Lemon Icebox Pie

It’s no secret some of my family can be described as country.  Some have owned trailers;  others homes in Appalachia with dirt floors.  Many own guns.  Many love 4 wheelers and most have driven at least 60 miles for the nearest good mall.  All have grown up on or near a farm.  And in case you didn’t know, yes, my mama had me when she was just 15 years old.  So while the way of life I just described wasn’t exactly mine when I was growing up in Los Angeles, I still saw and lived it at least once a year.  Generally in the summertime when the lightning bug lit fields of Iowa provided my cousins and I with a playground until well after dark.  My point is a person cannot escape her past.  No matter how hard she tries, the highfalutin schools she attends, or the manners she acquires, some things are inescapable.  Like a hankering for icebox pies.  Even in L.A., I couldn’t hide my country roots.  I considered multitasking doing anything with my curlers in as evidenced below.  And even now in London, much to my mother-in-law’s disapproval, I use Mason jars as opposed to proper drinking glasses.  Why?  I prefer them.  Also, they remind me of running around barefoot in cut summer grass eating icebox pies in the country.  While I love icebox pies, be cautioned.  It’s a slippery slope.  Just one slice has been known to lead people to droppin’ Gs and addin’ As to thangs.  They also lead to a simple kind of happiness.  The kind that can only be found in Bobbie Gentry songs, Kodachrome prints from years past, and Great-Grandma’s icebox of course.

multitasking-curlers

baldwin sthermie

my sister trying to steal a piglet

Right.  Enough of nostalgia.  It’s time to tie your hair back with your favorite kerchief and get bakin’.  This pie won’t make itself.    P1020859

 

 

Graham Cracker Crust

Ingredients:

14 graham crackers or 1 packet of Hobnobs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons melted butter

Method:

In a food processor, pulse all the dry ingredients until they become a fine meal.  Slowly add the melted butter and pulse some more.  Pour the mixture into a 9″ tart tin and press it evenly against the bottom of the dish as well as up the sides.  I use the bottom of a measuring cup to help.  Place the tart tin on a tray and bake for 5-8 minutes at 350°F/170°C/Gas 3 or just until slightly crisp.

shell

Graham Cracker Trash Lemon Icebox Pie

Ingredients:

1 graham cracker crust  (if you don’t have graham crackers use HobNobs)

2 (14 oz.) cans of sweetened condensed milk

1 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

the zest of 4 lemons

8 large egg yolks

 

Method:

Heat the oven to 325°F/170°C/Gas 3.

Put the crust into a 9″ tart tin.  I like to use a measuring cup to help me do this.  I use the bottom of the cup to spread the crust evenly and to tamp it down as well as to help shape the sides.

Whisk the milk with lemon juice and set aside.

lemon juice and condensed milk

Whisk the zest into the yolks until the mixture goes pale.  This takes no more than a minute.

yolks and zest

Now whisk the milk mixture into egg mixture.

Pour into the tart shell and bake for 30 minutes or until the center is set like a soft custard.

pre-bake

Cool completely then freeze overnight or at least 6 hours.

freezing

Remove the pie from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.  Top with chantilly cream and enjoy.

out of the freezer

 

Chantilly Cream

Ingredients:

2 cups cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I like to use vanilla bean paste)

1/4 cup powdered sugar

whipped cream ingredients

Method:

Mix ingredients on medium high until desired consistency is achieved.  Be sure not to over-mix or you’ll end up with butter.

cream

lemon icebox pie

 

Beef and Vegetable Stew for Your Petit Chou

According to BBC Good Food, “Spring greens are the first cabbages of the year. They have fresh, loose heads without the hard heart of other cabbages.” I don’t know about you, but a soft heart is what I seek in all living things.  Especially cabbages.  Which is why I’m reveling in April’s offerings as this year’s cabbages are especially tender.  I’ve been putting them in everything–salads, sautés, slaws, and stews.  Below is the recipe for my new favorite.    

 

Ingredients:

1 pound stewing beef, cubed

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon celery leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1 small head of spring greens, sliced

8 ounces  haricot vert, cut short enough to fit on a spoon

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 quarts beef stock

1 cup rinsed red & white quinoa bulgar mix

olive oil

salt & pepper

vegetbales

Method:

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Season the beef then add it to the pot.  Do not cook the meat all the way through.  Just brown it.

Next add the onions, carrots, garlic, celery leaves, thyme, and bay leaf.  Sauté until the onions start to caramelize.

