Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, November 30, 2011; Pan Roasting and Sauté

Pan Roasting and Sauté

Of these two methods of cooking, sauté is definitely the more common method. Pan roasting is probably used more often the one would think but probably not correctly. Many cooks mistake pan-roasting for roasting, the difference being the use of a cover in the pan roasting process. If done correctly pan-roasting will result in an attractive, moist and flavorful product, if not done properly the result can be flavorful but not necessarily attractive.


Pan-roasting is considered a variation of roasting, but differs from the traditional roasting process in that after searing, the product is roasted covered, creating a moist cooking environment. Aromatics are added near the end of the cooking process to add flavor and additional moisture. During the cooking process, there is an exchange of flavors between the different elements. which are then fixed by the fat present in the meat. Cooking with a cover prevents the steam from escaping, thus creating a flavorful, humid atmosphere. A glaze is applied at the end of the cooking process to replace the crust that would have resulted from straight roasting.

The pan-roasting process is categorized as follows:

Type: mixed
Humidity: humid
Color: brown

The Pan-Roasting Process

  • Prepare the piece by trimming and, if needed, tying with butcher's twine.
  • Season.
  • Sear in a small amount of fat or oil.
  • Cook covered in a medium oven (375°F.), turning and basting the piece.
  • Add aromatic garnish.
  • Finish cooking.
  • Leave to rest covered.
  • Make a sauce.
  • Glaze.

Pan-roasted items are traditionally served with the sauce on the side and accompanied by an elaborate garnish.


Pan-roasting is applied to large pieces of meat that are too tough for roasting but to tender for braising, such as a large lamb leg or game foul.


Sauté or pan-fry is used to cook small, tender pieces in a small amount of fat. The goal of sauté is to create a crust that will maintain the natural juices of the piece.

The sautéing process is categorized as follows:

Type: concentration
Humidity: dry
Color: brown

The Sautéing Process

  • Prepare the piece by trimming and drying.
  • Season.
  • Sear in a small amount of fat, usually clarified butter.
  • Cook the piece by turning and basting.
  • Allow to rest.
  • Prepare the garnish.
  • Make the sauce.

Sautéed items are traditionally served uncovered, with all the elements together. 


Sautéing can be applied to small, tender cuts of meat:
  • Poultry
  • Offal
  • Game
  • Fish
  • Vegetables
Tomorrow I will discuss Braising, a method that seems to be growing in popularity and Deep-Frying.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, November 29, 2011; Roasting and Grilling

Roasting and Grilling

Yesterday I discussed the categories that are involved in the seven classic French cooking methods. Today I am going to get right down to the methods, starting with roasting and grilling.


Roasting is used to cook large tender pieces in a dry atmosphere, in the oven or on a spit. One of the finished goals of a roast is to create a crust which adds color and aroma and ensures a moist juicy interior.

The roasting process is categorized as follows:

Type: concentration
Humidity: dry
Color: brown

The Roasting Process

  • Prepare the piece by trimming and, if needed, tying with butcher's twine.
  • Place on a rack in a roasting pan, season and generously cover with pieces of butter.
  • Place directly into a hot oven.
  • Turn, baste with fat or oil, and cook to desired doneness. For larger pieces, the heat would be reduced to allow the heat to penetrate without overcooking the outside, whereas smaller pieces would be cooked quickly to prevent overcooking by prolonged exposure to high heat.
  • Allow to rest.
  • Make a jus from the sucs, or browned cooking juices, left in the pan.

A roast is traditionally served with a jus on the side, always uncovered, and sliced table side.


Roasting is applied to:
  • Large pieces of tender butchery meats such as beef tenderloin, pork loin, and veal rack
  • Poultry, usually whole
  • Game, such as venison
  • Large fish, usually whole
  • Vegetables, such as onions and potatoes

Grilling is the process of cooking a tender piece of meat by exposing it directly to a heat source in the open air or a well-ventilated space. 

The goal in grilling is the formation of a crust. Never pierce red meat during the cooking process because the break in the crust will allow juices to escape and dry out the product.

The grilling process is categorized as follows:

Type: concentration
Humidity: dry
Color: brown

The grilling process:
  • Heat and clean the grill.
  • Prepare the piece by drying and, if needed, tying with butcher's twine.
  • Season or marinate in advance.
  • Sear.
  • Cook and mark the piece.
  • Leave to rest.
  • Lustrer with a cold composed butter or other fat or oil.

