Monday, January 28, 2008

Daring Bakers: Lemon Meringue Pie more like Casserole

Oh my first challenge in three months and problems ensue as usual.
When I visited the "insider" blog and found Lemon Meringue Pie as the ingredient, I knew I had no excuses. One because I had taken a class at Whole Foods, where I was taught to make lemon curd. Two, I can't blame school, I'm a working girl now. Plus I missed it. I missed the community that comes with Daring Bakers. It is the reason I joined in the first place. It was the connection of bakers around the world that don't always have things go their way in the kitchen.
So I was determined to do it this month. I was in. I made a party date. I flew on a plane for a 24 hour visit in Austin, so I could enjoy the Daring Baker's Challenge with friends.
So on Saturday, my boyfriend and I arrive at my friend's so I can cook in her kitchen. The boys leave us for the liquor store and I request more lemon juice, three lemons weren't going to cut it. So, I look over the recipe and begin with the pie dough. I use my hands because that is how I always make shortbread cookies. Plus the knives weren't cutting it. And there was no pastry cutter or processor in sight. (I really should have rethought the whole cooking utensils in boxes until I find permanent job.)
With the pie dough chilling, I began boiling water. I mix the cornstarch and sugar, when the water boils, I add the dry ingredients. No whisk. No real whisk. Improvising I used beater from the electric mixer. I enlisted my friends help as I cracked eggs to separate. By the time they were separated the water mixture had come to a boil.
Or what I believe was a boil. It was really THICK. I saw bubbles, I just assumed. So, I teach my friend how to temper the eggs. The glass bowl doesn't become warm because of the mixture. So I just assume the eggs are ready. I bring this new mixture to a bowl. I call the boy to make sure he got two cups of lemon juice. That was a negative.
I read over the recipe. That is kinda the next step after butter. Oh I became panicky. My friend zested the lemons and cut them in half. As I whisked the butter into the thick gooey mixture. Soon the butter is melted and I don't have two cups of lemon juice. So we add the zest and as my friend whisks I add the lemon juice we have to the mixture.
She then asks, opening the fridge, is this lemon juice bottle something we can use. I laugh and say yes. The conversation drifted on how the guys were going to kill us when they came in. And soon after using the lemon juice bottle, they strolled in the door. We burst out laughing. My boyfriend quickly figured it out and made a joke.
I let the mixture cool and move to bake the pie crust. Only the problem was there was no pie pan. I assumed there would be one. That was the main problem, I made tooo many assumptions. So with a lasagna pyrex pan, I rolled out the dough and placed it in. I knew I had no beans either so to try and compensate, I placed pyrex measuring cups on top. 15 minutes into the baking I realized this too was a very bad idea.
The pie crust was rising where there was no weight. I immediately took of the cups and let it cook the rest of the way without weight. It came out with some dents, but still good.
The rest of the pie went off without a hitch. Everyone liked it. Once again, all the mistakes didn't ruin the end product. I just have to stop making assumptions.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cooking Together via The Web

825 miles between my boyfriend and I has not stopped our bickering, my sarcasm, his romanticism, or our love. For at least now proving that my thoughts of me moving away would doom our relationship were wrong.
Of course with me away and him being a bachelor, it would seem natural that take-out would the food method of choice. And I thought it would be what he would revert to. However, to my amazement he has continued to cook. Not every night, but I can live with the fact that 4 out of the 7 of the week, he is. Asking for more is stretching it. Especially with the nightly complaints that he just wants to eat and not actually have to cook his dinner. But if you go out buy the groceries, why double your bill by going out? (I say this as my lunch sits unhappily on my counter at my new place. As my pocketbook cries because it spent money on something it shouldn't have. I call it Monday.)
So as our grocery bills grow because we are no longer splitting the costs. Arguments start because the menu recipes are to complicated. We continued our Sunday tradition- a home cooked meal and Iron Chef, apart, but via webcam together. I felt partially like the executive chef. I threw out measurements and directions because I concentrate while cooking a little too much. My boyfriend being use to this went with the flow. We made the marinade our seperate ways, let the chicken marinate. Then cooked it two seperate ways, but both ended up moist and tender. Or at least that what he tells me about his.
So maybe being apart isn't so bad. It could be a lot worse and as long as I have Sundays to look forward to then I think I'll make the six months.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Naughty Lasagna before I depart

I've been told I'm trouble. I like to break rules. Especially in cooking.
I read a recipe and I think how can I make this different. How can I change it to my tastes and my personality. How can I make it better. And sometimes I can't.
I can't change pasta dough or pizza dough recipes. I can try and improve the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie dough recipe, but really there is no need for improvement.
But reading Martha Stewart's Tomato-Sausage Lasagna, I found it lacked something. What that something was wine.
Vino improves everything. Or at least I think so. So I added a splash. O.K. more than a splash. More like a glass. Oh and the taste of it in the sausage tomato sauce, I almost died. The little spice and earthiness of the wine just made the sauce sooooo much better. Then you add the cheese and the lasagna noodles. I'd quote my boyfriend, but it is a phrase that one must not often repeat. But as usual he went back for seconds, this time larger than usual. 
The little left from the 8x8 dish went into two tupperware containers not before the comment, "Can't you fit them in one." With a glare I went back to what I was doing. I'm sure it has been devoured and will be in frequent rotation. 

Naughty Lasagna
(adapted from Everyday Food) 
6 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/4 dry red wine
1 cans (28 ounces) diced tomatoes in puree
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 cups shredded shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Make sauce: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, and red-pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add sausage, and cook, stirring and breaking it up, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add wine then Add tomatoes and their puree, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon; bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon 1 cup sauce in bottom of dish. Fit 2 noodles in dish (crosswise if using short noodles, lengthwise if using long), overlapping slightly. Cover with 1/2 cups sauce, 1 cups mozzarella, and Parmesan. Repeat with another 2 layers, then top with remaining noodles, sauce, and the rest of mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil, and bake 1 hour.
Remove foil, and continue baking until bubbly and browned, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool 20 minutes. Cut and serve.

Note: The lasagna can be assembled up to one day in advance. Cover with foil, and refrigerate. You may have to increase initial baking time by 5 to 10 minutes.