Friday, January 31, 2014

Buffalo Chicken Fried Pies

Buffalo Chicken Fried Pies on a Plate with Celery and Carrots
In being the keeper of a pie blog, I've come to be a recipient of a lot of harebrained pie ideas. Last year around this time, Brent came to me with one. Buffalo. Chicken. Fried. Pies. His vision was for a self-contained Super Bowl snack that captured the flavor of chicken wings, complete with hot sauce, carrots,  celery, and blue cheese dressing, but was encapsulated in a pie crust and able to be held in the hand while watching the game (or Beyonce as the case may be).

I was skeptical but willing to give it a try. We were invited to a Super Bowl party by our friend Lars, who also happens to be an organic chicken farmer, and when we arrived on Sunday evening with a grocery bag full of ingredients and cooking oil, Lars had the chicken ready to go--already cooked and marinated in hot wing sauce. The result was obnoxiously good. The frying warmed all of the ingredients, melting the blue cheese while keeping the carrots and celery still crispy, as in a buffalo wing chaser.

Diced Celery and Carrots for Buffalo Chicken Fried Pies

Buffalo Chicken Fried Pies with Celery and Carrot Sticks and Ranch Dressing

I've apparently haven't really stopped thinking about them since, because this summer, I mentioned it to my friend, pocket food afficianado and video maven Mackenzie Smith, who I met at the LongHouse Scholars Program. She brought them up again a few weeks ago, and last week I traveled to Brooklyn to whip up a batch while Mack filmed me (and my sous chef Justin). She put together this very fun little video on the new favorite snack! Kick it off.

Buffalo Chicken Fried Pies

Nothing in the House pie crust 
5 bone-in chicken thighs
All-purpose flour
Salt & pepper to taste
Oil for browning
1/2 bottle of Frank's RedHot sauce, plus more for dipping if desired
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
Blue cheese dressing, for dipping if desired

1. Prepare Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions. Refrigerate while you prepare the chicken and other filling ingredients. 

2. Prepare the chicken. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small baking dish, spread a thin layer of flour and season with salt and pepper. Coat chicken on all sides with the flour mixture. In a skillet, brown chicken with oil over medium heat. Transfer to a heavy baking dish and cover with hot sauce. Bake for 35-40 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Let cool completely before removing skin and shredding chicken with a fork. Set aside.

2. Once your filling is ready and pie dough has chilled for at least 1 hour, remove  from fridge and roll out onto a lightly dusted surface about 1/8 inch thick. Using a large biscuit cutter or top of a large mug or jar, cut circles out of the dough (you can make them as large or small as you like, just remember that the smaller the pie the less filling can fit inside). 

3. Mound chicken, vegetables, and blue cheese in the center of each circle--you'll want to aim for about 2 Tablespoons of filling total, but depending on how big your dough circles are you can use more or less. Remember it is better to under-stuff than over-stuff.

4. Moisten the edge of the pastry circle with your finger, then fold over the dough to form a half-moon shape. Press the edges together and flute with a fork to seal completely. Place the formed pies on a parchment paper covered baking dish and place in the freezer, at least 20 minutes and up to an hour.

5. Meanwhile, heat the oil (If you prefer to bake your pies, you can do so in an oven set at 375 degrees F for about 15-25 minutes). Pour at least 2 cups of canola oil (or 4 inches deep) into a deep and heavy saucepan. Insert a candy thermometer into the oil. Slowly heat on medium-low until the temperature reads 350 degrees F.

6. When the oil temperature reaches 350 degrees, gently lower one pie at a time into the heated oil and cook until golden brown (about 2 minutes per side).  Using a slotted spatula, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat with the remaining pies.

7. Let pies cool slightly before serving, but they are best eaten when fresh and warm! Dip them in your favorite buffalo chicken wing sauce or blue cheese dressing and go team!

