Monday, March 21, 2016

Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps

Over the years I have gotten more discerning about my cookbook purchases.  I've purged old cookbooks and resisted buying ones that I was unsure that I would ever cook from.  In fact, I had decided I had enough cookbooks and could get by with the good, old internet.  Then I came across Ruth Reichl's newest cookbook/memoir, My Kitchen Year.  It was listed on several best books of 2015, so on a whim, I used my Barnes and Noble gift card to buy the book.  I figured if nothing else, it would be a good read, having enjoyed Reichl's other memoirs a great deal.

It has quickly become a trusted and true source.  I've made four or five recipes from it already and have been thrilled with all but one of them, which is pretty good success rate.  She has a mixture of vegetarian and meat based, international flavors and totally US fare.  There is equal number complicated with fancy ingredients as simple mostly pantry ingredients.   It was totally worth the buy, from both a literary (the memoir is about the year after Gourmet ceased to exist) and a cooking standpoint.

Thursdays are our current crazy days--three kids in three different directions over the same time frame.  From when Isaac leaves at 5:10 for gymnastics to 7:15 when Madeleine returns from piano, we are all over the place.  It makes a meal difficult when I arrive home from school at 4:15.  I've deemed Thursdays leftover or sandwich night.  Until this recipe came along.  I had the meal ready in less than hour and it was equally good reheated at 7:15 when kids were eating a second supper as the first time around.  Plus, it felt so special.

I found a kimchi I loved at Whole Foods.  I am sure it's not terribly authentic, but both Curtis and I love it (I love it so much I put it directly onto rice and just eat kimchi and rice).  I am thrilled to find a brand I like.  Kimchi is a fermented, spicy Korean side/condiment.  When it is made correctly, it contains lots of helpful fermented bacteria that makes for a healthier gut (like in yogurt, sauerkraut, probiotics).  The brand I found is WildBrine.  Kimchi quickly has found itself a permanent home in my fridge.

This serves 5-6.

Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps
from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl

6 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T sesame oil
3 t sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
1 bunch scallions, minced
1 1/2 lbs skirt or hanger steak, partially frozen and sliced thinly across the grain

1 head Boston lettuce
cooked white rice
chili garlic sauce or Sriracha
toasted sesame seeds
sliced scallions
slice onions

Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, ginger, and scallions.  Stir in the sliced steak and marinade 15 minutes to an hour (I did just 15 minutes because I was pressed for time).

Heat a wok with a bit of oil.  Drain the steak and add just the steak to the wok (discard the marinade).  Sear the meat for 3-4 minutes or until it is cooked.

To serve, take a lettuce leaf and gently lay some cooked with meat in the middle.  Top with kimchi, Sriracha, toasted sesame seeds, scallions, or sliced onions (pretty much anything you want).  Wrap the lettuce around it (John calls it tacos), and eat with your fingers if the lettuce leaf holds together.  Serve with a side of rice.  Of course, you can do as my kids did and put a little rice directly into the lettuce leaf as well.  The leaf probably won't hold together to use your fingers with it, but it's just as tasty if you eat it with a fork and knife.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Peanut Butter Pie

Sometimes, I look here for a recipe I've been making for decades and am shocked to find it missing.  This pie is one of those.

Peanut Butter Pie such as these can only be found in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the best of my knowledge.  I've inquired about them in a many a fine pie restaurant to no avail.  I've googled Peanut Butter Pie recipes and ended up with strange things that require a freezer or a mousse or a chocolate cookie crust.  Oh no.  This recipe has none of those things.

There used to the be this restaurant when I was a kid called Evers Restaurant.  It was one of those fabulous buffet only type of restaurants, with Thursday and Friday nights being seafood nights (I had my first crab legs there).  In addition to a smorgsboard of meats and starches and veggies, there was a vast assortment of pies, peanut butter pie being one of them.  Of all the dishes Evers served it is the peanut butter pie I remember (well, and those crab legs).

Years later, I worked at a summer camp, whose one of many specialities was peanut butter pie.  Since they served 100 kids plus 20 counselors and additional staff, the pie wasn't make in traditional form.  It was more of a peanut butter pudding (think banana pudding).  It was served out of a large (18" x 24") pan.  The peanut butter crumbs were on the bottom, followed by vanilla pudding, whipped cream and more peanut butter crumbs.  I remember distinctly sitting in the staff kitchen with my friend, Chad, and eating peanut butter pie (even though it wasn't really a pie, that's what we called it) straight out of the industrial sized pan.  Do I need to tell you I gained a bit of weight that summer?  That pie was good.

Peanut butter pie has become our pi day staple.  On March 13, I usually look at Curtis and ask him if he knows what the next day is.  He usually grins and says, "Peanut Butter Pie."  It's a Novinger family tradition.  

There are two ways to make this recipe--one with instant everything which makes this pie a snap to make.  I tend to take the long way because it just tastes so much better.  However you make it, there's no judgement here.   It just needs to be made.

Happy Pi Day!

Peanut Butter Pie
Yields 1 pie
adapted from various sources (Melissa Clark's pie crust and the Shank cookbooks peanut butter crumbles and pudding)

Your favorite pie crust (I use the one on this blog)

Peanut Butter Crumbles
3/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 c peanut butter

Vanilla Pudding (or use a package of pudding--follow directions for pies)
3 1/2 c milk + 1 c milk
1 c sugar
1/2 t salt
3 T cornstarch
6 T flour
6 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 T butter
2 t vanilla

Whipped Cream (homemade or store bought)

Bake the pie crust.  For my usual crust, I bake it at 375 with foil and pie weights inside it for 20 minutes.  Then I remove the foil, etc and bake an additional 10 minutes to crisp and lightly brown it.  Cool crust.

Mix together the powdered sugar and peanut butter.  Put 2/3 of the mixture into the empty baked pie crust.  Set aside.

Make the pudding:  Heat 3 1/2 c milk to boiling.  While the milk heats, combine the sugar, salt, cornstarch, and flour.  Pour the additional cup of milk into the sugar mixture and stir to create a slurry.  Pour the milk and sugar mixture into the boiling milk.  Return to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Pour one cup of the hot milk mixture slowly into the egg yolks, beating constantly while pouring.  Pour back into milk mixture, stirring constantly.  Return to heat and boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and immediately add butter and vanilla.   Pour into peanut butter crumble lined pie crust.  Cool in the refrigerator until the pudding is chilled throughout.

Spread whipped cream evenly over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining peanut butter crumbles over the top of the pie.  Eat immediately.  Refrigerate any improbable leftovers for a wonderful next day breakfast.