Pour in the beef stock, tomatoes, cabbage, and beans.

before simmer

Half cover and simmer for two and a half hours.  Stir often.  Add a cup of water if you think the liquid has cooked away too much.

quinoa blend

At the two and a half hour mark, stir in the quinoa and simmer for a final half hour.  After this time, salt and pepper to taste then serve.  The meat should be tender and the stew thick.

close up of stew finished

 

 

Ragù alla Bolognese

Most things are better when categorized as baby.   Something about the addition of that word insinuates the superlative.  It’s tantamount to decadence.  On your shoulders: Baby lynx.  On your plate: Baby lettuce.  Baby spinach.  Baby back ribs.  So can you guess the magic ingredient here?  Veal, of course.  For no beef is as tender or as tasty as that of the calf.  I don’t make up the rules.  Baby cows are just more delicious.  That said, if using veal bothers you then substitute it.  But I promise it won’t be as tasty.

 

Ingredients:

4 rashers of bacon/pancetta chopped

2 packs of ground veal

1 pack of ground pork

1 large onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 large carrot

1 rib of celery including the leaves

1 can of chopped tomatoes

several sprigs of thyme

dry white wine

1/2 cup of stock or 1 bouillon cube (beef is preferable but chicken will do)

olive oil

salt & pepper

 

 

Method:

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan and brown the bacon.

 

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Next add the chopped vegetables.  Sauté for a few minutes until the onions start to caramelize.

 

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Add the bouillon cube if you’ve not got stock then the ground meats and fresh thyme.  Brown the meat over medium-low heat.

 

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Then add the can of crushed tomatoes and half a can of white wine.  Or if you’ve got good stock, add a half cup of that and just a splash of wine.  Allow everything to simmer for at least two hours.  This will give the ingredients time to emulsify.   If you cook this properly, nice and slow, your end result will be rich and savory.

 

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Serve with your favorite pasta and top with Parmigiano-Reggiano, flat leaf parsley, and a few basil leaves.

 

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A Mexican Piggy Cookie By Any Other Name

would taste just as sweet.  And indeed they do.  Cochinitos.  Marranitos.  Puerquitos. Cerditos.  It doesn’t matter.  Whatever you want to call them, they are always delicious.

These pig shaped pan dulces are a cross between cookies and cake.  They are lightly spiced with Ceylon cinnamon sticks and sweetened with molasses or dark brown sugar.  In Mexico, they are traditionally sweetened with cones of piloncillo which is a form of raw sugar cane, but as that was unavailable to me, I used soft dark Muscovado.  They are baked with an egg glaze and dusted with powdered sugar and emerge from the oven as fat and soft as can be.  Excellent with coffee, or even better, a mug of champurrado.  It will make you feel like a Mexican princess.

The recipe I used belongs to Patti Jinich.  You can view it here on NPR’s website as well as listen to an interview with her about Mexican piggy cookies.  I highly recommend you check out both.

Cochinitos just baked cochinitos 016 018

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And if you need some baking music to get inspired, try this:

St. Clement’s Cake

I named this cake after the first church in the nursery rhyme as it’s bursting with oranges and lemons.  Or clementines and lemons to be exact.  It also contains blackberries because I’m desperate for summer.  I know it’s only February but I’ve met my quota on gray and gales and sideways rain.  I’m a California girl.  I long for sunshine.  And I will take it however I can.  These days that’s mostly on a plate.

As the above mentioned nursery song is a bit morbid, I’ll leave you with some Eileen Barton to bake with instead.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

the zest of a clementine as well as the zest of a lemon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup olive oil (NOT virgin or extra virgin,  Just plain old olive oil.)

the juice of the lemon

the juice of the clementine

1 1/4 cups self-raising flour

3/4 cup ground almonds

1 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1 cup blackberries (I defrosted summer brambles I froze last summer)

oranges and lemons

Method:  Preheat oven to Gas4/350°F/180°C.  Grease your cake tin with butter and lightly dust it with flour.  Line the bottom with parchment.

Now get out 3 mixing bowls.

In the first bowl, combine the sugar, zests, and vanilla.

In the second bowl, combine the olive oil and the juices.

In the third bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Now add the eggs, one at a time, to the sugar mixture and beat on high until fluffy and pale yellow.

Then switch the speed to low and slowly pour in the olive oil mixture.  The mixture will look frothy.

Finally fold in the dry ingredients.

Pour 2/3 of the batter into the cake tin.

Scatter the berries evenly on top.

Pour the rest of the batter on top of that.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until golden brown.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and allow to cool.

Serve with Greek yogurt.

cooling cake

slice

Anjou Pear Cake

Due to a grocery delivery cockup, I recently had an overabundance of pears.  And rather than die like some Medieval monarch from a surfeit of fruit, I decided to bake a cake.  The recipe I used was from BBC’s Good Food and it was perfection.  So light and eggy.  It tasted like a crêpe but almost in the form of a custard.  I served it with Greek yogurt and toasted almonds which balanced the sweetness of the pears beautifully.  I recommend it.

pear cake cross section

mit more schlag mit schlag

Roast Chicken to Stock to Soup

I have a friend who judges restaurants solely on their roast chicken.  His reason being that it’s such a simple dish yet rarely is it served to perfection.  To quote my mama, “I’ll stop him when he’s wrong.”

