bring back fall…with apple pie

This fall has been somewhat disappointing weather wise going from unseasonably warm to cloudy rainy weather to freak October snow storm. The weather has played apart in delaying my pie making, but today, I’m going to bring back fall with an apple pie. My first apple pie in college was a success, followed by a mediocre pie during the holidays. For every pie that succeeded, there was a failed pie and today was another attempt to break the curse. I consulted Smitten Kitchen to try an all butter crust recipe, because the crust is always the biggest player in pie. This also gave me an opportunity to use my pastry blender, which had been collecting dust (cleaned before use? Yes). In recent years, I’ve been making use of a food processor for my pie crust needs. Fast and clean, but more clean up required.


A Call to Arms

Double Pie Crust (because a single layer pie crust would be cutting corners)
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks very cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/2 cup + a few extra tbsp very cold water

Blend flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add cold cubed butter and mix with pastry blender until pieces of butter are smaller than a pea and texture of mixture is crumbly. Add 1/2 cup water and bring dough together with 1 hand. Add additional tbsp cold water until dough comes together. Separate into two portions, flatten into a disc shape between plastic wrap and cover completely with the same plastic wrap. Place dough into fridge for at least 2 hours.

For the filling, I used Food Network Kitchen’s recipe since my best pie post college used this recipe

Apple Pie Filling
1 lemon
3 lbs. peeled baking apple slices (7 to 8 apples, I used Golden Delicious)
2/3 cups sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
2 tbsp butter melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 3 tbsp AP flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1 egg plus 1 tsp water
sugar to sprinkle

Toss the juice of 1 lemon with apple slices, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a large pot, melt 2 tbsp butter and cook apple mixture on medium high heat until sugar mixture starts to bubble, lower temperature to medium low heat and cover pot. Cook until apples are tender (about 15 minutes). remove from heat and add vanilla and flour. Mix and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out dough from the fridge into 2 circular layers 11 to 12 inches in diameter. Place 1 layer into 9 inch pie tin and mold along the edge. Fill with apple mixture and top with cubed butter. Take egg and mix with a little water to make egg wash. Brush egg wash along the edge of the pie. Place second layer of pie dough over the top of the pie. Press edges of the pie until the crust is sealed. Cut off access dough 1 inch from the edge of the pie tin. Fold the 1 inch of access dough under the edge of the pie so the it rests on top of the edge of the pie tin. Flute the edges of the pie. Cut 6 slit above the pie to let steam come out as it’s baking. Brush egg wash over the pie and top with sprinkled sugar. Place pie on foil covered cookie sheet in case of overflowed filling. Bake for 15 minutes and reduce temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake an additional 50 minutes. Let cool and serve warm.

My pie turned out butt ugly so the streak of unfortunate pies shall continue. At least I’m positive that the crust is flaky. Let’s hope it tastes good.


In sales, this is called “Rustic”

NJ & NY Columbus Day Weekend

Last weekend I enjoyed a 5 day weekend visiting NJ and NYC. In 6 of the last 8 years I’ve made the pilgrimage back to the Tri-state and got to enjoy suburban NJ Chinese food and the company of some New Yorkers to take me around town. On Thursday, I took the bus and got home in time for dinner at Shanghai Bun, which is a family favorite. The interior has gotten a huge face lift over the years, but the food is still great as always. I actually had dinner here both Thursday and Friday nights. That is how much I love this place.


Fish and Mushrooms with Wine Sauce

Wonton Soup

Soup Dumplings

Wonton Soup

Scallion Pancakes

Beef Sandwiches

Fried Tofu with Fish

On Friday after working up an appetite at the gym, I finally got to try a burger place that opened up two or so years ago that a friend recommended. Frankly Burgers & More is now the burger to beat within a 30 minute drive from my house.


Frankly Burgers and More

Since it was probably the last warm weekend of the year, why not enjoy the last of the heat with some ice cream from Applegate Farms?


Pistachio and Cow Tracks

On Saturday, I woke up in Lower Manhattan and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time to eat at Grimaldi’s, which is among the most visited pizza spots in NYC by both tourists and locals. So much so that we barely made it on the first seating because a tour bus got priority seating.


Grimaldi’s Large Pizza with Sausage, Mushrooms and Ricotta

For dinner, we had Yakitori at Village Okocho in the East Village. Much more affordable than Kushi for you folks down in DC, but ambiance suffers.