Grilled foods are traditionally served with a hot emulsion sauce or cold compound butter. A sauce is served on the side, never on the meat, whereas butter is served on the meat or on the side.


Grilling is applied to:
  • Small tender cuts of meat such as steaks, chops, cutlets, scallops, medallions
  • Fish, whole or in pieces
  • Vegetables (may be blanched first)
Tomorrow I will discuss pan roasting and pan-frying.

Adapted from Cuisine Foundations, The Chefs of Le Cordon Bleu, Publisher Delmar Cengage Learning.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Culinary IQ: Monday, November 28, 2011; Classic Cooking Methods

How Should I Cook This?

This week I will start a discussion of the seven universally recognized methods of French cooking. Known as Les Cuissons. The seven classic methods are Rôtir (to roast), Griller (to grill), Poêler (to pan roast), Sauter (to pan fry), Braiser (to braise), Frire (to deep fry) and Pocher (to poach).

Each method is made up of three categories specific to that method. The three categories are type, humidity and color. 

Type refers to how the flavor is developed during the cooking process. Flavor can be developed by applying heat in any of three ways; by concentration, by expansion, or by mixed, a combination of concentration or expansion. There are two types of concentration, direct or indirect. Direct concentration refers to the exposure of a food to direct heat, such as an open flame. Indirect concentration is when the product is placed in a recipient or covered by a layer of fat. In contrast to concentration, expansion uses indirect heat that is usually created by a liquid or steam. Mixed is the application of both concentration and expansion. For example, a piece of meat may first be seared by using concentration and then finished by expansion using liquid or steam to finish cooking.

Humidity refers to the amount of liquid that is used during the cooking process. A method can use a dry environment or a humid environment. A dry environment is one in which no additional liquid is added or accumulated other than a small amount of fat such as butter or oil. Cooking is usually done with the pot or pan uncovered. A humid environment is created by using a small or large amount of liquid. Cooking is usually done with the pot or pan covered to maintain the humid environment and to control the rate of evaporation of the liquid. 

Color refers to the process of giving the product color through the cooking process. The degree of coloring depends on the cooking technique, the product, the intensity of the heat being applied, and the length of exposure. Products can take on three degrees of coloring, Brun (brown), Blond (blond) or Blanc (white).

Once you are familiar with the three categories of type, humidity and color you can choose the best cooking method to accomplish your desired goal when cooking. Tomorrow I will start discussing the seven classic methods of cooking.

Adapted from Cuisine Foundations, The Chefs of Le Cordon Bleu, Publisher, Delmar Cengage Learning

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Culinary IQ: Sunday, November 27, 2011

Still Eating Turkey?

While turkey is the traditional Thanksgiving centerpiece for the meal, our gathering has grown to include a ham and most recently a vegan main course. So when the dust cleared there was a lot of turkey left over. After all that hard work what do you do with the leftovers?

Here are a few suggestions:

First there is the sandwich, you could make a simple sandwich with some turkey, mayo, lettuce and tomato or you could get more adventurous and add some of the leftover cranberry sauce and stuffing. Take it a little further and make a puree out of the leftover sweet potatoes to add to the sandwich. A nice club sandwich could be made using the leftover ham and some bacon. What is your favorite sandwich?

How about a pot pie? With some frozen peas, carrots and green beans you can make a mean pot pie. All you need are a couple of pre-made pie crusts. Make a cream sauce and add the turkey vegetables and whatever seasonings you prefer then put a pie shell in the bottom of the pan pour in the filling and cover with the second pic crust. Pinch and roll the two crust together and cut a few slits in the top to let out the steam. The pot pie can be baked immediately or frozen for baking later.

Soup is always good this time of year. You could make a nice vegetable turkey soup or turkey noodle or rice. Serve with a nice loaf of crusty bread and you have a warm pleaser.

One of my favorites is an old diner special, the hot turkey sandwich. Start with two pieces of bread then add warm turkey, mashed potatoes and top with the left over turkey gravy. This takes me back to my childhood.

There are an endless number of things that you can do with leftover turkey. I would like to hear what you did with yours.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Culinary IQ: Thursday, November 24, 2011; Thanksgiving Day

The Perfect Time

This year my turkey was done perfectly on time! It was probably luck. We always have a large gathering for Thanksgiving and the thing that is most difficult is letting others know when they need to start getting their dishes ready for serving. Today it was flawless. This is how the day went.

