Goodbye Girls…

Goldfinger (black with gold highlights) the rooster with his charges.

Goldfinger (black with gold highlights) the rooster with his charges.

It was a cold day in December (in many ways) when my friends came to take the chickens away to their farm in the next county. They are good folks, so when I called them at Highgate Farms up in Marshall to ask if they could add my girls to their egg flock, they said yes right away. We all thought it would ease the transition if the hens arrived at their new home while the resident girls were asleep. So down the mountain just after dusk came Melissa and John in their beautiful old bio-diesel Mercedes.

I had already said my tearful goodbyes and tried to remain calm. I collected Mattie, Buffy, Flopsy and Mopsy one by one from the perch where they slept peacefully and deposited them into carrier boxes for the ride to their new home. Collecting Opal, the tree-sleeping Sumatra hen was another story, but with a little help from a ladder they were all in the trunk of the car and heading off into the night. I can’t say thanks to John and Melissa enough times for providing them with a good home. It makes me feel a tiny bit better; but just a tiny bit. IMG_2123

I’ll keep the why part of the story short since it’s all negative and we don’t want to dwell on it. Suffice it to say, we have a neighbor who is not neighborly, the kind you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And that’s all you’ll hear about that.

Buffy checks out the harvest. She's not a fan of kale or cabbage but love tomatoes and cucumbers.

Buffy checks out the harvest. She’s not a fan of kale or cabbage but love tomatoes and cucumbers.

The sadness I feel has surprised me. Even after a month, I miss my girls and our rituals terribly. I still expect them to be clamoring for their afternoon treats when I open the door. As my sister said, I cried lots of big fat chicken tears! But don’t worry, I haven’t given up chickens for good. We still have the hen palace and all the gear that goes with it. One day we’ll move farther out into the country and have 10 acres or more; a place where people and chickens can have a little freedom!

Large, medium and small eggs laid by Ruby, Mattie and Baby respectively.

Large, medium and small eggs laid by Ruby, Mattie and Baby respectively.

That dream is down the road a ways, but I’ll keep you posted. It’s good to have something to look forward to while I’m driving to the winter tailgate market to BUY EGGS THAT COME FROM CHICKENS I’VE NEVER EVEN MET!

Thanks for listening to my sad story. I’ll be back soon with a recipe to cheer us all up. This picture should help too!

iPhoto Library

 

 

 

Pancakes with Cranberry Sauce

Yummy pancakes with cranberry topping.

Yummy pancakes with cranberry topping.

I woke up last Sunday feeling all breakfasty. I’m usually a tea and toast kind of girl (maybe a piece of bacon now and then) so this doesn’t happen often. Could it be the cold weather and the nine-foot Christmas tree twinkling away in the living room? My husband, on the other hand, loves a big breakfast; especially when someone makes it for him. He was thrilled to wake to pancakes and the smell of bacon frying!

I had some White Lily self-rising flour I needed to use so I pulled up a recipe from their website. Then inspiration struck. We had a bit of fabulous cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving. It’s a great recipe from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. Simple and quick to make, it has unexpected depth of flavor and looks beautiful on the table. It was a hit on turkey day, even with those loyal to the canned type!

I whipped up the pancakes and topped them with the cranberries. This plate of perfection caused me to flash back to the International House of Pancakes circa 1972 when the orange and blue A-frame restaurants were decorated with flags from around the world. I loved to go there with my friends (our parents still had drop off and pick up duty) and while the other girls ate whipped cream and outrageously colored syrups from sticky pourers on their pancakes, I savored every bite of my thin Swedish pancakes with lingonberry butter; no syrup. My mouth still waters when I think of it. The name has been shortened to IHOP now and the only remnant of the international flair is the Swedish pancakes with lingonberries. I eat there once or twice a year when I crave those very pancakes. And that’s what my buttery pancakes with cranberries reminded me of.

Enjoy these pancakes and consider the cranberry sauce for your Christmas table. It’s good with pancakes, poultry and pork!  Next time you see an IHOP sign, pull in and have the  Swedish pancakes for me. Thanks for the memories, IHOP.

Homemade Pancakes with Cranberry Sauce

Serves 2-3
Meal type Breakfast
Website White Lily Flour
This is an easy, basic pancake recipe I adapted from the White Lily Flour recipe. What makes it special is the cranberry sauce topping from a recipe by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock in Food & Wine magazine.

