Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spoiler Alert

In case you're wondering why I haven't posted anything on the blog recently, I was away for a while cooking on a train.  A train, you ask?  Why yes!  I used to work on one before and my friend Courtney, who now works on another train, needed someone to fill in for her while she took some time off.  I know it sounds kind of strange, who else but me takes a vacation to go work another job??  A crazy person with no money and an obsession with food, that's who!!  Anyway, I was riding the rails and cooking in a tiny train galley, visiting friends in far-off, exotic places like Seattle, Chicago and Salt Lake City.

I haven't made any pies recently, but the last two days I've been working on some canning projects.  I decided a few years ago that I wanted to give people homemade gifts for the holidays, rather than spend money on crap they may not need or enjoy.  So among the many treats I have planned, I made some corn relish, peach butter and bourbon vanilla peach jam.  Oh, and that's the spoiler for those of you on my Christmas treat list, sorry.  I have a feeling you'll get over it once you taste these delicious goodies.  I used Colorado corn for the relish, which was so sweet I was calling it "corn candy."  And of course I used Colorado peaches, which I was so delighted to score a case of imperfect peaches for $22 at the farmers market!

Even though these aren't pies, I'm taking the liberty of posting the recipes anyway because this is my blog and I'll do what I want, thank you very much!  If you've never done any home canning before I highly recommend you give it a try.  Not only is it fun and economical to make your own jams, jellies, sauces and pickles, people really love getting a homemade gift.  It seems like life has gotten so complicated and the holidays have become a stressful frenzy of over-spending.  It's nice to keep things simple and give a gift that comes from the heart.

The most important thing with canning is to follow all instructions carefully and sterilize everything - jars, lids, bands, utensils, ladles, tongs, everything!  If you've never canned at home before, I recommend you read up on the subject on the Ball home canning website.  Remember, when you're processing the jars the water must be at a FULL BOIL before you start your timer.

Corn Relish 
Adapted from a recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving
Makes approximately 13 half-pint jars (I filled 4 half-pints, 4 pints and had about a pint left over that I used for dinner that night!)
8 cups fresh corn, cut from the cob
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced
2 cups red bell peppers, diced
2 cups green chiles, diced (I used fresh Hatch chiles)
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups vinegar (I used half cider and half rice wine vinegar)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tb. dry mustard
1 Tb. mustard seed
1 Tb. ground turmeric
1 Tb. red chile flakes
1 Tb. kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and bring to a full boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Ladle hot mixture into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch head space and cover with sterilized 2-piece lids.  Process half-pints in boiling water for 20 minutes.
Fresh Colorado corn relish.  Delicious with hot dogs or any grilled meat.

Peach Butter in a Crockpot
Adapted from this recipe from Bed and Breakfast Foodies
Makes 7 half-pint jars
12 cups diced peaches, peeled and pitted
6 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Combine peaches, sugar and lemon juice in a crockpot.  Cook on high for 3 hours.  At this point I used my immersion blender to puree until smooth.  If you don't have one, puree the peaches in a blender before adding to the crockpot.  Remove the lid and change the setting to low heat.  Simmer for about 8 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very dark, syrupy and thick.  When you dip a spoon into the peach it will "sheet" off the spoon, rather than drip off in several strands.  Fill hot, sterilized jars with the hot butter and cover with sterilized 2-piece lids.  Process in boiling water for 20 minutes.
Dark, intensely sweet and peachy butter.  Delicious on toast, pancakes, waffles or your finger!

Bourbon Vanilla Peach Jam
Adapted from the recipe inside the box of Ball Fruit Pectin and this recipe from Beantown Baker
Makes 6 half-pint jars
4 cups finely diced peaches, peeled and pitted
5 cups sugar
1 box Ball Fruit Pectin (1.75 oz)
2 Tb. lemon juice
1 fresh vanilla bean
1/4 cup bourbon

Split the vanilla bean open and scrape out the seeds.  Combine with the peaches and lemon juice in a large pot and slowly stir in the pectin.  Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down.  Add all of the sugar and stir to dissolve.  Bring to a full rolling boil again and boil for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and skim any foam if necessary.  Remove the vanilla bean and stir in the bourbon.  Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars and cover with sterilized 2-piece lids.  Process in boiling water for 15 minutes.
Peaches flecked with fresh vanilla and spiked with bourbon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Easy as (Chicken) Pie

It was a very long, very hot summer in Denver.  But, in typical Denver fashion, the weather went from one extreme to another and one day it was 95 degrees and the next it was 60.  So I thought it was only appropriate to make a cold weather dish to get me in the mood for my favorite time of year and decided to go with chicken pot pie.

