Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The truth about shortbread

I've done significantly more cooking in the years since I left private practice to have a better lifestyle.  I went from studying and disassembling recipes to making up my own.  Take, for example, linguine puttanesca.  My first puttanesca (c. summer of 2003) was made using a no-cook recipe out of Gourmet magazine and I followed it to the tee, right down to the 1 lb box of dried linguine.  I was in my last year of law school and worked full time as an engineering analyst doing patent prosecution at a D.C. law firm.  The recipe was a quickie, promising a zesty bowl of linguine with puttanesca in just 30 minutes.

I still find puttanesca to be an easy sauce to throw together, though I cook it now, without a recipe and the contents often vary.  I also roll out fresh linguine which, if I have leftover dough from a previous night, takes about as long to roll out as it does to boil a pot of water.  People tell me I'm crazy to go to such lengths for a bowl of pasta, but I've become convinced that nothing is all that difficult to make.  I've dispelled more than one myth about the difficulty of preparing food for mysef, from European items like ravioli and canard a l'orange to Asian dishes like stuffed tofu and matar paneer.  And I've discounted my inability to bake cakes and cookies as attributable to my inattention to detail to things like how many cups of flour vs. how many cups of sugar go into them, or my tendency to forget that something's in the oven (out of sight, out of mind!).

Well, at a holiday party last week, I found myself nibbling on a shortbread cookie and wishing I could bake my own.  My friend Jenny tells me "Shortbread's easy.  All you have to do is mix flour, sugar and butter, and VOILA!  Shortbread."  So I decided that the instructions were simple enough that I figured I could pull myself together long enough to keep count of the cups of flour vs. cups of sugar and just give these "easy" treats a try.

Now, I'm not going to call Jenny a liar (that title is typically reserved for politicians and select members of the Colorado bar).  But I will say that she left out a few details.  For one thing, shortbread is not quick and easy as 1-2-3.  The dough needs to chill.  Twice.

And the dough does not particularly "come together" like they suggest in some of the recipes I've seen (Ahem, Contessa and Joy, I'm referring to you).  It just stays crumbly, especially after you chill it.  Both times.

And I must admit that I couldn't entirely help myself.  I fell back into my old habits and managed to not follow the recipe.  I misread what kind of sugar I was supposed to use, and then I mixed up the quantities between Contessa's and Joy's recipes.  And I sacrificed one batch in the oven.  That said, I still managed to make perfect shortbread cookies and sandwich them around some homemade dulce de leche with a recipe I borrowed from David Lebovitz.  The result was akin to the alfajores I'd had in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago.

In hindsight the trials and tribulations of shortbread aren't that bad.  But there are a few warnings I could have had in any of the instructions I'd received or recipes I'd read.  And I've got to believe that I'm not the first person to have figured out an easier way to roll out the dough.  Here, I'll attempt to give you a recipe with complete instructions and a few tips on how to make shortbread that you won't find anywhere else.

Shortbread cookies
Makes about 40 3-inch diameter cookies
1 3/4 c butter, slightly warmer than room temperature but not quite goopy
1 c powdered sugar + more for sprinkling (you must have the cornstarch content)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 c flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat butter and 1 cup powdered sugar until smooth.  Add vanilla extract and mix well.  In a separate bowl, mix flour and salt.  Add flour mixture to butter and mix well.  It will make a crumbly mixture and it won't really come together, but make sure the ingredients are well-mixed.  Pour the crumbly mixture onto a clean surface and separate them into two lumps.  Gather up each lump into a ball and set the ball onto a piece of cling wrap.  Flatten the ball into a disk, wrap tightly, and chill for 30 minutes.

Prepare baking sheets by placing a piece of parchment on each one.  Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to a disk about 1/4" thick.  It will still be crumbly and it is easier to roll out if you do it between two sheets of cling wrap.  Cut the disk with a cookie cutter and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Chill cookies for 10 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes, till cookies are barely golden.

