Thursday, March 28, 2013

Time for Chocolate Pie!

A while ago we received a few requests from CoF viewers for a chocolate pie recipe. I had run across a couple of possibilities in some old cookbooks, but before I could decide on which one to try I received an email from a viewer in Tennessee  - Adam – with a “tried and true” recipe. To me, these are always the best ones – recipes that have been made countless times and always produce good results. Adam shared that the recipe came to him from his mom, who got it from an elderly neighbor in the 1960’s. 

Chocolate pie is special because many people expect pies to be filled with fruit and associate chocolate more with cake. This pie brings together a rich, sweet chocolate filling along with the delicate pie crust. This particular version also features a meringue top as opposed to a whipped cream top, which if more often found here in Michigan and referred to as “chocolate cream pie.” The fluffy meringue is much lighter than a cream topping and goes beautifully with the rich chocolate filling.

So, I want to thank Adam for passing this recipe along. The pie turned out beautifully and it was fairly easy to put together. I had a lot going on the day we made this pie, so I as a step-saver I used a ready-made crust. Please feel free to make your own – and there is a recipe for pie crust in the Berry Cherry Rhubarb Pie episode.  Note that you will only need to make a single crust recipe. Whether you make your own pie crust dough or not, this Southern recipe will put a smile on the face of any chocolate lover!

Chocolate Pie

5 TBSP cocoa
4 eggs, separated
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups milk
4 heaping TBSP cornstarch
4 TBSP butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 baked pie shell
¼ tsp cream of tartar
5 TBSP sugar

Start with baking your pie shell. If you are using a ready-made crust, follow instructions on box.  Baking a bottom pie crust without filling is often called “blind baking.” Remember to prick holes in the dough before you put it in the oven, or use pie weights if that is your preference. Generally, the crust will need to bake for 12-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Once the crust is slightly golden brown, remove from oven and set aside to let cool. 

When you make the filling, you can make it using a double boiler or in a sauce pan directly over the heat. If you have a hard time controlling the heat on your range or tend to burn things, you may want to cook it using a double boiler. I prefer to just use a sauce pan over directly over low and gradual heat. I find that it cooks a little faster this way and I don’t have to fuss around with the water, etc. 

Beat the egg yolks until smooth. Mix in sugar, cornstarch and cocoa. Add milk and put pan over low heat, stirring constantly. As the mixture heats up and comes closer to the boiling point, it will start to thicken up. Keep stirring to make sure the mixture is smooth (I use a whisk for this job). Once thick, remove pan from heat and add vanilla and butter. Continue to stir until butter is completely melted and combined. Pour filling into baked pie shell and spread it so it is even around the pie. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the four egg whites in a large bowl. Add cream of tartar and begin to beat. Gradually add in five tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat until it forms a stiff peak. Gently spread meringue over the top of the chocolate filling, with the highest point being in the center of the pie. Make sure meringue completely covers top of the pie and goes all the way to the crust.  If you want, you can give the meringue some swirls with the back of a teaspoon. Put pie in oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned. Remove pie and let cool completely before cutting. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beef Burgundy - A French Classic!

While the weather is still on the cool side here in Michigan, it seems right to make a lot of hearty, comforting dishes for Sunday dinners. Although there is no law that says you can’t make beef burgundy during the summer time, it seems to taste even better in cold weather. This classic French stew gained great popularity in the early 1960’s thanks to Julia Child. She referred to it as “boeuf bourguignon” and people all over the country were cooking it up. While Julia Child’s recipe is exquisitely wonderful – I’ve made it a number of times – I opted for one that required a little less attention and labor. 

One thing that is important is using a good dry red wine. Burgundy, which is a French wine produced in the Burgundy region, is traditionally used in this dish. I’ve found that a nice pinot noir works well, so that’s what I used. Another must is bacon. It starts this stew on the right footing, and adds a subtle but welcoming layer of flavor. 

You can serve beef burgundy in a bowl, or over noodles (as we did) or rice. It’s great with warm crusty bread, too. We made popovers, since they provide a nice accompaniment to beef. The beauty of this dish is that it is all comes together in one pot and can be cooked entirely on top of the stove. 

Beef Burgundy
2 ½ - 3 lb chuck roast (can also use an English cut roast)
4 slices of bacon, diced
1-2 TBSP olive oil
I large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 carrots, chopped
2 TBSP flour
2 TBSP tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine, such as pinot noir
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 lb mushrooms, coarsely chopped

Take your chuck roast and begin cutting it into 1 to 2 inch cubes. Cut the entire roast and set the pieces aside. Using a large pot or Dutch oven, cooked the diced bacon until it just starts to crisp. You want to render the fat out of the bacon because you are going to use the bacon fat to brown the beef. Transfer bacon to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Begin to brown beef in the bacon fat – you will need to do this in a number of batches. Do not crowd the pot! Put a good sear on each cube of beef and then transfer beef to large bowl with bacon. If you need to add more fat to the pot, add a tablespoon of olive oil.

When all the beef is browned and removed from the pot, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Put in onion, garlic and carrots. Stir well and cook until the onions begin to get soft and carrots start to pick up a little color – about 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and stir to coat all the vegetables – cook for about a minute. Add tomato paste and stir in cooking for another minute. 

Add wine, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and stir to release cooked on bits from bottom of pot (deglaze). Return browned beef and cooked bacon to pot. Stir contents of pot together, return to simmer and cover pot. Let simmer for 1 to ½ hours.

Add chopped mushrooms, return cover to pot, and simmer another 30 to 45 minutes. If desired, serve over buttered noodles or rice. This stew just as good, if not better, the next day (if there are any leftovers)! Enjoy!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Chocolate Macaroons

I’m always amazed at the incredible delights that can be created from very few ingredients.  This recipe comes from a little cookbook printed over 60 years ago that features the many ways to use baking chocolate. There is no flour in this recipe – the body of the cookie is created by the egg whites. It is really like a meringue in that way – so delicately light and with flavors of chocolate and coconut.

These also have the potential of being visually beautiful treats, something that could be easily achieved by putting the batter through a pastry bag with a star tip. Otherwise, this recipe requires little effort.  You do need to be careful about melting the chocolate. I used a double-boiler, but you could also melt the chocolate in the microwave, but do this at low power and in 15 second increments. The chocolate can burn easily, and once it’s burnt – forget it! So, once you get the chocolate melted and the egg whites beaten, the rest is a jiff to make!

Chocolate Macaroons

1 ½ oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 egg whites
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a double boiler (or slowly and carefully in a microwave – see comment above), melt chocolate. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, beat egg whites with electric mixer until frothy (about a minute). Add salt and vanilla to egg whites and continue beating another minute. Gradually add sugar into egg whites – one tablespoon at a time – and continue beating until egg whites are stiff and all sugar has been beaten in.

Add coconut and melted chocolate to egg white mixture and using a spatula, gently fold in until all is incorporated.

Drop by rounded teaspoon (or put batter in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip) on to a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. It should yield 24-30 macaroons. 

Bake for 20 minutes in 350 degree oven. Remove and allow to cool for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.