom of that bowl in the picture above. 

Pull the dough off the mixer and roll into a ball, then pound flat and store in a large ziplock bag. You want to let it "chill out" for at least 20 minutes in the fridge (no big deal since you're going to be making your filling now).

For your filling: 

Melt the stick of butter in your microwave. Then, set it aside to let it cool for a little bit. Bailey explained that if you mixed the piping hot butter with the eggs right away, you would start to have scrambled eggs, which is NOT a key component to pecan pie. 

Combine the brown sugar, eggs and butter in a mixing bowl and whisk together well. Then add your salt and vanilla to this mixture and whisk again.

Combine your light and dark corn syrups in a separate measuring cup.

Now add the corn syrup mixture to the egg/sugar mixture above and whisk some more. If the corn syrup is stubborn, use a silicon spatula to get it all out of the measuring cup. If you are going to add in some bourbon, now is the time to do it. A word of caution: I added way too much bourbon. Apparently, a few tablespoons is the way to go. 

Add in 4 oz of pecan bits, and mix again.

Ok! Time to turn our attention back to the pie dough. Now is a good time to pre-heat your oven to 350.

Bailey found these really great pie dough mats at Home Goods and she says they cost $5. I am going to go purchase one. They have different sizes of the crusts you'd want to use and help you make it circular. The oil/wine/vinegar is keeping the mat spread out. Put flour on the mat so the dough doesn't stick.

Start rolling out your pie dough. Bailey has a fancy non-stick rolling pin which she put additional flour on. Since I am a very amateur baker, I will let you know that I use a wine bottle on the random occasions I have to bake, and it works fine too. 

Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Then, grease and flour your pie tin. Bailey has a great ceramic pie tin we used, and she sprayed it with Pam and put some flour in it.

Then she did this really neat trick to get the pie crust dough in the actual pie tin (something that caused me a great deal of worry, because if it was up to me, I promise you that would be one holey pie crust). She DRAPED THE PIE CRUST OVER THE ROLLING PIN AND ROLLED IT INTO THE TIN.

THIS IS REVOLUTIONARY! Of course, I did not try this trick, so I can't tell you if it's actually as easy as she makes it look, but she swears it's not difficult. Report back and let me know if she's correct.

Then she pressed the pie crust into the tin fairly loosely and cut the excess off. She has a cute little pastry cutter but she tells me that if you don't, you can just tear it off against the sides of your pie tin.

And voila! Pie crust!

Now, this is not a pie which requires any pre-baking. Bailey explained to me that you would pre-bake the crust for a heavy fruit-filled pie possibly. But not this one. So just go ahead and pour your filling in to the pie crust. You want it to ALMOST come to the top.

You can leave the pie like so, or you can decorate the top with whole pecan halves. Bailey and I opted for the latter.

Then, we stuck it in the oven for 55 minutes. It was in for this long because of how deep it is, but typically, the pie should only take about 45 minutes to cook. Less time if you're making two shallow pies.

Pretty good if I say so myself! It tasted delicious, but took a little while to congeal, so I just stuck it in the fridge. Now, go out there and impress your Thanksgiving guests/hosts. Serve, and enjoy!!!