Dust with powdered sugar.  To send a message to someone that you really care, put a tablespoon of dulce de leche between two cookies before you dust them with powdered sugar.  To smite your enemy, give a powdered sugar cookie to them while they're wearing dark colored clothing.

And there it is, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about shortbread.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Moules et frites are finger foods

I  love going out to eat with friends and sharing the meal, family style.  Everyone picks something, then we pass the plates around, so everyone gets to try a little bit.  And I'm pretty willing to try just about anything on anyone's menu... except for the mussels.  They're just such so easy to make.  Still, I let my dining companions order them if they wish, and rarely explain why I never do.  I also never partake in this order because I believe they're finger food, so it might leave fellow diners aghast to see how I eat them.

Now and again, I host a moules et frites night and, in my home, mussels are finger foods.  Fellow diners are not required to eat them the way I do, but they certainly can't be embarrassed by it.  Nevertheless, I always manage to convert a few people to my method* because it's nifty, and who doesn't like eating with their hands now and then?

When using my method, I get a little exercise for my mussel muscles.  Lightly gripping the shell with my first two fingers and thumb, I snap the two sides of one shell together like mini-tongs to deftly extract the tender meat out of another shell.  If there are veggies in the preparation, then the shell-tongs work well for eating those as well.  Then, to drink the broth left in the bottom of the bowl (assuming it hasn't already been sopped up with bread or french fries), I separate my mini-tongs into two separate little soup spoons and drink the broth from the shell.  Slurping is optional.

As to the ease of preparing these succulent treats, in the time it takes to fry one basket of thickly cut frites, you can steam enough mussels for four.  Here's how:

Steamed mussels
(serves 4)
4 lbs mussels (if you're friendly with your fish monger, he might pick out the heavier ones for you)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 red/orange/green peppers, thinly sliced.
3-4 sprigs each of thyme, basil, parsley
3/4 c. Belgian ale (or other tasty liquid.  See details below.)
lemon wedges (optional)

If you haven't got beer on hand, white wine or a mixture of water and liquor (I've even tried vermouth) will do in a pinch.  If you're not the drinking type, chicken or vegetable broth will also work.
Prepare the mussels by scrubbing them under cold water and debearding them.  Rinse and set aside in a colander to drain.

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over high heat.  Saute the onions till tender, about 4-6 minutes.  Add the peppers and saute for 2 minutes.  Meanwhile, tie the herbs together with some kitchen twine to make a bouquet garni.  Toss the bouquet garni into the pot and stir around for 10 seconds.  Working quickly, pour the mussels into the pot, pour the beer over the mussels, and drop the lid on the pot.  Let it steam for 5-7 minutes, depending on how hot your burner is and how heavy your pot is (hotter burner/heavier pot 5 minutes, cooler burner/lighter pot 7 minutes).  Resist the urge to open the lid to check on it before 5 minutes.  The mussels need to steam continuously to open up nice and wide.  If this is your first time, open the lid just enough to take a peek and see if the mussels are all open.  If they're not, drop the lid back on and let steam for another minute or two.  When the time's up, open the lid, take in the fragrance, and give them a stir.  Serve, sans une fourchette.  Some people like lemon wedges for their mussels.  I just use them to help clean my fingertips.

* I owe "my method" to a Belgian friend, Lesly, who taught me how to do it years ago in Washington, D.C. at my own moules et frites night.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What to do with a quail egg if you manage to sneak it past TSA

When I was in San Francisco, I marveled over the panoply of foods one could find throughout the city.  Including varieties of eggs I'd never seen before -- and I've been around the world a bit.  I shared with my sister and my twin (two different people) that I had recently discovered (and rejoiced) a place to buy quail eggs in Denver.  Confused by the chaos in the kitchen, my twin asked, "How are you gonna get the quail eggs past the TSA?"  Forgetting that I had the quail eggs in my kitchen in Denver and wouldn't need to bring them on the plane with me, my sister followed on with "Do raw eggs count as liquids?"  Which then begged the question, "How many quail eggs fit in a 3.0 oz container?"