Baked 2 pumpkin pies last night
Up early this morning to make a Bourbon Chocolate Pecan pie.
Washed, trussed and seasoned turkey
Ham in the oven for 2½ hours
Turkey in the roaster for 3½ hours
Cooked sausage for stuffing
Cooked giblets and herbs for stuffing
Chopped vegetables for stuffing
Assembled stuffing
Cleaned and chopped kale for braised kale
Ham out of the oven
Vegan Wellington in the oven
Made gravy for turkey with earlier made chicken stock, mushrooms and onions.
Braised kale
Put out cru de te, bread and butter pickles, beat pickles and deli dills.
Put out mustard for ham and cranberry for turkey.
Turkey done and resting for 30 minutes
30 minute warning for others to get their dishes ready!
Ham was carved.
Turkey was carved.
All food items put out. 
The feast begins!

And here is what it was made up of:

Bread and Butter Pickles
Deli Dill Pickles
Pickled beats
Jello Salad
Overnight Lettuce Salad
Vegan Black Bean Salad
Quinoa Salad with Shrimp
Bread and butter
Green bean casserole
Mashed Potatoes
Braised fennel
Apple and Sweet Potato Casserole
Braised Kale
Sausage Stuffing
Glazed ham
Herbed Honey Mustard
Mushroom gravy
Vegan wellington
Vegan mushroom gravy
Pumpkin pie
Bourbon Chocolate Pecan pie
Apple pie
Vegan Pumpkin Pie

More than one family can eat! But all delicious.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Check back tomorrow for left over ideas.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Culnary IQ: Wednesday, November 23, 2011; Turkey Sides

Does This Dressing Make Me Look Fat?

Now that you have decided how to prepare your turkey, the second most important decision is what stuffing will be the best accompaniment. After the stuffing, the gravy and then the mashed potatoes are next in importance.

The variety of stuffing or dressing recipes are almost endless. Will the base be bread or cornbread, or something else? Will there be fruit or meat? Nuts? What herbs to use? Many traditional stuffings are regional and were most likely derived from the availability of ingredients. Modern markets have ingredients from around the world available to you to use in your stuffings. I encourage you to use local, it is a great way to give thanks to your local farmers! I am sure you will find the perfect stuffing for your feast. I will share with you the stuffing that my family made for generations, you will have to use our own judgement when adding some of the ingredients:

Oyster Stuffing

2 12-ounce packages of seasoned stuffing or the equivalent in toasted dry bread

Cooked giblets from turkey, chopped, water reserved

1 small can oysters, chopped

1-2 tsp. dry chopped sage

1-2 tsp. dry oregano

2 eggs, slightly beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the stuffing or bread in a large bowl, chopped giblets, oysters, sage, and oregano. Add eggs and mix thoroughly. Add enough of the water from the giblets to moisten the stuffing and season with salt and pepper. Place stuffing in a large greased baking dish and bake until golden and heated through, 30-40 minutes.

When it comes to gravy and potatoes, the best are always the ones made just before the meal goes on the table. The pressure of getting the turkey to the table can often make it too stressful to be hovering over the stove to keep the gravy from getting lumpy. If you don't have enough helpers in the kitchen I suggest some make ahead options. I have used both of these recipes before with great success:

Make Ahead Gravy

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

I hope these suggestions will help you get the Thanksgiving meal on the table without stressing out to much. I will check back with you tomorrow to see how it is going. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, November 22, 2011; Turkey Cooking Methods

To Stuff Or Not To Stuff
I have tried several methods of cooking the turkey over the years. I have stuffed the turkey and I have left the turkey unstuffed. The most important factor in cooking the turkey, whether stuffed or not is to make sure the correct temperature of 165°F. is reached (check temperature with a thermometer inserted between the body of the turkey and the thigh, be careful not to hit a bone). When stuffing the turkey the temperature at the middle of the stuffing needs to be 165°F.. A possible downside to stuffing the turkey is that the bird overcooks before the stuffing reaches the proper temperature. Once the correct temperature is reached it is also important to let the turkey rest so the natural juices are distributed back into the meat. Remove the turkey from the oven and tent with a piece of foil and let stand for 30 minutes before carving. This allows you to warm up your side dishes in the oven while the turkey is napping. Funny, the turkey naps before the feast and we usually nap after!

