For a Crowd

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie: A Ridiculous Rhyme and A Legacy Recipe

First, a poem I composed while drinking wine and packing for my Thanksgiving flight up north.

‘Twas the day before Thanksgiving, and all through the house
The scent of ground cinnamon saturated my hair and my blouse;
My apron and sweater hung forgotten in the corner;
My prep list was making me wish I were a foreigner;
A disposable pie tin nestled all snug in its plastic,
While visions of burnt crust made my task unenthusiastic;
With Jay-Z, Cher, and Blink-182 on shuffle,
I was ready to settle for buying a Godiva truffle (or twelve);
When out in the living room there arose such a sound,
It was my cell phone – as always – bringing me something profound;
An e-mail from my mother pops up with a flash,
Calming me just before my teeth started to gnash;
The recipe for my late Grandmother’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie,
Was enough to make me heave a relieved sigh;
Losing her this year is still raw and I miss her so dearly,
Maybe by making her pie – my favorite growing up – I’ll be able to feel her presence clearly;
It’s simple enough – nothing strange or profound,
And all my holiday memories are full of me eating slices by the pound;
More rapid than eagles my inspiration came about,
Enough to rid my mind of any shadow of a doubt;
It’s pie crust, and filling, and a meringue, to boot,
The directions so simple, there couldn’t be a more clear route.

For my Grandmother, who laughed at my foolishness and never complained.

 

I apologize for the ridiculous rhyme. It’s my first Thanksgiving without my maternal Grandmother, the classic iteration of a Japanese-American farm matriarch, and I’m not quite ready or certain about what to write. The fact that I’m making the pie always associated with her – she made it last year, with the exception of the crust, since the arthritis in her hands made her unable to roll out the dough – hasn’t fully absorbed yet.

I’m tearing up, and I haven’t even written the recipe yet. Just know that this is copied almost directly from an ancient edition (1950s or earlier) of a Betty Crocker/Better Homes and Gardens/equivalent recipe book. The pie crust recipe is a combination of various experiments, and doesn’t include directions for a food-processor, since my Grandmother couldn’t afford one.

This is the lightest pumpkin pie I have ever had, and probably have yet to have.

My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

For The Crust (9″):

Don’t freak out at the weight measurements! Those proportions come from the incomparable pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, who believes measuring cups are for sandcastles when it comes to baking. (Buy his shirt at Flavour Gallery if you agree.)

  • 1 and 1/4 cup (200 g) All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 g) Cold Unsalted Butter – Cut in Cubes
  • 3 tablespoons Ice Water

Combine the dry ingredients with the cold butter – use your hands, get dirty – until it becomes the size of small peas/coarse meal. Add the ice water and knead lightly until the dough becomes a ball. Pat the dough into a round disc, wrap in plastic, and chill for 1 hour.

Once the dough is chilled, roll out to your liking. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

For the Pie Filling:

  • 1 envelope Unflavored Gelatin
  • 2/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/4 cup Pumpkin (use Libby’s. Make life easier on yourself. Besides, any other variety will use a lower quality squash and not actual pumpkin.)
  • 3 Eggs – Whites and Yolks Separated and Saved
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 3/8 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
  • 1/2 cup Sugar

In a saucepan, combine the gelatin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin, egg yolks, and milk over Medium Heat until it just starts to boil. Let cool.

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until frothy, then beat in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is stiff and glossy. (You’ll feel it get difficult to mix.)

Fold the egg white mixture into the pumpkin mixture and pour into the baked pie crust. Cool for at least three hours.

No whipped cream necessary for enjoyment.

Pumpkin Pie

Great Pumpkin Soup, For Those Of You Who Don’t Want To Wait in a Pumpkin Patch with Linus

I waited until almost the last possible second to make this. As a Thanksgiving-ish baby who chowed-down on full-size pumpkin pies instead of birthday cake, my pumpkin season begins during the week of Halloween. After prancing about in a culturally-contrived “sexy” costume for a few evenings, I finally let peer pressure run its course and slide into legwarmers, sweaters, and seasonal Starbucks drinks.

What is everyone doing for Halloween, by the way? Are you dressing up? Staying in? Staying in and dressing up? Ordering pizza, watching horror films, and passing out candy? None of the above? Have I inquired enough into your personal lives?

I’m sorry, by asking you too many questions, did I become this girl?