Japanese Sausage

Fried Calamari

Mushrooms in Butter Sauce

Tofu

Fried Skewers

Yakitori and Smoked Fish

The next day we trekked out to Queens to have Korean at Sik Gaek Chun Ha, which was featured on No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain visited with David Chang to down a huge platter of seafood and fresh octopus. Sadly, they were out of fresh octopus so we dined on a spicy seafood stir fry, seafood pancakes and pork skin. Poor us.


Pork Skin Crisping on the Grill

Seafood Pancake

After this meal, we headed back to Lower Manhattan to have dinner in Chinatown to eat some Chinese fast food at Big Wong King. Think roast pork/duck over rice with some greens at those places with meat hanging from the windows. No pictures here as this type of food tends to be dumped on a plate.

Here are some pictures that capture the great weather, the great state of NJ, and the deliciousness of the weekend.


The Undirty Jerz

Thanks for the Delicous Trip NYC

In case you were wondering- 3 pounds gained over 5 days. Class.

lobster with ginger and scallions

If you’ve ever eaten at a Chinese restaurant and splurged on the pricier seafood dishes, you might have been lucky enough to have lobster with ginger and scallion. I distinctly remember that my sister never liked lobster until she had this dish. The lobster shells would always have the delicious sauce absorbed into the corn flour/cornstarch and made the dish great with white rice. Since I had a lot of scallions and ginger I decided to give this dish a try. Shaw’s also had lobster on sale for $6.99/lbs, which further convinced me that this was destiny calling.

This dish sadly also required you to chop up lobster prior to cooking. This would be my first experience cutting up fresh lobsters. I usually steam lobsters so that they’ll go without a fuss. According to multiple sites, you are suppose to put the lobster in the freezer before dismantling. I put Maude and Sue in for about 30 minutes and when I went to check them out, no movement. The next step is to stick a knife just behind the eyes, and essentially splitting their face in half. Mmmmm didn’t work. Sue definitely woke up to a knife in her head. I started to freak out and tried to put her out of her misery, but there was still movement. I felt like I was going to hell in a few minutes so once the movement stopped, I quickly moved onto Maude. I repeated process, but only faster. Maude didn’t put in much of a fight, but she still gave a little tail flapping (probably the lobster equivalent of the finger. FML.

Maude and Sue Hate Me

Ingredients
2, 1.25 lbs. lobsters cut into pieces
2 tbsp. cornstarch
4-5 scallion greens, cut two inches long
10 pieces of fresh ginger cut into 1 inch match sticks
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil

After taking the claws off and separating the knuckles, use the back of your knife and made a couple of hacks at the claw and knuckle shells so that it’ll be easier to eat after it’s cooked. Split the tail down the middle and clean the tail of any roe or stuff from the digestive tract. Toss lobster pieces with about 2 tbsp. of cornstarch and set aside. Heat a generous amount of oil in wok and fry up lobster pieces. If you are using a smaller wok like me, fry them up in batches so that the meat doesn’t get crowded. Once shells just start turning red and meat begins turning white (about 2 minutes), drain oil from lobster and set aside. In the wok, add ginger and toss for 30 seconds. Add scallions and garlic and toss another 15-30 seconds. Add lobster back into wok and toss another 15 seconds. Add chicken stock, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, white pepper and sesame oil. Stir for another minute or so until the lobster is completely cooked. Serve with white rice or with plain noodles.

Lobster with Ginger and Scallions

Tossed with Some Udon

cookies ‘n cream cupcakes

Since I changed jobs earlier this year, I’ve been looking for the baked good that would be the new favorite in the office. At my last job it was the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, which I made 10 or so times over the span of 2.5 years. I made those twice so far (once in the form of a muffin), but they haven’t gotten the same rave reviews, so I started hunting for something better. Maybe flashier?

As I was searching through my inventory, I noticed a bunch of unused cupcake liners and realized that I hadn’t made cupcakes since college. Since I was going for wow factor and a crowd pleaser, I thought about an Oreo cupcake and searched cookies and cream cupcakes. It led me to this beauty. The frosting may become the basis of all my cream cheese frosting until the end of time. Let me also tell you that those half Oreos on the bottom blew peoples’ minds. THEIR MINDS. BOOM. INTERGALACTIC SONIC BOOM.