Ingredients

Pancakes

  • 1 1/4 cup self-rising flour (White, whole-wheat pastry flour or a combination)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 cup port
  • 6 cups fresh cranberrries (1.5 lbs. washed and picked over)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Note

Makes about 4 1/2 cups.  MAKE AHEAD: The cooked cranberries can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. The completed Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for one week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Directions

Pancakes
Step 1
Combine flour and sugar in a medium bowl.
Step 2
Combine milk, egg and butter in a small bowl. Add all at once to flour mixture, stirring until just blended. Batter will be lumpy.
Step 3
Pour desired amount onto medium hot oiled, griddle. Make a small test pancake first and adjust heat as needed. Cook first side until surface is bubbled and edges are slightly dry. Turn to cook second side until browned.
Step 4
Butter the pancakes and serve with cranberry sauce, syrup or preserves.
Cranberry Sauce
Step 5
In a large skillet, bring the port to a boil over high heat. Add the cranberries and cook, stirring, until they begin to pop, about 5 minutes.
Step 6
Add the sugar, orange zest and salt and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture returns to a simmer, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool before serving.
 Click on Dana’s plate below to see the recipes.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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Ceci the cat jumped up on her stool to check out the pumpkin action. I know that my grandmother is turning over in her grave because we let the cat sit on a stool and watch us cook. She (the cat) seems to enjoy it. Grandma would hate it!

Fall is in full swing here. The leaves are off the trees and we start most mornings with a fire.  Our spare fridge is full of enough local onions, garlic and potatoes to last until spring. The onion sets I planted to provide green onions through the winter are up and looking perky. Winter salad mix and arugula are flourishing under hoops covered with frost cloth. The kale is going to town on it’s own since freezing temps don’t bother it a bit. The produce shelves are filled with pumpkins, Brussels sprouts and winter squash. I love fall and the foods that it brings.

Salad mix is thriving under frost cloth. It's time to thin it!

Salad mix is thriving under frost cloth.

One pound of onion sets cost $1 at the old hardware store in Marshall. Those green onions will be delicious all winter.

One pound of onion sets cost $1 at the old hardware store in Marshall. Those green onions will be delicious all winter.

Russian kale is beautiful year round. Those little dots on the leaf are snow! It started while I was writing this post.

Russian kale is beautiful year round. Those little dots on the leaf are snow! It started while I was writing this post.

The mustard greens in my spring salad mix went to seed when the weather got hot. One of the seeds jumped the raised bed border and this cold-loving volunteer came up.

The mustard greens in my spring salad mix went to seed when the weather got hot. One of the seeds jumped the raised bed border and this cold-loving volunteer came up. We are set for greens this winter!

I didn’t grow pumpkins this year, but wanted to get a head start on Thanksgiving pie-making by preparing the puree now. I brought home a bunch of the Sugar Pie variety of pumpkins; perfect little pumpkins with great flavor for pies, cakes, breads or just eating roasted or pureed. They weigh 2-4 pounds, produce three to four cups of puree and are cute as a button. Of course you can get pumpkin puree in a can, but puree is an easy thing to make from scratch and is truly worth the small amount of effort required. You’ll want to eat the stuff with a spoon! I gave my husband a taste of the puree and he said it might need a little more sugar. It was so rich and flavorful that he thought I had already dolled it up for pie filling!

Roasted pumpkins ready to be scooped and pureed. You can see where I pricked with a fork to check for doneness.

Roasted pumpkins ready to be scooped and pureed. You can see where I pricked with a fork to check for doneness. Aren”t they gorgeous?

 

That caramelized edge is like candy.

That caramelized edge is like candy and the cook gets first dibs.

The flesh easily pulls away from the shell.

The flesh easily pulls away from the shell.

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In the food processor.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree:  Preheat oven to 400F. Rinse and dry the pumpkin. Beware: pumpkins are slippery devils when wet, so dry before you attack with a sharp object! Using a sturdy knife or cleaver, cut off the stem and cut the pumpkin in half vertically. Scoop out the seeds and fibers and feed to your chickens or toast the seeds for a tasty snack. Put a piece of parchment paper in a rimmed baking dish or cookie sheet and oil the parchment with olive or vegetable oil. Place the pumpkin halves, cut side down, on the parchment. Bake for 30 minutes and check for doneness. A fork will go right through the skin and pulp when they’re ready. I usually let then go a few more minutes so that the flavor concentrates and the flesh starts to pull away from the skin.