As opposed to this girl?

The original recipe for this came from food52, I’ve supplemented a few of my own proportions, beer preference (did I forget to mention this soup is flavored with pumpkin beer), and – because the pumpkin I purchased for this purpose was utilized in a homebrew experiment – canned pumpkin.

Pumpkin Soup with Pumpkin Beer and Various Bourgeois Toppings

  • 1 can Pure Pumpkin (go with Libby’s on this one, most other canned varieties use a lower quality of squash instead of anything remotely sweet and orange-colored)
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted Butter
  • 1 finely chopped Sweet Onion
  • 4 finely chopped Garlic Cloves
  • 16 Ounces Pumpkin Beer – I used half of one Growler Saranac Pumpkin Ale and drank the rest. A 12-ounce Dogfish Head Punkin Ale would also be perfect. (Tangent: There’s so much shitty pumpkin beer on the market. It’s unreal.)
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • 2 cups Vegetable Stock
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Brown Sugar

Bourgeois Toppings:

  • Pepitas (That’s Spanish for “Pumpkin Seeds,” for those new to the class.)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sage Leaves
  • Goat Cheese

Heat the Extra Virgin Olive Oil over Medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft. Pour in the pumpkin and season to taste with cinnamon and nutmeg (be generous, but remember you can always add more later if it’s not saturated enough with autumnal spice.)

Turn heat up to High and pour in the beer. Leave uncovered and let half of the beer burn off. (It should almost not smell like beer anymore.)

Turn heat down to Low and pour in the Vegetable Stock. Let simmer for 20-ish minutes. Stir occasionally so disgusting scalded soup won’t ruin the pot you’re cooking in.

Puree until smooth using an immersion blender – (Real talk, I highly recommend investing in one of these. It cuts hot soup puree time in half.) – or in batches in a Vitamix/stand blender. Once smooth, stir in the heaping tablespoon of brown sugar, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

I might be stating the obvious here, but TASTE YOUR FOOD. If it’s too bitter, add more brown sugar. If it doesn’t taste like anything besides pumpkin, add more cinnamon and nutmeg. If it’s missing something, but you can’t tell what, it’s bland, i.e. add salt.

To prepare the bourgeois toppings:

Toast the pepitas in a dry pan over Medium-Low heat until slightly fragrant or one of them pops. (Take it off the heat if they pop. You’re not in a movie theater. The time for popcorn-esque things is later.)

Heat Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan over Medium heat and fry the Sage Leaves until they’re crispy, but not brown and dead-looking.

For the goat cheese, you have two options: crumble it on top, or place a disc of it somewhere near the middle.

Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil (no more than a tablespoon) on top of your vat of soup slash whichever garnishes you elect to make use of.

pumpkin beer soup

A Pitcher is a Single Serving, Right? P.S. This Cocktail Tastes Like Iced Coffee

Trivia: Two Mondays ago, it was National Coffee Day.

In preparation for this momentous occasion, I figured I would combine the taste of two favorites: coffee and alcohol.

Trivia: 57% of coffee drinkers add some sort of sweetener to their drink.
I am not one of those people. I like my coffee beverages the way I like my soul, my men, my women and my humor. Don’t analyze that sentence with the stereotypical ending, either. Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, suffice to say I understand the desire of most female coffee (and alcohol) drinkers for something sweet.

Make that, I had bangs until age 20.

Trivia: Between 20% and 30% of coffee sales are comprised of flavored coffees (i.e. chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, and cinnamon).

This is based on a recipe torn from inside “Cosmopolitan.” I shifted things around a bit, with feedback from one of my girlfriends, who came over this weekend for a day of cocktail experimenting, pizza-dough making, and film-noir watching. (By the way, films from 1948 have amazing “Is it Good or Is It Bad?” pick-up lines, despite their lack of cultural variety.) Don’t worry, the pizza dough recipe is coming later this week.

The original magazine tear-out called for half-and-half. While shopping for ingredients, I pulled a small carton of fat-free half-and-half, because I wanted to be mindful of the figure-conscious ladies who read this blog. (Thanks for sticking around through the numerous bacon mentions, by the way. You girls rock.) My verdict? It tastes disgusting, and coated my tongue more thoroughly than heavy cream. While searching for ingredient alternatives and cross-referencing other “coffee-tasting dessert cocktails,” I noticed how many after-dinner drinks are dairy-based. Not so much fun for people like my Mother, Aunts, or the 65% of the population who identify as Lactose-Intolerant. Raise your hand if you order your Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Peets, or anything in-between/indie with almond milk, since soy milk has the major-estrogen-it’s-actually-bad-for-you-if-you-drink-it-every-day thing going on. That’s what I thought.

