Sunday, February 8, 2015

More Pie, Please!

Last week Anya suggested we revive Family of the Dobosh to share recipes, pictures, and triumphs (or colossal mistakes). I approve. So here we go! I hereby revive this blog with a post about pie.

In fact, last night I made the exact same cherry pie recipe I posted about 7 years ago on this blog, but with one major difference: I forgot to add sugar to the filling. I also used the butter/lard recipe with apple cider vinegar from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily and Melissa Elsen that is quickly becoming my pie baking go-to. Well, it was a success, sugar free and all! I also continued to experiment with funky top crust designs. (P.S. The only difference between the Elsen cookbook pie crust recipe and the Epicurious recipe is the addition of apple cider vinegar to the water you use to bind the dough. It really does help to stabilize the dough!)

Here are some photos of Sugar-Free (!) Twisted Cherry Pie.

The week before, I made the Cranberry Sage Pie and experimented with a crazy lattice. The filling was phenomenal. I used a bit less sage than they called for, but found that the herb and spices really helped accentuate the cranberry flavor. I brought the pie into work and it was a hit (if I my say so myself).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

An Ode to Meat (in which I tackle pork ribs)

This week I tackled ribs. I have been meaning to tackle ribs for a long time. I suppose they're really no different than any other stewable meat, but they have the allure of the exotic to me. As many of you may know, I grew up vegetarian, so all of my meat cooking knowledge, from pork tenderloin to top steak, has come from my own trial and error, supported by much reading of cookbooks, cooking magazines, and ravenous consumption of cooking shows.

I love meat. I love meat for its variety, for its ability to slip into an endless profile of flavors while retaining its essence, for its sheer richness of flavor and sensuality of texture, and because to me, meat will always carry a bit of the exotic and illicit. As a child I snuck bits of steak off my cousin's plate at family gatherings when my father wasn't looking. It was a guilty pleasure. And when I rebelled as a teenager, I drank beer, smoked Marlboro reds, and had a pepperoni pizza for the first time. When my parents split up my mother started to cook meat again, and so I learned some things from her on visits home from college. I had also spent many a Thanksgiving scrutinizing my uncle's turkey skills--the results of which I could never (until recently) licitly enjoy.

Now, when I cook meat it always has the feel of adventure and newness. Chicken feels like everyday food, fish is its own different king of exotic, but meat, meat is large, it is mammal, it is undisguisable, it has a large carbon footprint, it is everything the vegetarian despises. But most of all, it is Delicious.

On Monday I picked up a package of country style pork ribs from the butcher on my way to cook a more prosaic meal of chicken thighs. The large gleaming pink and purple hunks of flesh called to me from across the refrigerator, promising succulence, tenderness, and decadence that no chicken thigh can deliver. And so I bit. For three days the package sat in my fridge taunting me. I'm no grill girl: grilling is the one meat cooking genre I have yet to embrace (out of sheer feminine fear, I tell you). So at midweek it was me, 4 gleaming ribs dripping with flesh, and a Dutch oven. I scoped out cooking times and recipes in cookbooks and online, determined to oven braise those babies. But I was going to season it my way, a barbecue style sweet and sour sauce with a North African twist.

Country Ribs, North African Style

4 country style pork ribs
large can whole peeled tomatoes, pureed
large vidalia or sweet onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
heaping Tablespoon ginger puree
1-2 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses (not juice! this is the thick dark syrupy stuff)

Preheat oven to 300F.
Salt and pepper ribs liberally. Brown in olive oil, in 2 batches, over medium heat in Dutch oven. Remove.
Lower heat slightly (my dutch oven gets very hot).
Sautee onion and garlic until soft. Add ginger, quick stir.
Deglaze with pomegranate molasses.
Add tomatoes. I used about 2/3 of a 28oz can.
Return meat to pot, salt lightly, bring to simmer, cover.
Place in oven and cook for 2 hours or more until meat comes easily off bone (but isn't totally falling off).
Enjoy with saffron rice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Pie Crust Jinx Is Off

As you may or may not recall, sometime last fall I fell under a pie crust jinx which caused my pie crusts to crumble, soupify, and otherwise suck. After a particularly tragic pecan pie disaster (which I describe below) I swore off pie crusts for a good season. Well, spring has arrived (in calendar only, as far as Michigan goes) and I have resumed my efforts, heroically. First of all I returned to my roots, the butter based crush. Secondly, I reacquainted myself with the Cuisinart, which cuts butter better than any a mortal with tool in hand can. If I want to make homemade crust, there is really no need to be such a purist that we swear off food processing technology. Three pies later (well, on this last one I conceded to the dictates of time - I had 30 minutes to whip a custard pie together for Easter brunch so I bought a crust) I am a changed woman, newly confident in my pie making abilities. Viz.

Cherry cherry pie. In honor of my brother's visit over Valentine's weekend. This amazing recipe at came highly recommended. Cherry Pie And it was fantastic. Not however my lame (albeit virgin) attempt at a lattice crust.