Setting aside these profound questions, my sister wanted to know, "What do you do with a quail egg even if you manage to sneak it past the TSA?"  Well, Lucky Duck, here's your answer: fry it and place it, like a crown, on some fish.

As long as it takes to preheat the oven and roast some fish is all it takes to do that.  I've been known to serve egg with fish before, because I love the combination.  So when I got my hot little hands on the quail eggs, I had to see if they'd give me the same joy.  They did.

Here's exactly what you do with a couple of quail eggs if you manage to sneak them past the TSA.

Quail Eggs, Spinach, and Sea Bass
(serves 2)
2 quail eggs
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2/3 lb fillet of sea bass, cut in two
1 small shallot, minced
1 tsp dill, minced
1 tsp chives, minced
1/2 tsp parsley leaves, minced
 1 bunch spinach, washed and trimmed
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of fish.  In a small bowl, mix shallot, dill, chives, and parsley.  Coat salt with the herb mixture.  Set the fish in a baking dish and drizzle 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil over the fillets.  Roast for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish (though, as Joe Bastianich once told me, "Sea bass is the most forgiving fish" so you need not worry incessantly about overcooking it).

About 5 minutes before the fish needs to come out of the oven, saute the garlic in one tbsp olive oil for 1 minute.  Saute spinach till just wilted, about 2-3 minutes.

In a small frying pan, heat the last tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat.  Drop the quail eggs in and fry till the whites become opaque.

Set the fish on the plate, topping each fillet with wilted spinach, and a fried quail egg.  Drizzle with the juices from the fish pan.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Encouraging the fast food world to bring us better fries

About four years ago, I heard a piece on NPR wherein the NPR journalist attempted, but failed, to create a stir by interviewing a Sierra Club muckety-muck about Walmart's green initatives.  Everyone (who can afford to shop elsewhere) likes to get moralistic about how Walmart doesn't treat its workers very well and Walmart buys from manufacturers that use child labor and Walmart is killing the environment and Walmart eats babies. 

So when Walmart said, "Look everyone, we're implementing green initiatives," everyone was skeptical.  Said NPR journalist called up said Sierra Club muckety-muck for comment.  The woman at Sierra Club surprised us all by saying, "Well, great!  Let's encourage their commitment to corporate greening by spending some money there."  The rationale was that irrespective of whether Walmart's green initiatives were motivated purely by their desire to stop harming the environment or for marketing purposes, it was important to encourage their green initiatives with our pocketbooks, so that they would continue to engage in them.  If we doubt their green efforts, then they have no motivation to engage at all.

That point stuck with me.  I think about my consumer power often, when it comes to shopping, eating, and spending money in any way.  And so, when Foodbuzz was offering gift certificates for Wendy's new natural cut fries, I was skeptical, because as a supposed foodie, I'm supposed to snub fast food joints.  But then I thought, "Sure, why not?  If fast food joints start making better fries, I should partake."  I signed up, and as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received two gift cards for Wendy's and I headed out to try these fries.  It also didn't hurt that there was a chance to win $500 for participating.  [Pick me, please.]

Last Friday night, I stopped in at a Wendy's and ordered a small natural cut fry with sea salt.  Sure enough, Wendy's was serving up fries with the skin still intact (my favorite kind) and they actually tasted like potatoes in the very first bite.  I wouldn't say that they were at all comparable to frites of steak et frites or moules et frites, but they were definitely a step up from your standard fast food fries.

Since I've been comparing them to some sort of fine food, I'll share with you Mr. Rose's take, when I brought him to a Wendy's two days later.  "When you dip these fries in a Frosty, the salty and sweet is kind of like that melon-prosciutto carpaccio thing you get at fancy restaurants."

Note to Wendy's: I don't, personally, think your fries and Frosty combo rises to the level of melon-prosciutto carpaccio, but I like the fact that your fries taste like potatoes.  And thanks for the gift card.  Mr. Rose will be back to taste test your fries dipped in all your other menu offerings.

