Tag Archives: Project Food Blog

Sunday Suppers: A Sincere Thank You and a Big Bowl of Chicken Pot Pie

10 Oct

homemade chicken pot pieSo, most of you know that I participated in Project Food Blog this year.  I made it to Round Three, at which point the bus stopped and let me off on the side of the road.  I had to walk home, and I just made it back this morning.  I’m exhausted.  I am consoling myself with the thought that, if I had stayed on through a few more rounds, my walk home would be that much longer.

I just want to give all of you who left kind comments and gave me advice about taking pictures and voted and supported me a great big Thank You!  I have met many, many wonderful folks through this challenge, some of whom were let off the bus with me, and others who waved at us through the back window as the bus pulled away.  One of them even slapped a hastily scrawled sign up that read, “Wish You Were Still Here.”  I wish all of you who are still on the ride the best of luck; it has been a real honor to count myself among all the talented competitors.

Having just returned home, slightly dusty from the road, I decided that I would make myself a wonderful, homey, unpretentious, warming and comforting chicken pot pie.  Yes, it really does require that many adjectives.  I also want to share it with everyone involved with Project Food Blog, especially those who worked feverishly to deliver some really excellent photo-tutorials for Challenge #4. I think all of them need a nice big bowl of comfort right now, too.

Oh, and as another huge Thank You to all my Twitter buddies who shared the way they make Cool Collages, I have made several to insert into this post.  Yay!

pie dough for chicken pot pieUse your favorite all-butter pie dough recipe (or you could also use lard), but add freshly ground black pepper, a little extra salt and some poultry seasoning to the dry ingredients.  Add in your cold, cubed butter, and then toss and pinch/rub the fat into the flour until it’s the texture of coarse corn meal.  Don’t worry–the dough Nazis will not show up to check.  Just make sure the dough is fairly mealy.

Add a little ice water and toss to combine.  Do the squeeze test.  If the still-dry-looking dough holds together when you squeeze, you’re done.  If not, add a bit more ice water and test again.  Most likely, it will still look dry even when it does hold together.  But just stop.  Don’t add more water, or you’ll just develop more gluten and end up with a sticky Hard To Roll Nightmare of a dough. Err on the side of caution, and drink the leftover ice water, since.  I know I will, what with all the Road Dust in my throat.rolling out pastry for chicken pot pie

Once your dough passes the Squeeze Test, sort of smoosh it all down into an Evenish Layer in the bottom of your bowl.  Then, cleave it in twain.  You can use a sword, if you have one; I used my bench knife.  That’s right, just Back Off.

Get out two sheets of parchment paper, and shape each half of your pastry into aPuckish Shape that mirrors your baking dish.  Mine dish was rectangular, so my puck was Square-ish.  If you prefer a Circular Vessel, make your puck round.  Roll out between the parchment to a thickness of about 1/8″.  For those of you who are Metric folks, that’s prolly about 3-ishmm.  Check that your dough is large enough to cover your Vessel by turning said vessel upside down on top of the dough and Making Sure.  Once you’re Sure, throw the dough in the freezer while you make the Pie Guts.

dice onions, carrots, celery and shallotThe Guts
2 parts diced onion
1 part diced carrot
1 part diced celery
.5 part minced shallot
4 Tablespoons (ish) butter and/or olive oil
4 Tablespoons (ish) flour
salt, pepper and poultry seasoning, to taste

homemade chicken stock (or low-sodium store-bought)
diced potatoes (I like starchy ones–helps to thicken the sauce)
lots of diced or shredded cooked chicken (I prefer thighs)
mixed vegetables (I go for the comforting Veg-All for this–we’re talking comfort, not haute cuisine)
heavy cream or half and half to finish

