Thursday, November 21, 2013

Apple Custard Pie with Walnut Crust

Sometimes unexpected things happen in the kitchen.  Plans go awry.  I don't always double check my ingredients or recipe timing, and this can lead to happy things like making this pie.  My original plan was to make a cinnamon apple cheesecake for a pie contest.  Partway through this I noticed the instruction line about chilling overnight... oops.  Well, I signed up for making a pie, and a pie I shall make. Apples are the fruit of the season, and I like to shake things up a bit from the traditional apple pie.  

Apple Custard Pie with Walnut Crust and Cinnamon Glaze

Of course things can get a little too crazy in the kitchen for me when I try to bake two things at once, especially when the recipes are similar... my husband came to the rescue to help me out and so far so good with the two pies.  Might as well finish the second one too, right?  (Now we have cheesecake for breakfast mmmmm)  The original recipe didn't make enough glaze to cover the apples so I bumped up the ingredients there to make what I put on this pie.  People seemed disappointed that it isn't caramel, but the cinnamon-cider glaze is so good and I think caramel would overwhelm the delicate custard.  The glaze cooks up very quickly so do not take your eyes off of it while the heat is on.  Okay I did mine on medium not low... what can I say, it was one of those days. 

Local ingredients of the day:
Cameo apples from the Urban Farm & Feed store
Apple cider from Farnsworth Family Farms
Eggs from Clifford Family Farm

Also thanks to the Wasatch Cooperative Market and Salt Lake Culinary Center for hosting the pie contest for inspiration!

No, I didn't win, but I had a lot of fun and was very pleased with how this came out.  I've always wanted to be good enough at baking to be able to enter a contest and feel good about it! 

Apple Custard Pie with Walnut Crust
Pie adapted from Eagle Brand (Sweetened Condensed Milk).

1 1/2 cups ground walnuts
3 tablespoons butter 
2 tablespoons white sugar

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Press the nut mixture firmly into bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate. 

Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for about 10 minutes, or until the edge is golden brown. Cool.

1 1/2 cups sour cream 
1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk 
1/4 cup apple cider
1 large egg 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
3-4 medium apples, cored, pared and thinly sliced 
2 tablespoons butter

Apple Cinnamon Glaze:  
1/2 cup apple cider
4 teaspoons cornstarch 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.  In small bowl, beat sour cream, sweetened condensed milk, apple juice, egg, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth. Pour into prepared pie crust. Bake 30 minutes or until set. Cool.

2.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook apples in butter until tender yet crisp. Arrange the prettiest slices on top of pie.  Eat the other slices. 

3.  Combine apple juice, cornstarch and cinnamon in small saucepan. Over low heat, cook and stir until boiling. Boil for 1 minute. Keep a very close eye on this, it can burn easily. 

4.  Drizzle over cooked apples. Serve warm or chilled. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Roasted Chicken with Winter Vegetables

It's time to get practicing on roasting birds to get ready for Thanksgiving.  Chickens use the same method and make a beautiful presentation so if you aren't feeling quite up to par on your turkey skills, these are a great way to gain that confidence.  Go ahead, volunteer to do the turkey this year!

Get fresh whole chickens so you don't have to deal with the thawing. The veggies are a "whatever is on hand" sort of thing, so if you have onions (quartered), squash (small chunks), apples (halved or quartered), or small carrots available those would be delicious with these flavors too.  I happened to have a bottle of Apple Beer handy so I used that and it tied everything together.  Roasting the veggies with the chicken means only one dish to clean afterwards and no mashed potatoes needed as a side dish.  Bonus: Save the chicken carcass to make stock and freeze it!  Chicken stock gives many holiday dishes that extra oomph of flavor and it's always better when homemade. 

As always, thanks go to my local farmers for many of these ingredients - chicken, yams, potatoes, tomatoes, salt (woot for Salt Lake!), rosemary, and parsley. 

Photo coming soon. 

Roasted Chicken with Winter Vegetables

Whole Chicken, raw (5-6 lbs)
2-4 Yams / Sweet Potatoes
2 Tomatoes (optional)
1-2 Potatoes
1/2 cup beer (or other liquid such as apple juice or water)
4-5 Tbsp Salt
Ground Pepper
1 tsp Rosemary
Sprinkle of Garlic Powder
Sprinkle of Parsley Flakes
Big sprinkle of Oregano

1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
2. Put the chicken into a roasting pan and pour the salt over it, getting salt on as much of the bird as possible.  It seems like too much but it isn't.  This is the secret to perfect skin and moist meat!
3. Let sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut the veggies into large chunks, about twice bite-size.  Pre-heat oven to 425.  Arrange veggies around chicken in roasting pan.
4.  Sprinkle herbs and spices over chicken and veggies.
5.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 375 for one hour or until the chicken juices run clear and the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  (Use a meat thermometer to be certain, and take it out as soon as it reaches this - hotter just makes it overcooked)
6.  Arrange on a platter and serve with pride!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Incubator Farm Support

I'm going to write about something different today, and that's where all of this beautiful food comes from.  Farms!  All over the country there is a movement happening, right now, toward locally grown and healthy food, unprocessed, unpackaged, just good old fashioned food.  That food is lovingly provided by farmers who feel the call to work the earth, plant seeds, harvest fruits and vegetables, and get them to local markets for us all to purchase and enjoy.

Have you ever thought about what it takes to be a farmer?  Getting started is tough - available land is much larger than a beginning farmer can afford or work, there is a big investment in tools and training, and farming as a business requires a strong network of relationships that beginning farmers just don't have.  It's daunting enough that the majority of farmers now are at retirement age.  Ten years from now, where will all of that beautiful delicious produce come from, if new farmers don't step up?

The solution to this is to support incubator farms, places where beginning farmers can use land to learn the ropes, have a shared set of tools and equipment with other farmers to reduce the financial burden of a startup, and take educational workshops on farming and business practices to allow them to really make a living off the land.  As the farmers gain the necessary experience they can move on to larger parcels of land and feel confident in their markets, expanding their businesses and purchasing their own land.

The Green Urban Lunchbox, a project of the Community Foundation of Utah,  is starting an incubator farm in Layton, UT (just outside Salt Lake City) on an old orchard.  Those of you not familiar with the Salt Lake area may not know that this is excellent farming land.  This 37-acre future farm is beautiful and ready to be leased in small parcels to new farmers wanting to get started in commercial agriculture.  The organization will provide training on farming skills, best practices, and networking with local restaurants and markets, and bring together the people who will grow food for the Salt Lake area for the next generation.  All they need now is tools, and this is what they are soliciting donations for.  Can you help?  Check out the video on Razoo (it's like Kickstarter for nonprofits) and please chip in if you can.  Every donation brings new farmers closer to their dreams and this parcel of land closer to being worked by loving hands to produce food.