Happy Place: San Francisco

I love Colorado, the state that I call home.  Colorado's been good to me.  In fact, I've been known to say "Steamboat Springs is my happy place" for the fact that there's perfect champagne powder blanket over that quaint ski town.  I've also been known to say "The Little Man is my happy place" for the fact that it's a giant milk can, lit up at night, that dispenses the smoothest, creamiest ice cream on a hot summer night.  So it's true.  I actually have many happy places.  But they're not limited to Colorado.  There's also a special place in my heart for San Francisco, California.

What's not to love about San Francisco?  You can't spit without hitting a farmer's market.  A good farmer's market.

Persimmons, dangling form a rope.

Dried figs, apricots, and cherries of several varieties.

Alfajores, aka The Most Delicious Cookie I Have Ever Eaten, South American shortbread cookies sandwiching dulce de leche and dusted with confectioners sugar. Get some. http://www.saborsur.com/
And the live entertainment at the farmer's market can't be beat.
One-man band.
And the seafood is cheap.  Dirt cheap.

So I went out for a quick visit to see my sister, who lives there (lucky duck).  It was a short weekend trip, so every minute counted.  She indulged me by letting me pause to touch, smell, and photograph every single bit of food that crossed our paths.  Case in point: street tacos off a truck.  In this case, we also stopped to taste.

Not that we don't also have these in Colorado, but this time it was a family experience.

Lucky Duck isn't an intrepid cook, but she's more adept in the kitchen than she thinks she is.  In just a couple of hours, we'd whipped up a mighty fine dinner, with the last minute assistance/company of my MasterChef twin, Azmina, who is much better at remembering to photograph food than I am.

I took full advantage of the fresh produce and seafood Lucky Duck and I came across throughout the day.  We had roasted dungeoness crabs, seafood risotto, and some fresh bread, among other tasty treats for dinner.

It was quite a feast, and none of it was all that hard.  If you want to see recipes, post a comment below and tell me what you want to see and I'll post a recipe in the near future, complete with more photos and instructions for the yumminess pictured above.  (You, too, can eat like we did, though you'll have to provide your own lively dinner conversation and sassy dinner company.)

It's only been a week, but I already miss hanging out with Lucky Duck and Azmina.  San Francisco is my happy place.  There.  I said it.  "San Francisco is my happy place" for the fact that there's good food and good company in abundance there.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What to do if it rains British and you have duck confit on hand

Mr. Rose has an old friend, a British fella, who showed up to our wedding on about 2 days notice.  Let's call him Mr. B, fitting for a British fella.  Mr. B showed up in Colorado once again this week, this time with about 1 whole week's notice.  Make no mistake; we absolutely adore his surprise visits.  To me, they're just shy of drinking a glass of champagne and finding a diamond ring at the bottom of it.  Completely surprising and delightful, the memory of his surprise visits will always be galvanized in my memory.  And this time, he brought the Missus and the Junior.

I took a day off work to hang with the B's and brought them to some of my favorite sites around Denver.  First and foremost, breakfast burritos from Las Casitas and coffee from Common Grounds.  Then, Westminster dog park with my own girls.
Mrs. B, Junior in background, Margo Frances in foreground
It was a solid day of touring, stopping only to feed Junior some leftover pasta and bolognese (pasta made with the help of my newly acquired Kitchenaid).

By the time we got back to Chez Rose, it was about time for the Roses and the B's to eat as well.  Here's the quickie menu:
Artisinal boule and butter with truffle oil (thanks Kitchenaid)
French lentils and duck confit
Happy Cakes

I could go on about the butter and truffles, mycophile and proud owner of a new Kitchenaid that I am.  But this isn't the time.  I'm here to rave about the duck confit and the delicious meal that can be whipped together when it's raining Brits and it's time to eat. 

