An Unforgettable Pumpkin Pie

An Unforgettable Pumpkin Pie

 

Come the Holiday season pumpkin pies are bound to be on many a holiday table. There are those who love pumpkin pie and those who don’t. I have to admit store bought pumpkin pies can often be pretty uninspiring. However, years ago I came upon Nancy Silverton’s pumpkin pie recipe in her Pastries from the La Brea Bakery cookbook and garnered new perspectives on how beguiling a pumpkin pie can actually be. All of Nancy Silverton’s cookbooks, and MOZZA in particular, are my favorite sources for guidance as well as inspiration. Her taste is impeccable, her recipes are refined and exacting, and you can be confident that the results will deliver perfection.

Bear with me. This recipe is indeed more complicated than opening a can of pumpkin puree, tossing it together a few spices and a couple of other ingredients and popped into the oven in 10 minutes. Let me reassure you, this pumpkin pie is worth all the extra effort. I’ve had rave reviews every time I’ve served it. This is a recipe you will be revisiting for a beautiful finishing flourish for your holiday meals for years to come.

I have adapted Nancy Silverton’s recipe with a few minor adjustments.

 

An Unforgettable Pumpkin Pie     makes 1 10 inch pie

I would suggest roasting the yams and pumpkin, pureeing them both, and making the pastry dough the day before making the pie. Having all the ingredients readily at hand makes assembling the pie a whole lot easier on baking day.

The yams and pumpkin can be baked together. Preheat the oven to 400 f / 200 c. Cut the pumpkin into quarters. Remove the seeds and stringy membranes and place on a baking tray, skin side down, along with the yams. Brush all with olive oil and transfer to the oven. Both the pumpkin and the yams will take about 45 minutes. The pumpkin should be very tender and a deep orange. The yams should be very soft and almost bursting when finished. Remove the skins from both. Mash the yams and pumpkin separately and set aside to cool. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate.

Special item: 10 inch pie pan

For the dough:

  • 4 oz/113 g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco), chilled
  • 2¾ cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt (or flaked sea salt)
  • ¼ cup ice water

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the well chilled cubed butter, shortening, and salt and mix on low for 2 to 3 minutes until softened. Turn the mixer up to medium and mix another 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour in 3 batches, mixing on low between each addition, until it is the consistency of a coarse meal. Begin adding small amounts of the ice water just until the dough begins to come together. You will probably will not need to use all the water and by all means do not over mix!

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed a few times to gather it into a ball. Divide the dough in half, flatten each into a disc, and wrap in plastic film. Chill one of the discs for at least 2 hours or overnight. Freeze the remaining dough for another use.

When the dough is well chilled, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into an 11 inch circle about ¼ inch thick, flouring the dough as necessary. Fold the dough into quarters and place the counterpoint in the middle of the pie pan. Unfold the dough and arrange it it evenly in the pan, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges. Trim the dough, leaving ½ inch of the dough hanging over the edge. Fold the ½ inch section of the dough underneath so it is even with the rim of the pan to create a thicker edge. Make a scalloped edge by pushing the thumb of one hand against the thumb and index finger of the other hand. Continue around the entire edge of the dough. Chill until firm, 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c

Brush the entire interior of the pie shell lightly with melted butter. Line the bottom and sides of the pie shell with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or metal pie weights, making sure the beans or weights are pressed tightly into the corners of the dough. Bake for about 25 minutes until the top of the crust is golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes and remove the beans or pie weights and carefully peel off the paper lining. If the bottom of the pie shell is not uniformly browned, return it unlined to the oven for 5 or 10 minutes until fully cooked and lightly browned.

While the pie shell is baking you can prepare the filling.

For the filling:

  • 2 cups roasted yam puree
  • ½ cup roasted pumpkin puree
  • 2 oz/ 57 g unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 extra large organic eggs
  • 1 extra large organic egg yolk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (or rum)
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or flaked sea salt)
  • 1 very small pinch of ground cloves
    1 small pinch white pepper

Place the yam and pumpkin purees into a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and process until very smooth.

In a small sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. Cut open the vanilla bean lengthwise. With the back of a knife scrape out the flesh and seeds and add to the butter along with the pod. Swirl the pan to insure the butter cooks evenly and doesn’t burn. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma. Promptly remove from the heat and set aside. Remove the vanilla pod and reserve it for another use. Once the butter is cooled and the black burned bits have settled to the bottom of the pan carefully pour the butter into the food processor leaving most of the black bits behind in the pan. If you are using Vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean, add it to the food processor along with the butter. Puree the ingredients in the processor until smooth.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, cream, milk, maple syrup, brown sugar, brandy or rum, ginger, allspice, salt, cloves, and pepper. Add the pumpkin yam mixture and whisk until the mixture is completely combined and smooth. Pour the pie filling into the pie shell to about ¼ inch below the top edge. Giggle the pan to level the filling.

