Flashback Friday Post Update: Gluten-free Pie Crust

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Hi again, everyone.  I won’t bother asking how your week was, because I don’t really know that I want to talk about it.  At least not yet.  But, like always, the days keep going forward, which means we are getting closer and closer to Thanksgiving.  And what is Thanksgiving without dessert, right?  And what is a more Thanksgiving-worthy dessert than pie?  Maybe cheesecake…but I’m here to talk about my very favorite pie crust, so let’s keep the focus on pie!  Pie crust was one of the very first gluten-free recipes that I mastered.  The keys are: lots of starch to keep things light and to make the perfect mix with the fat (butter) to create a crispy crust.  A dash of vinegar helps too.  And best of all, while I suggest gentle handling while kneading and rolling out the dough, that isn’t quite as crucial.  See, the reason that we are so careful with pie crust is to (1) not melt the fat in the dough and (2) not activate the gluten in the flour.  We’ve removed one of those factors by using gluten-free flours.  No risk of tough, gluten-activated dough here!  Now we can focus on keeping everything chilled and make ourselves some super tasty pie!

Last Thanksgiving I made three pies: Pecan, Apple, and Maple-Nutmeg Custard.  (Don’t worry, my mother made a pumpkin cheesecake, so we fulfilled the pumpkin requirement!)  All three were delicious, but this year we have a ton of guests.  I plan to scale back to give them some room at the dessert table, so I am planning to make a traditional pumpkin pie using this crust.  And maybe a cheesecake, if I can’t help myself.

So here’s the deal with pies.  In general, fruit pies can be made with the dough raw, and the pie dough will bake along with the fruit.  Filled pies (that do not have a top crust), typically, want a par-baked (also known as blind-baked or prebaked) crust first.  Par-baking is nothing to be scared of, just form the bottom shell in your pie pan, place a sheet of parchment over the crust and fill the pie shell with a layer of dry, uncooked beans.  Bake for 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees, then remove the parchment and the beans (careful, they are hot!) and bake for another 5 minutes.  Then your crust is partially baked and much sturdier.  It will hold up better to the liquid, custard type fillings.

So pick your favorite fillings and get planning!  I usually try to cook my desserts one or two days before Thanksgiving, as they will keep.  Then I can warm them up gently, if needed, while we eat dinner!

Check out my recipe for Gluten-Free Pie Crust!

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Skillet Shrimp Scampi

shrimp scampi prime

I feel like its been ages since I’ve posted.  I’m not sure what it is about the last ten days that seem to be double…maybe because I have so many dishes to share!  I’vr been on a bit of a creative kick lately, trying all sorts of new dishes for dinner.  A few are old familiar favorites that I haven’t gotten around to sharing on here yet, while others are some new, “scary” recipes. In fact, I have a quick and simple fajita recipe and a risotto recipe in the line-up, but last night I made this shrimp scampi and it was just too good to wait.  We’ve had a bag of raw shrimp in the freezer for a couple of weeks and I’ve been waffling about how I was going to use them.  Mostly due to the pictures I’ve seen on Pinterest, I had narrowed it down to a sweet-and-tangy skewered option or a more classic butter-based sauce.  Since skewers = grill in my mind and it has been absurdly cold the past few weeks: the grill was out.  Plus, I have some lemons to use up.  I thought that I would combine the inspiration from a few different recipes:  again and again things like white wine, butter, lemon, and garlic were added to shrimp, though (purely happenstance) never all of them together.  I figured if they all were paired with shrimp one way or another, they would all be good together.

