Posts Tagged ‘pie’

Although I have made pies in the past, meringue pie was a new venture for me with this episode. I don’t have anything against meringue pies, though I suppose I probably prefer a good double-crusted fruit pie. Having made Alton’s pecan pie last Thanksgiving, I was pretty confident that Alton’s lemon meringue pie would be spectacular. He broke his pie recipe into two parts, the first being the crust.

Pie Crust

Alton’s pie crust calls for both butter and lard, with the butter primarily providing flavor and the lard ensuring a flaky texture. The recipe starts with placing 3 oz of cubed butter in the freezer for 15 minutes, along with 1 oz of cubed lard. Also, at this time, place two pie plates in the freezer.

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Lard and butter, cubed and headed to the freezer.

While the fat chills, put some ice in a squirt bottle with 1/4 C water. Next, in a food processor pulse together 6 ounces of flour with 1/2 t salt.

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Flour and salt in the food processor.

Add the chilled butter, pulsing the mixture five or six times.

Add the cubed lard and pulse three more times.

Use the squirt bottle to thoroughly spritz the surface of the flour mixture and pulse the dough five times.

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Spritzing dough surface with ice water.

The dough should hold together when squeezed, which should take approximately 2 T of ice water. Continue spritzing the dough with more water until it holds together easily without crumbling. I found that I needed to spritz the dough several times.

Once the dough holds together, move the dough to a large ziplock bag, squeezing the dough into a ball, and then flattening it into a disc. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

When the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and cut off the two sides of the ziplock bag, leaving the zipper top and the sealed bottom intact. Open the bag and flour both sides of the dough.

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Edges of sides of ziplock cut off, and dough floured.

Close the bag again and use a rolling pin to roll the dough until it barely reaches beyond the open edges of the bag. I love Alton’s method of rolling pie dough in a bag because it keeps my counter and rolling pin clean!

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Floured dough, rolled out inside of ziplock bag.

Peel back the plastic and re-flour the top of the dough.

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Ziplock opened and top surface re-floured.

Place one of your chilled pie pans on top of the floured dough and flip the dough onto the back of the pan.

Remove the plastic from the dough and place the second cold pie plate upside down on the dough, so the dough is between the two pie plates (the dough will be lining the second plate).

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Second cold pie plate placed on top of dough upside down, so dough is lining second pie plate.

Flip the pie plates again and remove the top plate (the first one), and your second pie plate will be perfectly lined with your dough; just be sure to press the dough down into the edges of the pan.

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Pie plates flipped over with dough between them. Dough is lining second pie plate.

Cut away any excess dough hanging over the edges. There is no need to make the dough edges fancy, as they will be covered with meringue. Use a fork to dock the bottom of the crust and place the dough in the refrigerator to cool for 10-15 minutes. This helps to form fat layers in the dough, which will yield a flaky crust.

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Docked dough. Excess dough removed.

While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 425. When the oven is ready, place the pie crust on a baking sheet, line it with parchment paper, and fill the crust with dried beans or pie weights. Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

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Crust lined with parchment and beans, and placed in oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove the parchment and beans/weights, and bake the crust for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

Let the crust cool completely before using. You could use this pie crust for any type of pie, but I had to continue on and make a lemon meringue filling, as that was what Alton did in the episode. This pie crust recipe is super easy and I love Alton’s tips/tricks for rolling the dough and lining the pie plate.

Lemon Meringue Pie

I ended up making Alton’s lemon meringue pie twice in two days. Why? My first lemon meringue pie was lemon soup. I had followed Alton’s directions exactly as he made the pie in the episode, which resulted in a filling that was not nearly thick enough. For my second pie, I cooked my filling much longer than Alton recommended and ended up with a perfect pie. Here, I’ll go through the steps as Alton did them, giving my recommended changes along the way. The lemon meringue pie begins with making the meringue. Place 4 egg whites (save the yolks for the lemon filling) in the bowl of a mixer and add a pinch of cream of tartar (helps to denature proteins).

Whip the whites by hand until they are frothy.

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Egg whites beaten to a froth by hand.

Then, beat with the mixer on medium-high. When you have a light foam in the bowl, begin slowly adding 2 T sugar with the mixer running.

Beat the whites until you have stiff peaks. You can check for stiff peaks by quickly dipping/withdrawing your beater – if a peak forms and remains, you have stiff peaks. If a peak forms, but falls, you need to keep beating. Once you have stiff peaks, place a pan lid on the bowl and set it aside in a cool place.

Oh, and preheat your oven to 375. To make the lemon filling, whisk 4 egg yolks in a medium bowl and set them aside.

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Beaten egg yolks.

In a saucier whisk together 1/3 C cornstarch and 1 1/2 C water, placing it over medium heat.

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Cornstarch and water in saucier.

Whisk 1 1/3 C sugar and 1/4 t salt into the starch mixture. Stir this mixture often, bringing it to a boil.

Once boiling, simmer the mixture for an additional minute.

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Simmering starch mixture.

Remove the pan from the heat and slowly beat about half of the hot mixture into the bowl of beaten egg yolks, adding only a whisk-full at a time.

When half of the hot mixture has been added to the yolks, whisk the egg mixture back into the pan.

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Egg mixture whisked back into saucier.

Alton tells you to return the pan to the heat, simmering it for one minute; I did this with my first pie and the mixture was very runny, but I assumed it would thicken later. Nope. Instead, for my second pie, I cooked the mixture for about 10 minutes, until it was bubbling and quite thick. Keep in mind that the mixture will not thicken much later, so you want it to resemble your desired pie filling texture now.

Once thickened, turn off the heat and stir in 3 T butter.

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Butter whisked in.

When the butter has melted, add 1 T lemon zest and 1/2 C fresh lemon juice.

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Finished lemon filling.

Pour the filling into the baked/cooled crust.

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Finished lemon filling poured into cooled crust.

Working quickly, beat your meringue again for about 30 seconds to plump it up.

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Refreshed meringue.

Dump the meringue on the hot lemon filling, spreading it with a spatula to seal it against the crust edges. Smooth the top.

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Meringue, spread onto hot lemon filling.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake it at 375 for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. Let the pie cool completely before slicing.

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Meringue after baking.

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A slice of lemon meringue pie.

This pie was great… the second time around. Alton’s crust recipe is fool-proof, flaky, and buttery. His lemon filling has a perfect balance of tartness and sweetness, and is bursting with lemon flavor. And, his meringue came out perfectly both times I made it. If you are interested in making a lemon meringue pie, do this one, but be sure to cook your lemon filling until it is thick.

While I breeze through some episodes, this episode was one that took a little while for me to complete. Not only were there five recipes in this episode, but they also all contained nuts; this made for some pretty rich food, so I had to space the recipes out a little bit. First was Alton’s cashew sauce.

Cashew Sauce

This recipe is really two recipes in one:  one for cashew butter, and another for the cashew sauce that is made WITH the cashew butter. To make the cashew butter, combine 10 ounces of roasted/unsalted cashews with two heavy pinches of Kosher salt in a food processor.

Place 2 T honey in the microwave for ~15 seconds to loosen it up, and combine the honey with 1/3 C walnut oil.

With the food processor running, slowly add the oil/honey until the mixture is smooth.

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Honey/oil drizzling into cashews.

If you just want cashew butter, you can stop here.

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Cashew butter.

