Brooks (brooksmoses) wrote,

Things I have cooked today.

I've been cooking a couple of things this evening for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, at my mom's farmhouse in Virginia. The farmhouse is these days mostly rented out on weekends for retreats or families in town for graduations or on summer weeks for vacationers, and thus the kitchen is not the best organized and nothing is at all where I remember it being. But it's workable.

Here's what I cooked, with recipes and descriptions.

Sweet potato pie

For the crust:
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter (2 sticks)
  • a mug of ice water (nominally, 8 T of the water will be used)
Find a suitable bowl, and a whisk. The whisk will not be in the last place you look, but instead in the silverware drawer where you find it when you give up looking for it and decide a fork will do instead.

Whisk flour and salt together. Cut in the butter with a pair of knives, and once it's in slices, cut in further with the pastry cutter you found while looking for the whisk. Finally, cut in the remaining large bits with a fork with a motion rather like scrambling eggs, until it's generally all in small bits.

Save a butter wrapper for buttering the pan later.

Sprinkle the flour mixture with 1 T of cold water from the mug. Stir with the fork. Repeat several times. (You can get away with sprinkling in 2 T before stirring for the first few spoonfuls.) At about 7 T of water -- varying slightly with humidity; this was at 8 T this time -- the mixture should have a lot of little dough balls. Squeeze it together, and observe that it still crumbles apart into dry crumbles a lot. Add 1 more T of water; it will still crumble easily but it can also just barely all be assembled into a ball. Assemble all of the dough into a ball and set it aside for a few minutes while starting to cook the sweet potatoes for the filling.

(Setting it aside turned out to be a very useful step; the moisture equalizes and after ten minutes it was no longer crumbly and was very well-behaved.)

Clear off a section of formica countertop and scrub it. Sprinkle a small handful of flour into an area about six inches in diameter. Find the rolling pin (wooden), and flour it, though not much flour actually sticks to the rolling pin. Break the ball of dough in half, mash into a thick hamburger-patty shape, and place in the middle of the floured circle. Spread a tablespoon or so of flour on the top. Roll out, alternating directions and going back and forth across the dough ball until it's about the size of a dinner plate, and then going from the center outwards, focusing on the thicker areas and getting a roughly round shape about 14" in diameter. Ideally, the whole dough ball should move around a bit while it's larger (this helps prevent sticking), and should be pushing flour ahead of it as it spreads. Brush the top with more flour if it starts to stick, and a bit at the end. Then, carefully fold one half of the dough back over itself (peeling up any stuck bits), and then fold it again so it's in quarters, and set it aside on a plate. Repeat with the other half.

Drink the rest of the ice water.

For the filling:
  • 2 or 3 sweet potatoes (enough to make 2 cups mashed)
  • about 3/4 cup sugar (the recipe calls for a cup, but this is too much)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 T flour
Pick out what looks like the right quantity of sweet potatoes (2 smallish ones, 1 tiny one), stab all over with the fork you used for mixing the pie crust, place on a plate with a damp paper towel over them, and microwave for 6 minutes. Be puzzled at how one of them managed to splatter a few tiny bits of sweet potato on the side of the microwave. Turn over, microwave for 5 minutes more; they should be soft at this point. Set aside to cool a bit while rolling out the pie crusts.

Extract sweet potato contents by cutting them in half and spooning out the insides. They are still too hot to hold, so it works well to use a spoon in each hand; the right hand for scooping out the potato, and the left hand for holding the potato in place and getting the potato out of the spoon into the measuring cup. (When scraping the skin, you want to use one spoon to hold the end of the potato against the plate, and scrape away from it.) Measure out about two cups of sweet potato; note that there is only another spoonful left, and include that as well.

Measure out roughly 3/4 cup of sugar in the 1-cup measure. The original recipe calls for a full cup, but this makes for a quite sweet pie, so a bit less is good. (The recipe also notes that this can be used without a crust as a sweet potato casserole; for that, a cup is definitely way too much, and a half-cup is about right. Crushed pecans go well as a topping on the casserole.) Likewise, measure out 3/4 cup of milk. (The recipe says you can substitute evaporated milk; there is also a note on it saying that my mother disagrees with that statement.)

Microwave the butter in a mug just until mostly melted and stir vigorously with a fork to melt the remaining bits. Notice that just-melted butter is actually not very warm, and pour it into the bowl as well. Break the eggs into the bowl, and whisk them in place to distribute the yolks as much as you can before whisking everything together. Add in the cinnamon (which was actually only supposed to be 1/2 t, but I misread the recipe, oh the horror of extra cinnamon), vanilla, and flour, and whisk together.

Set the bowl aside, and look for a pie pan. Find only a white ceramic quiche pan, which you remember fondly from your childhood, which will do just fine. Entertain the idea of absconding with the quiche pan and leaving a normal pie pan in its place. Butter the pie pan lightly with one of the butter wrappers.

Take one of the quarter-folded pastry dough rounds, place the corner in the middle of the pan, and unfold to cover the pan. Pick a spot on the outside and pick up the edge of the dough in one hand and move it slightly towards the middle while pressing the dough into the corner of the pie pan with the other hand -- the goal here is to press the dough all the way into the corner without stretching it any. Do this all the way around the pie pan, pressing out any wrinkles and mushing cracks together if needed (with bits of leftover torn from the outside, if you need to fill a gap). Once this is done, run a knife vertically around the outside of the pan to cut off the excess dough while leaving as much as possible on the rim of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 400F. In theory this should probably have been done earlier.

Start the cranberry sauce while the oven is preheating. Once it is preheated, pour the sweet potato mixture into the pie shell, and spread it out a little bit with a spoon.

Cook the pie at 400F for 10 minutes, then turn down to 325F and cook for 30 more minutes. Check that a knife inserted in the middle comes out "clean", which in this case means that it may have bits of sweet potato on it but any moisture is clear rather than looking like uncooked egg. Set the pie aside to cool.

Cranberry relish
  • 1 cup sugar (normally white, but light brown today for variety)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup red wine (or, better, port, but we didn't have any; you could also use more water)
  • 1 12-oz package of cranberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 T orange juice
  • orange zest would be nice but we didn't have any oranges
Clean the 1-cup measure from the pie-making. Measure out a cup of brown sugar -- noting that to get an accurate measure you need to pack it in. Put this in a medium-small saucepan. (The saucepans are hanging over the stove and easy to find.) Put a little bit less than 1/2 cup of red wine in the 1-cup measure, since it's your brother's good wine and you're not sure he would really approve of you cooking with it. Fill the remainder of the cup with water, and add this to the sugar. Bring this gently to a boil.

Meanwhile, wash the cranberries and pick out any that are obviously not happy. When the sugar-water mixture has started boiling a little, add the cranberries, return it to a boil, and turn it down to some approximation of a simmer. Add the cinnamon stick. Adjust the stove as needed to try to keep it at a simmer, noting that unfamiliar electric stoves are much harder to set just right than the one you have been cooking on regularly for three years. Stir frequently.

After about ten minutes, the cranberries should be bursting of their own accord, and be very soft. Burst the remainder of them very gently against the side of the pot with the spoon. Attempt to avoid spattering your hands with small bits of hot bursting-cranberry goop. Continue mixing. Once all the cranberries are at least halfway to a state of falling apart, which should not take that long, turn off the heat and mix in the orange juice. Let cool. Sample judiciously, and then less judiciously; it's not like pie where anyone will notice that you ate a heaping spoonful or two.

Once the pie and cranberry sauce are reasonably cool, transfer to the fridge for Thanksgiving dinner later.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (original here), with comment count unavailable comments. Comment here or there.

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