Monday, March 28, 2011

Pie in your Pocket

I believe Pocket Pies, a.k.a Hand Pies, a.k.a. Turnovers to be a long lost art. They fit in your hand and are filled with anything you can imagine; savory meats to fruity treats. Most cultures seem to have their own versions of them and there are almost as many cooking methods as there are filling possibilities, most notably, baking, pan frying and deep frying.

I was able to make one with some leftover short crust dough I had made for a quiche, and the second half of an onion, also leftover from making the quiche.

Onion Turnover

The full dough recipe is here.

I had a scrap big enough to re-roll into an oval shape, approximately 6 x 8 inches. I placed the scrap on a baking sheet and held it in the refrigerator until my filling was ready.

For the filling I used 1/2 a large onion, sliced. I browned the slices in a small saute pan with a little bit of Olive Oil and some salt and pepper to taste. For one half of the onion, it took almost 30 minutes to get to the desired color. Stir often! When the onions had the right color to them remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once the onion filling is cool enough spoon it onto one half of the rolled out pie crust leaving a margin around the edge and folded the other half over. Press the turnover lightly to release any air bubbles then fold the edges over in layers or crimp lightly with a fork to seal. Using a knife or kitchen shears, slice 2 or 3 slits in the top to allow for steam ventilation.

Bake in a 375* pre-heated oven for 25 - 30 minutes until the dough has turned a light golden brown. I checked mine at 15 minutes then again after another 15 minutes.

Quick and Basic Pie Dough

adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"

Pate Brisee
Short Paste, Pastry Dough, Pie Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
6 ounces (1 1/2 stick)chilled butter, cut into bits
4 Tbsp chilled shortening
scant 1/2 cup iced or really cold water, plus more as needed.

I would recommend having all the ingredients ready before mixing by hand, including the water, so as to avoid having to wash your hands repeatedly, or getting flour all over your kitchen.

"Place flour, salt, sugar, butter and vegetable shortening in a big mixing bowl. Rub the flour and fat together rapidly between the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into pieces the size of oatmeal flakes. Do not overdo this step as the fat will be blended more thoroughly later"

When blending the flour and butter together it maybe helpful to look for a wet sand kind of texture to the flour. Its ready for the next step when you can squeeze some of the dough in your hand and it stays in a clump when you release it.

"Add the water and blend quickly with one hand, fingers held together and slightly cupped, as you rapidly gather the sough into a mass. Sprinkle up to 1 tablespoon more water by droplets over any un-massed remains and add them to the main body of the sough. Then press the sough firmly into a roughly shaped ball. It should just hold together and be pliable, but not sticky."

If you do happen to add to much water, you can add a bit more flour to the dough ball in the next step called fraisage, or final blending.

"Place the dough on a lightly floured pastry board. With the heel of one hand, not the balm which is too warm, rapidly press the pastry by two-spoonful bits down on the board and away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6 inches." Basically you are making sure the butter is well blended into the dough. Once the dough has been smooshed, gather it up into a mass and knead it briefly into a ball. Lightly flour the ball and wrap it up in plastic wrap or waxed paper. You can place the dough into the freezer for up to an hour until it is firm, or refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.

"Uncooked pastry dough will keep for 2 to 3 days under refrigeration, or may be frozen for several weeks. Always wrap it airtight in waxed paper and a plastic bag." (I imagine plastic wrap would be just fine)

What to do when you have too many eggs in your basket

I recently celebrated a special night and had my family and close friends over for a Pancake Supper for Fat Tuesday.

Fortunately there was a lot of great food and good fun had by all (and a lot of yummy leftovers to eat the rest of the week)

Unfortunately between purchasing eggs myself, getting another dozen from my Mom, and the roommate bringing home another dozen a few days later, we were left with quite the plethora of eggs in the refrigerator..

I decided to use them in such a way so they would be a little more appetizing than egg salad for a week: Quiche.

I have recently acquired a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by the esteemed Miss Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. I've perused a few pages and it seems to be a comprehensive and extremely well written culinary tome.