Chocolate cream pie with meringue topping. From Fannie Farmer. With a little cinnamon for punch. The meringe topping rocked except for the annoying later of moisture that caused it to slide around on the chocolate. Don't really know what to do about that...

And finally, in a last minute desire to whip up an appropriate Easter under 30 minutes I settled on this beauty from Emeril. Lemon Curd Tart (or Pie).

Notice that since I got my digital camera my food blog has become less a food blog than a food photo album? I'm cool with that if you are lol!

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Moroccon Chicken in My New Dutch Oven

Today I christened my Staub enamel cast iron Dutch oven (purchased earlier this month for $75 bucks on QVC). After my weekly prelims freak out (on a Monday no less) I needed to do some serious cooking. I had bought a little kosher chicken for like $6 bucks at the store this weekend which was intended for the Dutch oven in some capacity. Ever since I made the French Chicken in a Pot from Cooks Illustrated February 2008 I have became very enamored of the chicken in a pot concept. Because that was one juicy, flavorful bird. It's pretty much the same principle as tagine. If you cook a chicken in a slightly moist and heavily seasoned environment, you will get tender flavorful meat. Period.

I decided I wanted to do something Middle Eastern, with a citrus tang to brighten my day. When my Middle Eastern cookbook failed to produce the perfect recipe, I improvised and to great result, if I may say so myself. This will be appearing at a future dinner party, I kid you not. I browned my salt and peppered bird on the stove in olive oil. Then I added cubed potato, a chopped onion, a handful of green cracked olives (the tangy citrusy kind I get from the Arab grocer), and a half a lemon. Covered the pot and stuck it in a 325 oven for about an hour breast side down. It was GOOD. It really had that fabulous Moroccan tagine flavor that I remember from dinners out in New York. The potatoes picked up the citrus and bite of the olive perfectly, and the chicken meat was tender and fragrant. I served it with a saffron rice with golden raisins and blanched almonds.

It was a perfect first dish to make, and hopefully will be the first of many beautiful Dutch oven meals to come. And hopefully not all will be provoked by prelims freak outs...

Oh and isn't it lovely?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Happy Hanukkah

To me one of the most important parts of being Jewish is the food and the sharing that goes with it. I haven't been to synagogue in ages, but I don't let a Jewish holiday pass without dragging out the recipe box, poping open a bottle of wine, and inviting my friends to share in the food around which I make my celebration. Each holiday has its own particular menu and I've made it my business to try and master each one. Hanukkah latkes are, second to matzoh, probably the most well known and popular Jewish holiday food. Growing up, latkes (like matzoh brei) were my dad's domain, but for the last three years I've martyred my own knuckles in the cause of turning out a latke supper every Hanukkah. This year I'd like to share with you my parents' secrets for the Perfect Latke. The Perfect Latke is crisp, hearty, and savory. It is no soggy starchy mess, and it is not, I repeat NOT a "glorified hash brown" as some have so chosen to libel it. The Perfect Latke is all about technique, as you will see. So without further ado I give you...


3lb potatoes (about 8-10 Idaho)
1 lg tart apple, peeled and grated
lots (4-5) minced shallots (or onion)

4-5 eggs beaten
1 1/4 c flour
salt and peper
olive oil for frying

Peel potatoes and soak in cold water. Drain peeled potatoes. Grate potatoes into a fresh bowl of cold water. Remember, blood, sweat, and tears always makes food better, but proper grating technique will save yours hands.

Drain well. Wring out grated potatoes in clean dish towels. This is the KEY to dry, fluffy grated potatoes. My dad used to make a big production of wringing out all of the potatoes in a big bath towel. This makes for good entertainment, but can be a bit impractical, as several dish towels will do very nicely as well.

Set aside some of the grated potatoes. Add eggs (start with 4), flour, apple, shallots, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Get a few large frying pans going on medium heat with liberal amount of olive oil (vegetable oil is ok too). Make sure those pancakes have something to fry in. For latkes that are both crisp and hearty use a large heaping tablespoon and flatten 2-3 into each skillet. Flip when brown. I use the reserve potatoes to refresh the batter, which gets wetter.

This recipes make a LOT. Serve with sour cream and apple sauce. And remember, the cook will never get to sit down as long as there is batter left. So buckle down for a long night of frying!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My First Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! It's 2 am, I'm exhausted, the kitchen is still trashed, and I am microwaving mashed potatoes and watching "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."