For garnishing:

  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 to 5 gratings fresh whole nutmeg

Lightly brush the scalloped rim of the blind baked pastry shell with milk.

Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and sprinkle evenly over the surface of the pie filling.

Place the pie in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour, checking the pie after 40 minutes. The filling should be just set without quivering. Do not be tempted to over bake as this will cause the surface of the pie to crack while cooling.

Cool the pie on a cooling rack until it is room temperature and ready to serve. If you intend serve the pie later, seal with plastic film and refrigerate. Be sure to ring the pie back to room temperature for serving.

Serving: Serve at room temperature with a lightly sweetened whipped cream flavored with a small dash of brandy or rum.

Andalucian Pisto with Pasta

Andalusian Pisto with Pasta

 

I just love Spanish food and was recently watching Rick Stein’s Long Weekends; Cadiz  (BBC TWO 2016). Cadiz, in western Andalusia, is a part of Spain I have not visited. I understand it is a little more difficult to get to so not inundated with tourists like the Mediterranean coast of Spain. The old city’s whitewashed buildings shimmer and the food and wines beckon. This is a cook’s dream and definitely on my list of must visits.

Andalusia is the southern most autonomous community of Spain. It lies south of the Iberian peninsula with a coastline fronting both the Atlantic ocean and Mediterranean Sea. With Morocco just to the south, it is often refereed to as the gateway to Africa. Ancient Andalusian ports were established by the Phoenicians. They were later occupied by the Romans, and then ruled by the Moors for more than 800 years. Christopher Columbus sailed from the Andalusian port of Cadiz for his second voyage to the Americas in 1493 and returned to the Andalusian port of Sanlucar de Barrameda. Today Andalusia is not only famous for its rich cultural past, but for its spectacular seafood, its superb sherry production and of course…Flamenco! This is Spain!

Duly inspired, I just had to get into the kitchen and cook up something that brought some of the flavors of this region of Spain to life. Spanish food is remarkably direct, full of earthy flavors, and is as colorful and alive as the Spanish themselves. The next best thing to taking  a trip to Cadiz!

Pisto is a more robust Spanish version of the French ratatouille, which always includes eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers.For this recipe I have introduced the smoky flavor of Spanish red picante pimenton. I have also added meats, including pork, serrano ham, and Spanish chorizo if you like. Pisto is usually served as it is, but to my mind this pisto, or ragu if you like, makes a very robust and flavorsome sauce for pasta. A flourish of grated Monchego cheese finishes this pasta perfectly.

…or Serve as a tapa at room temperature with shaved Monchego.

 

Andalusian Pisto Tapa

Andalusian Pisto Tapa

 

Andalusian Pisto with Pasta       Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 tablespoons Spanish olive oil
  • 375 g/ 13 oz ground pork
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • 150 g/5 ½ oz thinly sliced dry cured Serrano ham, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large (or 2 small) eggplant, unpeeled, diced into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • ½ teaspoon toasted coriander seeds, ground
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves, crumbled
  • 500 g/18 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons picante smoked Spanish paprika (El Avon or La Chinata brands)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • water as needed to thin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons dry Spanish sherry
  • 50 g/1 ¾ oz thinly sliced Spanish Chorizo, halved (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced broad leaf parsley
  • Manchego cheese (curado 6 months) for grating
  • pasta of choice, cooked al dente

Heat a large skillet medium high heat. Add the olive oil and when it begins to smoke add the ground pork and cook until the pork begins to brown. Lower the heat to medium and using a slotted spoon transfer the pork to a bowl and set aside.

Promptly add the onions to the skillet and saute until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Then add the sliced peppers and the serrano ham and saute until the peppers are softened. Stir in the reserved browned ground pork until the ingredients are well combined,

Add the eggplant to the skillet and season with the cumin, coriander, and marjoram. Continue sauteing until the eggplant is slightly colored and softened.

Add the crushed tomatoes and bring the contents of the pan to a simmer. Season with Spanish paprika, salt, and ground pepper. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer. After about 15 minutes stir in the sherry and continue cooking another 10 minute or so. Add the chorizo if using and cook until the sauce is the right consistency, adding water to thin the sauce if needed .

While the pisto is simmering heat a large pot of water and bring to a rolling boil. Add salt and the pasta and stir from time to time until the pasta is cooked al dente.

Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning to your liking.

When you are ready to serve drain the pasta and place it back into the pot and stir in some of the pisto to evenly coat the pasta. Transfer the pasta to individual pasta plates. Top the pasta with more pisto and scatter the parsley over each serving. Add a good grating of Manchego over each portion and serve.

Autumn Moon Salad

Autumn Moon Salad

 

As all cooks know, there are those times when you just have to buckle down and get on with making do with what you happen to have on hand. This time of year that means getting creative with the heartier autumn vegetables varieties that are available in your local farmers markets. As it happens I put this salad together on the day of the November full moon so aptly named an Autumn Moon Salad.

Maybe I’m taking some artistic license here, but indulge me. The cool weather and a brilliant full moon shimmering in the crisp autumn sky somehow seemed in sync with the earthy flavors of gold potatoes tossed with deep green Brussels sprouts and kale leaves spiked with chilies and fresh herbs. There are those times in the kitchen when everything seemingly just comes together effortlessly. 

 

Autumn Moon Salad     serves 4 to 6

  • 4 gold potatoes    aka Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 pound young Brussels sprouts
  • 2 large bunches kale or collard greens
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾ cup sliced Spanish pickled red pimientos
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano ( marjoram or wild thyme)
  • 2 teaspoons pepper corns, lightly toasted and coarsely crushed
  • ½ teaspoon pure ground red chile powder
  • flaked sea salt
  • Greek yogurt
  • za’atar (optional)      For more information about za’atar and substitutes (click here)

 

Peel the potatoes and cut into bite size pieces. Place them in a sauce pan and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt, bring to a boil and  reduce the heat and simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender but not too soft. Transfer the potatoes to a colander, drain well, and set aside to cool.

Remove the outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts and discard. Then snap off a few layers of leaves and place them in a steamer basket. Divide the remaining more compact sprout heads into quarters lengthwise and place them on top of the sprout leaves in the steamer.

Cut the kale (or collard) leaves off the stems. Peel and thinly slice the stems and add them to the steamer basket. Using a very sharp knife, remove the central ribs of the leaves and discard. Slice the leaves in half and place them in the steamer basket.

Cover the steamer with the lid and place over medium heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and steam the contents until tender, but not limp. Then remove the steamer basket and set it aside to cool uncovered.

While the vegetables are steaming you can saute the onions and garlic. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to a saute pan set over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the onions and reduce the heat a little bit. Saute until the onions are softened. Add the garlic and saute another couple of minutes and then set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked potatoes, steamed sprouts and kale (or collards) and toss. Add the sauteed onions and garlic and gently toss to evenly coat the potatoes and vegetables with the onions and garlic. Then fold in the pimientos.

Drizzle the vinegar and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil over all and toss well. Scatter the oregano (marjoram or wild thyme), crushed pepper corns, ground red chile powder, and flaked sea salt over the surface. At this point I like to use my hands to combine the seasonings into the salad for a more even distribution without damaging the potatoes. Taste and add more salt if needed.

The salad is now ready to serve or it can be refrigerated for later use.

Serving:

This salad is best served at near room temperature.

Place the salad in a shallow serving bowl or platter. Drizzle the surface with room temperature Greek yogurt and a good dusting of za.atar.

Green Chile Corn Soup with chicke

Sopa de Maiz y Chile Verde con Pollo

 

Dia de los Muertos  and Halloween celebrations, albeit different, will both be in full swing next week on both sides of US  Mexican border. I have many fond memories of Dia de los Muertos in Mexico as well as in the US sate of New Mexico. The custom of a gathering of family and friends to celebrate together with the spirits of the departed dates back to pre-Columbian cultures in Central America. Typically paths are lined with marigolds to guide the living and the departed to candle lit fiestas held in cemeteries where local foods abound, beer and tequila flows freely, and corridos ballads thread though the air until the wee hours of the morning.

For more on Dia de los Muertos and a recipe for a Mexican roasted Pumpkin Soup (click here).

This time of year is also chile harvest season and what better way to use freshly picked green chilies than in a hearty Sopa de Maiz  y Chile Verde Con Pollo. Mexican in origin but also a classic in Northern New Mexico where the New Mexico chiles reign supreme. A perfect offering for a Dia de los Muertos supper!

In Mexico fresh green poblano chilies would be used for this soup. In New Mexico Roasted fresh green New Mexico chilies would be used. If neither are available where you live use fresh green jalapeños which, when flame roasted, have a wonderful full bodied flavor and robust heat.

