Sunday, November 15, 2009

Easy as Pie! Easy as the Ugliest Pie!

I am ashamed to say that I have never made my own pie crust. I thought it would be too hard, too complicated. But when I saw a recipe for pie crust and really read the directions, I realized that "easy as pie" might actually be a saying that makes total sense. (Not at all like "sleep like a baby" which, in my experience, means "fight sleep with everything you've got and then wake up every half hour or hour").

I used Mark Bittman's simple recipe. It really wasn't hard, and it didn't take long, and it didn't create a huge mess in the kitchen. Very promising! Since I was making a banana cream pit, I baked it first.

Hmm, okay, so it's not the prettiest pie crust ever. That's okay, it's still crusty and can adequately perform the crust function. Let's move on.

I mixed up a banana cream custard part, with a recipe from the Good Home Cookbook, also a pretty easy process, which includes folding in some whipped cream at the end.

Now into the crust it goes! And topped with more whipped cream! Now, that doesn't look particularly good. Or nice. Maybe it will look better once I cut a slice ...

Nooo, it doesn't. Yup, that's one ugly pie.

But who cares about looks? It's a pie! A banana cream pie! It's for eating!

Foodgoat took a bite of my ugly, ugly banana cream pie, and said to me, "Not bad for a first time."

Which I believe translates to, "Oh my god, that pie tastes awful, but please don't stop making pies because I don't know where else to get them."

My bite confirmed it - it was not only an ugly pie, it was a bad-tasting pie. The banana cream part was okay, but the crust?

Too salty, way too salty. Looking back on my ingredient list, I targeted the problem - the recipe called for unsalted butter, and I had used salted butter. I've never really paid attention to whether I was using salted/unsalted butter in recipes before, and never noticed that it made a difference, but brands of salted butter can vary in how much butter they have - anywhere from 1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt per cup of butter. Here, I not only used salted butter, but I added salt as well, as dictated by recipe.

The lesson? Use unsalted (or sweet) butter in your baking to keep the salt levels where they need to be.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sake It to Me: Sake and Pork (But Not Together)

At first, it was just about trying a new sake. Then we thought, well, if we're going to try one sake, we might as well try two, and do a side by side taste test.

We sipped some of the Tozai Snow Maiden, then took a closer look at the actual contents of the pretty pink bottle, and had to give it a shake and pour it again.

Why? It's a nigori sake - unfiltered, and thus cloudy, sake.
The other sake was the more common, filtered sake, but both these sakes were dry, smooth, and delicious.

The real surprise, however, came after the initial tasting - when we had the sakes with dinner. In this case, pork. Breaded pork.

Alone, they tasted nice, clean, and refreshing. With pork, both sakes were awful. And by awful, I mean harsh, sharp, and alcoholic.

Before this rude awakening, I didn't think much of wine-food pairing efforts and rules. Besides making meal time decisions even more complicated, I couldn't imagine that it would make all that much of a difference what wine you poured to go along with your meal. Good wines should taste good with good foods, right? But maybe not - maybe pairing foods and wine really does have a significant effect on the taste.

For example, why the rule of only white wine with fish? Because the big robust flavors of red wine overpower delicate fish dishes. But also because drinking red wine with fish often produces an unpleasant, fishy aftertaste - the result of higher amounts of iron in the red wine.

There doesn't seem to be a general rule against serving sake with pork. Except now in our house, where breaded pork will not now be served with sake. And we'll pay more attention to how wine pairs with foods.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Candy Not to Give Away: Jujubes

Hope everyone had a good Halloween! GoatSpawn and Foodgoat enjoyed their costumes immensely - the monkey in the banana tree.

This year, a new candy appeared on the list of things NOT to give out - Jujubes.

A few weeks ago, for GoatSpawn's 1st birthday party, I gave out boxes of Jujubes as party favors, since that happens to be one of our pet names for her. I had a vague recollection of Jujubes as squishy, chewy, gummy bear like candies, but when I opened up a box to try them (alas, after the party), I was alarmed to find that they are not at all like I thought they were.

No, these Jujubes are not at all squishy. Nor are they chewy, unless you have jaws of steel. Nor are they like gummi bears, which are sweet and fun to eat, as opposed to weird tasting and a dental nightmare. No, they are hard. Hard and small and artificially flavored.

So now when I see a box of Jujubes, I don't think, "Oh, cute name for GoatSpawn!" No, I think, "Nasty choking hazard."

If I'd wanted the soft, chewy type of candy, I should have gone for the Jujyfruits. Or I should have looked for Canadian jujubes, which apparently are the soft, edible kind.

Thus I left with several boxes of Jujubes I don't know what to do with. I think it could work as buckshot. Or to fill in potholes. But eat them? Not such a good idea.