I love comfort food.  The more rich and sinful a dish is, the more comfort there is to be had!  So when making a pot pie, I don't just go for chicken and gravy in a crust.  I used smoked chicken, heavy cream in the sauce and both pie crust AND puff pastry.  You heard me, cream, pie crust, AND puff pastry.  Cuz that's just how I roll.  When it comes to food, I don't mess around.  If you're going to enjoy comfort food, you might as well do it right.  Chicken pot pie really is quite easy to put together.  I used a pre-made pie crust, a smoked chicken from my work (or substitute a rotisserie chicken), frozen puff pastry and frozen veggies.  Doesn't get easier than that.

As pretty much anyone who cooks professionally will tell you, I don't know how to cook for two people.  I cook for a minimum of ten people at all times.  It's just one of those things that comes with the job -- you get used to cooking large quantities at work and that spills over to home.   Even though there are just two of us in my home and one of us doesn't like leftovers (not me, I can eat the same thing all week) I still somehow manage to cook for ten people every time.  Naturally when I set forth to make one pie, I ended  up with enough to make two pies.  But just put one in the freezer for later, or give one to a friend.

Chicken Pot Pie
Makes 2 pies

Two 9" pie crusts
1 box frozen puff pastry
1 rotisserie chicken (I used a smoked chicken from our in-store smokehouse!)
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup flour
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 lb. frozen mixed veggies
few dashes hot sauce
few dashes soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten, for sealing and brushing the puff pastry

Place a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.  Line each pie crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with dry beans or pie weights.  Place the crusts on the hot pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, take out the paper and the beans and let cool while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Pull the chicken from the carcass, removing the skin and bones.  Break up into chunks you can get into your mouth.  Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pot over medium high heat and add the onions.  Saute for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic.  Saute a few minutes more.  Add the flour and mix well.  Whisk in the chicken stock and then the cream, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Add all the herbs and seasonings and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add the chicken and frozen veggies and remove from the heat.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

Roll out your puff pastry sheets and use the pie crusts to trace circles large enough to completely cover the tops of the pies.  Cut several 1/2 inch slits in each of the top crusts and brush them with the beaten egg.  Divide the filling between the two pie crusts.  Brush the edge of the pie crusts with the egg and then place the puff pastry circles over the pies, pressing them firmly to adhere to the edges and form a tight seal.  If you like, sprinkle a little garlic seasoning on the top crusts to give them a nice flavor.  Place the pies back onto the hot pan in the oven and bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 40 to 50 minutes.

The filling ready to go.
Golden brown and delicious!  My steam vents sealed themselves back up so be sure to cut yours big!
Comfort food goodness!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Good and Evil!

Last summer I discovered a fantastic food blog called Evil Shenanigans.  I knew I struck gold because the first recipe I saw was for Peach Cream Pie!!  I don't ever remember seeing or eating peach cream pie before and when I saw the beautiful picture of peaches, custard and whipped cream I thought, "where have you been my whole life?!"  So I immediately made the pie and fell in love.  I think the tag line of the blog says it all, "Sometimes its good to be bad."

I made this pie again a few days ago with some of the last precious peaches I bought.  My partner took it to work for a coworker who is leaving the company and she happily reported that there were swoons a-plenty in response!  If you feel like becoming a hero to your friends and loved ones, or are possibly in the market for marriage proposals and/or sexual advances, make this pie and share the love.  You can find the recipe here.

Hello gorgeous!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Peaches 'n Cream

I lucked out and bought a 10 pound box of Colorado peaches (the last one!) from my upstairs neighbor, who sells them for the local Rotary Club.  So thankfully I can get my fix of peaches and peach-based baking for just a little longer before they disappear for another year.

Not to be confused with the sour cream blueberry pie I blogged about earlier this year, this is a baked pie that uses peaches mixed with sour cream and eggs, topped with a sugary, crisp topping.  To say that it is delicious is an understatement.  Super sweet, juicy peaches, surrounded by tangy sour cream and finished with crunchy goodness, mmmmmm good!!  I tried a slice when the pie was still slightly warm, but it was also fantastic the next day fresh out of the refrigerator.  I used a little almond and orange extracts because I was out of vanilla, but feel free to substitute vanilla if you like.

If you're faced with seasonal depression due to the impending lack of fresh peaches, get your last fix with this pie.  Trust me.

Sour Cream Peach Pie
1 9" pie crust, unbaked
2 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
3 Tb. flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
pinch cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted

Place a sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees.
To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Stir in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and well combined.  Put in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the pie.
Combine the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk well.  Whisk in the eggs and sour cream, mixing well to remove any lumps.  Fold in the peaches.  Pour the mixture into the pie shell and place on the heated pan in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and sprinkle the crumble topping over the pie.  Cook until the pie is set, but jiggles slightly, about another 30 to 45 minutes.