Pie Night was another success. For me this night has evolved into almost another holiday all on its own. It began innocently enough several years ago after we had a ‘pie surplus’ and decided to invite a couple of friends over to help resolve the ‘situation’. It stayed smaller until last year, and then it just seemed to blossom!!! The best parts about Pie Night are the gathering of fabulous friends and family, the laughter, the stories, and of course, the pie. It is a wonderful way to wrap up Thanksgiving and really sums up what this holiday is all about. Thank you to all of our friends…we are truly fortunate to have you in our lives!
What a fabulous day! I do believe I am done cooking for the rest of the weekend…I ended up with 11 pies: 2 each of cherry, pecan and pumpkin; 1 apple; 1 apple w/ brandied raisins; 1 chocolate; 1 banana cream; 1 coconut cream. I also have several mini meringue tarts, some with lemon curd, some with cranberry curd…I have not tried those yet. Dinner was phenomenal. I was up late last night with pie activities so I did not get as much meal prep done as I had planned. As a result I spent the entire day cooking, setting the table, making the centerpieces for the table, etc. But I loved every second of it, and it all turned out beautifully. The feast included both roast turkey and smoked turkey – the roast one was an organic ‘Heidi’s Hen’ from Whole Foods, bread ‘stuffing’ (I didn’t stuff the turkey, so technically it is dressing), mashed potatoes, bourbon sweet potatoes topped with pecans, green beans with almonds, brussels sprouts roasted with chestnuts and proscuitto, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potato rolls with dried cherries, and butterflake herb rolls. We served dinner with both a Cava and a Pinot Noir, and there was sparkling cider for the younger folks. We were so full from dinner that we didn’t even have any pie until almost midnight…how crazy is that to have 11 pies and not dip into even one of them all day??? But dip into them we eventually did. My scale is relegated to the deepest corner of my closet for at least a week or so…no need to see the damage staring up at me!!! Well, I am exhausted…finally time for me to retire for the night, perhaps even the weekend. My body is full of the wonderful aches that come from spending all day and night in the kitchen. I am one lucky woman – and so very thankful for the family and friends in my life!
Ah, the day I have been anticipating for days, even weeks! Today is pie-baking day, as well as the day we smoke the turkey breast. (I have the image of the Dunkin’ Donuts guy in my head, only he is saying ‘Time to bake the pies!’ instead of ‘Time to make the donuts’) This may be the last I see of my couch for the remainder of the day…my legs and back will be aching within hours, but a wonderful ache that will be! In a few short minutes I will head out to fire up the smoker. It is rather large and will take close to a solid hour to come up to temperature. My turkey breast went into the brine last night. I did a simple brine of salt and brown sugar (about 1/2 c Kosher salt, 1/4 c brown sugar and 1 1/2 gallons of water). Once the smoker is heating up I will take out the turkey breast, pat it dry and apply the rub…then into the smoker it goes!
Pies will follow. Last night I moved the crusts from the freezer to the fridge, which was cleaned out and ready to hold lots of pie. I made a lemon curd and cranberry curd last night to use for my mini meringue pies. I am experimenting to see if the meringue holds up better in bite-sized portions than it does in a full-sized pie. I will be using the mini phyllo dough shells to test…
Turkeys are in hand, perishables are bought, and flowers for my centerpiece are in water as I write…All of my pies crusts are made and ready to be rolled into delicious treats for my family and friends. Last night I made the cranberry sauce (my best batch ever if I do say so myself!) and made sure I had the wood for my smoker. I am using apple and maple woods this time around. Speaking of smoking, in addition to my turkey breast I will smoke the habanero peppers given to me last week by our friends, some pecans, scallops and possibly some shrimp. Some of our neighbors will help fill any leftover space (it is a large smoker) with salmon and another turkey breast. I have this idea that if I throw some cranberries and a couple of cinnamon sticks in there I could bring cranberry sauce up to new heights…I will let you know if and how that works! And tomorrow is my big baking day. I will rise early to get the smoker going, and then the pie-baking frenzy will begin!!! When I go to sleep tomorrow night I will be counting pies instead of sheep…is there a better way to end the day?
