A Good Gift? & Pie

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What is a good gift for one who is grieving? Acknowledgement of how hard it must be for them during the holidays. Just a simple heartfelt statement about how much that person must be missed. It doesn’t matter how long the person has been gone. The longing for them to be at the table or searching for the pickle on the tree or exchanging gifts is the same. Just a simple statement and a warm embrace will make a difference. No festive wrapping paper or bow required.

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The recognition of a person’s grief allows them to relax a bit. It allows them to remove the happy mask and just be themselves. It releases that tension in the jaw and that need to escape to a quiet place where tears can be shed alone. No one wants to be “Debbie Downer” this time of year, so help release the sorrow and fine the joy. Just a few simple words are all it takes. Trust me.

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Happy New Year. I hope so. Out with the old and in with the new. A purge. I usually start by cleaning out my pantry, my fridge and my freezer. A fresh start with a hearty meal to brave the cold weather ahead.

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Here is a recipe I created cleaning out all my holiday leftovers. A most delicious pie I enjoyed a few years back from a local food truck inspires it. A savory combination of beef, cheese and onions in a flaky crust will do nicely with the addition of some mushrooms. The food truck, “Nomadic Pies” enjoyed such success that they were able to open up a brick and mortar store in my sweet town of Kennett Square. If you’re not a baker (you should be) try a Nomadic pie. Every flavor is delicious and makes a great gift if you want to spread a little comfort and joy in the new year.

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A great piecrust recipe is crucial to a great pie. The standard is a mix of flour, salt, fat and water, but I usually try and change it up a bit wanting the crust to enhance the filling. Since I am baking a beef pie I change out the water for beef broth. It offers a subtle flavor and golden color change to the crust I like very much. Before starting make sure all your ingredients are icy cold to insure that flaky crust. I like to grate my butter into the flour and salt mixture.

Savory Pie Crust Dough

Makes enough dough for 4 (5-inch) or 1 (10-inch) double crust pies

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

4 grinds fresh black pepper

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter (very cold or frozen)

6 tablespoons low sodium beef broth

Whisk flour, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Grate butter over the top. Toss it well with a fork insuring the butter gets separated into bits and coated with the dry mixture. Add broth, two tablespoons at a time, tossing mixture around with the fork. Using your hands, bring the dough together into a ball. Flatten like a pancake and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 30 minutes which allows the dough to hydrate evenly. Roll out your dough to fit your pie pans. 

Now for the filling.

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Beefy Mushroom & Gruyere Pie

2 sweet onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups sliced cremini (baby bella) mushrooms

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1-cup low sodium beef broth

½ cup heavy cream plus additional for brushing over pies before baking

2 cups diced leftover cooked beef (prime rib, steak whatever you have)

salt and pepper

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

2 chopped green onions

finishing salt of your choice (I used The Spice Lab Hickory Smoked)

In a skillet, cook onions in 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until golden brown and caramelized. Transfer onions to a bowl. In same skillet, cook mushrooms in remaining butter until they have released their liquid and brown. Sprinkle with flour, cook 2 minutes, stirring. Stir in broth and cream; bring to a boil. Let mixture reduce until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in beef. Season well with salt and pepper. Line Pie plate with pastry. Spread half the cheese over bottom of pastry. Top with an even layer of onions. Spoon mushroom-beef mixture evenly over onions. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and green onions. Dab a small amount of cold water on bottom crust edge. Cover pie with top crust. Seal and flute edges. Brush top of pie lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle with finishing salt. Cut slits in top of pie for steam to escape while baking. Bake at 400F for 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling hot.

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Finishing off the crust before baking with a light glaze of cream and salt

The products featured in this blog post are things I actually like and use all the time. I was not paid to feature or endorse them. This is not a sponsored post.

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These pies went into the freezer for future meals. Do not make steam vents or glaze if the plan is to freeze them for later.

Following In His Light & Crispy Coconut Oyster Mushrooms

crispy coconut oyster mushrooms go Asian

crispy coconut oyster mushrooms go Asian

This weekend my hometown of Kennett Square, PA has closed down its main streets in anticipation of 100,000 visitors. MushroomFest2015 is in full swing celebrating its 30th year with vendors, music, food, contests and entertainment. Several months ago I was asked to be a “celebrity chef” and do a cooking demo in the culinary tent. I was flattered and replied with an enthusiastic, “yes”, but as the date drew near I grew more nervous and anxious about my ability to do such a presentation. I love this town and I love the festival which is run by volunteers, but I was so scared about falling on my face that I honestly thought about backing out.

how about that?

how about that?

Never did a cooking demonstration before and unfamiliar territory is typically frightening. How was I going to cook, on a stage, and entertain a crowd á la Food Network Star? It wasn’t something I could practice.  In addition, I had to follow the famous and charming Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani. Not too much pressure. Did I really say, “yes”? Truth is I am no Food Network Star. Further, other self-doubting thoughts were taking up space in my head, but then it hit me why I said “yes”. I promised to follow in his light. Channelling my inner William and celebrating his fearlessness, I mustered up the courage to step out of my comfort zone and win over the crowd with my mastery of mushrooms.

teaching about mushroom blendability

teaching about mushroom blendability

It’s all part of the journey. Following in his light. Transforming myself. Its typical of grievers to take on some of the traits of those they have loved and lost. William has helped me conquer quite a few fears and I am ever so grateful for that. Luckily the demo went well. Surprisingly well. No fanfare. Just being myself. The crowd was engaged. They were laughing and cooking with me. It was like being in my own kitchen. Cooking what I like and loving when I cook. The audience members asked questions and they learned. They clapped and I even got a few hugs. Thank you to those who stopped by and to my son for giving me the courage. I love and miss you every single day.

He is cheering me on

He is cheering me on.

Now here is the fan favorite recipe. It is the perfect appetizer for not only the mushroom lover, but also for those who can’t eat shellfish. Mushrooms are very similar in texture to shellfish. I have had people bite into these and ask if it is an oyster or shrimp.Serve with your favorite dipping sauce or try the one I suggest here.

yup, they are mushrooms

yup, they are mushrooms

Crispy Coconut Oyster Mushrooms with Sweet Asian Chili Sauce

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup lime-flavored seltzer water

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (I like Bob’s Red Mill )

1 cup fine dry breadcrumb

18 oyster mushroom caps

vegetable oil ( for frying)

salt

Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

½ cup red pepper jelly

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

1-teaspoon Asian fish sauce or soy sauce

In a mixing bowl, whisk flour, salt, ginger, pepper and seltzer until smooth. Combine coconut and breadcrumbs in a large zippered bag. Dip each mushroom in batter letting excess drip back into bowl. Drop mushroom into bag and gently shake to coat with coconut crumbs. (At this point the mushrooms can be placed on a rack in the refrigerator until ready to serve.) Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches in a deep skillet or Dutch oven; heat to 350°. Fry mushrooms, in batches, 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with dipping sauce.

To make the dipping sauce, in small saucepan over low heat, stir all the ingredients together until jelly is melted and blended.

gorgeous KSQ oyster mushrooms

gorgeous KSQ oyster mushrooms

Finally, here is a mushroom fun fact. Like humans, mushrooms are the only fruit/vegetable that when exposed to ultra violet light make their own Vitamin D.