Remove from the oven and scoop out the pumpkin flesh. You can let the pumpkin cool first if you’d like. The cook gets to consume as many of the caramelized brown edges as she wants to! Puree the flesh in a food processor or run through a food mill until smooth. It’s now ready to serve as a side at dinner or to bake into all kind of goodies. The puree will keep for days in the fridge and freezes beautifully. I freeze it in jars, leaving an inch or two of airspace at the top for expansion. You can use your favorite freezer container or a resealable freezer bag. The bags can be frozen flat on a cookie sheet and then stacked for compact storage.

Now that wasn’t too hard, was it? You just won’t believe how good this stuff is!  Some of this batch of puree went into Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing. I made it for my pumpkin-loving niece and it was a hit with the whole family at Sunday dinner. The last sliver tasted pretty good breakfast too.

Happy fall to you. Now run out and get yourself a pumpkin!

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Nestled in the freezer until pie-making time. The stale bread is for my favorite Italian soup. I'll share it soon.

Nestled in the freezer until pie-making time. The stale bread is for my favorite Italian soup. I’ll share it soon.

 

Peach Crisp and Signs of Fall

The sunflower heads were so heavy with seed this summer they couldn't stay upright. Now they're dried out and ready to become chicken treats!

The sunflower heads were so heavy with seed this summer they couldn’t stay upright. Now they’re dried out and ready to become chicken treats!

We had a wet summer this year with much less sun than usual. The 60 inches of rain that had fallen by the end of August was too much for some of our flowers and vegetables. Others flourished in the cool moist air. We had a bumper crop of rabbits and wild turkeys and the bears who wandered through our yard looked awfully fat and happy.

All PostsIMG_2978Some folks complained about the lack of heat, but I didn’t miss it. The last three summers were unusually hot and dry so so a gentler summer was overdue. It’s reminded me of childhood visits to the mountains. We’d drive up from Raleigh in the un-air-conditioned heat of summer, the kind of heat that shimmered on the streets and sidewalks and made your legs stick to the car seat, into the cool highland air. Wearing sweaters and sweatshirts was a treat. It was magical visiting Mount Mitchell back in the 60s when there was snow on the ground in July and we shivered in our shorts and sweatshirts! I’m happy to have weather that takes me back to those days.

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Fall sedum and asters.

Fall started sneaking in at the end of August. September has brought lovely sleeping weather with most nights in the 50s. Our family gathered around a bonfire Saturday night under a clear starry sky and sweaters and even a down throw made their way to the circle. Sedum and asters are in full bloom and the hens are joyfully feasting on dried sunflower heads. Turn up your volume for the full effect of the hen video. There’s a bumper crop  of local apples and we’re still getting peaches from South Carolina.What an excellent overlap!  I’m thinking about another batch of peach preserves since the peaches aren’t long for this world. My sister and I had a great time making our first batch ever  earlier this summer.

Peaches and apples are both ripe right now!

Peaches and apples are both ripe right now!

But in the short-term, there are six large, ripe peaches lined up on the screened porch railing so a crisp is in order. I’ve worked at a friends bakery for the last month to learn more about baking, especially yeast breads. In addition to batards, boules and focaccia, we made pies and granola. The granola makes a perfect topping for fruit crisp. I don’t use a strict recipe, just peel and slice the peaches, toss them with cinnamon, nutmeg, almond extract (optional but really good),  a bit of lemon zest and juice, a pinch of salt and a scant handful of flour to help it all thicken. Toss to evenly coat the peaches. I use my hands, but a spoon works too. Taste to see whether you need to add salt or sugar and let it sit for half an hour or so to develop the juices. While that’s going on, make the crisp topping. Combine a few handfuls of granola or oats with a couple of tablespoons of softened butter, a few tablespoons of brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Mix thoroughly with your hands or a fork and taste. If it’s really dry, add a tablespoon of butter or a splash of olive oil and mix again. It should taste good!

Pour the juicy peach mixture into a Pyrex rectangular or square baker or a pie pan (or two if you have lots of peaches). Crumble the topping over the peaches and bake at 375 for about forty-five minutes. Make sure it’s good and bubbly when you pull it from the oven. Serve within an hour or two if you like it crispy. It’s good plain or with a dollop of yogurt, whipped cream or ice cream. The neat thing about a crisp is that it’s hard to mess up. You can make a thick layer of fruit and a thin layer of topping or vice versa. You can make it really sweet or not too. Just don’t forget the pinches of salt.  They really liven things up. You can substitute berries or apples for the peaches if that’s what you have. I make crisps with lots oats/granola because I can’t get enough of that crispy topping. It won’t be crispy the next day unless you re-crisp it in a low oven, but it’s a great breakfast anyway!