Now that the important information about cooking is out of the way here a few common methods for cooking your turkey:

How to Roast, Unstuffed or Stuffed

On the Barbecue

Deep Frying


An important sub note: Always take the giblet bag out of the turkey before cooking! I have a friend who told me a story about his mother who was not the best of cooks. She decided to roast the turkey for Thanksgiving and had it all prepared and put in the oven. Sometime into the roasting as the family was enjoying the pre meal festivities, a commotion was heard in the kitchen. They all rushed in to see what had happened, to their surprise the turkey had exploded. Cause: failure to remove the giblet bag!

I hope this post has helped you decide what cooking process to use for your turkey and will give you a little more confidence in serving the perfect turkey.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Culinary IQ: Monday, November 21, 2011; Turkey History

Let's Talk Turkey

It is Thanksgiving week and I can't let it pass without discussing turkey this week. History tells us that if we were following the original feasts of the holiday we would probably be discussing venison. The first celebration of Thanksgiving was not a single meal but a 3 day event that was more of a political gathering between the Wamponoag indians and the Plimoth pilgrims. The event was attended by men only and was held outdoors instead of at a long Thanksgiving table. Pumpkin and cranberry were most likely part of the meals but not in the pies or sauces we know them for today. So how did the turkey become part of the meal? Turkey started appearing as a traditional part of the meal when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. And away we go!

The wild turkey was the first turkey served at Thanksgiving and is native to North America. Rather than being farmed, the turkeys that made it to the table were hunted and can still be hunted in various parts of the US today. The domestic turkey is descended from several species of wild turkeys. It has been bred to be white because the white pin feathers are less visible when the carcass is dressed. Sadly, conventional turkey producing practices have caused the turkey to no longer propagate naturally so the only way for them to reproduce is through artificial insemination. Additionally, overcrowding prevents conventionally grown turkeys from moving about in their pens. I am pleased that more and more brands of free range organic turkeys are becoming available today and as a result the prices are coming down.

Now that my brief history of the turkey is out of the way there are numerous ways to prepare the turkey for your Thanksgiving feast. This week I will discuss some of the ways to prepare your turkey, as well as making gravy for the bird and what to do with leftovers. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday November 18, 2011; Pie Tips

Tips for Delicious Pies

Making pies can be fun and the results delicious. Here are a few tips for making a successful pie that will make you the hit of the Thanksgiving Feast:

Getting the crust in the pie pan

Flaky, mealy and cookie crusts must be rolled, then fitted into a pie or tart pan. Crumb crusts are dumped into the pan, then pressed into place.

To roll a crust, it is best to start with chilled dough that has been allowed to rest after mixing. The resting allows the protein (called gluten) in the flour to relax. This prevents the dough from shrinking as you roll. Resting also allows the moisture in the dough to be absorbed (thereby requiring less flour on your counter and pin, and making a more tender crust).

Start by lightly dusting your counter and pin with flour. Place your dough on the counter and roll from the center, turning it every couple of rolls to prevent sticking and to keep it round. Hold your pie pan over the dough to test to see if it's big enough. The dough should extend about 2 inches beyond the pie pan all the way around.

To transfer the dough from the counter to the pie pan, fold it in half, then again to form quarters. Gently lift the dough and place it in the pan, with the point at the center. Unfold carefully to fully cover and fill the pie pan.

If it tears, it's OK! Just patch it with some scrap dough from the side. Pie dough is pretty forgiving if it's at the right temperature. If it gets too warm, put it back in the refrigerator (or freezer) for a few minutes. If it's too cold, let it sit on the counter for a few minutes. You should be able to pinch the dough together wherever you need it to patch any mistakes.

Edging pie dough

Flaky, mealy and cookie crusts need to be edged.

And the prettier the edge, the prettier the pie. But when to edge is determined by the number of crusts used in each pie.

For double crust pies (meaning there is a bottom crust, a filling, then a top crust), the pie should be filled, then topped with the second crust before the edges are crimped. A single crust pie (there is no top crust), the crimping should be done before the filling is added.

To crimp either style, begin by trimming the excess dough all around the pie so that you have just  1/2inch of overhang. Gently roll the overhang underneath itself so that it sits on top of the rim of the pie pan.

For an easy and rustic look, gently press all the way around with a fork. For a more decorative and classic finish, you can pinch the edge of the dough between your fingers. To do this, use your two fingers and your thumb to pinch the dough together at regular intervals around the rim.

