16 November 2011

Casa Fiore #62: Published, Posted, and in the Mail!

This month's offerings include:
  •  "Real Estate 101:  Seller and Buyer Basics", November 30th, 6:30pm.  Join me or send a friend!
  •  Fiore Cooks Pasta alla Polpa di Granchio on "KCTS 9 Cooks Dinner"!
  • From the Chef:  Easy Standards, Part I  ~  1 Chicken, 3 Meals
  • From the Realtor:  How to Winterize Your Home 
  • Referral Thank-yous
Stay tuned to CasaFioreOnline.com for the web release of selected articles.  Care to join the hundreds who receive the old-fashioned, snail mail version of Casa Fiore at their door step?  Send along your address and let me know!

14 November 2011

Best From-Scratch Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so I wanted to share my version of an old-time favorite.  I originally got this recipe from a Saveur magazine several years ago, but I've tinkered with the spice ensemble and the star ingredient to make it my own.  I like to use fresh, heirloom pumpkins and squash (yes, you heard that right) from my garden.  This year I planted the following members of the curcubit family, both sourced from Territorial Seed Company out of Cottage Grove, Oregon:  Rouge Vif D'Etampes, aka Cinderella, pumpkin; and Sugar Hubbard winter squash.  Having pitted them head-to-head this fall, I've confirmed my hypothesis:  Sugar Hubbard tops even the fanciest pumpkin for producing rich and dense pumpkin pie.  I know, I know, I can hear what you are saying... "Really???  Squash?!  That's sacrilege!  That's treason!  The Pilgrims are rolling over in their graves!!"  But follow the pictorial and written recipe below and you'll become a true believer.

And don't forget other Thanksgiving faves from my family posted under January 2010 under Blog Archives in the far right column.  I can't wait for this year's batch of Dad's Minestrone Soup and Joe's Turkey Pot Pies!

"Who wants to make pumpkin pie!"

Shall we call it sacrilege or simply superior?
Sugar Hubbard winter squash makes a superior pumpkin pie.

Rouge Vif D'Etampes "Cinderella " pumpkin steaming away...

Now puree it and you are ready to assemble the pie.

Beat together both wet and dry ingredients.

Pour pumpkin custard into pie shell.

Where would I be without my sweeties, Fiore and Fiona, in the kitchen?

Ready to eat.

From the Kitchen
Pumpkin Pie—from Scratch!
Casa Fiore #18 - October-November 2005
It’s pumpkin season, and here is the pie recipe you’ve been seeking. Forget about the canned stuff, this version is from scratch—I even grow my own. What’s the trick to a superior pumpkin pie? Yep, you guessed it, HUBBARD SQUASH! No joke—this winter squash is denser and more flavorful. It’s well-documented that the key to success in pie-making is in the crust. I’ve got my old-stand-by version—if you are interested, just give me a jingle. A nod to Saveur magazine for inspiring this recipe!

1. For the crust:  Begin with your favorite crust recipe.  Prepare the dough, roll into a ball,  and refrigerate for an hour at least. When dough is chilled, roll out onto a floured surface into a 12” round, then ease into a 9” pie pan. Trim edges, allowing a 1/2” overhang, then fold under and crimp.
2. For the filling:  cut 1.5-2 lbs. of fresh Hubbard squash or pumpkin into large pieces, discarding seeds and pith. Put 8 cups of water into a large pot fitted with a steaming rack and bring to a boil over high heat. Put pumpkin on rack, cover, and steam until pulp is soft, about 30 min. Transfer pumpkin to a bowl and set aside to cool.  (Alternatively, you can bake your squash or pumpkin in the oven until soft, which adds a roasted flavor.
3. Preheat oven to 425º. Scrape pulp from skin into a food processor, discarding skin, and puree until smooth.  Transfer puree to a large bowl and add 1/3 cup white sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, a pinch each of mace, ground clove, and cardamom, 1.5 cups evaporated milk, 2 lightly beaten eggs, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix well.
4. Put filling into crust and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350º and continue baking until filling is set, about 30-40 min. Cool then serve with whipped cream.

Join Fiore for "Real Estate 101: Seller and Buyer Basics!"

02 November 2011

1 Chicken, 3 Meals

From the Chef ~ Easy Standards, Part I

1 Chicken, 3 Meals

Have you ever been over
to a friend’s house
and the food just ain’t no good?

I said the macaroni’s soggy,
the peas are mushed,
and the chicken tastes like wood!

I hear you, Sugar Hill Gang!  Sadly, it’s true:  that’s how chicken usually tastes.  Unless prepared just right, chicken is just really, really hard for me to do.  When it’s not too dry, it’s too greasy, too much of nothingness, or even slightly yucky.  But then I discovered whole roasted bird and some of the standard spin-off dishes that come with it.  I never took home economics, but with this thrifty triumvirate of time, effort and budget, I attempt to make Betty Crocker proud.  This is basic stuff, but a worthy reminder that it takes just one bird to fill out a huge chunk of your weekly menu.

Meal #1:  Roasted Chicken.  Buy a whole chicken.  A 4-5 lbs. free range bird will still only set you back $10 or so.  Rinse, pat dry, and salt and pepper the cavity.  Chop an onion and some fresh herb (I like celery greens or parsley and thyme or bay or sage), pack the cavity, and seal both ends with wooden skewers.  Salt and pepper outside, set in an oven on pan that will catch drippings for 1.5—2 hours (visit CasaFioreOnline.com under Nov. ‘11 for exact cooking times).  When leg moves freely, bird is done.  Carve and serve with some of the drippings.  Roast a few potatoes and enjoy!

Cooking times (taken from Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book):

2-2.5 lbs.     375 degrees     1-1.25 hours
2.5-3 lbs.     375 degrees     1.25-1.5 hours
3-4 lbs.        375 degrees     1.5-2 hours
4+ lbs.         375 degrees     2 hours

Meal #2:  Chicken Soup.  Brown the innards that come with a chicken, cover in a cup or two of water, and let simmer for 1-2 hours.  Cut up leftover bird, sauté some carrots, onion, and celery, add broth and seasonings, throw in some potatoes or noodles or beans, simmer a bit, and let it warm you up. 

Meal #3:  Chicken Enchiladas.   Shred leftover chicken.  Fill tortillas (I like corn) with chicken, shredded cheese, and store-bought enchilada sauce.  Ladle more enchilada sauce on the bottom of a baking pan and fill with enchiladas.  Top with more sauce and cheese, bake at 350º for 15 minutes, and serve with sour cream and a Negra Modelo or a Bohemia.