"Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived."
-Jean Luc Picard

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My undying devotion to Alton Brown and a recipe for apricot fried pies

I've had a serious crush on Alton Brown for several years. It's mostly because he reminds me so much of Mr. Hairball. They are both smart, attractive, glasses wearing, science loving, sweet guys who like to cook. When we lived in Georgia, there was always that tiny, tiny, chance that I might run into Alton at Bed, Bath, and Beyond or Kroger. Sadly it never happened. Maybe that was for the best. I probably would have passed out or just stood there pointing at him with my mouth hanging open like a complete and utter doofus.

One of my favorite episodes:

Part II

This particular episode is one of my favorites because it reminds me of my late grandma. My grandma made these killer apricot fried pies and we used to fight over the darn things. One time when Brother Hairball was going to school and living with her, she made up a whole mess of pies for the relatives in her town and a batch for my family, the out of state Hairballs. So Brother Hairball leaves her house with about five dozen and started the long drive back home. He's got the pies on the seat beside him and they are calling to him with their flaky goodness and that perfect blend of sweet and tart that is the perfect apricot fried pie. Long story short, he eats at least 1/2 of the pies while driving back home. He walks in the house where we are eagerly awaiting the fried pies, (oh and him too!) one of us snatches the Ziploc bag out of his hands and says "where's the rest?" He sheepishly grins and reminds us that it's a long drive from grandma's house and he just couldn't help himself. So then an insane little game of hiding the remaining fried pies ensues. Father Hairball and I found them and hid them behind the toaster from Mama Hairball who then found them and hid them from us, etc.... until we ate every last crumb.

In reading over my grandma's recipe you will notice that she used a traditional pie crust instead of the biscuit-like dough that Alton prefers for his pies.

Grandma's Apricot Fried Pies
makes 10-12 pies
2 cups AP flour
2 TBS sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
about 1/2 cup water
apricot filling - recipe is after the pastry

Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the shortening and add enough water to make a firm dough. Roll out dough so it is 1/8th inch thick and cut dough into 5 inch circles. Place fruit on one half of circle, moisten dough edge with water, fold over and press edges with a fork to seal. Fry in deep fat heated to 375F for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. Drain on a rack placed over newspapers or paper towels and dust with granulated sugar. Let cool before eating.

Apricot filling-
Open package of dried apricots before use, place on paper towels, and check for any debris or bad pieces of fruit. Discard any bad pieces or debris. Then put the package of dried apricots in a saucepan, barely cover with water, and bring it to boil until tender. (It will take at least 10 minutes to reach the desired texture.) Take off the stove when tender and mash up the apricots and whatever water remains in the saucepan with a potato masher. Slowly add sugar to taste until still a little tart but, not too tart. The filling needs to be cool before you make your pies so leave it out for about 45 minutes and then place in the icebox *grins* for several hours or overnight. Later or the next day, make your pies as described above.

*I'm sorry but, I don't know how many ounces the original package of dried fruit contained. I buy mine in the big package at the wholesale club, and just dump some out in a saucepan. If I make too much, I keep it in the refrigerator and use it on toast, biscuits, etc...

Sandy makes some scary crap aka 'Apres Ski'

I don't usually get to watch ol' Sandypants on the weekends but, today I will be able to see a brand spankin' new episode. I'm going to start this based solely on the recipes as printed on the Food Network's website and fill in as I see what happens on the show today.

"Can I just tell you" that fruit with poultry *can* actually be good? Heck, I even had a minor freakout right in the middle of the grocery store a few days before Christmas as there were no fresh cranberries in the produce department. I stopped by another grocery store and much to my delight, not only did they they have fresh cranberries, they even had two different sizes of bags! I'm sure the poor folks watching the security cameras were laughing hysterically at my reaction to seeing that they did have cranberries in the produce department. I ran over to the display, grabbed the biggest bag and clutched it to my chest hugging the cranberries and smiling like I'd been nipping at the wine over on the "drunk and disorderly" aisle. Oh well, it was probably more fun for them than having to watch the customers adjust their undies over in aisle four. *grins*

Anyhoo, let me get this train back on the tracks. Today, I cruised over to the Semi-Ho group over at TWOP, read some of the pre-show snark, and followed the link from TWOP to see the recipes that Sandy will be using today. Of course reading the recipes and seeing Sandy make them is a totally different thing altogether. There are even times when the recipe seems like it might okay until you see what she did with it on her show. I've switched the order around of the recipes from the website to match the order they were presented on the show.

First up we have Colorado Chili. Lets have a moment of silence for the citizens of Colorado who deserve better than this.