Buffalo Chicken Fried Pies with Celery and Carrot Sticks

Big thanks to Mackenzie Smith for lending her many talents and vision to produce this video and photos. Mack is a Brooklyn-based multi-media producer and heritage cookbook editor and you can find more of her work here. Look out for a new food video project from her coming soon.

Photos and video by Mackenzie Smith

Buffalo Chicken Fried Pies in a Row

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Atlantic Beach Pie

Atlantic Beach Pie with Elizabeth Graeber Illustrated Place Settings

After collaborating on an illustrated Peppermint Pattie Tart place setting for BYT's holiday table decor guide, Elizabeth and I decided to turn it into a series. Each month in 2014, we'll bring you a new installment of Hand Drawn Pies-- thematically illustrated place setting 'n' pie combination for your viewing and tasting enjoyment. 
Atlantic Beach Pie Illustration by Elizabeth Graeber
Nothing like a polar vortex to make you long for salty beach air and warm and salty summer days. Though you may not be able to take a getaway (the plane may not even be able to takeoff with all this snow), this salty citrus pie can take you there for a moment in your mind.

Atlantic Beach Pie is a classic at seafood restaurants along the North Carolina coast. According to Bill Smith, who grew up in that area, if you ate sweets after a meal of seafood, you'd get sick. The only exception was a lemon-lime pie with a saltine crust and a meringue top.

Atlantic Beach Pie with Illustrated Scene by Elizabeth Graeber

This version, which replaces the meringue with whipped cream, comes from Smith, the chef at Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill. I'd read the article about the pie on NPR, but didn't drink the Kool-Aid until I'd tried the original, while on a visit back to my old Carolina grad school haunts. Now this pie has found it's rightful place in my repertoire-- not only is it a heavenly trio of tangy, salty, and sweet, it is also a cinch to make. The ease and lightness makes it perfect for any vacation, whether in the snowy West Virginia mountains or in the hot sand on Kure Beach, after seafood or not.

Beach People Illustration by Elizabeth Graeber
Atlantic Beach Pie
Atlantic Beach Pie
Adapted from Bill Smith of Crook's Corner via NPR

For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the filling:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
Fresh whipped cream and coarse sea salt (I used Himalayan pink salt) for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Crush the crackers finely but not to dust, using a food processor or just your hands, and place them in a medium-sized bowl. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs come together like dough. Press into a 8 or 9-inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes until the crust begins to color.

2. While the crust is cooling (it doesn't need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. Make sure everything is completely combined. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. Let cool completely to room temperature and refrigerate at least 1 hour before slicing. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.
Saltine Cracker Illustration by Elizabeth Graeber
Atlantic Beach Pie Slice

Lemon Illustration by Elizabeth Graeber
Related recipes:
Florida Grapefruit-White Chocolate Pie
Key Lime Pie Popsicles
Lemon Chess Pie
Lemon-Ginger Meringue Tartlets
Lemon Meringue Pie
"Levon Helm's" Lemon Icebox Pie
Lime & Raspberry Italian Meringue Pie

Illustrations by Elizabeth Graeber

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cranberry Sage Pie

Cranberry Sage Pie from 4 and 20 Blackbirds Pie

Braided edges, abstract lattices, and golden brown sugared tops, Four & Twenty Blackbirds pies are real visual stunners and the women who make them-- sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen-- are pioneers of beautiful and creative crust designs.

But equally as innovative are the recipes the two dream up, which spiral out from the classics into new flavor combinations like Maple Lime Custard, Rosemary Honey Shoefly, and the drink-turned-pie Buttered Rum Cream. They call the recipes in their new The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book "uncommon" and it's true-- while the book does offer an ample selection of old standbys, their puissance lies in their knack for creative innovation, both in visual design and flavor.

This talent makes sense considering their background-- Emily is an art school graduate and the two sisters grew up in a family restaurant run by their mother and aunts in a small town in the midwest. Their grandmother baked the pies.