Roast chicken is one of my favorite things to eat.  It is comfortingly simple and I make it at least once a week.  Not just for the crispy skin and tender meat but also for the magical golden stock it yields.  Whenever I’m sick or in need of something soothing, nothing makes me feel better than some chicken and stars or a bowl of matzo ball soup.  I suppose some recipes are classics for a reason.  Here are my versions of them for you.

Roast Chicken

Ingredients:

one medium sized chicken

1 large onion

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 carrots, washed, peeled, and halved lengthwise as well as across

1 lemon

a bunch of thyme

a bunch of parsley

dry white wine

dijon mustard

olive oil/butter/bacon fat if you have it

sea salt

pepper

Method:  Before you begin, make sure your chicken is at room temperature.  This will help it cook faster and more evenly.  It will also prevent the outside from going tough and dry while the inside is still raw.  I usually take mine out of the fridge an hour and a half to two hours before I start preparations.

Preheat your oven to 400°C/200°C/Gas6

Slice the onion into thin rounds and lay these at the bottom of your roasting dish.

Now put the lemon, thyme, and parsley into the cavity of the bird.

Divide the smashed garlic and put it under the skin of the breast meat.  Do the same with a tablespoon of butter.  This helps make the skin extra crispy.

Rub a little olive oil or bacon fat all over your bird.

Season with salt and pepper.

Lay the chicken on top of the onions and put the carrots all around.

prepped chicken

Roast for about 35 minutes then remove the chicken from the oven.  Use two wooden spoons to turn your chicken breast side down.  Also push the onions and carrots to one end of the roasting dish.  Stick the chicken back in the oven.  Continue roasting for another 30 minutes.  Remove again and flip the chicken right side up.  Add a half cup of white wine and a tablespoon of dijon mustard.  Stick it in the oven for a final 15-20 minutes or when the skin is crisp and juices run clear.  Let stand covered with foil on a carving board for at least ten minutes.  No need to make gravy as you already did by adding wine and mustard to the onions and drippings while the chicken roasted.

Stock

Ingredients:

1 chicken carcass

2 onions, halved

2 carrots, roughly cut

2 celery stalks with leaves, roughly cut

4 garlic cloves, smashed

stock

Method:  Pick all remaining meat from the chicken and set aside.  It’ll be nice to use later in a soup.  Remove the lemon and herbs from the cavity.  Now put the bird into a large pot with the vegetables and cover completely with cold water.  Bring to a boil then simmer for  an hour and half.  Put a lid on the pot and let the stock cool.  Then remove the vegetables and bones from the stock using a skimmer and sieve.  Add a cup or two of water if you like and even a tablespoon of vegetable bouillon.  It’ll only make the stock that much richer.  Reduce the broth that’s left for another hour.  Cool and store or use accordingly.  I always put a small tupperware’s worth in my freezer before moving on to make soup.

Chicken and Stars Soup

This really is food for kindergarteners or what my husband would call nursery food.  But that doesn’t make it any less comforting.

Ingredients:

1 pot of chicken stock

1 cup of pasta stars (I use De Cecco’s Stellete)

2 carrots, diced

2 small onions, peeled and cut into wedges

1 celery stalk with leaves, diced

chopped chicken meat preserved when stripping the carcass

whatever leftover gravy or drippings you might have from your chicken the night before

ingredients for chicken and stars

Method:  First things first.  Make sure you have an adorable kitchen helper.  Someone who will shake all your spices and spill vanilla on the floor while you’re cooking.  Maybe even break a mug or two if you’re lucky.

sous chef helper

Now bring the stock to a simmer.  Add the vegetables and cook for 15 minutes.  Then stir in the stars.  Stir them often as they tend to stick to the bottom of the pot.  After 10 minutes, stir in the chicken and gravy.  Remove from the heat.   Put a lid on the top and allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.

chicken and stars bowl of chicken and stars

Chicken Matzo Ball Soup

Some people call this Jewish Penicillin.  I choose to believe it is.  It always cures whatever ails me.

Ingredients:

1 pot of stock

2 carrots, diced

2 small onions, peeled and cut into wedges

1 celery stalk with leaves, diced

chopped chicken meat preserved when stripping the carcass

1 cup matzo meal

4 eggs lightly beaten

4 tablespoons schmaltz or vegetable oil

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 tablespoons chicken stock or seltzer water

Below in my unfortunate scrawl is the matzo ball recipe I’ve been using for years.  It’s never done me wrong.  Though I always double it when making soup.  I’m a greedy woman.  What more can I say?

matzo balls

Method: Mix the matzo balls according to recipe above.  After they’ve chilled and before dropping them into the broth, make sure you’ve added the vegetables and let them cook for at least ten minutes.  This will flavor give the broth a richer flavor to be soaked up by the matzo balls.  Just before serving, stir in the chicken.  Serve with fresh parsley.

bowl of matzo ball soup