This meal made me realize that, about a month from now, when I'm making a list of new year's resolutions, keeping duck confit in my freezer needs to be on that list.  Here's why I'm excited... here's the recipe:

French Lentils and Duck Confit
(Serves 4)
1.5 c puy or french green lentils
2 c poultry stock
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
1/2 rib celery, finely diced
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp kosher salt
4 confit duck legs, room temperature
4 tbsp duck fat
1 tsp sel de gris
ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Saute onion, carrot, and celery until tender, about 3-4 minutes.  Add lentils, stock, thyme, bay leaf, kosher salt, and 4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.  Let simmer, stirring occasionally, till lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes.  Drain and set aside in a bowl.

In a cast iron skillet, heat 2 tbsp duck fat over high heat.  Place the confit legs in the skillet, skin side down.  Sear till the skin gets brown, about 2 minutes.  Flip the legs over, then place in the oven.  Let the legs roast till lightly browned and fully heated through, about 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tbsp duck fat in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Saute lentils till re-heated.  Add sel de gris and stir. 

Serve duck legs on a small heap of lentils. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Euclid Hall: Better than Martini Ranch.

When we first moved to Denver as an unmarried couple a few years ago, Mr. Rose and I still fancied ourselves as young and hip and would find ourselves roaming around downtown on weekends, looking for a hot spot to cut some rug.  We stumbled upon a very cool space that just didn't live up to expectation on 14th between Market and Larmier, Martini Ranch.

It was filled with young women with bleached blonde hair, wearing barely more than bikinis, tottering around in impossibly high heels, gyrating as seductively as they could for the crowd of men, young and old, who stood on the sidelines, watching intently, tottering drunkenly, and, perhaps, wishing they had enough rhythm to join the ladies on the dance floor.  It was a sad, sad place, but everyone there seemed content.  For the price of a double, the bartender would always pour a triple, and every person that entered Martini Ranch could reliably expect to exit with permanent hearing damage and promises of a serious hangover the next morning.

Eventually, Martini Ranch shuttered its doors.  Perhaps the business model of pouring triples for the price of a double at a seedy dive bar dressed up as an exclusive night club was not sustainable.  I don't know.  I'm not in the business.  And, I am apparently old and judgmental about these places and the people who frequent them anyway.

But then, Euclid Hall came along and filled the void that Martini Ranch had left in the Larimer Square-ish location.  Touted as one of the best new restaurants in Denver by 5280 Magazine, I was pretty excited when Skywalker suggested that we try it on Saturday night.  This time, I remembered my camera.
We had a drink at the bar next to the open kitchen while we waited for a table.  From my crowded perch at the bar, I could see plates waiting to be picked up by servers.  It was a very exciting place to be.  I didn't see anything thrilling pass from kitchen to bar, but it was still exciting to be there amid the action.
We were seated at a cozy booth and spent a little time perusing the menu.  I think it could best be placed in the new "gastropub" category of cuisines.  My eyes quickly gravitated toward the Crispy Buffalo-Style Pig Ears and Brulee Bone Marrow, probably because I'm Chinese, and Mr. Rose honed in on the Pickle Sampler.  We added Fish N Chips to our order, upon the recommendation of our server, and Skywalker chimed in with an order of the Wild Mushroom Poutine.

The pig ears came first.  This was my first disappointment of the evening.  The little basket of pig ear strips had a mostly hearty crunch (they were, after all, deep-fried), but once my teeth made their way through the unseasoned batter, they met with a mush that I can only guess was the fatty skin of pig ears.  Crunchy batter around a mushy nothingness... the overall effect was definitely not what I'd call crispy, which is surprising since pig ears naturally already have a bit of a satisfying crunchy mouth-feel.  The buffalo sauce and ranch dressing a la carte were also underwhelming.  Not sure how the brilliant idea of crispy buffalo pig ears went wrong, but it did.

Next up was the bruleed bone marrow.  The portion of actual marrow was small, maybe a teaspoon.  As with the pig ear batter, it was under-seasoned, but the marrow was rich enough that it was not entirely flat.  The slivered onions and sweet sherry reduction hidden under the bone went a long way to helping this dish.  Unfortunately, as the sherry reduction was hidden, I didn't discover it till the very end, when I was pushing the bone around the plate, wishing there were more than a diminutive bite of marrow in it.