scampi sauce

And they were.  Because white wine+butter+lemon+garlic+shrimp=shrimp scampi in it’s most basic sense.  Yes, I made a classic recipe without quite knowing it.  Laugh away.  I did!  I thought I was riffing on scampi–some new dish that was close but just different enough.  Instead, I recreated the basic idea perfectly.  I’m sure I’ve come across recipes for shrimp scampi before, and that was part of the reason those ingredient rang as “right” in my brain.  I may have even tasted it, but, truth be told, my preference for shrimp (beyond cold and covered in cocktail sauce) only started to grow shortly before I stopped eating gluten.  I’m not sure if I have ever had scampi tossed with pasta.  I hardly thought of that option when I was prepping for dinner.  I was bright lemon, zesty garlic, and glorious butter in a sauce that would coat the shrimp, pooling at the bottom of the bowl to be sopped up with french bread.  And that is exactly what I did.

scampi bowl

I think the sauce would have been delicious on my own Gluten-Free French Bread, but I didn’t have the time after work to commit to the hour-long bake time.  I wanted shrimp and I wanted it fast.  I grabbed Against the Grain baguettes, my favorite store-bought gluten-free baked good.  I knew that the decadent baguettes, made from tapioca starch, cheese, and eggs would be a perfect pairing with the butter sauce.  The insides of these baguettes remind me of popovers–soft, springy, and rich.  They were perfect!  I made a quick salad from a lettuce mix (spinach, radicchio, chard, and romaine) with a hefty portion of kale, topped with red onion, tomato, cucumber, carrots, and red pepper and mixed together a quick pepper-parmesan dressing to top the hearty greens.  I’ll post the salad dressing soon, it was delicious and quick and very easy to halve or double depending on how many you are serving.

shrimp scampi table

But onto the main event!  I thawed the shrimp completely while I prepped the salad and the dressing.  Then I tossed the baguette in the oven to warm up as I turned on the stove to medium-high under a large saucepan.  I added about a teaspoon of olive oil, just enough to coat the pan and let that heat before I added the shrimp in a single layer.  Be careful not to crowd the pan too much.  I had a very large pan and just managed to fit my shrimp in with a sliver of space between them.  Cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes, until the downward side turns pink and the color begins to creep around the tail onto the raw side facing up.  Flip the shrimp and cook for another 2 minutes, until the shrimp are firm and completely pink.  A bit of color off the pan is fine, but keep the cooking time short, so they don’t get rubbery.

scampi plate

Remove the cooked shrimp from the pan and add the lemon slices.  The juice will begin to sizzle.  Let the lemons cook for about 30 seconds, until they are fragrant.  Add the white wine to the pan and scrape the bottom with your spatula to help deglaze and get all of the tasty bits off the pan and into your sauce.  Be gentle with the lemons as you scrape the pan.  Once the wine has settled (it should bubble pretty furiously when you first add it to the pan), add your butter, olive oil, and garlic, stirring gently until the butter melts.  Cook for one minute more, then add your shrimp back in.  Stir the shrimp to coat completely, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then remove the pan from the heat.  I pour all of the shrimp into one large bowl, or you can portion them onto plates.  Just make sure that each individual gets a healthy dollop of the remaining scampi sauce.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately, with lots of bread!

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Skillet Shrimp Scampi

Serves 4.  Prep time: 5 minutes / Cook time: 10 minutes

  • 1 1/2 lb jumbo uncooked shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1 lg lemon, sliced into 1/4 in slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced into a fine paste
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • chopped parsley

Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp and cook about 2-3 minutes, until the pan side turns pink.  Flip shrimp and cook for another two minutes, until firm and completely pink all the way through.  Remove shrimp from pan.  Add lemon slices and cook for about 1 minute, until fragrant.  Add white wine to deglaze, stirring and scraping the pan.  Add butter, garlic, and olive oil, mixing thoroughly.  Cook the sauce for one minute more, then add shrimp back into pan.  Toss to coat in sauce.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and parsley.  Serve immediately.


