Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crust Convert

I have never been what you would call a "crust person." Though the delicious berry and fruit pies of summer sit near the very top of my favorite desserts list - second only to an ooey gooey chocolate cake, of course - I've never been able to get excited over the requisite bland casing holding my slice together. Frankly, it's never tasted like much to me, and - as I've always told myself - if I skip all that fat and flour, pie is downright healthy!

Enter Julia Child.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that Baking with Julia has been my go-to baking bible. And lo and behold, when I returned home from the 14th and U Farmers Market with a fridgeful of glossy cherries and an intense desire for a big slice of freshly made cherry pie, a quick flip through her pages revealed what Ms. Child declares as "the classic dough that earns blue ribbons at country fairs and stars at esteemed pastry shops." Skeptic though I was, I gave it a try. And you know what? It was buttery and flaky and tender and awesome. Count me among the Crust Converts. (And so much for my healthy pies).

This recipe makes enough dough for four 9- to 10-inch tarts or open faced pieces, or 2 double crusted pies. It's super easy, too - just remember to keep everything cold and not to overmix. It also freezes beautifully for up to a month, so you might as well make the whole batch - after all, there are a lot of summer fruits to look forward to.

Perfect Pie Crust
from Baking with Julia
5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled (I used butter-flavored)
1 cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter, and using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs (this will take a little while). Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl, working it in with the pastry blender or your fingers until small clumps and curds form. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough onto a work surface and fold it over itself a few times, just til it all holds together. Don't overwork it!

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces, shape into flat disks, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or as long as 5 days. The dough can also be frozen for up to one month - just thaw completely in the fridge before using.

And, because I can't show you this delcious pie without giving you the recipe...

Best Ever Deep Dish Cherry Pie
2 dough disks, recipe above
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 quart whole pitted sour cherries
1 quart whole pitted sweet cherries
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 tbsp milk

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla; set aside.

Roll out one dough disk on a floured surface to a 12-inch round, lifting and turning frequently so it doesn't stick. Transfer to a 9-inch deep dish pie dish by wrapping it around your rolling pin, and gently work it into the pan - don't pull or stretch it. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Chill crust while you finish preparing the pie.

Whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large bowl. Stir in cherries, lemon juice and vanilla; set aside.

Roll out the second disk to a 12-inch round. Using a pastry wheel with a fluted edge, cut ten strips from the dough round.

Transfer the cherry filling to the dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in center. Dot with the butter, then arrange the dough strips on top of the filling, forming a lattice. Trim the dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch and fold the bottom crust up over ends; crimp the edges to seal. Brush the lattice crust (not the edges) with the milk and sprinkle lattice with a tablespoon of sugar.

Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about an hour longer. (During baking, cover the edges with a foil collar if browning too quickly). Transfer the pie to a rack and cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shrimp Noodle Curry

As I'm sure I've mentioned before in this space, Regent has long our hands down favorite Thai restaurant in DC proper. The food is great, the dark wood and tinkly fountains are lovely, and - thank goodness - we can walk to it in ten minutes. Although the menu features a long list of delicious options, we always find ourselves ordering the same comfort-inducing dishes - red curry for Rory, drunken noodles with seafood for me. So when I was trying my hand at homemade Thai, I decided to mix our two favorites. (Although I admit that, having nothing but somen noodles in the house, the dish took on a decidedly Japanese accent). Do try to make it with Thai-style rice noodles if you can...or nix the noodles altogether and just serve it over rice. Rory would approve.

Drunken Curry Noodles with Shrimp
2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, finely sliced, white parts only (reserve a few tablespoons of chopped green tops)
2 tbsp red curry paste
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
4 heads baby bok choy, rough chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges

Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large pot or dutch oven over high heat. Add the shrimp and saute until almost cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Remove shrimp; set aside. Lower heat to medium. Add the second tablespoon of oil and when hot, add the ginger, garlic and green onions and sweat for several minutes until softened and fragrant. Add curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, and tomatoes, along with half the tomato sauce from the can, and stir to incorporate, mashing the tomatoes as you go. Season with salt and pepper to taste, bring to a simmer, then add bok choy.

While the bok choy is cooking through, cook the noodles according to package instructions, removing 1 minute before complete cooking time. Add noodles to curry sauce, then add shrimp just before serving to finish cooking through. Serve with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Well how about that - Dish-trict turned 1 yesterday! How time flies.

To celebrate, I thought I'd share with you some of my personal favorite dishes over the past year.

Thanks so much for reading. Here's to many more delicious dishes!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Brainfood Grill-Off - Tickets Still Available

Attention all food lovers: there's still time to get your tickets to tomorrow's Brainfood Grill-Off.

Brainfood, a DC-based non-profit that uses food and cooking to teach healthy living and life skills to DC youth, is hosting its third annual competition tomorrow, June 11th, at the Decatur House from 6:30-9:30. This is a high spirited event in which top local chefs - including Tony Chittum (Vermilion), Cedric Maupillier (Central Michel Richard), Shannon Overmiller (The Majestic), Bryan Moscatello (Zola), and The Next Food Network Star finalist Teddy Folkman (Granville Moore's) - will team up with amateur cooks and Brainfood graduates to compete against one another in a grilling showdown. In addition to the grill-off, there will be hors d’oeuvres, an open bar and a live auction. Tickets are $75, all of which goes to Brainfood's after-school and summer programs.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Trifling Dessert

Ah, late spring/early summer. It's one of my very favorite times of year. And for me, one of the happiest places to be at this exact time of year is at a farmer's market. Walking through the throngs of smiling Sunday morning people, my thought process goes something like this - "Strawberries! And asparagus! And peas! And strawberries! And green stuff!...And strawberries!"

Yes, with row after row of those insanely sweet smelling and juicy strawberries on display right now, I would be remiss if I didn't offer at least one sigh-inducing dessert showcasing these little beauties. So, other than suggesting you eat them right out of the carton in the middle of the market, I give you Strawberry Trifle Cake, a riff on a delicious trifle my parents like to serve. You can make it quick with box mixes and ready-made pudding, or you can go old school and make each part from scratch. Either way, it's one of the best desserts I've ever had. (Seriously, I'm thinking about making another one right now). So enjoy, and please share any favorite strawberry dishes you have with me - I will try to keep my hands off my newest batch long enough to try yours out!

Strawberry Trifle Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, divided
2 tbsp sugar
2 8-oz packages cream cheese
4 3-oz cups vanilla pudding
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

Pour cake batter into two greased 8-inch cake pans. Cook according to package instructions. Turn out onto wire racks and cool completely. Meanwhile, place half the sliced strawberries in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar, stir to combine and place in fridge while cake is cooling.

For the icing: In a stand mixer or large bowl with a handheld mixer, beat together the cream cheese and pudding until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar, being sure to break up any lumps. Add the vanilla extract; stir to combine.

Place one cake round on a cake plate. Smooth a cupful of icing over the top. Cover with a layer of the unsweetened sliced strawberries. Top with second cake round and finishing icing the top and sides of cake. Let chill for several hours.

To serve: Mash up the chilled sweetened strawberries with the back of a fork until a thick sauce forms. Slice the cake and serve with the strawberries.