Dice your mirepoix; mince the shallot and sweat in butter/oil in a big old pot over medium heat until limp, translucent and just starting to color.  Add the flour and stir around for a couple of minutes.  Keep it moving so it doesn’t stick or burn.building the sauce for chicken pot pieOnce your Poix has Mired, add in a bit of stock and bring to a boil.  Add more stock (enough so you’ll have plenty to fill your cooking vessel).  Once you have all the stock in, check to see if you like your Sauce Viscosity.  If it’s too thin, you can dribble in some cornstarch/flour and water slurry.  Just make sure it comes to a boil to cook off the raw starch taste.  Once you love your sauce, toss in your vegetables–whatever kinds you like).  I tossed in my Veg-All and wee potato dices.  If Camille wants to help, be very firm and Do Not Let Her.CamilleShe can be pretty persistent, but stand firm.
dicing potatoes for chicken pot pieStir in the cooked chicken, and season your Guts with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning until you Love It.  Finish with a healthy splash of cream or half and half for More Dairy Comfort.

In a perfect world, you will cool your Guts to room temperature and then put the pastry lid on.  In my world, I just go with it, fully expecting some of the butter in the crust to melt but just Not caring.  Because I am in need of Comfort.  I did tell you about the bus ride, right?baking chicken pot pieAnyway, just peel off the parchment paper and place your dough on top of your Vessel.  Trim to fit, and then bake at 375F until deeply golden brown and bubbling and yummy.  During this time, take a nice hot shower or bath and put on your favorite jammies.  Have your Beloved make you some tea.

Plate (well, Bowl), and enjoy.

This one is for all you PFB2010 Challenge #4 Folks. Relax and enjoy. Best of luck to all of you!

 

 

 

A Cornucopia of Comfort Food

3 Oct

dinner party menu items

Dinner party menu items

Voting is now open for Challenge #3.  If you’d like to attend my party, please RSVP here.

Thank you, sincerely, to everyone who voted for my Challenge #2 post in Project Food Blog!  I so appreciate the support, and I now invite you to come to a dinner party held in your honor–it’s all about comfort-with-a-twist.  Voting for Challenge #3 in Project Food Blog–Luxury Dinner Party–begins Monday, October 4.  I’ll have a link here as well as over on my Project Food Blog page.  Enjoy!

When you ask a great chef what he or she would like to eat at his/her last meal, you might expect some pretty rarefied responses.  Maybe one of those dishes that you find at very pretentious restaurants whose title takes up five lines of the menu?  Perhaps they’d go for the daring:  live octopus? Fugu?  Mayhap the disturbing:  balutCasu Marzu?  Heck, they’re dying anyway, right?

homemade caramel corn

Here it is!

Many of the actual responses might surprise you:  A perfectly roasted chicken.  A hamburger topped with a fried egg.  A hot dog.  A slice of lemon tart.  In the end, we all crave comfort.

Baked rigatoni

Hello, lovely baked rigatoni.

So, for this dinner party, I knew I wanted to go the comfort route.  Not because this was going to be anybody’s last meal, but because I love the people for whom I was cooking, and I wanted them to be familiar with all the dishes while adding just a bit of a twist to many of them.  I also knew that three of my guests would be under thirteen, and one hasn’t yet reached the “Must Be This Tall to Ride” mark at the fair.  I wanted my young guests to try everything, and I knew they’d be more  likely to try foods with names they’d at least heard.

Bread Pretzels

Thank God for pretzels.

My theme–comfort–was nailed down, but which comfort foods?  Being less-than-uptight when it comes to parties, I decided to throw a few darts into the Hinternet and see what I’d hit.  I hit the mother lode, Reasons-for-Celebrating Central:  an encyclopedic listing of every food observance known to man, from Soup Day to Nuts Week.

Caramel Apples

Gorgeous.

