Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Pie Season Has Begun!

The Thanksgiving Pie-fecta! Apple, Pumpkin and Pecan Pies


I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I didn’t really like pie growing up.  It was the pie crust.  Commercially made piecrust was, and still is, pretty disgusting to me – chemically tasting with a oily coating on the tongue.  If my mom, or one of my aunts,  made it from scratch I would eat the bottom crust and filling, sometimes the top crust – but never the thick edge – too gross!  Luckily, my sister’s favorite part is the crust, so no crust of mine ever went to waste…she loves pie crusts so much, she will even eat the dough!  Not really my cup of tea, but hey, we all like something weird.  Once I got older and started making my own crusts, I came to love pie.  But not just any pie, just good pie, and that is hard to find.  Fillings come and go, but the secret to good pie is a good crust.  Pie classes are the most requested topic for my classes, and with good reason.  Pie crusts can be finicky- especially when made with butter.  A shortening or lard crust are much easier to make.   I don’t have a problem with lard – if it is real lard and non-hydrogenated (most lard you can find is commercially rendered and partially hydrogenated), it is actually surprisingly good for you.  But only if you can find the real stuff.  For me, I grew up with shortening crusts, and those are still my favorite – but only if the shortening is non-hydrogenated. (Beware, there are “trans fat free” versions, but they can still be hydrogenated, just look at the label.)   My all-time favorite brand is Spectrum, followed by Whole Foods’ 365 brand. (and no, these brands don’t even know I exist, much less pay me for sponsorship!)  Most larger grocery stores here carry one – you may just have to look in the “organic” grocery or baking section.  The following recipe is my personal favorite pie recipe, adapted from an old Betty Crocker one – very easy to work with and extremely forgiving.  The perfect crust to try if it is your first time making pie!


Easiest Pie Pastry

Makes 2 10” crusts, or  3  8” crusts

  • 1 cup shortening (preferably non-hydrogenated such as Spectrum Organic) or ¾ cup plus 2 Tbs Lard
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7-9 Tbs cold water

In a medium bowl, mix flour and salt.  Cut shortening into flour until the largest particles are the size of peas.  Sprinkle with water 1 Tbs at a time, tossing with a fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of bowl.  With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough and form into 2 or 3 balls, then flatten each into a 5-inch disk. Cover any portion you are not working with to prevent it from drying out.  *At this point, dough (tightly wrapped) can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or frozen up to 3 months.  If refrigerating, let sit at room temp for 5 minutes before rolling.  Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Place dough on lightly floured surface and cover lightly with flour.  With a floured rolling pin, roll pastry from the center out in north and south directions, turn pastry a quarter turn and repeat.  If dough starts to stick, flour the surface a bit more, but try to use as little flour as possible.  Roll the dough to about 2” larger all around than the pie pan you are using.  Trim with a knife if necessary. Repair any tears by lightly moistening tear with cold water and pressing edges, overlapping, together.  This recipe works well doubled.

(Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cooking For Today)

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The Remains of the Day

I am saddened by the fact that this is my last taste of Thanksgiving stuffing.  I don’t eat a lot of stuffing and look forward all year to the batch I make especially for Thanksgiving.   No matter how much I make, it always goes fast – it has been known to convert stuffing haters!  This year I had a request for the recipe from some friends who weren’t able to make it up to our annual shindig…the amounts are approximate so you can customize it.  Different breads will also require different amounts of liquid. I never stuff a turkey, because by the time the stuffing reaches the 165F needed to kill off all the germs imparted by the blood and juices dripping into it, the turkey will be overdone and dry.  Plus, the turkey cooks in half the time without it being stuffed! (For more flavor, you can put herb sprigs, cut citrus fruits or other aromatics into the cavity to perfume the meat)  I like to make my stuffing with lots of chestnuts and fresh sage, but you can vary the additions to taste.  The biggest factor for creating great taste and texture is the bread used.  Sliced white bread or commercial stuffing cubes don’t cut it!  I used to make my own bread ahead of time, but now I just buy some good quality loaves.  I usually like to combine crusty wheat and white breads, but one of the best stuffings I ever had was made with pumpernickel and pistachios (good thinking Jeremy!).  I love chestnuts, but they are time consuming to roast and peel.  I highly recommend looking for the ones peeled and packed in air (I have seen them at Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods) as they will save you about an hour and they taste virtually the same as the ones you roast yourself.  Just don’t use the ones packed in water – yuck!  This stuffing would be equally nice with goose, chicken or a pork roast – or cold straight from the fridge.  That’s how I’m eating this last bit…

Chestnut & Sage Stuffing

Serves approx 8-10 people.

  • Get 2lbs of good quality crusty bread & cut into 1 inch cubes. Dry 1-2 days on sheet trays or dry in a 200F oven until  dry, but not browned. (The quality of the bread makes a huge difference!)
  • 4 or 5 leafy stalks of celery, diced (include the leaves)
  • 3-4 shallots, diced
  • 1/2- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pkg fresh sage, finely minced
  • 1/2 pkg fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • Chicken stock (the amount you need will vary – about 1-1 1/2 quarts) Get good quality as this is a major flavor component. You could also use vegetable stock.
  • 1-2 sticks butter (don’t skimp!)
  • 1 13-14oz jar peeled chestnuts packed in air, chopped  or 1 1/2 lbs roasted fresh chestnuts, peeled, chopped
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Grease a 9X13 pan with butter. Place the bread cubes in a very large bowl. In a large skillet, melt the butter & saute the shallots and celery until soft. Add the herbs & saute 1 minute. Add chestnuts, then season to taste (remember the stock will be salty, so don’t add a lot of salt). Pour this mixture over the bread cubes and toss well. Add enough chicken stock to make the bread moist, but not too soggy, mixing well – it should clump when squeezed. A few crunchy bread cubes are ok, but almost all should be moist. Taste & correct seasoning. If it doesn’t taste herby enough, add more. Pour this mixture into the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes @ 375, or until top is crunchy & stuffing is heated through.  You can make this up to 1 day ahead, covered & refrigerated- uncooked. Leftovers will last a week. (in theory)

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