Monday, February 16, 2009

Labor of Love

William and I had a debate over the title to the post about our Valentine's Day meal. He suggested "Food Court," I liked "Courting food" the one I used was the most appropriate. Separately, all of these recipes are pretty easy to make. Trying to make them all at once on one day was a little bit of effort.

Hang on to your hat, this is going to be a long one.
The menu consisted of baked chicken, a gratin of potatoes and Swiss cheese, oven-roasted asparagus, homemade dinner rolls and blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream.
We had errands to run so I didn't get started on any of this until around two in the afternoon. If anybody decides to recreate this menu in its entirety, I suggest starting in the morning and making the dough for the pie crusts and the rolls and then you won't feel like a one-armed paper hanger trying to put it all together.

Blueberry Pie

Crust: makes enough for a 9-inch deep dish double-crust pie -
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Crisco all-vegetable shortening
7 to 8 tablespoons cold water

Filling :
6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries. If using fresh, lightly rinse and dry them.

1 cup plus 1 Tbs sugar

1/ cup cornstarch

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp finely grated lemon rind

1 tsp vanilla

1 large egg white lightly beaten with 1 Tbs water

HINT: keep the crust cold before rolling it out; brush the bottom of the pie with egg white before filling to prevent it from getting soggy and to get the filling to the right consistency, use about 1/4 cup of cornstarch for each six cups of berries.

Mix the flour and salt together in large mixing bowl. Scatter spoonfuls of the vegetable shortening in the the bowl and work with a pastry cutter until the shortening and flour are combined and look like pea-sized crumbles.

Divide the dough in half; form into 2 thick disks, and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for a least 1 hour.

Remove 1 disk of dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap and roll it out 1/8" thick on a lightly floured surface to fit a 9-inch pie plate.

Press it into the bottom and sides of the pie plate; trim the dough, leaving a 1" overhang.

Chill the pie shell until ready to use. Roll out the second disk of dough to make the top crust, then fold it into quarters and place on a plate; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the blueberries with 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, lemon zest and vanilla.

Remove the prepared pie shell from the refrigerator. Brush the bottom and sides with the egg-white mixture to prevent sogginess.

Spoon the blueberry mixture into the pie shell. Remove the top crust from the refrigerator and unfold it over the filling. Trim the overhang to 1".

Moisten the edges where they meet, then press them together lightly and turn under. Crimp the edge decoratively. Cut several decorative slashes in the crust (to allow steam to escape), then brush lightly all over with water; sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Bake the pie in lower third of the oven until the filling is bubbly and crust is golden brown, 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours. Cool on a rack before serving warm or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8

Since I am not the Food Network test kitchen I did not make this recipe 15 times until I had the perfect pie to whip from the oven and photograph. The pie was very good, but if I make it again I will make an aluminum collar for the outer edge of the crust to prevent it from getting too brown.

I almost fainted when I checked on my pie 10 minutes before it was supposed to come out of the oven and saw how dark the outside crust was. I got the pie out of the oven and, belatedly, put strips of aluminum foil around the edges to keep them from getting darker while the middle of the pie finished cooking. It would have been a lot easier to do this at the beginning while the pie was cool and removed the foil near the end of the baking time than it was trying to mold foil over burning hot crust.

Next up:

Classic Dinner Rolls
Yield: 1 1/2 to 2 dozen rolls.

4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 envelopes (1/2 ounce or 4 1/2 tsp) Fleischmann's Active Dry or RapidRise Yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt3/4 cup very warm milk (120 to 130 F)

1/2 cup very warm water (120 to 130 F)

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 eggs

Poppy Seed or Sesame Seed, optional

In large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, undissolved yeast, and salt.
Gradually add warm milk, warm water, and butter; beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally.