The sisters started their own food business in 2009-- a pie-to-order start-up run out of their Brooklyn apartment-- and by 2010 they had opened the doors of their brick and mortar pie shop in Gowanus. Though their pie recipes have been featured in numerous magazines and sites, at the end of last year they put out their first (I'm thinking there might eventually be another?) cookbook to much acclaim.

Cranberry Sage Pie

Though I'd made a few of their recipes before (see their Salty Honey Pie and Rhubarb Pie) I was was excitedly waiting for their cookbook for months, knowing it would become a resource I'd return to again and again, to bake my way through the recipes and to provide creative inspiration for my own crust designs and flavor combinations.

I stared off with something fairly basic but really good--their Cranberry Sage Pie-- which I made for Christmas dinner this past year. Aside from my everlasting love for cranberries, it was the perfect pie for the occasion with it's holiday-appropriate red hue and sage which adds a savory note that mimicks some of the other flavors of the dinner. We ate ours (along with Pecan Pie and a Dark Chocolate Whiskey-Soaked Bundt Cake) around the fire after opening presents and while highly anticipating the posting of the Downton Abbey Season 4 Christmas Special by the generous Brits.

Cranberry Sage Pie slice

Cranberry Sage Pie
Adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book

Nothing in the House pie crust
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon fresh sage, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons arrowroot (cornstarch also works)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
4 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 small baking apple (I used a Northern Spy)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
Demerara sugar, for dusting

1. Prepare the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Chill dough at least 1 hour. Once chilled, roll out 1/2 of pie crust and fit into a 9-inch greased and floured pie pan. You can choose to roll out the top-crust now and refrigerate it flat, or roll it out once you've prepared the filling. Either way, you should put both the remaining crust and the pie pan in the fridge while you prepare the filling. Reserve half-egg yolk for the egg wash.

2. In a heatproof bowl, pour boiling water over the dried cranberries to cover by about 1 inch. Allow them to plump while you prepare the rest of the filling.

3. In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine the chopped sage, granulated and brown sugars, salt, arrowroot (or cornstarch), cinnamon, and allspice. Process until the sage is fully blended. Pour the sugar mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

4. Use the same food processor bowl to briefly process 2 cups of the whole cranberries until they are roughly chopped. Add them, along with the remaining 2 cups of whole cranberries, to the sugar mixture.

5. Peel the apple and shred on the large holes of a box grater. In a colander, drain the plumped dried cranberries of excess water, but do not press or squeeze them out. Add the shredded apple and the drained dried cranberries to the bowl with the rest of the filling and stir to combine. Stir in the vanilla extract and egg and mix well. Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell and top with the remaining rolled pastry, using a lattice design if desired. Flute and seal edges.

6. Chill the pie in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to set the pastry. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush the pastry with the egg wash to coat. Sprinkle with demerara sugar.

7. Place pie on the lowest rack of the oven on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F, move the pie to the center rack and continue to bake until the crust is a deep golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 35-45 minutes longer.

8. Let cool completely on a wire rack 2-3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with a scoop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Cranberry Sage Pie

Related recipes:
Cranberry Chess Pie
Cranberry Goat Cheese Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Cranberry-Lime Galette
Rhubarb Pie
Salty Honey Pie

For more on Four & Twenty Blackbirds, read my interview with Emily & Melissa here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Friday Pie Slice

Pie Ladies at Trohv Illustration by Elizabeth Graeber

Happy Friday! Please enjoy this first Friday Pie Slice of the NEW YEAR.

1st slice. I've been so inspired lately by the photographs and baked goods of Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Baking in Marshall, North Carolina. Visit her website and view her beautiful tumblr/instagram feed.

2nd slice. My friend Shauna Lott just successfully completed a kickstarter drive to fund The Long I Pie Shop-- a mobile bakery with a social justice mission in Denver, Colorado. Can't wait to see all the goodness that comes out of this project. Check out my interview with Shauna and her recipe for Apple, Brie & Prosciutto Pie here.