My son is home from college, and I know he is looking forward to a break from the dining hall food selections he has been presented with these past few months. His food requests include risotto and pumpkin soup. Of course he is most looking forward to all the pies after the Thanksgiving meal…he loves pie! Wednesday is pie-baking day…and also the day I smoke the turkey breast. The day will begin with getting the smoker going. It takes a little time for it to come up to temperature, but I can finish prepping the turkey while I wait. Once the turkey goes in the smoker my husband will monitor the temperature during the day, and I will jump into the pie-baking festivities! It is a day loaded with food prep – and lots of dishes!!!
Yesterday I wrapped up the majority of my grocery shopping. I will pick up the turkey and turkey breast on Tuesday along with any perishibles.
Today I made 2 batches of Butterflake Herb Rolls. The recipe is essentially a Parker House Roll with an herb butter slathered on each one before folding. As per my mother-in-law I line 12 together in a loaf formation (butter spread between each roll) before baking. Each recipe yields 24 rolls (2 rows of 12). They are delicious…I don’t prefer them to the Sweet Potato rolls I made yesterday; however, they can hold their own at the dinner table. I use the herb butter mixture from my MiL’s recipe and a different Parker House roll recipe which uses butter rather than shortening. So now I have two types of bread to serve with Thanksgiving dinner, with plenty extra for leftovers the next day. I cannot wait!!!
I baked 3 batches of my sweet potato rolls with cherries and cardamom. The house still smells delicious with the faint traces of cardamom lingering throughout…I had a total of 48 rolls, but that number has decreased by around 1/2 a dozen! They better make it to the freezer quickly or there may not be any left for the Big Day. Actually, being the wonderful wife I am I will wait until my husband has had a chance to sample them and offer up an opinion before I relegate them to the depths of the freezer.
With respect to making the rolls, I did 2 batches in my Kitchen Aid mixer – the method I have always used. The third batch I tried in my new Cuisinart food processor. WOW! It was so easy to use and the dough turned out perfectly. I did not notice any difference between the two methods in the final product. I think I will be using my new Cuisinart a lot more than my old one. I especially love the fact that the flour doesn’t ‘poof’ out when I use it. I made most of my pie dough in this as well, and again, the results were terrific. I will update on the results of my future uses…
I sit here on a brief break to update on the Turkey Day breads. I have made 3 batches of my Sweet Potato Rolls – a tried and true recipe I have used since 1996 when I saw it in the November Bon Appetit Magazine. As I sit they are going through their first rise. In about another hour I will punch down the dough and shape each batch into 16 crescent rolls. I can almost smell the aroma of the rolls baking, mingled with the dried cherries and cardomom wafting through my entire house…so heavenly!
November 18, 2009
Tomorrow I will make my sweet potato rolls (with dried cherries and cardamom), and perhaps even my mother-in-law’s Butterflake Herb rolls. Since I don’t use trans-fats, I have replaced the shortening in her recipe with real butter – but that is my only modification. Sometimes I include some sort of rosemary bread or rolls with my Thanksgiving meal, but I haven’t decided if I will do that this year. I also plan to measure out my dried fruits and nuts for my fruitcakes, which I would like to make next week so they have time to ‘cure'(a 3-4 week process). I soak them with the sugar syrup I use to plump the dried fruit and add Maker’s Mark bourbon and Grand Marnier to balance the sweetness and provide a kick…After several weeks they are ready for distributing to friends and family. Believe me, these are not your ordinary fruitcakes! They have a white cake base and I use dried rather than glaceed fruits. The mixture includes apricots, blueberries, sour cherries, currants, and cranberries – all dried of course. I have had wonderful luck with the dried fruits at Whole Foods. My mouth is already watering!!!
November 17, 2009
Yesterday was a great day. I made more of my pie crust dough for the freezer, I cubed bread for my stuffing – also in the freezer, and I even dried the habanero peppers Mike and Tanna gave me this weekend. I will smoke them on the day I smoke my turkey (the day before Thanksgiving and also my mom’s birthday!). This weekend I was able to get most of the groceries I will need for Thanksgiving. I have my perishables yet to buy, and my turkey will be picked up the Tuesday before Turkey Day…but not a whole lot left to get. My tablecloth is washed and ready to spread on my table. Dishes are accounted for, and I will buy/arrange flowers et al for my centerpiece on Tuesday the 24th. So all in all I feel fairly ready for the big day. I look forward to our times with family and friends…and that is what it is really all about…