Add 1 egg and 1/2 cup flour; beat 2 minutes at high speed. With spoon, stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Grease top; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.
Remove from refrigerator. Punch dough down. Remove dough to lightly floured surface. Shape as desired. Place rolls, about 2 inches apart, on greased baking sheets (or in other pans as directed). Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 20 to 40 minutes.
Beat remaining egg; brush on rolls. If desired, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seed. Bake at 375 F for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from sheets or pans; let cool on wire racks.
PAN ROLLS: Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece into 12 equal sections and roll them into a ball. Place 12 balls in each of 2 greased 8-inch round baking pans. This dough keeps well in the refrigerator for 24 hours so you can use half the dough one day and make a fresh pan of rolls again the next day with the half you have reserved.

Gratin Dauphinois

(Scalloped Potatoes with Milk, Cheese and Garlic)

I think this is the best potato dish ever. It's easy to make, you can use any kind of cheese you like (Swiss is traditional) and it is really hard to screw up. If you can find the Gruyere, buy it and hang the expense.


7 tablespoons butter, divided

2 pounds Russet potatoes, thinly sliced

1 large peeled garlic clove

3/4 to 1 cup shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese


black pepper

1 to 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk


Preheat oven to 425F.

Slice the potatoes as thin as you can. I use a mandolin - it's quick and easy and cuts all of the potatoes to a uniform thickness.

Rub the peeled garlic clove all over an 11-by-7-inch baking dish or gratin dish then throw the garlic away. When I first read to do this in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I thought it was a mistake, but doing this instead of adding minced garlic to the potatoes adds a subtle hint of flavor without overwhelming the potatoes and the cheese.

Grease the pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Arrange half the potatoes in dish, sprinkle with half the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Dot with half of the butter.

Repeat layers. then pour the milk over the potato layers and bake for 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender, milk is absorbed and top is browned.

I used to hate asparagus. For some reason my mother always seemed to buy the great big stalks and would steam or boil them until they were mushy and, in my opinion, tasted really nasty. I don't know what possessed me to try them again - probably saw The Barefoot Contessa make them on TV - but now I think they are divine.

Choose thin, firm, bright green stalks with tight caps that are a slightly darker green.

When you get them home, cut a good bit of the ends off - they can be dry and stringy, and store them standing in water in the refrigerator until you are ready to roast them.

Oven Roasted Asparagus

1 or two bunches of fresh asparagus

2 to 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil



Lay the asparagus in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with the oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat them.

Roast in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes or until the stalks are slightly browned and tender.

My Mom's Baked Chicken

Whenever I smell this baking in the oven I expect to see my mother in the kitchen, her neck crooked to hold the black telephone receiver to her ear and both hands busy mashing a big pot of boiled potatoes. It is a simple recipe and the drippings make excellent gravy.

I used a six-pound roasting chicken but the method is the same no matter what size chicken you use.

Put the chicken in a bag with about a half a cup of flour. Shake it up until the whole chicken is powdered. Place in a roasting pan, on or off a rack, your choice, and dot with butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Bell's Poultry Seasoning (or a combination of ground sage and thyme).

Bake at 350, basting occasionally with the pan juices until the chicken is done. You can use a meat thermometer if you want, but I like my chicken well done and I take it out of the oven and wiggle one of the legs. If it feels like it is going to pull right off, it's done.


Emily said...

Epic dinner. Wow.

You must have read my mind. Ever since Friday night I have been DYING to make a blueberry pie. That's so funny.

Also-- did you grate those potatoes?

Emily said...

Oh oops, looks like I didn't read closely enough. But that sounds like a neat idea. Do you think it would work? I think it would make a more uniform mixture of potatoes and cheese if you grated both, not to mention it would probably cook a lot faster.

Jill said...

Eh. Not sure about grating them... try it an let me know how it turns out. The mandolin slices the potatoes wafer thin. Since the chicken was in the oven for a couple of hours, I just popped the potatoes in there at a lower coven temperature for a longer time. I guess if you didn't have anything else in the oven you could do that to speed it up, but another way to d that would be to microwave the potatoes for a bit before you layer them with the cheese. The only problem I could see with that is that they might not be in the oven long enough for the potatoes to really absorb all of the milk and that is a critical element of the dish.