Placing pies on baking pan

Whatever variety crust you use, it's a good idea to set the pie on a baking sheet when you place it in the oven.

First, this helps conduct heat to the bottom of the pie, ensuring the bottom of your crust cooks as perfectly as the outer edge. 

Second, the baking sheet makes it easier and safer to transfer the pie to and from the over, as well as to rotate it in the oven during baking if needed for even browning.

Third, pies sometimes bubble over. It happens. And when it happens, it's much easier to clean the mess off a baking sheet than the bottom of your oven.

Blind Baking

Blind baking is your friend.

Some single crust pie recipes call for "blind baking" the crust. This means the crust dough is placed into the pie pan and fully baked before the filling is added.

To do this, fit your dough into the pan as directed, then crimp the edge as desired. Refrigerate it for 10 minutes. Chilling the crust just before baking helps prevent it from shrinking.

Just before placing the empty crust in the oven, line it with a sheet of foil, then fill with 1  1/2to 2 cups of dry beans, coins or uncooked rice. Unless directed otherwise by your recipe, bake the crust at 400 F for 15 minutes, or until golden around the edges.

Remove the crust from the oven and remove the foiling and beans or coins. Lower the oven temperature to 375 F and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the crust is evenly golden.
Weighing down the crusts during blind baking prevents the bottom from rising during cooking. This step is not needed with crumb crusts, which do not rise.

Making Ahead

Most crusts can be prepared ahead of time and stored until needed.

Virtually all recipes for mealy, flaky and cookies crusts call for preparing the dough, then shaping it into a disk, wrapping in plastic and refrigerating for a bit before rolling out. At this stage, the doughs also can be frozen for several months (thaw overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature for 20 minutes) or refrigerated for about 36 hours.

The doughs also can be rolled out, fitted into pie pans and edged, then wrapped and frozen or refrigerated for the same periods of time.

Crumb crusts come together so quickly, advance prep is mostly unnecessary. But the crumbs and any flavorings certainly could be prepared and blended ahead of time.

Follow these simple tips and your pie baking will stress free and the results will be rewarding!

Retrieved from

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Culinary IQ: Thursday, November 17, 2011; Pie Toppings

To Top it Off!
Topping a pie is the finishing touch and is what often makes the pie a showpiece. Some pies are showpieces within themselves and do not require a topping. These pies may be accompanied by a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, the pumpkin and pecan pies are examples.

Here are a few of the more common toppings or pies:

Crust - Often referred to as a two crust pie, the same crust is used to line the pie pan and top the filling. Folding and crimping the edges is important to keep the filling from running out the sides of the pie while baking. Two crust pies are typically fruit pies and sometimes savory pies like turkey or chicken pot pies. Some pot pies only have a top crust.

Crumb or Streusel - Is a topping that is usually made from flour, sugar, spices and an ample amount of butter to create a course crumbly mixture. The mixture is spread over the pie filling and baked to become a rich crunchy topping. Crumb topping can be used on pies that are smooth in nature to give them more texture like a sweet potato pie. When crumb crusts are used on fruit pies they are commonly called Dutch, as in Dutch Apple Pie.

Cream - Whipped cream is usually used for topping cream, custard and chiffon pies. The cream is sweetened and flavored and whipped to firm peaks, it can then be piled high on the filling to give the pie a dramatic look. Piping the cream is also attractive.

Meringue -There are three types of meringue, Swiss, French and Italian, in order of their stability. Italian is the preferred meringue for topping pies as the egg whites are fully cooked during the process of making the meringue. It is safer and the most stable for topping a pie. Once the meringue is arranged on the pie it is "brûléed" or browned by baking it in a hot oven until the ridges and points of the meringue become browned. You can also you a kitchen torch if you are lucky enough to have one. Meringue is the common topping for dense custard pies with intense flavor like lemon. the lightness of the meringue balances the intensity of the filling.

Here is a great recipe for Italian Meringue:

Italian Meringue
8 oz. sugar
2 oz. water
4 oz. egg whites (about 2-3 eggs)
1. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture 
boils. Boil until a candy thermometer placed in the syrup registers 243°F (117°C). 
2. While the syrup is cooking, beat the egg whites in a mixing machine until they form 
soft peaks. 
3. With the machine running, very slowly beat in the hot syrup. 
4. Continue beating until the meringue is cool and forms firm peaks. 