3rd slice. One way I kept warm during THE POLAR VORTEX was by making a wintery mix of songs for cold and blizzardy weather, including Hardanger fiddle and other Scandinavian styles, songs, fingerstyle guitar, and a little psychedelia. You can download it here.

The tasty crumbs. Elizabeth Graeber did the above sketch of Kate Lebo & me at our reading and pie tasting at Trohv back in September. Elizabeth and I are working up a new collaboration this weekend--stay tuned!

Find past Friday Pie Slices here.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Convenience Store Treats & Gas Station Pie

Gas Station Delights for The Runcible Spoon Zine

The latest issue of DC's food zine The Runcible Spoon is on the cheap. Yes, it is relatively low in cost, but inside you'll also find odes to freegans, a tutorial on how to make a meal out of Whole Food samples, and a budget eating advice column. I contributed a few stories to the issue, one (pictured above) on selected regional convenience store treats of the Eastern United States, a cultural history of porridge through place and time with illustrations by Elizabeth Graeber (see it here), and a cheeky little guide (below) on how to use your creativity, gumption, and the ingredients at your disposable to make pie *inside* a gas station. The Runcible Spoon is always so much fun to write for and read, and this one was particularly so--pick up a copy online or find it at various local stores around D.C.

How to Make a Pie Inside a Gas Station for The Runcible Spoon

Related post:
Cracker Pie a.k.a. Mock Apple Pie
Lardass Returns in The Runcible Spoon Swimsuit Issue!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Pecan Pie with Brown Sugar

Pecan Pie with Brown Sugar

Pecan pie is generally considered an old Southern favorite, but it's not as old as I first imagined. A few clippings of recipes for "Texas Pecan Pie from the late 1800s exist, one being from the November 26th, 1898 Goshen Daily Democrat, the newspaper from the Indiana town just adjacent to the one where I grew up, and another from a February 1886 edition of Harper's Bazaar. These early varieties are thought to have been a variation of a German nusstorte, brought to Texas by German settlers, but most food historians agree that pecan pie is a 20th century American creation, combining a traditional sugar pie with popular nut confections like pralines.

Pecan Pie with Brown Sugar

While the dessert wasn't invented by Karo, it was certainly popularized by the company, as most recipes then and now call for the syrup by name. Though I certainly wont turn down a slice that's made with the stuff, I prefer pecan pie that calls for other sweeteners, be it molasses, sorghum, or brown sugar. One of my favorites is this Pecan Pie with Brown Sugar adapted from Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies. Heating the brown sugar with butter makes for a rich, toasted flavor that far surpasses any taste corn syrup is capable of producing. Once baked, the sweet buttery filling becomes a caramel that oozes out from under the nut layer. Serve it at room temperature or slightly cooled, with a scoop of bourbon whipped cream, or add a teaspoon of bourbon to the filling itself.  

Pecan Pie with Brown Sugar slice

Pecan Pie with Brown Sugar
Adapted from Nancie McDermott's Southern Pies

Nothing in the House pie crust recipe, halved
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter (if using unsalted, salt to taste)
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
1 1/2 cups (about 6 oz.) pecans, halved

1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Let chill for 15 more minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and flour until well-mixed. Add the butter and place the pan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook until butter is melted and combined with the sugar mixture. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and bourbon (if using) until well-combined. While gently stirring, slowly pour the warm sugar mixture into the milk mixture. Whisk until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour the filling into the chilled pie crust and scatter the pecans over top.

4. Place the pie on the bottom shelf of the oven. Bake 40-50 minutes until the edges puff and the center is fairly firm, wiggling only a little when you nudge it. Filling will be browned. Let pie cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with a scoop of bourbon whipped cream.

Pecan Pie with Brown Sugar slice

Related recipes:
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie
Black Walnut Pie
Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie
Peach-Pecan Pie