Sliced freestone peaches.

Sliced freestone peaches.

Granola, butter and brown sugar topping.

Granola, butter and brown sugar topping.

Peach crisp with greek yogurt on top.

Peach crisp with greek yogurt.

Update from the hen-house: I know you’re dying to make a peach crisp this very minute, s0 I’ll make it quick! Paul installed a solar-powered, Pullet-shut Automatic Chicken Door on the coop that will open at dawn and close after dark when the girls have put themselves to bed. It even gives a second chance to any stragglers by reopening for a minute. I know it’s slothful, but not heading out to the coop at 7 a.m. on a 15-degree morning sounds pretty good. Mostly it makes things a lot easier when we travel and have chicken sitters. Although the hens were a little agitated during the construction, they calmed down once their house was back in order. I don’t think they’ll even notice the special door, but the humans love it!

I’ll still go out to say goodnight to them. I like to think they’d miss me if I didn’t.

 

 

One-Pan Pasta Dinner

Simple, quick and delicious. I'm in!

Simple, quick and delicious. I’m in!

Have you seen the one-pan pasta recipe that’s flying around the internet? It’s a great way to use fresh tomatoes and basil that are so good right now.The idea is that everything goes into the pan and cooks at once. Although I think it’s been around for a long time, Martha Stewart Living recently published the recipe and got the buzz going. I read about it at Smitten Kitchen where Deb complained that the pasta was on the mushy side of al dente and revised the recipe using farro as the main ingredient. That farro version is truly delicious will go into my favorite dinners notebook. In fact it was so good that I became curious about the pasta version and tried Martha’s recipe. Deb was right. By the time the sauce had reduced enough, the pasta was too far gone.

Bring it all to a rolling boil, stir for 10 minutes and eat

Bring it all to a boil, stir,eat.

I wanted to make this recipe work. The idea of a true one-pan meal that is healthy, easy, quick and really good was so appealing that I couldn’t resist trying. Paul would happily eat pasta every night so he was thrilled with my repeated experimentation. I’ve always wondered why you need so much water to cook pasta. It takes forever to come to a boil and then it all goes down the drain except a half cup or so that might be used to thicken sauce. Well, it turns out that you don’t need gallons of water and best of all you don’t have to drain the pasta or wash the colander! My changes to Martha’s recipe include using a heartier type of pasta and reducing the amount of water.

The finished product.

Dinner is served!

 

I’ve tried lots of one pot meals and have rarely been satisfied. This one’s different. It’s not a compromise, something you’d only want to make when you’re short on time. Thanks to the principles of evaporation and absorption, it works and it’s darned good! We’ve served the final recipe to two sets of guests so far and everyone loves it. It’s beautiful, ridiculously simple and can be prepared ahead of time. Use a hearty, high-quality dried pasta and the results will make you happy! I haven’t experimented with whole wheat or other pastas, but suspect they would become too soft. Let me know your thoughts if you try alternative pastas.

 

One Pan Pasta that Works (Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Living)

3-4 servings as a main dish, 8 as a side

INGREDIENTS

 12 ounces dried penne rigate, small rigatoni or orecchiette

1 large red onion sliced thinly, root to stem (about 2 cups)

12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes halved, or quartered if they’re large

4 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced

2 generous sprigs of basil plus torn leaves for serving

2 tablespoons olive oil p;us more for serving

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

4 cups of water

Grated parmesan for serving

PREPARATION

Place all ingredients except parmesan and torn basil in a wide skillet with straight sides (If you’re prepping ahead, don’t add the water until you’re ready to cook). Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Set the timer for 8 minutes and continue to boil, stirring often. Test the pasta for doneness at 8 minutes and cook another minute or two if needed. Serve with torn basil, parmesan and olive oil.

NOTES: Yellow or white onions will work just fine. Red ones look and taste great and add nice texture. If you want to double the recipe, make two batches side-by-side for best results. A wide dutch oven will work if you don’t have a straight-sided skillet. Evaporation is important so it must be a wide pan. Finally, if you want to use fresh chopped tomatoes, the plum variety is best. For juicier tomatoes, reduce the water by 1/4 cup.  If you want your pasta on the soft side, add more water after the 8-minute test.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothin’ Beats Beans,Greens and my Mom’s Cornbread

Just picked Russian kale and collards.