Using almond milk turned out to be a phenomenal solution. Counter-intuitively, it mellows out the sweetness from the Kahlua. Add one of those hyper-feminine flavored rims, and your adult quasi-iced coffee/quasi-chocolate milk is served.

Iced Coffee Cocktail (for one, double the proportions for two if you’ve already had one on an empty stomach)

  • 1 shot Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Whiskey
  • 1 shot Kahlua
  • 2 shots Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Honey (optional)
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (optional)
  • Graham Cracker Crumbs (optional)
  • Ice

If you’re going for presentation (and flavor) points and making the graham cracker/chocolate rim, use the tip of your finger to spread honey around the rim of whatever glasses you’ll be serving this drink in. Once the rim is suitably sticky (and you’ve made several inappropriate jokes about this), pour equal parts cocoa powder and graham cracker crumbs onto a paper plate, turn the serving glass upside down, and rub the glass around and about on the plate to coat the rim with deliciousness. (Make more sexual jokes during and after this part.)

Place ice in both the cocktail shaker. (If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, improvise with some sort of mason jar type deal. If you’ve gotten as far as buying the ingredients, there’s no going back now.)

Shake the whiskey, Kahlua, and almond milk over ice, and strain into the serving glass.

coffee drink

 

 

 

Everything is Better with Tacos: Pork and Green Chili Stew

I’m sorry about not posting last week. Computer Complications + First Family Visit in Six Months + Some Sort of Stomach Virus = No Free Time to Speak Of.

 

To quickly get to the point:  I’ve realized tacos are a universe-uniting food, capable of solving emotional problems and alleviating unwanted stress.

World Peace

I cooked for my parents while they were in town with a couple of old reliable recipes, but this recipe is definitely inspired by their visit. I’m happy that six months isn’t going to pass again before I see them. (By the way, Sacramento, I’m coming for you twice in November and for New Year’s Day.) However, I’m also happy that I’ll have an ace up my sleeve the next time they come to visit.

Pork and Green Chili Tacos

  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pork Shoulder (that’s Pork Butt, to you) cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • Sat and Pepper
  • 1 large Sweet Onion – finely chopped
  • 1 pound Mild Green Chilis – I used poblanos and anaheims – finely chopped
  • 3 Serrano Chilis – seeded and finely chopped
  • 6 Garlic Coves – finely chopped
  • 2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • Cilantro
  • Lime Wedges
  • Corn Tortillas

Heat the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a large pot over High heat. Season the pork shoulder cubes with salt and pepper to taste, and cook in the oil until lightly browned (less than 5 minutes.) Throw all vegetables into the pot, and cover the pot until the vegetables are soft. This should take another five-ish minutes.

“This recipe takes so much time,” she said sarcastically while drinking a Pacifico with lime.

Once the vegetables are soft, add the chicken broth and bring everything to a boil.

Once the stew is boiling, partially cover the pot and simmer over Medium-Low heat until the mixture has reduced by half (20-ish minutes.)

Stir in the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with lime wedges on corn tortillas. If your parents like cocktails, make sure the beer is cold.

Pork Taco

Sorry your car is at a 45-degree angle in a ditch….try the muffins?

I shouldn’t complain about the hours I work. I mean, I lived with two djs. I’ve seen how exhausted they are after setting up for an event all day – heavy lifting, making sure sound works correctly, usually doing all this under the sun in black t-shirts – only to have to stand on their feet for five hours or more at night for their gigs. I’m used to not having Mr. Right in bed next to me when I head for sleep and not being able to say goodbye to him when I leave for work in the morning. It’s a working relationship. Shit happens. I’ve got so much respect for those ladies and gentlemen dating chefs, bartenders, bouncers, dancers, and the like. Snaps to all of you for making the commitment to making it work.