I have now discussed the most common of the three main components of a pie, the crust, filling and topping. As with anything in the kitchen there is not set rule that pies have to be made this way so I encourage you to experiment and create your own signature pie.

Tomorrow I will give you a few tips for successful pie baking.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, November 16, 2011; Fillings

Why Don't You Fill Me Up
Pie fillings are something I have a lot of opinions about. First and most important, I get totally frustrated when I make a pie for the first time and the filling doesn't come anywhere close to completely filling the size pie shell the recipe calls for. Another thing that totally annoys me is a pie filling that runs when the pie is cut, I will make an exception for some fruit pies. 

Enough of my opinions. I may have mentioned before that the recipes I enjoy making the most are simple, wholesome and hearty so forgive me for only discussing some of the most commonly made pies here:

Fruit: Fillings are made from cooked or uncooked fresh, frozen, cooked, canned or even dried fruit. Apple, Cherry and Peach are popular examples of fruit fillings.

Cream: The filling is pre-made from a custard or mousse, spread in a previously baked pastry or crumb crust. Chocolate and Coconut Cream are great cream pies.

Chiffon: The use of gelatin in their preparation distinguishes them from other types. Lemon Chiffon pie comes to mind.

Custard: The filling is uncooked custard poured over an unbaked bottom crust, without a top one. Both are baked together. Classic Pumpkin and Pecan Pie are examples of custard pies.

Main Dish: Main-dish pie options include quiches with egg, vergetable and meat fillings.

Tomorrow I will discuss some common toppings and on Friday I will give you some tips for making sure your Thanksgiving pies are the family favorite!

Adapted from

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, November 15, 2011; Pie Crusts

Starting with the Base

I have never met anyone that didn't like one kind of pie or another. While I have known very few people who don't like the crust, I think most would agree that a pie isn't a pie without a good crust. The key to making a delicious pie is using the proper type of crust. Pie crust is not hard to make contrary to what you might believe. The most important thing to remember is to not over work the dough. Over working the dough develops gluten resulting in tough pie shell. I will discuss the common types of pie doughs today in the order I consider easiest to most difficult and finish with specialty pie shells.

The crumb crust - The crumb crust is usually made from crumbled up cookies or crackers, the graham cracker crust being the most popular. The crumb crust can also be made from any dry and/or short type of cookies. The flavor of crumb crusts can vary greatly depending on the type of crumbs used. Crumb crusts require no rolling. The crumbs are mixed with melted fat and possibly sugar to add enough sweetness and then pressed into the pie plate. Some crumb crusts are baked and others chilled before adding the filling. Because crumb crusts are usually dry and crumbly they are best suited for fillings with a sturdy body, a cream pie or cheesecake for example.

The sweet or cookie dough - The reason this dough is called cookie is because it is often made in the same fashion as making cookie dough. The dough is delicate and sweet and can be chilled and rolled out to fit in the pie plate or tart pan or pressed directly into the pan. This dough is usually fully baked before filling. The sweet shell is best suited for sweet fillings.

Mealy pie dough - Mealy pie dough is used for wet type filling that will be baked in the shell, pumpkin pie, quiche or fruit fillings. The dough must be sturdy enough to hold in the liquids until they set. Mealy pie dough is made by mixing the butter into the dry ingredients evenly and then adding enough liquid to form a dough. Care needs to be taken not to over mix the dough once the liquids are added or you will get a tough dough. Mix only until a dough can be formed.
Flakey pie dough - This is the one that scares everyone! The secret to flakey pie crust is to only mix in the fat until there are several pea size pieces remaining and when the water is added to only mix until a loose ball forms. Using ice water is important as well because it helps keep the gluten from developing and keeps the fats solid. A properly made flakey pie crust will still have visible chunks of fat in it after it is rolled out. Flakey crust is best suited for fillings of firm fruit, nut or meat fillings.

Specialty crusts - a crust can really be made from anything as long as it compliments the filling and is adequate vessel for holding the filling together. Meringue filling is great for lighter fillings like chiffons. Nuts are also widely used in crusts. Potatoes can make a great crust for savory pies. Use your imagination, the pie is the limit.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Culinary IQ: Monday, November 14, 2011; Pies

Apple pie, American?