Just picked Russian kale and collards.

To use my Dad’s phrase, today I had a cravin’ flung on me. A craving for beans, greens and cornbread and the cornbread had to be the lacy-edged fried kind. It’s made from a batter consisting of cornmeal, salt and water and cooked on the stove top in a thin layer of vegetable oil until the edges are lacy, crispy and brown. That’s what cornbread meant to me as a child. The other kind of cornbread we ate was oven-baked and contained cornmeal, eggs, salt and baking powder and soda. My grandmother called it egg bread to distinguish it from the skillet type. Generally, we used yellow cornmeal for the egg bread and white fine-ground for the skillet type. Both were stone ground and neither of the cornbreads contained sugar.

I decided to go right to the source and called Mom. She’s been making cornbread for 60+ years and knows her stuff. My folks love the holy trinity of beans, greens and cornbread and accepted an invitation to dinner almost before I got the words out of my mouth! A few hours later while the fellows devoured a bowl of black-pepper pistachios, Mom and I got down to business. I’m lucky to have a local source for yellow  stone ground cornmeal from heirloom corn. It’s ground fairly fine so was suitable for this recipe, even though it’s yellow.

IMG_2838The bad news is that we don’t measure anything in this three ingredient recipe except the cornmeal. Mom does it by feel. I think you can too. We mixed two cups of fine stone ground cornmeal with 3-4 generous pinches of salt and added water until the mixture started to look more like batter than dough. Then we added a splash more liquid so the batter would spread in the hot oil. We tasted the batter to check the salt level and added a little more. Salt is a personal thing so do what seems right to you. Since this was a new cornmeal to Mom, we did a test batch and then cooked the whole batch. In the old days, we used a cast iron skillet, but today it was ceramic non-stick.

Mix the cornmeal and salt with a fork. That's my Mom!

Mix the cornmeal and salt with a fork. That’s my Mom!

The batter takes shape.

The batter takes shape.

Check out those edges!

Check out those edges!

The vegetable oil should be about 1/8 inch thick in the pan. When it’s good and hot, drop in a very tiny bit of batter. If it doesn’t crisp up pretty quickly, turn up the heat. Eat the sample and check for salt level. For the full-sized sample, drop about 1/4-1/3 cup of batter into the oil. It should spread some so that the edges become irregular and lacy. Add more water to the remaining batter if this doesn’t happen. Be patient and let it sizzle for a while. Mom only turns hers once, but that takes some practice. When it looks pretty solid, carefully turn the cornbread and cook the other side. It should be brown and crispy when done. Drain on paper towels and serve.

IMG_2846The cornbread was the perfect complement to the rest of the dinner: pinto beans, greens cooked all afternoon, sliced tomatoes and white rice. Condiments included chopped onion for the beans and hot-peppers in vinegar (made last summer) for the greens. We ate on the screened porch and it was good! Then we took our full selves out to tour the garden and visit the chickens. Finally, we headed for the front porch rocking chairs to watch the sunset. No dessert required.

Thanks, Mom.

 

Sister’s Pie-panic Calmed by Onion & Lemon Sponge Pies!

Guyere, onion and mushroom pies

Guyere, onion and mushroom pies

Pie seems ever present in my life recently. All the pie chat moved my sister, Mary, to face her personal Pie-panic and she asked for my help. It takes a brave woman to face pie fear and I was confident that we could have a homemade-crust breakthrough!

We got together on a Saturday afternoon for the Pie-panic therapy session. She requested an onion, mushroom and gruyere savory pie. Lemon sponge pie seemed like a great idea for dessert. We made two of each single-crust pie so that we could feed our parents and spouses that night. The evening was a big hit and I expect we will do it again before too long. We just have to let the cholesterol clear a bit since there is a stick of butter in each single crust. Luckily, Mary brought some excellent red wines that may have offset some of it. And had large servings of a delightful green salad and served fresh berries on the lemon sponge pie to redeem ourselves.

photoThere were a couple of snafus along the way.  The first was leaving my student unsupervised. Somehow, in a matter of  minutes, an extra cup of flour ended up in the mix. Measuring distraction can happen to anyone, especially when you’re doubling a recipe, but since this dinner had a friendly audience, we decided to forge ahead. A little extra water and butter saved the day.  Then I realized that one of my four pie plates was at a friend’s house on the other side of town. While the dough chilled, I popped down to nearby Weaverville to get one. Mary sliced all the onions for the savory pies while I was gone. Here’s Sister’s take on the Pie-panic session and the onion slicing tips I gave her.