That being said, work weeks get stressful. I work 6-7 days a week. Yes, I realize that means I have no days off occasionally. Once again, shit happens. When I’m not at one museum, I’m at the other. I used to work for a contemporary photography gallery on top of those two museums. If I’m not at any of those places, but still not home? I’m either at the ice rink or in the dance studio – teaching and trying to convince my non-teenage body that I can still move in a way that’s moderately aesthetically pleasing.

I really, really shouldn’t complain. Real talk, I love it all. That being said, the vacation we just took to visit my family in Sacramento and spend time in Napa and San Francisco was needed.

A moderately accurate representation of my inner self during this trip.

Mr. Right and I spent an entire day shopping for food and alcohol while Hey-Telling (for those of you who don’t have this app, get it – it’s a walkie-talkie throwback to Nextel phone days) one of my best friends who was planning on joining my family’s celebrations.

My grandmother lives on a farm. I don’t mean this sarcastically, her house is literally in the middle of a functional field. The aftermath of a sunflower crop was everywhere while we were visiting.

In order to get to her house, one turns off the main road onto a smaller road….then off the smaller road onto a dirt road. It’s not exactly over the river and through the woods, but it’s far enough.

“If directions to your house include the phrase, ‘Turn onto a dirt road….you might be a hillbilly.'”

Heard it all before; trust me.

The outskirts of the field surrounding my grandmother’s house are lined with an irrigation ditch. A corresponding irrigation road runs alongside this. Do you see where the story is going yet? Since my girlfriend hadn’t been to my grandmother’s house since the summer following my freshman year at UCLA, she accidentally turned onto the irrigation road instead of the road leading to the house. A few yards into the turn, she realized she’d made a mistake, attempted to reverse, and…..

Damn. Festive firework added for this lovely lady’s privacy. Speaking of which, I love this woman.

Thankfully, no one was injured and we were able to make use of my AAA service. It took two tow trucks and two burly men quite a bit of effort to get the car back onto the road – as it turned out, only the front left tire was keeping it from going in the water – but the guys sent to help us in the 103-degree weather were nice, and my friend’s car didn’t even get wet.

After we were solidly dusty, they followed us back to my grandmother’s house for a plate of food. (I mean….it was the least we could do.) I also made sure to pour the poor girl an oversized glass of wine to go with the plate of carbs I shoved in her direction.

Muffins don’t fix everything….but they definitely help.

Garlic & Sun-Dried Tomato Corn Muffins (adapted from a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis)

Ingredients:

  • Two 8.5 packages Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (Don’t judge. Life must go easy on us, and our food sometimes. Besides, a lot of technology and money went into the box cake/muffin mix to make it taste good.)
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes – chopped into small pieces
  • 2 cups thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 3 cloves (or 3 tablespoons, if you’re working with the Costco-type of jar) minced garlic
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs – beaten

Turn an oven to 375 and place paper liners in a muffin baking sheet.

Mix the dry ingredients together (the muffin mix, sun-dried tomatoes, corn, and garlic). Mix the wet ingredients together (the milk, sour cream, and eggs.)

Combine the dry and wet mix together. (As you can tell, this recipe is extremely difficult. Please note the tone of voice I’m saying this in.)

Bake for 15 minutes ish, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out without any gunk on it.

Serve with the comforting beverage of your choice. Also make sure your car is safe, while you’re at it.

I had to get in on the fun. And obviously, UCLA girls rock.

Best Caramelized Onions Ever

The title of this post is self-explanatory. Mostly because the recipe I tried which led to the discovery of this failed miserably – French Onion Burgers? More like awkward stewy French Onion Sloppy Joes. Not exactly what I was looking for. And the meat dried out. Damn. Too excited about the onions to care, though.

Small victories, y’all. Next step? Trying these onions with oven fries and aioli a’la In-N-Out.

By the way….if anyone has a decent burger recipe, please pass one along. I’ve been complicating things and I’d like to know that I could feasibly throw a successful cookout.

The Best Method I’ve Ever Found for Obtaining Caramelizing Onions

Put about 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a pan over Medium High.

Toss in the onion (1 large one – halved and thinly sliced) until lightly caramelized, then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each sugar and salt.

Turn the heat down to Medium Low and cook until deep golden, stirring and shifting the onion about occasionally – 15 minutes ish.

Then, add 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Simmer until the liquid is almost gone and the onion is soft – 8 minutes ish.

Shrek: Ogres are like onions. Donkey: They stink? Shrek: Yes! I mean…no!