So how did it go? It was fun! The guest were cheerful, the champagne was flowing, and the turkey was moist and delicious! Another achievement: smooth and richly flavored gravy. Thanks, Wondra flour. But the pumpkin pie, alas for the pumpkin pie, it seems that my pie crust jinx is still in effect. My decision to go with the raw cranberry relish proved to be the right one, despite my fear that it would disappoint. On the contrary, I got a couple compliments! Well, in your own kitchen go with what you like, right? I gave up on the chestnut stuffing though. Those little bitches are a whole lotta trouble to peel! I decided to scrap them (and save my hands) and just pulled together a basic herb and sausage stuffing w/onions and celery plus I threw in some dried cranberries. I thought it turned out rather nice! I also decided to brave it and cook the stuffing in the turkey. Sooo worth it and not a hassle at all. I followed the turkey recipe from Fine Cooking which called for rubbing an herb butter under the skin, and as I am all for infusions, I went for it. The herb butter was kind of a hassle to make - it would be much easier just to stick sliced butter and some sauteed minced herbs under the skin separately. But I really think the butter was the key to the tender perfumed meat (which is not to slight all the abundant advice I both solicited from folks and was subjected to in endless hours of Food Network).

Cranberry bread: in my fam it's not a Thanksgiving without it!

The aftermath (I did the carving, beyotch):

And my lovely guests:

Coming up on Sara Does The Holidays: Hanukkah latkes, labor intensive, but endlessly satisfying.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Autumn Update

I have been neglecting you, little food blog, and not for lack of cooking. I actually am in the process of trying to perfect this potato apple and sage gratin and when I crack the code I will post it. See, my mother always used to make this sweet potato and apple gratin, but she would use only some butter which made it a bit dry. Taking that as inspiration I combined lovely yukon gold potatoes with apples, sage, garlic and sliced onions and baked it in milk for creaminess. Well the flavors of the apples, sage, onions with potato were just beautiful together, but alas for me, the milk separated from the acidity of the apples. I tried again without apples, but their tart sweetness had totally been the key to the dish and so without it was just, well, scalloped potatoes (no complaints though, scalloped potatoes are always a thing of beauty). I figure I'll try again next week, this time with evaporated milk, and see if that separates. It probably will, in which case I will just have to settle with butter...and maybe a little gruyere?

Well as I'm sure you can already tell, I'm deep into seasonal cooking. I'm always skittish about the transition from summer to fall cooking, mourning the end of the era of fresh tomatoes with every meal. In fall, one eats raw less and roasts more. The flavor profiles change. I'm no longer going through a liter of olive oil a week (I exaggerate, but I pour olive oil on everything in the summer). The Mediterranean style of cooking that seems so well suited to summer produce and summer heat gives way to my truly America instincts. Now it's all about dairy products. Butter, milk, cheese. Roasted and baked everything. Squash a dozen different ways. Lasagna. Gratin. Chicken noodle soup. I become a Bubbe. And of course now there is no need to second guess one's impulse to bake. It's cold in the house, so turn on the oven!

In baking news, I'm still in the process of experimenting to find the perfect pie crust. After a particularly traumatic experience around Halloween (The Night of the Two Crusts That Wouldn't Roll) I have put pie lady on hiatus until I regain my confidence. After getting rave reviews on a previous I-have-nothing-better-to-do-on-a-Sunday-night pecan pie from friends and roommates, I set myself up to concoct a performance piece for our Halloween get together. Crust number 1 gave out beneath the rolling pin, so I gathered my nerves and mixed crust number 2. But when that one also crumbled away, it was more than I could handle. And so I found myself at 1 am sobbing into a glass of wine before a pound of dough scraps. (There were other factors involved in the sobbing part. Grad school + hormones + shitty pie crust are an apparently lethal combination for my nerves.) Well 15 year old Sara would have decked the kitchen in pie crust then and there and stormed off to scream at her brothers. And 20 year old Sara would likewise have decked the kitchen in pie crust and stormed off to scream at her boyfriend. But 25 year old Sara, will all the sageness of years, merely sat down, uncorked a bottle of wine, had a glass or two (or three) and then very wisely resisted the urge to hurl that ball of uncooperative dough into the trash can. It sat at a safe remove on the top of the refrigerator while she cleaned the kitchen, drank a little more and then, when her temper had ceded to her exhaustion and she no longer felt great rage towards source of her shame as a woman, she rolled the dough up in a sheet of plastic wrap and stuffed it back in the refrigerator. And the following morning she studiously worked that dought into a crazy quilt of a pie crust and proceeded to bake the most mediocre pie of her life. And that, my friends, is how we conquer adversity. With patience and a bottle of wine. Took me 25 years to learn that.

Well, that's all for now. At the moment I'm putting together plans for a Thanksgiving dinner with all the poor souls stuck in Ann Arbor over the weekend. We're potlucking side dishes (I had to put a limit on myself somehow) but I'm still going to go all out with turkey, Uncle Bill's chestnut and sausage stuffing, gravy, cranberry relish, cranberry bread, and a pie (and not "or two"). And if I'm not careful I might just suck myself into making red cabbage or brussel sprout gratin (two family favorites, yes, that's right, favorites). Patron saints of sanity, stop me! And have a pleasant Thanksgiving y'all! See you on the other side of my first ever turkey!!