To continue on and make Alton’s cashew sauce, whisk 1/2 C of your cashew butter with 3/4 C coconut milk and 1/4 t cayenne pepper in a saucier over medium heat. Once smooth, use the sauce as desired.

Alton recommended serving the cashew sauce over chicken or rice. I chose to serve my cashew sauce over some sweet potato “noodles” and meatballs, along with a little bit of cilantro.

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Cashew sauce served over sweet potato noodles and meatballs.

IMG_7353First off, Alton’s cashew butter is super delicious; it’s sort of like a richer, sweeter, better peanut butter, and it is great on pretty much anything. We were also fans of the cashew sauce, which was rich, nutty, and had a perfect punch of heat from the cayenne pepper. And, if you are too lazy to make your own nut butter (it is worth it, though), you could always use purchased nut butter to make the sauce. This sauce is also super versatile, as you could use it over meat, pasta, or vegetables.

Pistachio Mixed Herb Pesto

I love pesto and it is something I make every summer. I typically make basil pesto, so I can use up the last of my fresh basil, freeze the pesto in batches, and continue to dream of summer as the weather gets colder. Sage pesto is nice to make in the fall too! Alton’s pesto recipe in this episode was a little different from the other pestos I have made in the past, as parsley was the primary herb and toasted pistachios were the nut of choice (I toasted my pistachios in a 400 degree oven for ~5 minutes).

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Ingredients for pesto: garlic, thyme, tarragon, sage, oregano, olive oil, Parmesan, parsley, and toasted pistachios.

To make Alton’s pesto, drop 1/2 to 1 clove of garlic into the lid of a running blender, chopping the garlic finely (I opted for a full clove since I like garlic). When the garlic is chopped, turn off the blender and add 2 T fresh lemon thyme (I could not find lemon thyme, so used regular thyme), 2 T fresh tarragon, 1 T fresh sage, 1 T fresh oregano, 2 C packed flat leaf parsley, 1/2 C grated Parmesan, and 3/4 C toasted pistachios.

With the blender running, drizzle in 2/3 C olive oil until emulsified.

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Pesto, after drizzling in olive oil.

Alton recommends serving his pesto on pesto or toast. I served the pesto over zucchini “noodles” with fresh Parmesan.

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Pesto over zucchini noodles.

This pesto is super flavorful, tastes like a variety of herbs, and has great color. Since everyone always thinks of basil and pine nuts/walnuts for pesto, this version really mixes things up. And, if you happen to have fresh herbs in your garden, this can also be a relatively inexpensive pesto recipe. Give this one a try for a tasty twist on pesto.

Pistachio Fruit Balls

For a sweet treat using nuts, Alton made these pistachio fruit balls.

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Ingredients for pistachio fruit balls: roasted pistachios, dates, dried apricots, orange juice, golden raisins, creme de cassis, and dried cherries.

Begin this recipe by grinding 1 C roasted pistachios in a food processor. Set the pistachios aside.

Next, in a large bowl combine 1/2 C pitted dates, 1/2 C dried apricots, 1/2 C golden raisins, and 1 C dried cherries.

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Combined dried fruit.

Run the dried fruit mixture through a meat grinder with a medium die, catching the ground fruit in a bowl.

Add half of the ground pistachios to the ground fruit, along with 1 T fresh orange juice and 2 T creme de cassis. Note:  creme de cassis is a black currant liqueur.

Using your hands, work the mixture together until thoroughly combined. Once combined, use a melon baller to form individual balls of the fruit mixture, and roll the balls in the remaining ground pistachios.

If you find that the mixture is too sticky, you can put some vegetable oil on your hands. Store the fruit balls in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Pistachio fruit balls.

The online reviews of this recipe are mixed, which I find surprising. We thought these were a really great, healthy, sweet snack. Some reviewers complained of this being a messy or difficult recipe, but I found neither to be the case at all. You could always substitute a different liqueur if you did not have creme de cassis, but I wanted to test the recipe as written. These fruit balls had just the perfect amount of sweetness, held together perfectly, and had great crunch from the pistachios. We ate these as a snack every day for a week. I liked this recipe!

Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi

When Alton made this recipe in the episode, he used mahi mahi, but I could not find mahi mahi where I live. Instead, Ted splurged and picked up a couple halibut fillets. This recipe makes enough for four servings, so I halved the recipe for us. To make the recipe for four servings, coarsely crush 5 ounces of roasted macadamia nuts; you can do this in the food processor or you can put them in a tea towel and whack it on the counter.

Put the macadamias in a bowl and add 2 T flour, 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs, and 1/2 a stick of butter, melted. Stir the mixture to combine and set it aside.

Preheat your oven to 425, placing a rack in the center of the oven. While the oven preheats, line a sheet pan with foil and brush it liberally with vegetable oil. Place fish fillets (6-8 ounces each) on the foil and season them with Kosher salt and pepper.

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Fish fillets placed on lubed foil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Stick the fish in the preheated oven for five minutes to par cook.

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Par cooking the fish.

Remove the fish from the oven and brush it with coconut milk; it should take about 2 T.

Pat the nut mixture lightly onto the fish, crumpling the foil up around the edges of the fish to keep the nut crust from sliding off.

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Nut crust patted onto fish, and foil propped up.

Stick the fish back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes, or until golden brown. My crust took the full 10 minutes to be golden.

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Fish after cooking.

Let the fish rest at room temperature for ~10 minutes before eating. Honestly, I was worried that the time needed to make my nut crust golden would render my fish overcooked, but the fish turned out to be perfectly cooked. We enjoyed this on a warm evening, with a glass of white wine and a squeeze of lemon.

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Alton’s macadamia nut crusted fish.

This is a rich fish dish that would be worthy of serving for a special occasion. The fish was moist and the nut crust was rich, crunchy, buttery, and nutty. Great recipe. Oh, and if you don’t know, keep the macadamia nuts away from your dogs, as they are toxic.

Macadamia Nut Crust

It turns out that the macadamia nut crust above can also be used as a pie crust. So, again, to make the crust, chop 5 ounces of roasted macadamia nuts (you can roast them in the oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees).

Combine the chopped macadamia nuts with 2 T flour, 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs, and 1/2 a stick of butter, melted.

Pat the crust mixture into a pie plate and use with any pie filling recipe. If you need to blind bake the crust for your pie recipe, bake it at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Well, I ended up making this pie crust twice. I needed to blind bake my crust because I was making a no-bake key lime pie, but it turns out that 20 minutes is way too long to blind bake this crust. Yep, my first crust was scorched.

When I made the crust the second time, I began checking it at 10 minutes and it was done in about 15.

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A slice of key lime pie with macadamia crust.

This crust added a great crunch and nutty flavor to my pie, and it was very easy to prep with no rolling/chilling of dough. The downside of this crust was that it was super crumbly, so it didn’t make for pretty slices of pie. Other than that, though, this was a buttery, nutty, crispy pie crust.

I have begun dabbling in cheesemaking, which has taken some of my time away from this project recently, but I aspire to get back into more of a regular rhythm with this blog. I have a long list of different things I want to cook/bake, in addition to this project, and I have to find time to do them all. Honestly, I should probably try to make one thing on my list each day, and maybe I could eventually catch up! With only two of us, I can only make so much food at a time, though. I did find occasions to make Alton’s sweet potato recipes from Good Eats, so here are my write-ups of those recipes.

Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes

I kind of had a negative perception of sweet potatoes until a few years ago. When picturing sweet potatoes, I would picture the classic sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping, which is a dish I just do not care for. Now, though, I love to use sweet potatoes in a variety of ways, including in a breakfast hash, as “noodles”, and as oven fries. Alton’s first use for sweet potatoes was a smashed form. For this recipe, place a steamer basket in a pot over a quart of water. I used my small steaming pot. Once you see steam, place 1 1/4 pounds of peeled/cubed sweet potatoes in the top of the steamer and cover the pot. Let the potatoes steam for 20 minutes.

Drain the water from the pot and dump in the steamed potatoes, adding 2 T butter and 1/2 t Kosher salt. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher to your desired consistency.

Finally, finish the potatoes by mixing in 1 chopped canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, along with 1 t of the adobo sauce.

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Chipotle smashed sweet potatoes.

First off, this recipe could not get easier or quicker, making it great to make anytime. Second, this is a really tasty dish! I added a bit more adobo sauce and salt after tasting the finished potatoes, but that is just personal preference. The sweetness of the potatoes is a great match for the smoky heat of chipotles. I will make this one again. Actually, I think I will pick up some sweet potatoes when I head to the store today, and we will have these as a side dish in the next week.

Sweet Potato Waffles

It seems that post people strongly prefer either pancakes or waffles. Although I do like both pancakes and waffles, I’d have to say that I am a waffle person. On a recent lazy weekend morning, I made Alton’s sweet potato waffles. To make these, first sift together into a bowl 2 C flour, 1 T baking powder, and 1/2 t Kosher salt. You will also need to peel, cube, and steam (for 20 minutes) enough sweet potatoes to make 1 1/2 C of mashed sweet potatoes.

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Peeled and cubed sweet potatoes, to be steamed.

In a second bowl, stir together 1 C milk, 1/4 C light brown sugar, 1 T orange zest, 1 1/2 C peeled/cubed/steamed/mashed sweet potatoes, and 1/4 C butter, melted.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined.

In a third bowl, beat 6 egg whites until you have medium peaks. Fold the beaten egg whites into the sweet potato mixture in three installments; the first installment can just be stirred into the batter to lighten it, but gently fold the second and third installments into the batter.

Dish the waffle batter (Alton recommends two scoops with a #20 disher) onto a preheated waffle iron, cooking for 5-6 minutes or until crispy.

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Batter placed on heated waffle iron.

Top the waffles with butter, syrup, and toasted pecans, or whatever strikes your fancy.

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A sweet potato waffle with butter, syrup, and toasted pecans.

These waffles were really good, but they do take more time and effort than typical waffles. Is the extra effort warranted? For a special occasion, I would argue they are worth the effort. The waffles themselves are lightly sweetened from the sweet potato and brown sugar, though I would not be able to identify the sweet potato in them from flavor alone. Their yellow hue, however, does give some evidence of their star ingredient. These waffles definitely have more flavor than your typical waffles, and I actually preferred them simply with some melted butter on top.

Sweet Potato Pie

Pumpkin pie seems to be a polarizing dessert, with people either loving or hating it. I really like pumpkin pie, but Ted happens not to care for it. Alton claims that his sweet potato pie is superior to pumpkin pie, stating on his web site that, “This pie is everything I ever wanted out of pumpkin pie, only without the pumpkin.” Begin Alton’s pie by steaming 1 1/4 pounds of peeled and cubed sweet potatoes for 20 minutes.

Place the steamed potatoes in a stand mixer, beating them on low speed with a paddle attachment until they start to fall apart. Increase the speed and beat them until fully mashed. Next, add 1 1/4 C plain yogurt, beating to combine.

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Yogurt added to sweet potatoes, after mashing potatoes in mixer.

Mix in 3/4 C dark brown sugar, 5 egg yolks, 1/2 t cinnamon, and 1/4 t nutmeg, beating until incorporated.

The batter will still have some lumps.

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Pie filling.

Pour the pie filling into a 9-inch pie shell placed on a sheet pan, and smooth the top of the pie with a spatula. Sprinkle the top of the pie with 1 C of chopped/toasted pecans and drizzle the pie with 1 T maple syrup.

Place the pie (on the sheet pan) in a 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes, or until its internal temperature is about 170 degrees. Cool the pie for an hour before slicing.

For easy slicing, Alton inverts his pie onto a cutting board, removing it from the pan. He then slices the upside-down pie with an electric knife before returning the pie to the pan. Store any leftover pie in the refrigerator.

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A slice of sweet potato pie.

So, how did Alton’s sweet potato pie fare in our house? I liked the pie, but not as much as pumpkin pie. Ted, on the other hand, preferred the sweet potato pie to pumpkin pie, though this still wasn’t one of his favorites. Alton’s pie is less sweet than pumpkin pie, and you really taste the tang of the yogurt. It does have a lighter, fluffier texture than a typical pumpkin pie, which I liked. I did also like the addition of toasted nuts and maple syrup on the top of the pie, and I could see that working well on pumpkin pie also. This pie was definitely good, but it wasn’t an all-time favorite in our house. If you have a household of people who do not care for pumpkin pie, this could be worth a try on your holiday table.

 

I am taking some liberties here and doing this special out of order, as this special episode was really the 7th one to air, but I’m writing it up as my third special. We wound up hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year, and the recipes from this episode composed a large portion of our Thanksgiving menu. Yes, I know Thanksgiving was quite a while ago, but it seems we’ve had non-stop things going on for the last several weeks. The premise of this special is that Alton intends to give you a solid, stress-free Thanksgiving menu, much of which can be prepared in advance. In the episode, he breaks down exactly when you need to complete each step of each recipe, so everything winds up on the table at the same time. I was slightly skeptical as to how well his schedule would actually work when put to the test. Without further ado, here are the recipes from Alton’s second Thanksgiving-specific special, along with his Thanksgiving schedule.

Butterflied, Dry Brined Roasted Turkey 

In the online recipe, the turkey and panzanella are written as one, but really you will begin prepping the turkey and two other menu items before you begin the panzanella, which I will write up separately below. Note that, for this recipe, you will need to have your bird thawed four days in advance. The ideal bird for this recipe is a 14-pound frozen turkey, which you can thaw, wrapped, in the refrigerator; allow one day for every four pounds.

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My 14-ish pound bird.

If you really want to get fast/fancy, you can purchase a pump and thaw your turkey in a cooler next to your sink, placing the pump in the sink and covering it with cold water. Run the pump tube up into the cooler with the bird. Meanwhile, open the drain spout on the cooler, allowing it to drain into the sink. Make sure you reach equilibrium if you try this method, or you could end up with water all over the floor. If the cooler is draining too quickly, you can partially plug the hole with some foil. I opted for a third method and thawed my bird in a bucket of cold water, changing the water every couple hours, which took about eight hours. Four days prior to serving, make a dry brine by grinding 3 1/2 T Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t dry thyme, 1 1/2 t rubbed sage, 1 1/4 t black peppercorns, and 1 1/2 t allspice berries in a spice grinder.

Remove the neck and giblets from the bird, reserving them if you plan to make Alton’s gravy. Placing your turkey breast side down, use kitchen shears to cut up one side of the turkey’s backbone. Flip the bird 180-degrees and cut up the other side of the backbone, holding onto the neck. Save the bones for Alton’s gravy.

Flip your bird over, so it is breast side up and press the keel bone with the heels of your hands until it cracks and the bird flattens.

Sprinkle half of the dry brine on each side of the bird, patting it into the turkey. I know this sounds odd, but place your flattened bird, breast side up, on a parchment-lined sheet pan and let it age in your refrigerator for four days, uncovered.

The day you plan to serve your turkey, remove it from the refrigerator 3:40:00 ahead of meal time. Place the turkey in a 425-degree oven 2:05:00 ahead of serving; if you are also making Alton’s panzanella, you will place the bird directly on an upper oven rack without a pan, allowing the turkey’s juices to drip into the panzanella below. Otherwise, yeah, you will probably want to use a pan! When you have 1:35:00 to dinner, decrease the oven temperature to 350. You will want to continue cooking your turkey until it reaches 155-degrees in the deepest part of the breast. I will confess that I cooked my turkey until it was ~160 degrees.

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My completed turkey, after cooking to ~160 degrees.

Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest under foil. My bird was done pretty much on schedule, so it had plenty of time to rest while we finished up other things.

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My completed turkey, after cooking to ~160 degrees… and a desperate dog.

Honestly, this is the easiest turkey you will ever make and it takes so little time. Also, we could not believe how much the spices from the dry brine (isn’t that really a cure?) had permeated the meat – so much flavor! This will be the turkey I make the next time I prep one. Yes, your oven does get slightly messy, but that is worth it. This is my new favorite turkey recipe.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Okay, so this pecan pie recipe is awesome because you can make it up to two weeks ahead of time. I actually made this for us to eat the week after Thanksgiving, as we already had enough dessert contributions for our Thanksgiving meal (including a pecan pie!). The first step for Alton’s pie is to make his spiced pecans. Oddly, he did not actually demonstrate this recipe in the episode, though he did mention that you need the spiced pecans in your pie. So, I simply followed the online recipe for the spiced pecans, making a half pound of them.

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Ingredients for spiced pecans: pecan halves, light and dark brown sugar, butter, water, and spice blend.

To make a half pound of spiced pecans, combine in a bowl 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t cumin, 1/4 t cayenne, 1/4 t cinnamon, and 1/4 t dried orange peel (I didn’t have this, so left it out).

Toast the pecan halves in a pan over medium heat until they smell toasted, and stir in 2 T butter.

Once the butter has melted, stir in the spice mixture.

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Spice mix added to buttered pecans.

Finally, add 1 T water, 1 T dark brown sugar, and 1/8 C light brown sugar. Stir until the nuts are coated evenly and spread them on a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool, breaking up any clusters.

Once your spiced pecans are complete, you are ready to make the rest of your pie, beginning, of course, with the crust. In a food processor, pulse 3 1/2 ounces plain pecan halves until fine. To your pecans add 6 oz flour, 4 T cold butter, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 2 T ice water, and 2 T bourbon, pulsing after each ingredient is added, and avoiding over-processing.

Flatten the dough into a disc and place it in a ziplock bag, refrigerating for 30 minutes.

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Dough flattened in a disc, and placed in a ziplock bag to cool.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the filling by melting 4 T butter. In a bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1/2 C sugar, 1/4 t Kosher salt, 1 t vanilla, 1 T bourbon, the 4 T of butter you melted before, and 6 ounces (by weight) of golden syrup; golden syrup can be tricky to find, so I ordered it online.

When your dough has chilled, cut the two opposing side seams of your ziplock with scissors. Open the bag and sprinkle both sides of the dough disk with flour. Cover the dough with the bag again and roll it into an 11-inch circle.

Alton recommends using a 9.5-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, as you can simply place your dough circle onto the bottom of the pan, folding up the excess dough. When you place the bottom of the pan into the edges, you can simply unfold the excess dough, pressing it into the flutes. I, however, do not have a tart pan of that size, so I opted for a regular pie plate, transferring my dough circle by rolling it around a rolling pin. This dough is slightly sticky, so you do need to use flour.

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Crust, transferred to pie plate.

Regardless of which pan you use, press the dough into the pan before adding 6 ounces of your spiced pecans, chopped. Pour the filling mixture over the pecans and jiggle the pan to evenly distribute the nuts.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes. At this time, remove your pie from the oven, placing it on a rack. Decorate the top of your pie by placing spiced pecan halves around the edge of your pie – you will need about two ounces of spiced pecans for this.

Stick your pie back in the oven and bake it until the internal temperature is 200 degrees, which Alton says should take about 10 more minutes. If your oven is like mine, however, it will take 15-20 minutes of additional baking. Remove your pie from the oven and let it cool.

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Pie after baking to internal temp of 200.

If you are making it in advance, cover your cooled pie with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for eight hours to two weeks. When you are approaching your serving time, remove your frozen pie from its pan and slice it; you can place it back in the pan. Refrigerate your pie until ready to serve. Alton guarantees that this pie will not seep or weep, and I can vouch for that. I never froze my pie, as we simply ate it once it had cooled down. Still, unlike many pecan pies, this one had a filling that maintained its shape and form.

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A slice of Alton’s pecan pie.

To boot, we really liked the bourbon flavor in this pie, which paired well with the spices from the pecans. The golden syrup also seemed to give more of a caramelized flavor versus using corn syrup. The crust in this recipe is crispy, light, and pretty savory, which we thought contrasted greatly with the super sweet filling. I will make this pecan pie again for sure, as it is probably the best pecan pie I have had.

Whipped Potatoes

Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be complete without some form of potato, right? This special episode featured Alton’s recipe for whipped potatoes. Like the other recipes in this episode, this is one for which much of the prep can be completed in advance. A full 24 hours ahead of serving time, you will want to peel four pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, and slice them as thinly as possible; a mandolin makes this much faster, if you have one.

Place the potato slices in an 8-quart container, covering them with a gallon of cold water. Let the potato slices sit overnight, allowing the water to remove any excess starch.

You will not need to touch your potatoes again until 1:30:00 before serving time, which is when you will place your potatoes into a strainer (resist the urge to dump the potatoes into the strainer, as you want to avoid transferring all of that starchy water). Rinse your potato slices with clean water and spin them in a salad spinner to dry.

Transfer the potatoes to a large pot, covering them with a gallon of whole milk, and placing them on a burner over medium-high heat.

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Potatoes and a gallon of whole milk, placed on the stove.

Twenty-five minutes before your meal, drain your potatoes, reserving the milk. Press the potatoes through a ricer into your serving bowl, adding 4 ounces butter, 1 C of the reserved milk (you can use the rest of the milk for something like potato soup), and 1 T Kosher salt. Whip the potatoes with a hand mixer for 15 seconds. Yes, seriously, 15 seconds will do it. Resist the urge to blend the potatoes further, as they will become gummy. Sadly, because I was scrambling around on Thanksgiving, I forgot to take photos of my potatoes as I riced/whipped them, so I have no photos of my finished product. These potatoes seemed to be very popular around our Thanksgiving table, and I have to say that this is now my favorite mashed potato recipe. The potatoes were super light and fluffy, and had just the right amounts of butter and salt. Cooking the potatoes in milk gave them a very creamy mouthfeel and flavor. I highly recommend this recipe, and it will be the one I use when I next make mashed potatoes.

Roasted Root Vegetable Panzanella

As I mentioned above, this panzanella is designed to go along with (and cook with) Alton’s dry brined roasted turkey. While you begin prepping the turkey four days in advance, this panzanella only needs to be prepped 24 hours ahead of your dinner, so Alton covered this as the fourth recipe in the episode. So, 24 hours ahead, cut eight ounces of hearty multigrain or sourdough bread into 1/2″ cubes, leaving them on a sheet pan in a cold oven to dry out overnight.

At this time you will also want to mince two cloves of garlic, chop a red onion, and shred eight ounces of Brussels sprouts (this is super fast with the shredding blade in a food processor).

Place these prepped items into separate containers and refrigerate. Finally, peel 1 1/2 pounds each of parsnips and rutabagas, cutting them into chunks. Combine the parsnips and rutabagas in a container and place them in the refrigerator.

The following day, you will begin your panzanella when you pull your turkey out of the refrigerator, which will be 3:40:00 ahead of dinner. At this time, dump your rutabaga/parsnip combo into a large roasting pan, along with 2 t vegetable oil.

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Rutabagas and parsnips placed in roasting pan with vegetable oil.

When you place your turkey in the 425-degree oven (2:05:00 ahead), also place your roasting pan into the oven, directly beneath your turkey; this will allow the turkey’s juices to drip into the vegetables. Once you have 1:35:00 to your planned dinner time, add the diced red onion to your roasting pan, tossing, and decrease the oven to 350 degrees.

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Red onion added to roasting pan.

Forty-five minutes ahead, add your bread cubes, shredded Brussels sprouts, and garlic to your panzanella, tossing.

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Bread, sprouts, and garlic added to panzanella.

Thirty minutes before dinner, remove the roasting pan from the oven and add 1/4 C cider vinegar, 2 t fresh thyme, a pinch of Kosher salt, and some black pepper to the roasting pan.

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Cider vinegar, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper added to finish panzanella.

Toss everything around and transfer the panzanella to a serving bowl. The flavors in this panzanella were fantastic, but I was highly disappointed in the texture of the bread cubes. To me, a panzanella should have super crunchy bread cubes, but this bread was kind of soggy. I do intend to make this again, but I plan to toast my bread cubes in advance, and I will add them to the salad right before serving. Aside from the bread, the sweetness of the root vegetables was great with the slight tang of vinegar and bite of garlic/onion. I’m sure the turkey juices didn’t hurt the flavor at all either! Again, this is a delicious recipe, but it does need some help in the texture department. Cooking this with the turkey makes everything super easy, which is a huge bonus.

Turkey Giblet Gravy

Last, but not least, Alton had to include a recipe for gravy in his second Thanksgiving special, no? Remember the turkey neck and backbone that we saved from prepping Alton’s turkey four days before Thanksgiving? Well, we’re going to use them here, along with the giblets. Four hours before dinner heat 1 T canola oil in a pot over medium heat, adding the turkey neck and backbone.

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Turkey neck and backbone, cooking in vegetable oil.

Brown the bones, turning them often for about 5-6 minutes.

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Turkey neck and backbone, cooking in vegetable oil, turning often.

Once the bones are browned, add the giblets, a small onion, a carrot, a stalk of celery, and a heavy pinch of Kosher salt to the pan.

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Onion, carrot, giblets, celery, and Kosher salt added to bones.

Cook all of the vegetables until they are tender, which should take about five minutes. Next, add 1 t black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 6 C of water.

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Peppercorns, bay leaf, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and water added to make stock.

Cover the pot, bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and decrease the heat, leaving the pot to simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

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Stock, after being brought to a boil.

Two hours prior to dinner, strain the stock, saving the giblets. You can discard the rest of the solids.

Once the giblets are cool, chop them finely. When you have 1:30:00 to dinner, pour 2 C of your stock into a saucier over medium heat. At this same time, pour 1/2 C of additional stock into a lidded container, along with 1 T flour, shaking to make a slurry.

Slowly whisk this slurry into the warm stock in the saucier.

Again, in your shaking container, combine another 1/2 C of cooled stock with 1 T potato starch, shaking.

Turn the burner off under your pan and allow your gravy to cool to below 190 degrees. Once below 190 degrees (which should be about 1:20:00 before your meal), turn the heat to low and whisk in the potato slurry. I had some trouble with this, as my slurry appeared to be quite lumpy, so I had to add some additional hot stock and re-shake my slurry. Once your slurry is incorporated, also add 1 t chopped fresh sage, 1 t fresh thyme, 1 t fresh rosemary, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

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Fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage to finish gravy, along with chopped giblets.

When your gravy has reached a simmer, stir in the chopped giblets and turn off the heat. When heated through, you can transfer your gravy to a thermos to keep it warm until you are ready to serve. I failed to get a final photo of my gravy, unfortunately. I am not a huge gravy person, but this one got some rave reviews at our house. The gravy seemed like it was going to be way too thin, but it did thicken up some. Flavor-wise, the gravy fans here really seemed to enjoy it.

So, to sum up Alton’s second Thanksgiving special, I have to say that I was quite pleased with all of the recipes, how they worked together, and his timeline was pretty spot on. If you follow his directions, you can have a pretty stress-free, well-timed Thanksgiving dinner with his five recipes here. While all of the recipes were honestly very good, I would absolutely not skip the turkey, potatoes, or pie. Below is a breakdown of my Thanksgiving Day Alton-based schedule, aiming for a 5:00 pm dinner. Honestly, it worked pretty darn well, and we were seated right around 5 o’clock.

1:00 PM – Start gravy stock.

1:20 PM – 1) Bird out of refrigerator. 2) Rutabagas and parsnips in roasting pan.

2:55 PM – Bird and vegetables in oven at 425 degrees.

3:00 PM – Strain gravy stock and cool giblets.

3:25 PM – 1) Add red onion to vegetables. 2) Decrease oven temp to 350.

3:30 PM – 1) Strain/spin potatoes. 2) Put potatoes in pot with milk. 3) Make gravy and transfer to thermos.

4:15 PM – 1) Add bread, sprouts, and garlic to vegetables. 2) Remove bird when it hits 160.

4:30 PM – 1) Add cider vinegar and seasonings to vegetables. 2) Rice potatoes and whip.

Thanks to my little Good Eats project, our post-Boston Marathon week consisted largely of recipes for tofu. Considering that we were quite gluttonous for a couple of days after the marathon, I think we were ready for some tofu! I know many people who turn their noses up at tofu, but I happen to like the stuff, as does Ted. My first experiences with tofu were when I was in high school and going through a phase where I did not eat a lot of meat; somehow, I had convinced myself that I really didn’t like meat. My brother was out of town and my dad decided he would try to cook a few tofu recipes for he, my mom, and me. We affectionately refer to this week in our lives as “Tofu Week.” I don’t recall what the various tofu preparations were, but I remember whispered conversations between my mom and me where we both agreed the tofu was horrible, but did not want to hurt Dad’s feelings. Thankfully, Dad sat down at the table, took one bite, and said, “This is horrible.” This exact scenario played out several times during that week, leaving us all to think that tofu was pretty darn disgusting. While I later gave tofu another shot and really liked it, I don’t think my parents ever quite recovered from Tofu Week.

Fillet O’Fu

Alton’s first tofu preparation was his tofu fillet. For this tofu recipe, you want to use firm tofu, which has less moisture than silken tofu, and therefore has a higher concentration of nutrients. Firm tofu is like a sponge, so it will soak up any flavors you want to impart. When marinating meat, one purpose of the acid in the marinade is for tenderizing the meat’s proteins. Since tofu’s proteins are already coagulated, tofu marination is solely for flavor injection. To make Alton’s tofu fillets, slice a block of firm tofu lengthwise into four equal slices.

One block of firm tofu.

One block of firm tofu.

Block of firm tofu, cut into four fillets.

Block of firm tofu, cut into four fillets.

Wrap the tofu fillets in paper towels, weigh the tofu down with a sheet pan and some canned goods, and allow the paper towels to absorb the moisture for a good hour.

Tofu fillets wrapped in paper towels and weighed down.

Tofu fillets wrapped in paper towels and weighed down.

Tofu fillets after sitting in paper towels for an hour.

Tofu fillets after sitting in paper towels for an hour.

Meanwhile, make a marinade of 2 T sherry vinegar, 2 T Worcestershire sauce, and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce.

Marinade ingredients:  Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and sherry vinegar.

Marinade ingredients: Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and sherry vinegar.

Place the tofu fillets into the marinade for 15 minutes on each side. Alton explains that since the tofu is sponge-like, it is not necessary to do a long marination.

Tofu fillets into marinade for 15 minutes.

Tofu fillets into marinade for 15 minutes.

Tofu fillets flipped to marinate for 15 minutes on side two.

Tofu fillets flipped to marinate for 15 minutes on side two.

When ready to cook, fill a large non-stick skillet with 1/8″ of canola oil, and place over medium-high heat.

Canola oil in non-stick skillet.

Canola oil in non-stick skillet.

In a shallow dredging dish, crack two eggs and lightly beat them. In a second dredging dish, place 1/2 C flour.

Two dredging dishes:  one with flour and one with eggs.

Two dredging dishes: one with flour and one with eggs.

Eggs beaten with a fork.

Eggs beaten with a fork.

Blot the marinated tofu with paper towels to get rid of excess marinade and dredge the fillets lightly in flour, tapping to get rid of any excess flour.

Marinated tofu on paper towels.

Marinated tofu on paper towels.

Tofu dredged lightly in flour...

Tofu dredged lightly in flour…

After dredging the tofu in flour, dip the fillets into the eggs, and slide them gently into the hot oil.

...and then coated in egg.

…and then coated in egg.

Fry the fillets for two minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Tofu fillets into hot oil for 2 minutes.

Tofu fillets into hot oil for 2 minutes.

Tofu fillets flipped to cook on second side for two more minutes.

Tofu fillets flipped to cook on second side for two more minutes.

Pan-fried tofu fillets.

Pan-fried tofu fillets.

Coonhounds will eat tofu.

Coonhounds will eat tofu.

We ate these fillets as our entrée and we liked the crispy “skin” that coated the tofu. While you could taste the marinade, it was faint, so I wonder if a longer marination would result in better flavor injection. I think I will try this recipe again, but with a 24-hour marination, as that is what I have done with some other tofu recipes that have had more flavor. Texture-wise this was a good tofu dish, but it was a bit bland flavor-wise.

No Guilt Caesar

What better to pair with tofu fillets than a green salad with tofu Caesar dressing?

Caesar ingredients:  Parmesan, garlic, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Kosher salt, black pepper, and silken tofu.

Caesar ingredients: Parmesan, garlic, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Kosher salt, black pepper, and silken tofu.

To make Alton’s tofu dressing, grind 2 ounces of Parmesan cheese in a blender.

Two ounces of cubed Parmesan.

Two ounces of cubed Parmesan.

Cubed Parmesan in the blender.

Cubed Parmesan in the blender.

With the blender running, dump 2 cloves of garlic down the chute.

Garlic added to Parmesan.

Garlic added to Parmesan.

Once processed, turn the blender off and add 2 T Dijon mustard, 1 1/2 t white wine vinegar, 1 1/2 t Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of Kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and 1 C of silken tofu.

Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Kosher salt, and black pepper added to dressing.

Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Kosher salt, and black pepper added to dressing.

Silken tofu added to blender.

Silken tofu added to blender.

Blend until smooth. Once smooth, slowly pour 2 T of olive oil down the chute with the blender running.

Olive oil drizzled into dressing.

Olive oil drizzled into dressing.

Finished tofu Caesar dressing.

Finished tofu Caesar dressing.

Tofu Caesar dressing over arugula.

Tofu Caesar dressing over arugula.

The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. We were pretty happy with this dressing, though it does have pretty intense garlic flavor. If using two cloves of garlic, I would recommend using smaller ones. I served my dressing over arugula because that is what we had in the house, but we will have to get some Romaine and make a true Caesar-style salad. This is a good, easy, healthy salad dressing, and you would really never know it has tofu as a main ingredient.

Moo-Less Chocolate Pie

The third recipe in this episode is for Alton’s tofu chocolate pie. As far as desserts go, it doesn’t get any easier than this one.

Ingredients for tofu chocolate pie:  silken tofu, semisweet chocolate chips, coffee liqueur, vanilla, honey, and a cookie crust.

Ingredients for tofu chocolate pie: silken tofu, semisweet chocolate chips, coffee liqueur, vanilla, honey, and a cookie crust.

In a blender, combine one block of silken tofu, 1/3 C coffee liqueur, 1 t vanilla, 1 T honey, and 2 C semisweet chocolate chips, melted. Blend until smooth.

Tofu in the blender.

Tofu in the blender.

Melted chocolate chips, vanilla, honey, & coffee liqueur added to the tofu.

Melted chocolate chips, vanilla, honey, & coffee liqueur added to the tofu.

Blended until smooth.

Blended until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a prepared chocolate cookie crust and refrigerate until firm. The online recipe contains a recipe for a chocolate wafer crust, but Alton used a purchased chocolate cookie crust in the episode, so that is what I used.

Prepared cookie crust.

Prepared cookie crust.

Filling poured into crust.

Filling poured into crust.

Pie after setting in the refrigerator.

Pie after setting in the refrigerator.

Dense tofu chocolate pie.

Dense tofu chocolate pie.

This pie is delicious, and I will absolutely make it again. The pie is super rich, full of chocolate flavor, and has a dense, smooth texture. You would NEVER guess that tofu is in this pie. I would say this is one of the best recipes I have made so far in this project.

Tall & Tangy Tofu Thangy

The final recipe in this episode is for a tofu smoothie. In advance of making this one, freeze a small can (8 1/4 oz) of fruit cocktail in light syrup. I actually could not find a small can of fruit cocktail, so I weighed mine out and froze it in a ziplock bag.

Smoothie ingredients:  frozen fruit cocktail in light syrup, lemonade mix, cranberry juice, and silken tofu.

Smoothie ingredients: frozen fruit cocktail in light syrup, lemonade mix, cranberry juice, and silken tofu.

When ready to have your smoothie, dump the frozen fruit cocktail into a blender, along with 1 t powdered lemonade mix, 6 ounces cranberry juice, and 1 block of silken tofu. Blend until smooth and drink.

Frozen fruit cocktail in the blender.

Frozen fruit cocktail in the blender.

Lemonade mix added.

Lemonade mix added.

Six ounces of cranberry juice.

Six ounces of cranberry juice.

Allison's camera 066

Silken tofu added to the blender.

Silken tofu added to the blender.

Blended until smooth.

Blended until smooth.

The finished tofu smoothie.

The finished tofu smoothie.

We had this smoothie for breakfast yesterday, and thought it was okay, but not outstanding. It is a pretty thick smoothie that is really more tart than sweet, and we both found that the flavor of the tofu really came through, which some people may not care for.

The Coonhounds got a little taste of the smoothie, and they thought it was pretty good.

The Coonhounds got a little taste of the smoothie, and they thought it was pretty good.

I probably will not make this one again, as I think my own tofu smoothie “recipe” (I don’t measure anything) is better; mine consists of a banana, frozen berries, silken tofu, honey, soy milk, and some yogurt.

I was super stoked to prepare the recipes in the 30th episode of Good Eats. Why, you ask? Though I do love quiche and flan as much as the next girl, I was most excited to make these recipes because I got to use our brand new range for the first time. When we moved into our house, we were greeted with the original, 25-year-old, drop-in Tappan range (I had never even heard of the brand before!). I cook often enough that a range with roll-over numbers (stuck permanently at 4:44), a broken burner, and an oven door that would not shut just was not going to cut it.

The old range. You can't tell in this photo, but the oven light is permanently on since the door won't shut.

The old range. You can’t tell in this photo, but the oven light is permanently on since the door won’t shut.

Old range with a broken front burner.

Old range with a broken front burner.

Ta-da! Enter our new smooth top Samsung electric range.

Isn't she pretty?

Isn’t she pretty?

We considered putting in gas, but the venting, etc. just wasn’t going to be feasible, and we would have lost cabinet space. So far, we are loving our range!

Refrigerator Pie

The very first thing I cooked in our new oven was Alton’s recipe for Refrigerator Pie, AKA quiche. I had my share of quiche growing up, as it was something my mom made on a fairly regular basis. Alton’s version is particularly easy, in that it uses a frozen crust.

Ingredients:  frozen pie crust, spinach, cream, eggs, cheddar, cubed ham, Kosher salt, nutmeg.

Ingredients: frozen pie crust, spinach, cream, eggs, cheddar, cubed ham, Kosher salt, nutmeg.

To start the recipe, you whisk a cup of cream with two eggs (this is called “Royale”) and you place your frozen crust on a baking sheet (to avoid any spills in the oven).

The Royale.

The Royale.

You sprinkle your choice of toppings over the crust, mixing them with your hands; I opted for spinach, shredded cheddar, and cubed ham since that is what Alton did in the episode.

Spinach on the crust.

Spinach on the crust.

Topped with cheese.

Topped with cheese.

And ham.

And ham.

Ingredients tossed together.

Ingredients tossed together.

To your Royale, add a couple pinches of Kosher salt and a few grates of fresh nutmeg. My whole nutmeg seed decided to take a dive into my Royale, which necessitated fishing it out. Butter fingers!

Nutmeg and salt added to Royale.

Nutmeg and salt added to Royale.

Pour your Royale over your ingredients. The egg will expand when it cooks, so you do not want to fill your crust all the way to the top; I had the perfect amount of liquid for my crust.

Royale poured over toppings.

Royale poured over toppings.

Bake your pie in a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes, or until it is set like Jell-O and no liquid comes out if you poke a small hole with a toothpick. My quiche was done in 37 minutes.

Obligatory dog shot.

Obligatory dog shot.

Baked Refrigerator Pie.

Baked Refrigerator Pie.

Great filling, but needs a better crust!

Great filling, but needs a better crust!

You do not want to overcook this. Ideally, allow the quiche to cool for about 15 minutes before eating. The filling on this quiche was the best I have ever had because it was so much lighter and fluffier than any other quiche I have had. We liked it so much that Ted made one for breakfast a few days later. My one complaint was about the crust, as it wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked. Alton did not mention pre-baking the crust, so I did not pre-bake mine either, and it seemed a little doughy. When Ted made his quiche, he did pre-bake it, but it was not significantly crispier. I did buy a generic brand of pie crust, so maybe a different brand would yield better results. Seeing as we will be making this again for sure, I will have to play with different crusts. The filling, though, is already a winner. I foresee that we will be making this when our refrigerator is poorly stocked but we still want to eat something good! Seriously, best quiche filling ever.

Flandango

And what was the second thing I made with our new range? Alton’s flan, of course. For some reason, my only childhood association with flan is of an unpleasantly jiggly, overly gelatinized, dessert served at bad Mexican restaurants. I have a distinct memory of my family going to a Mexican restaurant with another family, and at the end of the meal the other family got super excited to order flan. I had no idea what flan was, but their enthusiasm made me think I SHOULD know what flan was, so I feigned excitement and ordered a flan. I should have gone with the churros. Creme brulee has since been my custard of choice.

Still, I was excited to make Alton’s flan, as I figured that pretty much everything Alton made on Good Eats was fantastic, so this was likely to be my best opportunity to have, and make, a good flan.

Flan ingredients:  whole milk, half and half, vanilla, sugar, eggs, blueberry jam, and fat-free (doh!) caramel.

Flan ingredients: whole milk, half and half, vanilla, sugar, eggs, blueberry jam, and fat-free (doh!) caramel.

For this recipe, combine whole milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat at a bare simmer.

Whole milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan.

Whole milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan.

Milk mixture at a bare simmer.

Milk mixture at a bare simmer.

Meanwhile, add 1-2 T of your chosen topping(s) to eight ramekins, and place them in a roasting pan that allows an inch between them.

Caramel and blueberry jam in ramekins.

Caramel and blueberry jam in ramekins.

Ramekins in roasting pan.

Ramekins in roasting pan.

For my toppings, I chose caramel ice cream topping and Alton’s blueberry jam I wrote about here. Unfortunately, I made the horrible error of accidentally purchasing fat-free caramel. Yuck! I did not have time to make a homemade caramel, so I had to go with the fat-free junk and hope for the best. In retrospect, I probably should have opted for plain flan. In a bowl, whisk three eggs and three egg yolks until they are thick and light.

Three eggs and three yolks.

Three eggs and three yolks.

Eggs and yolks whipped until light and thickened.

Eggs and yolks whipped until light and thickened.

Slowly drizzle about a quarter of the cream mixture into the eggs, whisking. The key here is to go slowly. Once the eggs are tempered, add the egg mixture back to the cream, whisking again.

Tempered eggs.

Tempered eggs.

Tempered egg mixture added back to milk mixture.

Tempered egg mixture added back to milk mixture.

Strain the custard to get rid of any curdled egg or any chalazae (the tough “strings” in eggs that keep the yolks suspended).

Strainer to remove any lumps.

Strainer to remove any lumps.

Strained custard.

Strained custard.

Pour the custard into the ramekins and place the roasting pan in the middle of a 350 degree oven.

Custard in ramekins. I wonder which ones are blueberry? So much for mystery.

Custard in ramekins. I wonder which ones are blueberry? So much for mystery.

2-20-15 030 Pour boiling water into the roasting pan, bringing it up almost to the level of the custard in the ramekins.

Water up to almost custard level.

Water up to almost custard level.

Bake for 25-40 minutes. Alton explains in the episode that the slower you cook the custard, the lower its setting temperature will be. My flans were done right at 40 minutes. They are done when they wobble and a pairing knife comes out cleanly. Remove them from the water bath with tongs, allow them to cool to room temperature, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them.

Flans after 40 minutes in the oven.

Flans after 40 minutes in the oven.

Completed flan.