Thanksgiving 2012 recap

Well, Thanksgiving was about as successful as we expected it to be…so, not half-bad. 🙂  We had a ridiculous amount of food, as all cooks involved got slightly overzealous.  The six of us found ourselves with enough food for at least a dozen guests, if not more.  At final count we had the turkey, 2 types of stuffing, cranberry relish, popovers, spinach, gravy, sweet potatoes, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, parsnips, brussel sprouts, braised carrots, ratatouille, hummus, crab dig with french bread and brie with cranberry chutney.  As I said, ridiculous.  Ah well, we’ve reached day four of leftovers and  I’m just about done with “Thanksgiving” flavors.  That being said, the shredded Turkey barbecue sandwiches, re-fried roasted potato salad, and coleslaw that graced last night’s dinner plater were awesome.  Use the strong flavors of regional foods (Asia, Barbecue, Mexican, etc) to jazz up the last of the leftovers languishing in your fridge!

I stayed in my pajamas through the parade and the dog show (and most of the cooking).  And started the day off right with one or three of these:

M was (mostly) in charge of the turkey this year.  We talked briefly about brining, something neither of us have ever attempted and decided not to try it.  Instead, we rubbed the whole turkey with herbed butter (including beneath the skin), tossed an onion, celery, carrots, apple, thyme, and cinnamon into the cavity and let it go.  It roasted for about 5.5 hours and we found ourselves with this transformation:

We followed Alton Brown’s tips generally and look at the perfect browning!  M and I have agree to try brining next year, simply because we are curious, but the herbed butter added succulence to the crisp skin and help keep this mostly moist.  The loose “stuffing” of vegetables shortened the cook time, reduced our risk of undercooked bread dressing, and added a boost of flavor to the turkey.

Meanwhile, I made my Gluten-Free Knockoff Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing again (and in the crock pot again), and added toasted pine nuts and cooked cranberries (cranberries+1 Tbsp each sugar and water, cooked for 15-20 minutes over medium heat until most berries have burst) as I ladled it into a casserole pan and finished it to crispy in the oven.  Unfortunately (again! ughh!) I forgot to take a proper photo of the stuffing.  I’ll have to stuff a chicken soon (when we’re ready to face a roasted bird again) and get some proper photos for you all!  The addition of pine nuts and cranberries was amazing!  I think I’ll try some new flavors (sausage!) next time.

The sweet potato souffle was forgotten amidst the last minute popover baking.  But I’d trade souffle for popovers any day.

The paler rolls are made from my French bread recipe.  Those were slightly disappointing.  I had trouble getting the rise I wanted out of the dough, but I’ll be working with this dough to see what other kinds of bread I can make in the future!  The actual loaves of French Bread turned out beautifully:

Picture-perfect next to my bread cubes, pre-stuffing. 🙂

Our downfall this year, aside from the vast quantities of food, was offering very filling appetizers.  The family tradition of pickles and olives is just right, enough to nibble on when the smells drifting from the oven become overwhelming.  But we also put out crab dip and my mother’s infamous brie with cranberry chutney.  Bad choice.  My mom was the only one to think to pace herself while I, as usual, inhaled the brie.  (There’s a reason I don’t stockpile cranberries in the freezer…the ability to make this chutney outside of Oct-Jan would be deadly).  By the time we sat down at the table, my mother was the only one who could finish her first plate!

Really, how could you resist?  I’ll be posting this delectable chutney recipe very soon.  I’m planning to can up a few jars for Christmas gifts within the week!  I have a ton of recipes and posts to share–Punc graduated her Puppy class on the Monday before Thanksgiving, I have several more recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers (in the meantime, check out last year’s Turkey-Broccoli Quiche and Mashed Potato Pancakes).  I already mentioned last night’s barbecue dinner.  It was simple enough: I shredded up slices of Turkey and added storebought barbecue sauce, hot sauce, and a touch of chicken broth until coated.  I modified this Mustard-Dill Vinagrette and poured it over sliced roasted potatoes that I had pan-fried.  I cobbled together a poor excuse for coleslaw dressing and shredded some cabbage and a couple carrot.  Serve as sandwiches and you’re done!  Bet you won’t guess it’s Thanksgiving leftovers!

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday!