Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Recipe Notes: November 2016

13 November 2016

Deep-Dish Apple Pie

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated Baking Book, 2013,  p. 378

I don't make pies as often as I might because I lack confidence in my pastry skills. I just cannot roll out the dough to form a nice circle of uniform thickness! Nonetheless, I hadn't made a pie in a while and since I was not planning to spend time making something new for dinner, I thought I would make something for dessert. I haven't written about this recipe before, thus this essay.

I used the Test Kitchen recipe for "Foolproof Pie Dough" which I have used before. It substitutes vodka for some of the water so the dough is wet and easier to work but still tender. The trick with the filling is cooking the apples in advance to remove moisture. This prevents the pie having a large air space between the filling and top crust. The filling has five pounds of apples: half Golden Delicious and half Granny Smith. It has just a little sugar and a little cinnamon and a little lemon. I made a mistake in the way I added the lemon juice and ended up having more than the recipe called for.

All in all, the pie came out good. I still had trouble rolling it out. It would have helped if I had worked more quickly, I think it became a little too warm as I worked with it. Nonetheless, the final result is tender enough though perhaps not as flaky as it should be. The bottom crust was a little soggy. The filling was good. The Golden Delicious apples broke down providing a nice base for the firmer Granny Smiths. Diane thought it could have used more cinnamon, and I agree. She also thought it had too much lemon. Perhaps I should try a different recipe for the dough next time, maybe look to see what they have at Serious Eats.

20 November 2016

Cast Iron Steak and Baked Potatoes

Steak recipe from Cook's Illustrated, December 2016

Best Baked Potato recipe from Cook's Illustrated, January 2016

Steak is an easy entree to fix for dinner. Good cuts of steak, though, can be expensive, so a good cooking method is required to get the best return on your bovine investment. I have written about steak several times before in this blog but wanted to try a new method.

Cast iron holds heat very well so is good for searing steak, but it does not heat up quickly or evenly. To get around these issues,  you can heat the skillet in the oven and use a generous amount of oil when cooking the steak. Also, after the steak is seared on both sides it is flipped every two minutes until it reaches the desired internal temperature.

I purchased a one-pound strip steak, but I didn't do a good job choosing my steak. The one I got was too thin and the thickness varied. Thus it would be impossible to cook it to uniform doneness. The steak reached an internal temperature of 140° after just two minutes on each side, a little higher than desired. 

Heating the pan in the oven and using a lot of oil did help. Not only was the steak seared uniformly across its surface, but the oil minimized smoking and setting off the smoke alarm. Since the oven had to be on to heat the skillet, I baked potatoes; the potato-baking temperature of 450° was close enough to the 500° recommended for heating the skillet. The recipe called for an herb butter garnish, but I skipped that.

Despite the issues with the steak, both it, and the potatoes, came out well. The potatoes were nice and creamy inside with a crispy skin. The steak was OK, not great, but a thicker, more evenly cut steak would solve that problem. All in all, this was a good method for cooking steak, though the preheating of the pan means you have to plan ahead. The side benefit to this, of course, is great baked potatoes.

24 November 2016


Easy Roast Turkey Breast recipe from Cooks Illustrated, November 2007

All-purpose Gravy recipe from Cooks Illustrated, November 2003

I prepared our Thanksgiving dinner for two this year. On the day before Thanksgiving, Diane fixed a vegan Thanksgiving dinner for four as Caryn and Brandon were in town. With just two of us cooking a whole turkey makes no sense. Even a full turkey breast, which can weigh upwards of 7 pounds is too much, so I purchased a three-pound half breast.

The recipe to roast the turkey was, as advertised, easy. The turkey was brined for about three hours. A butter/salt/pepper mixture was rubbed on the breast under the skin. The turkey was roasted in a 325° oven for about 90 minutes with the roasting pan filled with water (the turkey was on a rack above the water). It then rested for 20 minutes before carving.

A disadvantage to cooking a small amount of turkey this way is the lack of drippings for making gravy. I found a recipe for an all-purpose gravy that is made without meat drippings. It uses onion, celery, carrots with a mixture of beef and chicken stock.  I halved the recipe which worked out pretty well for this size turkey.

Thanksgiving dinner was good. We enjoyed the turkey. The gravy was passable though it was not the same as having turkey gravy. We had leftovers for one sandwich, one dinner, and then several nights of our Almond Turkey with Peas.

27 November 2016

Broccoli and Feta Frittata

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, November 2016

Diane frequently makes us frittata for dinner. She will use whatever leftovers we have in the fridge as the filling, often using greens that came in our monthly CSA box of produce. Thus I was excited to try my hand at making one myself when this recipe was published in a recent Cook's Illustrated.

The recipe uses a dozen eggs, more than Diane usually uses, but for the first time making this recipe, why not. We had broccoli from our CSA box so it made sense to use it as the filling. (The magazine and web site also have recipes using asparagus and goat cheese, chorizo and potato, and shiitake mushrooms with pecorino Romano.) The broccoli and seasonings are cooked first, then the eggs are added with milk and the feta. This is cooked on the stovetop for about 8 minutes and then finished in the oven. This meal took less than 45 minutes to prepare, so it is pretty quick. 

The frittata came out good! The eggs had a very nice texture and the ratio of eggs to broccoli to cheese was just right. For our Sunday dinner I served us each one quarter of the frittata, which was too much. For the two meals when we had leftover frittata we had half as much with some bacon or sausage on the side. This is a recipe worth repeating, perhaps trying some of the other fillings and the "for two" version of the recipe from the web site.

28 November 2016

Molasses Spice Cookies

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated Baking Book, 2013, p. 202

With cooler temperatures, a spicy molasses cookie seems right. I went to the Cook's Illustrated Baking Book and found a recipe that looked promising and which I had never tried. 

Preparation was straightforward and standard. Butter and sugars are creamed together, then dry ingredients and molasses are incorporated. The cookies are formed into balls, rolled in sugar, and baked. The dried spices are cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and black pepper. The recipe calls for each cookie to be made with one tablespoon of dough with a yield of about 22 cookies. I used a #60 disher and got more than 40 cookies.

These cookies are really good! They are crisp on the outside, chewy in the middle, and taste great. They keep well, too, and have maintained their consistency for several days.  They are pretty small and I usually eat two at a time. I could try a #30 disher to have cookies closer in size to those specified in the recipe. The recipe also includes an optional dark rum glaze which I did not use and which is probably worth trying as well as a variation that includes "orange essence".