Of course, I checked out October-as-a-whole, the first week in October and the day of the party, October 1.  There was an exhaustive listing, and these were the ones I chose for the menu:

Month-long Observances

  • National Apple Month
  • National Caramel Month
  • National Chili Month
  • National Cookie Month
  • National Dessert Month
  • National Pasta Month
  • National Pickled Peppers Month
  • National Popcorn Poppin’ Month
  • National Pork Month
  • National Pretzel Month
  • Vegetarian Awareness Month

Week-long Observances

  • National Chili Week

October 1st Observances

  • World Vegetarian Day
  • Pudding Season Begins
  • Homemade Cookies
    Day

    Glazed citrus shortbread cookies

    Howdy, citrus shortbread

Here’s the final menu:Dinner Party Menu

And since nothing goes better with dinner than a movie, we also celebrated Richard Harris’s October-1st birthday by watching him portray Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But not inside.  Oh, no, we watched it on Thomas and Roberta’s big old outdoor movie screen!  Plus, we ate over at their place, too; we just carted all the dishes over when I was finished with my marathon cooking session.

Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore

We miss you, Richard Harris.

And there you have it.  A dinner party perfect for adults and kids alike, one without fancy-schmancy table settings or a high price tag.  One that was all about comfort: for ourselves and especially for our guests.


You, too, can throw the same type of party.  Know your guests and their food comfort levels.  Cook for everyone’s tastes.  Get creative with your celebration–after all, just because it’s none of your guests’ birthdays doesn’t mean you can’t throw a birthday party.   Every day is somebody’s birthday.

PS Dinner Party Recipes/Methods

  • caramel corn
  • bread pretzels
  • I didn’t use a recipe for the pasta–I just made a Béchamel sauce and folded al dente pasta, browned Italian sausage and wee cubes of fontina cheese into it.  Bake and done.
  • For the chili, I threw all of my vegetables, including some dried black beans, into a pot with water seasoned with chili-type spices, salt and pepper.  I simmered it all together until the beans were cooked through.  Added a little cocoa powder for a bass note and some corn flour for thickening.  Very easy, very tasty.
  • Trifle–layer together cubed pound cake liberally doused with sherry and raspberry jam.  Pour over homemade vanilla pudding (I made 3 cups worth), making sure it oogies all down in between the cubes of pound cake.  Let that set up in the fridge, and then dollop on as much whipped cream as you want.
  • Dip the apples in boiling water for a few seconds, then shock in ice water.  Rub off the wax with a paper towel.  Make actual caramel for your caramel apples.  I doubled the recipe, doubled the salt and  flavored mine with maple and vanilla extracts.  Then, I either rolled my enrobed apples in mini chocolate chips or sprinkled them with coarse sea salt.

PPS  One of Albus Dumbledore’s favorite foods is raspberry jam.  Hence the raspberry jam in the trifle.

PPPS If you would love to attend a Dinner-and-a-Movie-Comfort-Food-Fest, please consider sending me your RSVP by voting for my entry.  Voting opens Monday, October 4.  Thank you!

How Many Cooking Verbs Can I Perform for You In the Pursuit of Lamb Biryani?**

26 Sep
lamb biryani made with brown rice

Hello, lamb biryani. You exhaust me, and yet I love you so...

***Voting Is Open*** Please click here to vote for my entry, and go to the Contestants’ Page to explore and vote for other amazing entries!

This is my post for Challenge #2 in Project Food Blog.  Thanks to all of you who voted to help me advance; I truly appreciate it! Voting opens Monday, September 27. I’ll post a voting link tomorrow in the hope that you’ll vote for me.

I tasted my first Indian food in 1990, and I fell in love.  It’s surprising to me how readily I embraced the cuisine, especially since I was raised on a diet of straight-up Amurkin food spiced up only occasionally with an Amurkinized spaghetti and meatballs or a mild chili.  So, when some friends invited me to try a new Indian place, they might as well have said, “Hey, let’s have Martian tonight.”  I went along anyway, hoping that I would survive the experience.  First up, crispy/crackly papadam served with a mint-cilantro chutney and some beautiful hot pickled onion.  I swooned.  Plump lamb samosas with tamarind sauce? I might have moaned with pleasure, just a little.  For dinner, my friends suggested the chicken tikka masala, and I simply wanted to bathe in it.  It was Quite the Evening.  Give me a moment, won’t you?

I went to the All Around the World Market and was met by a dizzying array of spice-y goodness.

I shopped.

All Around the World Market

I found saffron stored in a wee locked cabinet.

