Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Greg's home! And a super pie crust

(At the end of this post is the best pie crust recipe ever -- if you haven't made yours yet, I urge you to give it a try!)

Today, Greg came home!!

So much mail was waiting for us when we got home!

We were all so excited to see him again. It's been four weeks!

I haven't been doing much cooking lately, so to ease into it, Andrew and I made my mom's Honey Whole Wheat Bread in the bread machine last night, and tonight I made hummus, and baked up a double batch of whole-wheat pita. I always forget just how great warm, fresh homemade pita is. Mmmm.

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner has taken a bit of planning. Greg is not a traditional sort of guy, and doesn't enjoy most of the dishes that make up the usual meal (i.e. any sort of pie, sweet potatoes, turkey). We all love ham, but he wanted to keep the crowd to just our little family for tomorrow (since we've been apart for so long), and I didn't want to have to dream up ham-inspired dishes for the next 6 months just to use it all up. Another challenge is that I have a tiny oven here that has only one rack. Everything has to be done very strategically for a large meal. Thus, the following menu:

Appetizer: Shrimp with Caribbean inspired lime spiked cocktail sauce (Cook's Illustrated Best Recipes)
Salad: Spicy mustard dressing on mixed greens with pear (Gourmet Magazine, most current issue)
Side: Potatoes (not sure how yet -- probably just boiled with salt and butter)
Bread: Slightly sweet Cardamom Bread (Taste Of Home...I'll have to find the issue)
Main: Stuffed Beef Tenderloin -- meat is wrapped around a mixture of sauteed mushrooms, onions, garlic and water chestnuts. (Also Taste Of Home)
Dessert: Zabaglione Parfaits -- a Marsala flavored custard, layered with whipped cream. Mine will have chocolate curls on top, but it can also include fresh fruit.

I've also made a double pie crust (using the best recipe I've found so far! Its has the consistency of play-dough, and yet still manages to be tender and flaky), so the following may make their appearance, although Greg won't touch them:
Pumpkin Pie
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie - chocolate is layered between crust and filling rather than being mixed in. (Gourmet Mag -- current issue)

I might be eating pie for the next two weeks, but worse things could happen. I also considered cupcakes, but really, that might be taking things just a bit too far.

Pie crust recipe (Cook's Illustrated magazine):

Foolproof Pie Dough

- makes one 9-inch double-crust pie -

The trick to this pie crust is the inclusion of vodka. Eighty-proof vodka, which is 60 percent water and 40 percent alcohol, adds moistness to the dough without aiding in gluten formation since gluten doesn't form in ethanol. Although the recipe includes 8 tablespoons of liquid, the alcohol vaporizes during baking, resulting in a tender crust that only contains 6 1/2 tablespoons of water. Because of the extra liquid, the dough will be moister than most standard pie doughs and will require up to 1/4 cup more flour.


2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water


1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

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