If you live in the US frozen flame roasted New Mexico green chilies are an alternative, though expensive. They are  available online

As tempting as canned green chilies might be, I would suggest avoiding them. They are virtually tasteless. 

Mexican Poblano, New Mexico Green, and Jalapeno chilies

Mexican Poblano, New Mexico Green, and Jalapeno chilies

 

Sopa de Maiz y chile Verde con Pollo ( Corn and Green Chile Chicken Soup)     makes 2 ½ quarts

For the chicken:         Ideally,  cook the chicken the day before you plan to make the soup.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Rinse the chicken and place it in a large stock pot. Add enough water to the pot to generously cover the chicken. Add the onions, garlic, celery, bay leaves, and black peppercorns.

Place the pot on the stove top over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to a low simmer and cook the chicken for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the chicken.

Remove the chicken from the pot and set both the chicken and the stock aside to cool.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle pull the meat off the bones in generous chunks and place them in a bowl. Leaving the chicken in larger pieces will give the soup a more substantial profile and tenderer meat when reheated.

Toss all the bones into the stock pot and return the pot to the heat. Bring the contents to a low boil and cook until the stock is reduced by half.

Remove the pot from the heat and set aside to cool for 20 minutes or so. Then strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a large container and set aside to cool to room temperature. Discard the bones and solids after straining the stock.

Once the stock is cooled, cover the container with  the lid and refrigerate overnight. 

The following morning skim off the fat that has solidified on the surface of the stock and save for another use or discard it.

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 celery ribs, finely diced
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, roasted in a dry skillet until lightly colored, skin removed, and minced
  • 2 quarts prepared chicken stock
  • 2 ears of corn, husks and silk removed, and grilled
  • 4-5 fresh New Mexico green chilies ( or 3 large fresh green poblano chilies, or 6-8 fresh green jalapeno chilies) flame roasted, skin and seeds removed, and cut into thin strips and diced
  • 2 cups home cooked white beans (or canned), drained
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crumbled
  • ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram leaves, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves crumbled
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons sea salt + more to taste
  • 1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley leaves

Place the olive oil and butter in a stock pot set over medium heat. Swirl the pan until the butter is melted and combined with the oil. Add the onions and celery and lower the heat to medium low and cook, stirring now and again until the onions and celery are very soft and translucent, about, 20 minutes.

Add the garlic and continue to cook another 5 minutes. Then add the stock. Once the stock begins to boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, adding the beans after 15 minutes. Be sure to stir from time to time so the beans do not stick to the bottom of the pot.

While the soup is simmering, grill the whole corn cobs over an open flame until the kernels are evenly colored and a deeper yellow. Then cut the kernels off the cob and set them aside in a bowl to use later.

Scrape the cobs with the back of a pairing knife to extract the corn milk from the cobs and transfer the scrapings to the simmering stock pot.

Likewise, while the soup continues to cook flame roast the chilies until the skins are evenly blistered. Transfer them to a bowl, seal with cling film, and let them sweat until cool enough to handle. Then slip off the blistered skin. Cut the chilies in half, remove the seeds and veins, slice into strips, and cut the strips into half inch pieces and set aside.

Once the ingredients in the stock pot are cooked remove the pot from the heat and cool for a few minutes. Then blend the contents of the pot with a hand held immersion blender until the mixture is smooth.

Return the pot to to the stove top set over medium heat and add the corn kernels, green chilies, oregano, marjoram, sage, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. Stir and cook the soup for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently as the pureed beans would otherwise settle to the bottom of the pot and scorch.

Put the pulled boiled chicken in a pot with a cup or so of water and reheat until the chicken is hot.

Taste the soup broth and in the stock pot and add salt as needed. Stir in the parsley and cook another couple of minutes. Then add the hot pulled chicken to the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a low simmer just before you are ready to serve.

Garnishes:

  • dried red chile rajas (strips)
  • tostada corn chips
  • sour cream
  • lime wedges

To make the dried red chile rajas, place 8 dried red chilies in a dry skillet set over medium low heat. Using a metal spatula, press the chilies

Red Chile Rajas

Red Chile Rajas

against the bottom of the skillet briefly then flip them and repeat, then promptly remove them from the skillet to a cutting board.

While they are still warm and pliable, cut the chilies in to very thin strips lengthwise. Then halve the strips crosswise. Heat a little olive oil in a small pan and briefly fry the rajas and set them aside to cool.

Serving:

Ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls, mounding the chicken in the center. Stick several tostatda chips around the chicken. Add a dollop of sour cream in the center and scatter the red chile rajas over the sour cream. Serve with fresh lime wedges placed on the table.

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