I based my quiche making on the recipe for Quiche aux Epinards with only a few changes. I made my quiche in a square baking dish instead of a tart pan or round pie plate. Instead of blanching the spinach, I sauteed mine in a large pan in olive oil. I also sauteed some diced mushrooms to add in as well. Lastly I used Mozzarella cheese instead of Swiss cheese.

You could probably get away with a store bought pie crust or use a roll of biscuits, re-rolled into a round and placed in the pan as a crust. If you can't get the biscuit dough to roll out thinly, let it come to room temperature and then press into the corners of your pan. Remember to poke holes in the bottom with a fork so the crust won't puff too much then pre-bake the crust slightly; 8 - 10 minutes in a 375* oven should do the trick.

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

8 inch partially cooked pastry shell (recipe to follow)
5 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 container of sliced mushrooms
1/4 large onion, diced
1/2 16 oz bag of fresh spinach
1/4 large onion, sliced
4 to 6 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

If you are making your own pie crust, assemble the dough and let chill in the freezer for about an hour while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

Heat up about 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large saute pan. Drop 2 or 3 of the lightly smashed garlic cloves in the oil. They should still be in large chunks, big enough to pull out with tongs later, once they have flavored the oil.

Dice 1/4 of the large onion and add to the hot oil. Saute the onions until they soften and start to become translucent. While the onions are cooking, quickly dice up the sliced mushrooms and add those to the pan as well.

Saute the mushrooms, stirring often, until they have released their juices and have started to brown up. This can take about 8 - 10 minutes. Once the mushrooms have browned, season them to taste with salt and pepper, cook a few moments more, then spoon them into a bowl and set aside. Pull out the chunks of garlic clove and discard.

In the same pan, pour in another 2 - 3 Tbsp of olive oil and another 2-3 cloves of smashed garlic. Slice the onion quarter this time and add those to the oil to saute until softened and slightly translucent. Go ahead and pull the garlic gloves now so they don't become lost in the spinach.

Start adding the spinach in handfuls. It will look like a lot, but the leaves will start to wilt down. Add the spinach in batches if they don't all fit into the saute pan at once. Stir often so the unwitled pieces can get closer to the heat. It should only take a few minutes for all of the leaves to wilt down. You don't want to over cook them; they should look bright green.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly. While the mushrooms and spinach cool, start making the egg portion of the quiche.

Beat the 3 eggs, milk and a pinch of nutmeg in a large bowl to blend. Gradually stir the mushrooms and spinach into the egg mixture. Add 1/4 cup of the Mozzarella cheese and stir to blend. Set the mixture aside while you finish the crust.

Preheat the oven to 375*

Take the ball of dough out of the freezer and roll out on a floured counter or board. Work quickly so you don't over soften the butter in the dough. Knead the ball a few times to soften, then using a rolling pin, roll the dough into about a 1/8 inch thickness. Turn the dough and re-flour the board as necessary so the dough doesn't become sticky.

Once the pastry has reached the desired thickness carefully transfer the round to your baking dish. Trim any overhanging edges and pinch the dough about 1/8 inch above the rim of the baking dish, to make a even ridge of dough around the edges. Poke holes in the bottom of the pastry dough and pre-bake it for 8 -10 minutes, or until it starts to brown. To keep the dough from puffing up too much, layer a piece of tin foil on top of the dough and either sandwich another similar shaped dish on top, or poor in some dried beans or rice. This is also called blind baking.

After the crust is ready, carefully pour the quiche mixture into the prepared pastry shell; it should come about 3/4 up the sides. Sprinkle the rest of the Mozzarella cheese across the top and place the quiche in the middle of the center rack and bake for another 30 - 35 minutes. The quiche is done when a knife plunged into the center comes out clean.

Julia says that the quiche "will stay puffed for about 10 minutes in the turned-off oven with the door ajar. As it cools, it sinks down. It may be reheated, but will not puff again. A cold quiche makes a good snack and is easy to take along on a picnic."

Here is the recipie for the pie crust