While pies are thought by many to be an American invention and even the National dish by some, pies actually date back to 9500 BC. I will concede that it is most likely we Americans who have perfected the art of pie making.

With Thanksgiving around the corner and pies being a traditional part of the holiday meal, I thought there would be no better time to discuss the dish. This week I will be discussing various types of pies and their components.

The crust - flakey, mealy, crumb, meringue.

The topping - cream, meringue, crumb, crust.

The filling - custard, cream, chiffon, fruit, nut, meat.

There are many dishes that could be considered a pie and I will try to cover the most common so come back here tomorrow for the beginning of the discussion.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday, November 11, 2011; Persimmons

Steam a Pudding

I originally planned on posting information regarding some exotic fruits this week for my discussion of fruits. I decided instead to stay with fruits that can be attained locally. Most of the fruits I have discussed this week have exotic histories but have evolved into local favorites.
The persimmon is just one such fruit. With many different varieties of persimmons available they have origins in many parts of the world including the American persimmon which is native to the eastern U.S. The persimmon is a true berry by definition. There are edible and inedible varieties.

Persimmons are typically in season in the U.S. in late October thru December making them the perfect addition to a winter or holiday meal. They are versatile enough to be used as a crisp addition to a salad where they add vibrant color or steamed in a pudding with a bouquet of fall spices.

Persimmons are rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is the perfect time to pick up some persimmons and make them part of your family tradition, be it a salad, a pudding or a centerpiece.
I would love to hear about some of your favorite persimmon recipes. Next week I will be discussing pies in anticipation of Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Culinary IQ: Thursday, November 10, 2011; Figs

The Fruit or the Leaf?

Sweet, savory, fresh or dried, sliced, diced, baked, puréed or sautéed - there are a lot of ways to enjoy simply beautiful, simply delicious figs. Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The seeds are drupes or the real fruit. Figs can be used in everything from appetizers to main dishes to desserts.

One of the oldest cultivated foods there are many interesting pieces of information about the fig, here are a few:

  • The common fig probably originated in the fertile part of southern Arabia and ancient records show that the Sumerians and Assyrians were familiar with it.
  • Figs were first introduced into the New World by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries, most notably to the West Indies in 1520 and to Peru in 1528.
  • They were imported from the West Indies to Spanish missions in Mexico and subsequently spread to California with the Franciscan missionaries who planted them in the mission gardens at San Diego in 1769 and up the Pacific coast to Santa Clara by 1792, Ventura by 1793, and later on to Sonoma, giving the name Mission to those first dark purple California figs.
  • The fig tree is the symbol of abundance, fertility, and sweetness.
  • Figs made their first commercial product appearance in the 1892 introduction of Fig Newtons® Cookies.
  • And, because of its high alkalinity it has been mentioned as being beneficial to persons wishing to quit smoking.
  • Fig trees usually bare fruit twice in one season, once in the spring and again in late fall.
These are the facts about figs that I found most interesting. You can find many more facts about figs from the California Fig Advisory Board.

I love figs, I love them in Fig Newtons and I love to cook with them. I recently made a delicious orange-fig marmalade with them. One of my favorite things to make with figs is this simple appetizer:

Grilled Figs on Crusty Bread with Mascarpone and Honey

10-12 ripe black figs
1 loaf crusty baguette, sliced in 20 slices and toasted
Mascarpone cheese

Slice figs in half lengthwise and grill cut side down until caramelized. Spread each slice of toasted bread with a dollop mascarpone. Place a half of fig on each piece with grilled side up and drizzle with honey. Serve.

This is quick, simple and the perfect appetizer for that backyard barbecue. You can also put the prepared ingredients on a tray and let your guests make their own.

Fig trees are easy to grow, every yard should have one for the delicious fruit. I hear the leaves also make good clothing when you find yourself in a pinch!

Source: The California Fig Advisory Board

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, November 9, 2011: Apples

An Apple a Day
Today I am going to discuss the apple. The attractive appearance, flavor and flexibility of the apple make it a temptation in the kitchen that most cooks are unable to avoid. Dating back possibly to the beginning of mankind, the apple is the most cultivated of all tree fruits. The apple is a member of the rose family. The apple tree blooms in the spring and bears fruit in the fall. If stored properly, apples will last well into the fall. Apples are also commonly used in cooking and can be preserved for later use. China grows the largest number of apples followed by the United States and Iran is third. Because apple trees grow and produce easily in many climates, locally grown apples are widely available. Apples are seasonal, remember to check the season for you area. You should be able to find a list of fruits and vegetables and their seasonal availability in your area on the internet. Remember if it is not in season, it probably was not grown locally.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away? The health benefits of the apple are derived mainly from the antioxidant compounds and fiber they contain. Research shows that apples may be beneficial in preventing some forms of cancer, reducing cholesterol and preventing a decline in cognitive performance.