Our goal, bringing Pie-panic to the surface and then sinking it for good, was accomplished. The crust was much crisper and less flaky than usual but in spite of that, the resulting dinner was top-notch. As society columnists in small Southern newspapers used to say : “A good time was had by all.” I just love that phrase. Sums things up nicely doesn’t it?

So let’s get down to the recipes. My pie crust mantra is keep it cold, keep it cold, keep it cold!.  There’s a great basic crust that works for sweet or savory pie that I adapted slightly from the Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. It’s simple, super flaky and easy to handle. It’s my go to crust. For the onion filling, I checked out a bunch of recipes. Some were too elaborate, some were too bland and none seemed perfect. So I just used my noggin and made one up. Lemon sponge pie recipes are everywhere. It’s an old-fashioned pie so lots have accumulated over the years. It tastes almost like lemon bars but creamier and a nice brown crust that develops on top as it bakes. Yum!  Don’t forget my pie crust tips.

Enjoy your pie dinner!

Dana’s Plate Go To Pie Crust (adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)

(makes one double or two single crust pies)

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups of flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon table salt

2 sticks chilled unsalted butter (8 ounces or 1 cup)

Steps

  1. Cut the chilled butter into 1/2 inch cubes and place in the fridge for a few minutes. In a large, wide bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Retrieve the cold butter pieces and scatter over the dry mixture. Using a pastry blender or two table knives, cut the butter into the flour until the largest pieces are the size of small to medium peas.  Variation in size is a good thing.
  2. If the butter has warmed up, refrigerate for 10 minutes. Drizzle the ice water over the flour-butter mixture and uses a plastic or floured wood spatula to stir it together just until a ragged lump is formed. Then use your hands to knead the dough a few times, incorporating any loose bits as you go. Working quickly so that the dough stays cool, form the mass into a ball.
  3. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Flatten the wrapped dough into discs. Refrigerate for at least an hour and up to a week. To freeze, add another layer of wrap or place in a resealable plastic bag for up to two months. To use, defrost in the fridge for a day.
  4. Generously sprinkle flour over your counter or other rolling surface and the rolling pin. Unwrap a disc (leave the other in the fridge until you need it). Place it on the floured surface and sprinkle more flour on top. Instead of rolling out this very hard disc, whack it a dozen times with a floured rolling pin. Lift and rotate the dough after every couple of whacks. If the dough sticks, use a bench scraper or spatula to get the dough off the surface and sprinkle the surface with more flour. If the dough gets soft, scape it onto a cookie sheet or piece of plastic wrap and get it back into the fridge for up to 10 minutes. You’ll have a larger flat disc after the whacking. Flour the pin again and roll, lift and rotate the dough until it reaches the desired size and shape according to your recipe.

 

Savory Onion and Gruyere Pie

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 large onion halved root to stem end and thinly sliced in the same direction

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

1/4 cup wine (white, marsala or madeira)

One teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

salt and pepper

6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated coarsely

Pastry for a single crust pie

Steps

  1. Add olive oil and butter to a large skillet or wide dutch oven and melt the butter. Add all the onions and stir to coat with oil/butter mixture. Continue to cook over moderate heat, covered, for about ten minutes until the onions are softened. Stir a couple of times. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned and very soft. Add a splash of water if the onions begin to stick. This will take 45-60 minutes. After 30 minutes, add the sliced mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Add the wine to the browned onion mixture and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.
  3. Roll out your pie crust to 1/8 inch and transfer to a 9 1/2 inch glass pie pan. Trim crust overhang to one inch and turn under itself. Crimp or finish crust edge as desired. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork several times.
  4. Line the crust with foil and fill will dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the foil and weights and cook about five minutes longer. The crust should be golden brown. Cover the edge with foil or a crust guard if it starts to get too brown.
  5. Spread 2/3 of the Gruyere into the crust and cover with the onion mixture. Sprinkle the remaining Gruyere on top of the onions.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and onions are sizzling. Let the pie cool for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.

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