Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tailgating with Beer-Braised Sausage

I am not into football. I don’t know how to play, I watch it and I have no idea what is happening. One thing that I do know about football, are game day snacks and foods: wings, pizza, melted cheese, bacon, dips, grilled meats, and lots of beer to wash it all down. Yup, it’s the kind of stuff that makes you feel proud to be an American.

Apparently, it is the beginning of football season, and to celebrate the “kick-off” to another year of hiking, punting and slamming into each other on the field, or whatever it is they do out there, here's my tailgate contribution.

You’ve got to love tailgating. Beer in one hand, Buffalo wing in the other, it’s a time for relaxing, basking in the good vibes of team spirit and getting schwasted in a parking lot. Seeing as I’m not the biggest sports fan, the pre-game tradition is one I’ve never personally took part in, but would never pass up if I got the chance. Who cares about the game? I’ll root for any team you want me to, just pull me up a lawn chair next to your trunk.

If you’re real serious about tailgating, you’ve got to have one of those little mini grills going. For some reason, whenever I think about this my internal smell-o-vision tunes straight to sausage and peppers cooking. While I may have never tailgated myself, I have walked by them you know, and sausage and beer stick out to me as two major players. With this in mind, I came up with the idea to make a beer-braised sausage and onion dish, amped up with apples and thyme. A little fall inspiration in there too!

The beer mellows as it cooks, infusing the sausage, onions and sweet apples with delicious flavor, for a game day meal that really scores. It is simple, comforting, and can be served on a roll for optimal parking lot enjoyment.

Beer-Braised Sausage & Onions with Apple
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup beer
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
• Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until well-browned all over, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Slice the sausages in half, if desired.
• Sweat the onion in the pan, add the apple and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to lightly brown and the apple begins to soften. Add the vinegar and beer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze.
• Bring liquid to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the sausages back to the pan along with the thyme. Cook until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 25 minutes. To thicken further, whisk a few tablespoons of flour into a few tablespoons of water, and slowly whisk into the liquid until you reach the preferred consistency. Serve on a roll, if desired.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Addicted to Crack...Pie

My name is Marisa, M-A-R-I-S-A, and I’m addicted to Crack Pie.

I had heard about how great it was; the oddly, but soon-to-be discovered, aptly named confection of David Chang’s famous Momofuku Milk Bar bakery was talked about on the streets and in the media as outrageously delicious and indescribably addicting by all those who’ve gotten a taste. “Just one bite” they all said, one bite is all it takes.

Curiosity lured me in. I had seen Anderson Cooper and Martha Stewart rave about Crack Pie on TV and read articles like love letters, waxing poetic about its irresistible amalgamation of ingredients. But more persuasive than any of these things was learning that to get their fix, Crack Pie fiends are willing to pay the $44 price tag for a pie—almost 100 of which are sold every day, by the way. I didn’t know what was in it or what made it so apparently delicious, but was convinced that it had to be something special.

A block away from where I work, Madison Square Park hosted a really fantastic month long food fair called Madison Square Eats, where a bunch of different vendors gathered to share some of the city’s tastiest offerings. The last day was Friday but over the course of its run, I made my rounds, getting Pretzels from Sigmund Pretzel Shop, pizza at Roberta's, macarons from Macaron Parlour, barbecue pork buns from Fatty Snack, and finally tasting Wafels & Dinges.

Nestled into the tiniest spot of Madison Square Eats I found Momofuku Milk Bar. After looking over the menu of such noted sweets as cereal milk soft serve and compost cookies, I bought my first slice of Crack Pie. It came in a little cardboard box, too small for the average pie slice, branded with it its criminally delectable name and a little TM; yup, it’s trademarked.

I brought it back to my desk thinking like a fool that I could take “just one bite” and bring the rest home. It’s an ordinary, not very attractive-looking triangle of pie with confectioners’ sugar dusted on top. I took that tell-tale bite just to see what all the fuss was about, and mid-chew, just as I began to wrap it up and put it away, it happened. Something came over me; I needed to eat the entire thing right then and no one was going to stop me.

With simple star ingredients like brown sugar, sugar, and butter, inside of a toasted oat crust, Crack Pie is rich like flourless chocolate cake, but without an ounce of chocolate in sight. It is buttery and sugary, and it is addicting. Everything that everyone said about it was true; it seems to have the ability to not only make you want more, but to want to share it with everyone you could. Since my first taste, over the course of two weeks I’ve returned back not once, not twice, but three times to have and share a slice.

The demand for Crack Pie is so high that they ship it across the country. Get your taste today. Or try to make your own with this adapted recipe from the LA Times.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Apple, Bacon, Cheddar, Maple Pie

When you think about apple pie, what are some of the first things that come to mind? Perhaps it brings out thoughts of waving American flags, fireworks and memories of smiling grandmas in their aprons; or if you’re like me, hungry behemoth visions of nothing but a big fat slice of pie with vanilla ice cream slowly melting over the top—with only one spoon. How dreamy…

I don’t know about you, but one thing is for sure, I’ve always thought of apple pie as a dessert. And up until now, apple pie was only a dessert. But the all-American sweetie pie just got a little savory; with some help from its friends bacon, white cheddar, and maple syrup, it becomes better suited as a meal than an afterthought.

It still looks like an apple pie and features some of the sweetness and classic flavor elements that we all know and love; it’s got cinnamon, spice and everything nice, but it’s also got the smokiness of bacon and the creaminess of cheddar and heavy cream, all wrapped up cozily inside of a pastry crust. Part pie, part quiche without the eggs, it’s perfect for lunch with a salad.

If this doesn’t say fall, I don’t know what does. And who wouldn’t want an excuse to have pie as the main course? I’d never tried or even heard of a savory apple pie before but when I came across this recipe, I knew that all had to change. Just something to keep in mind: this particular pie is still pretty sweet, and one thing I will recommend is to make sure that it is cooled thoroughly before eating so that you end up with a nice slice rather than a sloppy mess.

I love making pies, especially double crusted ones. I find it very relaxing and in the end you have a homey comfort food that clearly shows off in taste and presentation how much love you put into it. My favorite kinds of pies (in order) are pumpkin, blueberry, of course apple, and coconut custard. What are yours?

Apple, Bacon, Cheddar, Maple Pie
Adapted from Family Circle, Maple, Apple & Cheddar Pie
Yield: 8 Servings
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/3 cup shortening
- 7-8 tablespoons water
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 medium McIntosh apples, peeled & thinly sliced
- 1 ½ cups (6 ounces) shredded white cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 6 slices cooked bacon, chopped
- 3 tablespoons white raisins
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 egg, whisked
• In a bowl, stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter and shortening until the mixture resemble coarse meal with pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cold water over the mixture and toss with a fork. Repeat, using 1 tablespoon of cold water at a time until all of the dough is moistened. Divide dough in half and form each into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, flatten 1 dough ball and roll into a 12-inch circle; wrap the dough around the rolling pin, and unroll into a 9-inch pie plate; ease the dough into the plate, being careful not to stretch.
• Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. For the filling, stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Add apples; toss to coat. Add cheese, 4 tablespoons of the maple syrup, bacon & white raisins & stir to combine. Add the filling to the dough-lined pie plate and drizzle with the cream.
• Roll out the second half of the dough into a 12-inch circle & cut a small hole in the top; lay on top of the filling, trimming off any excess. Fold the top edge of the top crust under the bottom pastry & crimp edges. Brush the top with the egg & cover edge of pie with foil to prevent browning.
• Bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more until the pastry is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and brush with remaining maple syrup. Cool 1 hour or more. Serve slightly warm.