Now I know that CTM isn’t even really a traditional Indian dish.  That it was thrown together to satisfy the English need for Gravy during India’s long stint as a British Colony.   It doesn’t make it any less wonderful, though.

lamb biryani ingredients

I arranged.

But I’m not here to talk about chicken tikka masala.  I’m here to talk about the Indian dish that has its own space on menus in Indian restaurants:  Biryani.  The name intrigues me, and I find that it’s derived from a Persian word meaning (depending on who you ask) fried-before-cooking or Yummy.

It’s touted as the meal of celebration and the dish of the Rich and Special.  And while it’s definitely the former, it has its roots in a humble rice and goat meal that was cooked underground, like the original baked beans in the US.  Except way older.

Swad brand Brown Basmati Rice

I marveled.

Because I try to follow rules All the Time, I delved into the history of biryani, and I came out with a head ache.  Seriously.  While everyone agrees that there is a Layering Process, some folks say to fry the rice before cooking; other folks say no.  Many people on the Hinternets exhorted me to Always use rice as the bottom layer.  An Indian chef told me–via video–to slap some raw marinated chicken in the bottom of the pan.

Fine.  I popped an Excedrin and read on. There are two main types of biryani:  raw and cooked.  Don’t worry, though.  I’m not going to make you eat biryani tartar.  What these labels designate is how the meat is handled before being layered.  Some use raw meat.  Some use cooked meat.  The whole trick of biryani, no matter whose recipe you follow, is to make sure that the rice is cooked just so–with all the grains separate.

There should be no clumping in biryani.

It seems to be a cardinal rule.  To follow this rule, you have to undercook the rice by a certain degree and either a) have enough liquid in your raw marinated meat layer to finish cooking the rice perfectly while making sure your meat cooks all the way through or b) add a judicious amount of other liquid to ensure Rice Perfection at the end of the cooking process. “Is there a third option?”  I asked the Hinternets, and the answer was a resounding no.  Awesome.

I shifted gears for a minute and read up on rose water and kewra water.  Some biryanis Contain these Items, and I wanted to use them in my version.  Rose water is a by product of distilling rose oil for perfumes.  It smells like you just fell face first into your grandmother’s bed of Damask Roses.  Kewra water is made from the kewra, or screw pine, flower.  It is also very fragrant, but has more of an herbal edge.  Americans tend to use ingredients for their flavor.  Indians like to use ingredients both for flavor and for aroma.  And since the two are closely linked, it makes sense.  The rose water and kewra water are both there to add flowery notes to the earthy, smoky, green perfume of the biryani.

When I actually started looking at recipes, and there was so much variation among them that I chose to take the Interesting Parts of several of them and combine them into one Frankenbiryani.  Because I love you.  And because, at its heart, biryani is all about technique. And you guys know how much I love a good technique.  Teach me a recipe and I eat for a day; teach me a technique, and I eat for the rest of my life. I’m pretty sure that’s a real saying.

So, without further Ado, I present unto you my Franken Lamb Biryani.

My Lamb Biryani, Representative of Tons of Biryani Techniques*

For the Lamb

  • 2 pounds lamb, cut into small pieces.  I used chops and saved the bones for lamb stock.
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • about 1 1/2 cups plain, full fat yogurt
  • 2″ piece of cinnamon stick
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 4 green cardamom pods, or about 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom seed
  • 2 Tablespoons fennel seed
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seed
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon Balti spice blend
  • 1 Tablespoon onion oil
  • 2 Tablespoons ghee (store bought or homemade)

    I melted my butter, brought it to a boil and strained it once the milk solids had fallen to the bottom of the pan and had started to turn golden brown and delicious.

    I clarified.

Toast all the whole spices in a dry cast iron skillet until fragrant, about 4 minutes over medium heat.

toasting coriander. black cardamom, fennel, cumin and cinnamon stick

I toasted.

Let the spices cool, and then grind them in a spice grinder or dedicated coffee grinder.

After toasting, I ground the spices

I ground.

Salt and pepper the meat and put it in a large zip top bag.

Mix the ground spices with the turmeric, Balti and yogurt and pour into the bag with the lamb.  Press out all the air and smoosh the bag around until the meat is evenly coated.  Let marinate for 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the fridge.

Heat your skillet over medium heat,  Add oil and ghee, and chuck the lamb and marinade in.

After marinating, I cooked the meat, pouring off the excess marinade and meat juices and reserving for later.

I sauteed.

Cook until the lamb has released a lot of its juices and the marinade has thinned out quite a bit.  Carefully pour off the marinade, reserving for later.

Continue to cook the meat until it is cooked all the way through.  If any marinade is leftover in the pan, pour that off and reserve.

For the Onions

  • 2 medium onions, cut in half down the equator and then sliced thin, longitudinally
  • salt, to taste
  • enough neutral vegetable oil to cover the bottom of your cast iron skillet by about 1/4″

Season the onions with salt.

Heat the pan over medium heat.  Add the oil and heat until it shimmers.

Fry the onions over medium heat until starting to turn golden.

fried onions

I fried.

Turn up to medium-high and continue to fry until deeply caramelized.

Remove the onions to some paper towels to drain.  If you have any onions that got a little too dark, pick them out.  The darkest they should be is a deep mahogany.

Reserve the onion oil.

For the Rice

  • 3 cups brown basmati rice
  • water to cover by 2″
  • a pinch of saffron threads
  • water to cover the rice by 3″
  • salt, to taste
  • about 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 Tablespoons ghee
  • 2 Tablespoons onion oil
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods, or 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1″ piece of cinnamon stick

Steep the saffron in a couple of tablespoons of very hot water for ten minutes.

I soaked the brown basmati rice in weak saffron water for 45 minutes.

I soaked.

Put the rice in a large pot.  Pour over the saffron water and enough cool water to cover the rice by 2 inches.  Let soak for 45 minutes.

Drain and rinse the rice and put back in the pan.

After soaking, I boiled the rice with saffron, ghee, reserved onion oil and salt for fifteen minutes.

I boiled.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a full rolling boil for about fifteen minutes.

The rice should be soft on the outside but crunchy on the inside.  You should be able to see a thin halo of translucent cooked rice around an opaque core of uncooked rice.  Drain thoroughly.

For the Aroma Waters (my favorite part)

Sweet Aroma Water

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • about 10 saffron threads
  • 3 green cardamom pods or about 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • a splash each of rose water and kewra water (both are optional but add a lovely aromatic quality to the dish)

Warm milk to just steaming.  Toss in the saffron threads and cardamom.

steeping saffron and cardamom in heated milk before adding rose water and kewra water.

I steeped some more.

Let steep until room temperature.

When cool, add a splash each of rose water and kewra water.

Savory Aroma Water

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2″ piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed

Put all ingredients in a small sauce pan.

steeping savory aroma water

I steeped

Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 20 minutes.  Strain and cool to room temperature.

Additional Garnish

  • 1 bunch of fresh mint
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro

Putting It Together.  Finally.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Brush a thin layer of ghee on the bottom and up the sides of your Baking Vessel.

There's the parcooked rice, neatly layered into the bottom of the pan with a bit of each of the aroma waters.

I layered...

Put 1/3 of the par-cooked rice in Said Vessel, spreading it evenly.

Sprinkle on about 2 Tablespoons each of the aroma waters.

Next came the lamb and some of the reserved marinade.

...and layered...

Add 1/2 the lamb and drizzle over a couple of tablespoons of the reserved cooked marinade.

Then on went some fried onions and a handful each of chopped mint and cilantro.

...and layered.

Add a handful of fried onions and a heavy sprinkle of chopped mint and cilantro.

Repeat the rice-waters-meat-marinade-onion-herb layers once again, and finish up with the last 1/3 of the rice.

Sprinkle on a little more of the aroma waters, a bit of onion and chopped herbs.

I mixed about 1/2 cup of flour with a little water until I got a sticky dough.  Then, I pressed it all around the seam where the lid met the pot.

I entombed.

Seal the lid on the cooking vessel with the flour-water dough.

Bake at 400F for ten minutes, then reduce heat to 275F and bake an additional twenty minutes.

Remove Vessel from oven.  Curse the day you decided to seal the pan with dough and chip it off with a dinner knife.  Just concentrate on the seam between lid and pan.  You can soak the rest off later.  Curse again.

I used a knife to gently mix everything together so I wouldn't smoosh the rice.

I mixed.

Let the fragrant steam hit you in the face, realizing that you couldn’t smell it before because of the dough seal.  I mean, I forgot all about the cursing when the nutty-floral-earthy-smoky-meaty-herbal aroma reached my nose.  Amazing.  Simply amazing.

Gently fluff up the rice and mix the layers together with something that won’t smash your rice.  I used a knife.

Serve with another sprinkle of chopped herbs, some raita and maybe some lovely crusty naan.

I plated, garnished with a bit of chopped herbs, mixed up a quick raita and took this lovely photo.  All while talking to my friend on the phone.

I plated.

Oh yeah, I forgot.  I also Ate.  And the flavor?  Very complex yet very subtle.  No hot spiciness, just a wonderful melange of flavors, textures and aromas.  Perfection.  How about those rice grains?  Any clumps?  Nope!  Might’ve been beginners’ luck, but I’ll take it.

Bonus–A Quick Raita

  • 1 cup plain, full fat yogurt
  • a large handful of seeded and finely diced cucumber
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a handful of chopped mint and cilantro
Just whisk all the ingredients together.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  That's it.

I whisked.

Whisk together.  Let sit in the fridge for half an hour to let the flavors blend.

*Biryani Techniques/Ingredients borrowed from India Curry, Show Me the Curry, iFood, and VahRehVah

**I lost count.  At least 20.  You’re welcome.

Why I Do What I Do

19 Sep
cranberry ketchup

Hello, thick-luscious-tangy-umami-wonderful cranberry ketchup that-I-made-up-all-by-myself. This would never have happened before I had my food revelation.

*Voting is now open through Thursday, September 23.  To vote pour moi, click here.  Just scroll on down to the “P’s” until you get to Pastry Methods and Techniques.  Then, click the cute little gray heart to turn it red for me!

Oh, but you should have seen me when I first decided I wanted to cook and bake.  I was a trembling little thing, sweating with apprehension as I approached a recipe.  Here’s how it went:

  1. I would decide that I needed to cook a Dish of Some Sort
  2. I would pour through my cookbooks, trying to find the Perfect Recipe.
  3. I’d painstakingly copy said recipe onto a wee sheet of paper.
  4. Paper clutched in sweating hand, I’d head out to the grocery store.
  5. I’d wander up and down every aisle, searching for the Mandated Ingredients, checking them off (!) as I found them and placing them reverently in my cart.
  6. Having bought Said Items, I’d go home and follow my recipe blindly.
  7. Usually, and through no fault of my own, my Dish was generally edible, and even quite tasty.
  8. I’d breathe a sigh of relief and accept the Kudos of the Masses.

I went along for quite awhile thinking that my Seven Step Process was just the way it was.  That’s how to cook.  Right?

Wrong.  I was so wrong.

I didn’t realize this at first, of course.  It took years of obsessively buying and reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows on PBS, experimenting on my own, and finally going to culinary school for baking and pastry before I gradually came to the conclusion that nobody really wants us to learn to cook.  Sure, they want us to follow their recipes and then give them full credit when serving to a crowd–“These are She-She-Frou-Fee’s Brownies!” “Why,yes, isn’t it wonderful? It’s Monsieur Hoo Ha’s rack of yak.”

Here’s what I have come to understand over the years, and here’s what I want to share with you, dear readers.  And not just share it, I really want you to internalize it:  Recipes are Tyrannical.  I’ve written about it at great length on many occasions, but it’s impossible to say this too frequently:  a recipe isn’t the Word of God Writ Upon a Stone Tablet.  It’s just a list of ingredients married to a list of techniques.  The most important part is the techniques.  Where recipes fall down, and where I pick up, is in explaining that most of the techniques described are applicable to a wide range of dishes.  Yup, recipes tell us what to cook and how to cook the particular dish described in the recipe, but I walk you through the techniques, explain them in detail (some might say excruciating detail), and help you internalize the idea that once you’ve learned the techniques, you can apply them to many lists of ingredients.

Nutella cheesecake

Learn the Rules of Cheesecake, and this can be yours whenever you want it!

‘Member back up in the list at the top where I said I’d blindly follow my recipe?  Well, recipes tend to keep us in the dark and effectively blind by allowing us to assume that Recipe is Law and must be followed.  Blindly.  New cooks, especially, fall into this trap, and the myth is perpetuated by the majority of food magazines and cooking shows through omission.  It’s not that they are all telling you, “this is the only way to make Dish X.” It’s that they’re not telling you that it isn’t the only way to make Dish X.  So, we cook or bake with our lights out, relying on the road map of the recipe to lead us to our destination without really seeing where we’re going.  But, if I can show you that it’s the technique part of the recipe that’s the most important part, your lights will come on and you’ll be able to see your way to your destination before you even start cooking.  Glory, Hallelujah.

If the recipe rules start off “cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy,” I want you to know that the recipe is describing the creaming method.  I also want you to know how to perform the creaming method from start to finish without having to keep referring to your cookbook.  Furthermore, I’d like you to know that you can probably use the Two-Stage Method instead, if you’re feeling scrappy. I want you to be able to read through the technique portion of a complicated recipe for Gateau St. Honore and know that you’ll be rolling and folding in butter to make puff pastry, bringing some ingredients to a boil and then adding flour and beating in eggs to make pate a choux and making a starch-thickened custard (pastry cream) for the filling.  The rest is just assembly, a craft project.

I am absolutely passionate about this.  I share my knowledge freely, from how and why to do the Sneaky Egg Test to The Right Way to Whip Cream.  I try to answer all questions, even down to taking a look at the way folks find me in my Great Search Term Round Up posts.  Sometimes, I give out certificates, and sometimes I make videos.  I also try to knock the snobbery right out of cooking in as many ways as I can.

Can a Suc Puzzle Sugar

Want the low-down on what you need--and don't need--to be a better baker? I'm here to help.

Baking and cooking should be fun.  Unfortunately, most folks get stuck in “fearful,” leaving them unable to advance to “fun.”  If I can make you laugh while you’re learning, that might just be the spoonful of sugar you need.

My wee blog might won’t win any awards–yet–for Most Visited, but it is the Next Big Thing.  I’m not your typical food blogger.  I don’t take the most mouth-watering photographs.  I don’t even always rely on my own photos.  My goal isn’t necessarily to make you drool (although I give myself a Gold Star if I do), but to give you the confidence to go and make your own family and/or guests drool.  I don’t believe in secret recipes.  I believe in cooking and baking with real ingredients, and I enjoy Ridiculing fake food I hate Cool Whip with the burning passion of a thousand suns.  I believe in laughter.  I believe in knowledge. I believe in this blog.

If you believe in this blog, please vote for Pastry Methods and Techniques in Project Food Blog.  Take a look at my Contestant Profile.  You can also follow me on twitter, friend me on facebook and/or subscribe to my RSS feed to make sure you know when my challenge posts are up.  Here are the challenges and the dates for voting:

  • Challenge #1:  Ready, Set, Blog!September 20-23
  • Challenge #2:  The Classics September 27-3
  • Challenge #3:  Discovery Dinner Party October 4-7
  • Challenge #4:  Picture Perfect October 11-14
  • Challenge #5:  Recipe Remix October 18-21
  • Challenge #6:  Road Trip!October 25-28
  • Challenge #7:  Video 411 November 8-11
  • Challenge #8:  Piece of Cake November 15-18
  • Challenge #9:  You’re the Critic November 28-December 2
  • Challenge #10:  The Final Post December 6-9

Thank you, friends.

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