Completed flan.

2-20-15 034 When ready to serve, you can eat them straight from the ramekins, or you can run a pairing knife around the outside and invert them onto a plate.

Caramel flan.

Caramel flan.

Caramel flan.

Caramel flan.

We ate the flans for dessert, and shared a couple with my parents. The caramel topping was indeed unfortunate, but the custard was really good. The only flan I have had previously has had caramel topping, so the blueberry topping was very different. My mom commented that the blueberry flavor really surprised her, as she too envisions flan with caramel. Though I would still opt for creme brulee, Alton has redeemed flan for me. The texture was smooth and silky, and the flavor was creamy, sweet, and slightly eggy. There is a pretty good chance that I will make this again in the future, though I will make Alton’s caramel sauce next time. If you are a flan fan, you likely would think this recipe is flantastic! Okay, that was bad.

I am a sucker for baking. I have loved to bake for as long as I can remember, and even considered going to culinary school to become a pastry chef. For a year and a half I worked at a bakery in a tiny (population of ~300 people) Washington town. When I applied for the job, I had romantic visions of early mornings spent manipulating dough into glorious breads and pastries. Instead, I would wake at 4:30 am and drive 30 minutes to work to be the soup and salad girl. Sigh. While I made those soups and salads to the best of my ability, there was simply nothing romantic about them, or the early mornings. Instead, I would watch with envy, from my little soup corner of the kitchen, as the town Frenchman would fold circles of dough over tangy fruit fillings, forming beautiful free-form galettes.

No Pan Pear Pie

Needless to say, I was excited to watch the 19th episode of Good Eats, as it is a baking episode AND the recipe featured is for a fruit galette. To begin this recipe, Alton has you start with your dough, combining flour, corn meal, sugar, and Kosher salt. For this, he emphasizes that you want to use all-purpose flour, as it browns better.

Dry ingredients..

Dry ingredients.

Meanwhile, you coat two sticks of butter in some flour and cut them into pieces.

Coating butter in flour.

Coating butter in flour.

Coated butter.

Coated butter.

Both the butter and the dry ingredient mixture go into the refrigerator to chill, though you want to keep half a stick of the butter at room temperature.

Reserved, room temperature butter.

Reserved, room temperature butter.

Once your ingredients are thoroughly chilled, you pulse your dry mix in a food processor, adding the room temperature butter, and pulsing until the fat is no longer visible.

Pulsing dry ingredients.

Pulsing dry ingredients.

Adding room temperature butter.

Adding room temperature butter.

Fat no longer visible.

Fat no longer visible.

At this point, you add half of your chilled butter, pulsing about 10 times, or until you have a mixture with pea-sized lumps.

Adding half of cold butter.

Adding half of cold butter.

10-27-2014 060 To this, you add the remaining cold butter, pulsing a max of 4 times.

Final mixture.

Final mixture.

This mixture is placed in a metal bowl. The liquid for this dough is a combination of apple juice concentrate and water, which Alton recommends you put into a spray bottle.

Spray bottle with apple juice concentrate and water.

Spray bottle with apple juice concentrate and water.

This liquid gets spritzed onto the surface of the dough, and folded in with a spatula, until you have a dough that holds together and breaks cleanly, without crumbling.

Spritzing liquid into dry mixture.

Spritzing liquid into dry mixture.

Adding liquid.

Adding liquid.

Once your dough has reached this state, you form it into a ball, wrap it in parchment, and put it in the refrigerator to chill. I ended up using twice the amount of liquid called for in the recipe before deciding my dough was close enough. In reality, my gut was telling me to keep adding more liquid. Foreshadowing.

Final dough, after adding 2x the liquid called for.

Final dough, after adding 2x the liquid called for.

Dough wrapped to go in refrigerator.

Dough wrapped to go in refrigerator.

While your dough chills, you make the filling for your pie.

Filling ingredients.

Filling ingredients.

To a hot iron skillet, you add two Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and sliced.

Hot iron skillet.

Hot iron skillet.

Pears.

Pears.

To the pears, you add balsamic vinegar and sugar.

Pears with balsamic vinegar.

Pears with balsamic vinegar.

Pears, balsamic vinegar, and sugar.

Pears, balsamic vinegar, and sugar.

Once the pears have softened, you add nutmeg, cinnamon, and butter.

Pear mixture with spices and butter.

Pear mixture with spices and butter.

When the butter has melted, you add a cup of blueberries and remove the filling from the heat.

Blueberries added.

Blueberries added.

Some sifted flour is stirred into the filling to thicken it, and you allow it to cool to room temperature.

Flour sifted into filling.

Flour sifted into filling.

Final filling.

Final filling.

I ended up running out of time to finish my pie in the day I started it, so I refrigerated my filling and dough overnight. The next morning, I pulled my dough and filling from the refrigerator, allowing them both to warm up for a few minutes. I sprinkled my work surface with flour and turned my dough out onto it. I could tell immediately that I should have listened to my gut the day before, as my dough was way too crumbly.

Dough that is too crumbly.

Dough that is too crumbly.

Back into the food processor it went. This time, I added cold water through the feeding tube until my dough was coming together in a nice ball. I worked my dough into a nice smooth ball, and put it back in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Finally, I was ready to assemble my pie.

Proper dough after adding more liquid.

Proper dough after adding more liquid.

Dough ready to roll out after adding more liquid.

Dough ready to roll out after adding more liquid.

Alton tells you to roll your dough on a floured surface until it is 1/4″ thick. If your dough gets too warm, you can press it with a cold sheet pan, but I never needed to do that. Once your dough is in a nice, even circle, you transfer it to an inverted, parchment-coated, sheet pan.

Rolled out dough.

Rolled out dough.

In the center of your dough circle, you place pound cake cubes (I used frozen pound cake), and top this with your fruit filling. Some clumps of butter are dotted over the filling, and you can begin folding up your dough.

Pound cake in middle of dough circle.

Pound cake in middle of dough circle.

Pound cake, fruit filling, and butter.

Pound cake, fruit filling, and butter.

You fold your dough in sections, overlapping the sections and sealing them with some water, until all of the excess dough is folded up.

Folded dough around filling.

Folded dough around filling.

Your crust gets brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sugar, and it goes into the oven for 25 minutes.

Brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with sugar.

Brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with sugar.

My pie was done in about 32 minutes, as it was golden brown and the pleats felt like they would break if you pushed on them.

Pie after baking.

Pie after baking.

It is best to allow this pie to cool to room temperature before cutting. We ate this pie for dessert and/or breakfast over the next few days. It cut easily into wedges (even the very first piece), and had a nice combination of flavors and textures.

Perfect first slice of pie.

Perfect first slice of pie.

Pie slice.

Pie slice.

I really liked the addition of cornmeal to the crust, as it gave it an extra dimension of texture. The crust was flaky, buttery, and tender. The pears in the filling were soft, but not mushy, and the blueberries gave a bit of tartness. The pound cake absorbed some of the liquid in the filling, which gave the cake a velvety, cheesecake-like texture. I will make this pie again, though I think it might be more fun to make individual galettes, rather than one big pie. If you are looking for a different pie for Thanksgiving, this is a good one to try. Or, if you want a traditional pan-baked pie, you could still use the filling recipe from this pie to make a perfect Fall fruit pie. No longer do I need to lust over others’ galettes, as this recipe is an easy one to make at home myself.