Apples are eaten fresh, cooked, baked in cakes, cookies, breads, and pies, made into sauces and can even be used as a substitute for fat when making fat free foods. One of my favorite recipes that uses apples is the following salad:

Cajun Barbecue Chicken Salad
Serves 4
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Spicy Barbecue Sauce
1/2 cup whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup diced red apple*
1/2 cup diced green apple*
Mixed salad greens
Ranch Dressing
Spicy Peanuts**
Grill chicken with spicy barbecue sauce until done, cool.
In a large bowl toss together the kernel corn, red onion, blue cheese, apple, salad greens and enough ranch dressing to coat.
Portion salad onto 4 plates and sprinkle with spicy peanuts.
Slice chicken breasts into strips and arrange on top of salads.
*To prevent apples from browning, after dicing place in a bowl of cold water with a tablespoon of lemon juice, drain and dry briefly on a paper towl.
**Spicy peanuts are usually available in the snack section of your supermarket or can be purchased at Superior Nut Co., 5200 Valley Rd., Los Angeles, CA (213) 223-2431

Have your apple today but don't cancel your doctors appointment!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, November 8, 2011; Pumpkin

The Great Pumpkin

Before I discuss fruits and vegetables any further I need to say that I am a firm believer in locally produced and organically grown produce. Not only does it have more nutritional value but the taste is better and it is better for the planet. If you were thinking of having strawberry shortcake for Thanksgiving just remember, strawberries are not in season, the ones in the stores are being grown artificially in a hot house somewhere or shipped half way around the world. 

With Thanksgiving only a few weeks away it seems appropriate to discuss pumpkin now. Doesn't it make sense that pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving tradition because pumpkins usually ripen in the fall and are easy to store for use later. As I stated yesterday, pumpkins are defined as a berry botanically and are part of a larger family of squash. There are many varieties of pumpkins ranging from small to large and varying in color. Pumpkins usually have a hard outer surface covering a thick flesh surrounding a weblike membrane containing a large number of seeds. The flesh is commonly used in pies, cakes, breads, soups, preserved and is also frequently used in livestock food.

To use pumpkins the seeds and membrane are removed then steamed in the skin until softened. The flesh is then scraped from the skin and pureed for use in recipes. Processed pumpkin is widely available and greatly reduces the preparation time of your recipes. Many people feel that fresh is better than canned but unless you have grown the produce yourself or bought is at your local farmers market and know that it was picked at peak ripeness it is better to buy canned. Canned fruits and vegetables are often the produce that has ripened on the plant but is to ripe to withstand the preparation for and shipping to the market.

Pumpkin pie is probably the most common use of pumpkin and is a staple for most Thanksgiving dinners. Pumpkin pie is an egg custard containing pumpkin, egg and milk. Any or all of the the following spices may be called for in the recipe: cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves.

Here is a recipe that uses pumpkin and a seed that I discussed in my blog yesterday, pecans. I found this recipe for Pecan Pumpkin Pie in a Gourmet Desserts cookbook over 20 years ago and have made it almost every Thanksgiving since. I feel it is really the best of both worlds!
Pecan Pumpkin Pie

9-inch pie shell

For pumpkin filling
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For pecan layer

3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups pecans (5 1/2 ounces), chopped if desired
Special equipment: pie weights or raw rice


Make pie shell:
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights, then bake until pastry is set and pale golden on rim, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and bake shell until pale golden all over, 6 to 10 minutes more. Cool on a rack.
Make pumpkin filling:
Whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, egg, sour cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt in a bowl until smooth.
Make pecan layer:
Stir together corn syrup, brown sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, zest, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl, then stir in pecans.
Assemble and bake pie:
Spread pumpkin mixture evenly in shell, then carefully spoon pecan mixture over it. Bake pie until crust is golden and filling is puffed, about 35 minutes. (Center will still be slightly wobbly; filling will set as it cools.) Cool completely on rack. Serve at room temperature.