Cherry Pie: Part 2

Picking up where we left off with Cherry Pie: Part 1, this recipe from The Complete Book of Pastry goes through the steps to make a beautiful lattice crust cherry pie like the one pictured above.  You could make it for friends for a 4th of July BBQ, like I did!  Or just make it for yourself because you deserve your very own personal cherry pie.

In introducing this recipe, Bernard Clayton, Jr. sweetly describes a cherry pie is so special to him: “It was the first pastry my bride made, served and received with love.”  If that doesn’t warm your heart then you’re probably dead on the inside, and also I don’t think you’d like this cookbook.

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Cherry Pie: Part 1

imageI made a cherry pie a few weeks ago, with cherries I picked with my bare hands. Hands that would soon be stained red with the blood of a thousand cherries!  Making the pie was quite a process, so I’m splitting this entry into two parts: Crust & Cherry Pie.

I was introduced to cherry picking in June by my friend Hannah, who every season drives an hour north to visit a favorite cherry farm in Antioch, CA where you can pick and pay by the pound. It was so much fun!  Hannah, another friend Jessica, and I all spent a few hours moving from tree to tree, filling our buckets, sampling the cherries warmed by the afternoon sun as we went along. Before I knew it, I had 15 pounds of cherries in my bucket. The next step was to find something to do with them.

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Luby’s Jalapeño Cornbread

Cast-iron skillets make everything better.

You should know something about my sister: you have to be careful what you say you don’t like around her, because chances are, she will find a way to give you whatever it is you don’t like the next time she has the opportunity.  She has a mischievous sense of humor that delights in seeing confusion and sometimes terror on your face upon opening a gift.   For example, she once gave me a pair of sweatpants for Christmas with the Greek letters of a sorority across the butt, knowing that I am completely not the type to ever be in sorority OR wear sweatpants with anything whatsoever written on the butt.  She thought it was hilarious though, and in truth, it was.

So a few years back when we were driving together through the eye of the crappy chain restaurant storm that is downtown Grapevine, I should have just kept my mouth shut.  But I saw a Luby’s and I decided to mention to my sister how gross I thought Luby’s was.  So of course, for Christmas that year, she gifted me this little gem:

Luby's Recipes and Memories

This cookbook contains a recipe for Jell-O that literally walks you through the steps on the box of Jell-O.

The best part of the gift was the inscription my sister placed inside the cover (I’m sure just her clever way to make sure I didn’t immediately sell it to Half Price), “Please remember the cafeteria genre of food: never to be left out, always to cause reaction.”  Well put.  Bodily reactions, she probably means.

This cookbook is amazing in so many was, and now I realize it’s perfectly suited to this cookbook challenge.   My favorite parts of the book are the saccharine quotes sprinkled throughout the book: “I fell in love with my girlfriend over a Lu Ann platter one evening. She said, ‘I love the macaroni & cheese here.’ Then I said, ‘I love YOU!'” — Steven Landry, Austin, TX.  Way to go, Steve.  Stay classy.

A few other good things about this cookbook:

1. The photos somehow make the food look really good. If you’re into food porn, on pages 95 & 96 you’ll get a full blown spread of some really sexy mac & cheese. I was even considering making that recipe until I read on that the only cheese it contains is 3 cups American. Call me a snob, call me a Bolshevik, call me what you will, but I refuse to put American in my mac & cheese.

H-O-T-T!

2. The servings are all for 6-8 people. So if you’re planning to have a bunch of old folks over for lunch, this is the cookbook for you!

I should mention that most of my friends grew up in Texas, and for them Luby’s is the epitome of comfort food and childhood memories.  Jacob and I were planning on having about 6-8 people over to eat brisket last weekend, so I thought, what the heck, I’ll pick a recipe from the Luby’s cookbook, it will be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.  Herein lies the challenge… what recipe to choose?  They all just looked so….. unappetizing to me.  So I’ll admit that I took a cop out and chose to make this jalapeño cornbread.  I’m sorry, you guys.  I took on this cookbook challenge knowing that it would force me out of my food comfort zone, but I’m struggling a little bit with it.  We’ll get there if you stick with me, I promise.

The cornbread was fantastic, of course, as are probably most of the things in this cookbook if I could just get over my snobbery.  I personally don’t care for Luby’s, but I guess it’s one of those things that make Texas Texas, so I wouldn’t ever want it to go away.  I’m glad that there’s a place for cute old people to go every day and talk about what’s on the menu.  And spoiler alert:  What’s on the menu is condensed soups, American cheese, and butter.  Lots of butter.

[Thanks, Kristin!  I’ll be sure to cook you up something real nice from this cookbook in a few months when I’m out in California.]

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Butternut Squash and Pasta Soup

This week I picked a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook How to Eat: The Pleasure and Principles of Good Food. I’ve had this cookbook for more than a few years, (a card stuffed in the back of the book says it was a birthday gift from my folks in 2004). It’s hard to focus on the cookbook, though, with Mrs. Lawson’s eyes staring through me from the cover:

Nigella Lawson's How to Eat

Stop peering into my soul, Nigella!

It looks like the most recent version of the cookbook has a different, less Mrs. Robinson-esque cover to it, which is probably a good thing. The book is structured around complete meals, and while I appreciate that sort of approach to cooking, it makes it a difficult book to use, since rarely do I have the time or foresight to make several dishes consecutively (or simultaneously). In addition, her tendency to use a lot of game and seafood that are not easily available at the local grocery store make a lot of these recipes inaccessible. And for someone whose cooking persona is that she cooks with passion, a lot of the recipes sadly seem to fall into the the stereotype of bland British food.

This soup (pg. 144), however, was good and came together quickly. Not a ton of flavors involved – mostly just butternut squash, onion and vegetable stock, topped with some Parmesan cheese. But that simplicity works well for a cold-weather, quick weeknight meal (never mind that March in Texas is hardly cold weather). The whole thing came together in about 45 minutes, and only half of that was prep time or time spent standing in front of the stove. I added some Italian parsley we had sitting around the kitchen, and it worked fine but didn’t contribute as much to the flavor as I would have liked – another herb like sage or basil would have been a better choice.

Butternut Squash soup

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Cast-Iron Duck & Red Flannel Hash

That's me on the left doing my worst Alton Brown impression.

My brother got me this cookbook several years ago just when I was really starting to get into food.  It is a fantastic cookbook for beginners or anyone with an interest in the science of cooking.  The book is divided into different methods of cooking food rather than the foods themselves, so you learn about searing, poaching, braising, roasting, grilling, etc. all from an elemental standpoint.  He explains many things, such as why it’s important to let meat rest after it cooks, why certain fats are more useful and better for you than others, when to use indirect heat vs. direct heat; all of which in the end help you to be a better chef overall.  He’s also really funny, like when he tells you to stock your kitchen with welding gloves because potholders are for sissies.

Did I mention this cookbook comes with removable magnets that teach you the different cuts of meat?  They’re a little flimsy, I wouldn’t really trust them to keep much on your fridge, but they’ll tell you where to find a sirloin steak on your cow.

I adapted these recipes to my liking.  Alton Brown’s Cast-Iron Duck (p.33) obviously calls for duck breast instead of chicken thighs, and I completely intended on doing that, but Central Market didn’t come through on the duck breast, which probably would have been super expensive anyway.  I opted instead to get the $3/lb chicken thighs, because I knew those would have a lot of flavor, and I’m sure Alton Brown also understands the science of saving money.

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