The only adjustments I made were using skim milk I had on hand instead of heavy cream in the frosting and opting to not use crumbs to decorate because I had to assemble these at the a co=worker’s birthday party. The recipe also only gave me 20 cupcakes because I used a couple of Oreos less than what was stated. The batter was looking rather loaded with cookies.



Cupcakes:
20 Oreo Cookie Halves, Twisted with Cream
2 1/4 cups AP Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
8 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
1 2/3 cups Sugar
3 Large Egg Whites, Room Temperature
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 cup Milk
12-15 Oreo Cookies, Coarsely Chopped (Quartered)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. Cream Cheese, Room Temperature
6 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
1 tbsp. Vanilla Extract
4 cups Confectioners’ Sugar, Sifted
2 tbsp. Milk

Garnish:
20 Oreo Cookie Halves, Cut Down the Middle

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line regular size cupcake pan with paper liner. Place twisted Oreo half on the bottom of each liner, cream side up. In bowl, combine dry cupcake ingredients and sift/whisk/blend with fork until mixed. In a separate bowl, using a hand or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed. Blend in egg whites one at a time. Pour in vanilla. Turn speed to low and slowly incorporate half the dry cupcake ingredients. Add milk until combined and then add remaining dry ingredients. Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in chopped Oreos with a spatula.

Divide batter evenly into cupcake liners and bake for 18-20 minutes. Rotate half way for even baking or adjust as needed if your oven has hot spots. Test done-ness with toothpick and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack until cooled completely.

For the frosting, combine cream cheese and butter and mix on medium-high speed until smooth. Add vanilla extract until combined. Slowly add in confectioners’ sugar until incorporated. Add the milk and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Whip on high speed until light and fluffy. Add more confectioner’s sugar, if too wet and milk, if too dry. I placed the frosting in some zip lock bags so that i could easily bring them to the party and pipe onto the cupcakes. Add a half Oreo cookie to garnish.

breakfast without boundaries

Hot dogs are probably the first hot junk foods I can ever remember liking. Long before liking burgers in high school due to my family’s limited beef consumption at home or pizza in elementary school due to my parent’s distaste for cheese, the humble hot dogs was there at BBQs, amusement parks and Asian bakeries. The Asian bakery hot dog bun is what first got the hot dog to make an appearance at the breakfast table and for that reason, I am much more open to the idea of foods having no boundaries during the day.

The Asian bakery hot dog bun is actually not that good. The bread that is wrapped around it is the real star. Growing up, Ball Park franks became the ideal because Michael Jordan (even though I wasn’t a Bulls fan) endorsed it. It wasn’t until I realized that casings mattered when I upgraded to Hebrew National and Nathan’s for the snap and texture.

On the last day in LA before Katie and I drove to San Diego, the three of us didn’t know where to go for breakfast. When Ivy asked what was left on my list, I said Pink’s was really the last thing I really wanted to cross off in LA on this trip. Thanks to Yelp, we found out that Pink’s opens at 9:30am. You know where this is going.


There Are No Clouds In The Sky When You Have A Hot Dog For Breakfast

After taking a stroll through Hollywood, we found ourselves at Pink’s along with a few other boundary-less patrons ready to dig into a breakfast hot dog. Only this hot dog is not of the Asian bakery variety. We’re talking greasy, oily, late night eats at 9:30am. To add insult to injury to our hearts, the three of us split some chili fries. Yeah, you’re impressed. I was originally going to get their signature chili dog, but with chili fries, I drew a line in the sand only to erase that line, take a leap forward and get another meat on meat abomination that is the Polish Pastrami. The Polish Pastrami was actually a Polish sausage, so I didn’t actually have a hot dog at Pink’s. Still, I left satisfied as it had the most snap of any sausage I’ve ever eaten. The meat was juicy, flavorful and the bread to pastrami and Swiss ratio was spot on. The fries were crispy and the chili’s texture was easy to balance on the fries. If I lived in LA, I’m sure that I would take out of town visitors there, but not so sure if i’d be a regular given the overkill of unhealthiness unless it was a late night out in Hollywood. Pink’s will satisfy a hot dog lover on that side of the country, but over on the East Coast, I’ll stick with some Gray’s Papaya.


Healthy (Ivy), Fat (Ray), Long Island (Katie)

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