I feel your pain as she's performed culinary abominations to dishes popular in my home state. I am so bummed out that Sandy didn't do her whole dire warning about matter and anti-matter colliding if we don't preheat our slow cookers before adding hot food to it. Whoa there! Does drinking ginormous amounts of alcohol just completely burn off your tastebuds or what? I like spicy food but, Hells bells, Sandy three freakin' cans of green chiles?? I'm also not understanding why there is both
salt-free Mexican seasoning and chili powder in this recipe. It depends on the manufacturers recipe but, the two products I have linked duplicate some of the ingredients. Wouldn't it make more sense to *gasp* use individual spices so that you had complete control over what is added to the recipe? *smacks head* Forgive me for trying to use logic to make sense of this show! Now Sandy, could you pretend to start the chili/stew stuff earlier or do the old cooking show standby of pulling out a finished dish and saying here's one I made earlier? We saw you start it and tell us to cook it for 4-6 hours and then the same one is done before the show is over? If somebody gets to travel through time it better be me instead of Sandra Lee! I also see that Sandy used "pre-chopped" onions from the salad bar and "real" bacon bits which is different than her own recipe. We don't have any grocery stores with salad bars where I live.I guess I could visit a local buffet restaurant and buy some "pre-chopped" onions from them. *confused* Oh wait! I could buy an onion at the grocery store and chop it up myself. *looks horrified and faints*

Second dish is Balsamic Glazed Butternut Squash. Shouldn't that be Balsamic Vinegar Glazed Butternut Squash? Sandy just seemed a little too proud of herself for knowing what the main ingredients are in lemon pepper seasoning. Once again, I don't live in the big city so some of these Semi-Ho pre-whatever foods are foreign to me like the 20-ounce package peeled cubed butternut squash. Is it really that hard to wash and peel that puppy yourself?? Sorry, sorry, I keep forgetting she's the queen of the garlic "inajar".

Next we have the Chicken Cherry Baguette Burgers which is actually a recipe sent in by one of her fans or Fandras as the folks at TWOP call them. Okay, we have three items that include the word 'cherry, in this recipe. We have frozen cherries, sweet cherry peppers, and black cherry jam. First up, does the author of this recipe think that cherry peppers taste like cherries or is this more of the 'things that look alike must taste alike' logic we've come to expect from this program? The recipe doesn't say whether the frozen cherries are sweetened or unsweetened which is troublesome as there are different kinds of frozen cherries available especially to those who live in larger cities. On the show, Sandy says something about the sweet cherries being good with the ground chicken so I guess it's supposed to be sweet cherries? *confused* That burger mixture just looked vile, vile, vile! Sandy, forming burgers is not what I would call "fun". The "glamour shot" of the finished ones did look better but that is not saying much. I also just can't wrap my brain around mixing black cherry jam INto mayonnaise. My stomach is lurching now just contemplating it. Oh man, if I had a hangover, I'd definitely be sprinting to the bathroom about now. She didn't mention baking the bread from whack-a-dough like in the recipe. I don't understand why you would put that nasty mayonnaise mixture on the whole loaf before you slice it for the burgers. Perhaps she screwed up and they didn't re-shoot it? I'm seriously considering that one of the shrikes at TWOP sent that recipe in. I mean what sane person would mix sweet chopped cherries INto ground chicken and make 'burgers' out of it? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

Now we have our dessert which is Coffee S'More Pie The recipe doesn't look too bad so this is probably one of those where she gets a little crazy with the booze since this recipe has coffee liqueur in it. Wow after seeing this on TV, it didn't look like Sandy poured in an outrageous amount of booze! Sandy are you feeling okay? I don't think she knows about chocolate graham crackers as she seems to think the chocolate graham cracker pie shells are different beyond the addition of chocolate. I loved watching her measuring out heaping spoons of cocoa with that big spoon from the silverware drawer instead of using a set of measuring spoons! There's other episodes where she goes on about the importance of correct measurements in baking but then she pulls this crap and her ever popular 'using the cap of the bottle of extract' instead of a measuring spoon. When we saw the unbaked pie in the oven, it looked all speckled like it wasn't mixed well before it was poured INto the graham cracker crust. What was that about? Uh Sandy, those are not the "teeny-tiny" marshmallows you proceeded to spill all over the baking sheet. The "teeny-tiny" ones are the ones like you find in some kinds of hot cocoa mix or cold cereal you brainless twit!

It's cocktail time, "the best part of the day"!!! Today she's making the Coco-Cafe Whistler. Lets see what we've got here. We've got 1 1/2 shots brandy, 1/2 shot creme de cacao, 1/2 shot peppermint schnapps, and 1 shot heavy cream in each serving if made as the recipe reads. So we've got two and a half shots of alcohol in each drink if made as the published recipe. As someone who rarely drinks I'd surely be under the table if I had even half a serving of the cocktail. I saw her make this and that sucker looked stronger than the written recipe to me!

Tablescape time!! There's no room left on the table for food! Oh wait, that's a good thing! Whoot! I didn't know that sane adults would soak tongue depressors in water and use toothpicks to make little skis and ski poles for each guest. I've obviously led a sheltered life.