The fish and chips were unremarkable.  I expected there to be something amazing about this dish, since our server especially recommended it as a "definite must-have."  True, it was perfectly cooked, but it's the least I'd expect considering the pedigree of Euclid Hall.  Also true that it was served with a dark malt vinegar gastrique and lemon tarragon ailoi, but these sauces did not elevate the fish'n'chips to anything I would have called a "must-have."  It seems our server had a way with hyperbole.

In addition to being Chinese, I am also Canadian.  And I went to school in Quebec.  So it's difficult to pass up a poutine when I see it on a menu.  Skywalker was a poutine virgin and I was thrilled to be present during the popping of another culinary cherry.  But here's a poutine I wished we hadn't ordered.  This poutine is the reason poutine has a bad reputation of being a foul sludge that clogs the arteries; actually, it's always been true that poutine will clog your arteries, but it's never a foul sludge.  C'mon!  It's french fries, cheese curds, and gravy!  That screams delicious(!), not "foul sludge."  But Euclid Hall managed to take it to that level.  They were skimpy on the cheese, without enough to create the trail of melted cheese strings one expects as one pulls each french fry away from the pile.  I could have overlooked this transgression if they'd gotten the gravy right.  As a mycophile, I applaud the idea of making a mushroom gravy.  But the "gravy" was a lumpy mushroom puree, a sorry failure in the execution of mushroom gravy.  Don't just take my word for it.  See the lumpy, amorphous tan blanket over a pile of fries below.

It's difficult to say that Euclid Hall was a negative dining experience because it truly did have a vibrant and inviting atmosphere.  Couple that with the fact that it was created by one of Denver's favorite chef-restauranteurs -- we really wanted to love it.  But it just didn't live up to the hype.

Well, at least it's better than Martini Ranch.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

White bean, kale, and prosciutto soup

Since I had decided to avoid the post-Thanksgiving crowds on the ski slopes, we stayed in town and it didn't take me long to set into my old ways... finding entertainment in the kitchen.  While Mr. Rose raked leaves in the yard, I investigated the fridge, garden, and pantry to see what we had.  With little effort (I was able to make it while wholly engrossed in the This American Life podcast entitled "Frenemies"), I put this soup together.  
If I'd had more than a cup of flour, I also would have made a dense crusty boule to serve with the soup.  But my Kitchenaid has not yet shown up -- it is still sitting in the same UPS warehouse it's been in for the last 3 days -- so I didn't bother trekking out to get more flour.  I say this like there was a blistering blizzard outside, but there wasn't.  In fact, Mr. Rose probably got sunburn while raking leaves.  I was just feeling lazy.  It is, after all, Saturday.
Well, here it is, my recipe for a tasty wintery soup, that can be made without much effort on a sunny autumn afternoon.

White bean, kale, and prosciutto soup

1 lb dried cannellini beans
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
6 large cloves, chopped
3 tbsp chopped rosemary
2 bay leaves
12 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4" wide strips
1 small bunch kale, ribs removed and leaves torn into small pieces (about 3 packed cups)
8 c chicken broth
2 c water
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and pick over the beans in cold water.  Put the beans into a medium pot and cover with 2" water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then remove and set aside, covered.  Let sit for 1 hr.

Heat the oil in a large pot (mine was a 6 qt dutch oven) over medium-high heat.  Saute the onions till tender, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves.  Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add the prosciutto, stir, and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add kale, chicken broth, and water.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to make sure the kale gets nice and wilted in there.  Drain the beans and add them to the pot as well.  Lower the heat to a simmer, drop a lid on the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, till beans are tender, about 1 hr.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Indian Inspiration

You may have heard that I'm suffering from a terrible bout of chef's block.  I got a few suggestions that can be summed up in a few points:

1. Try to recreate a memorable restaurant meal.
2. Flip through some recipes and just start cooking.
3. Go exotic.
4. Keep eating the same thing over and over again till you get so sick of it, that inspiration MUST come to you.

I attempted an amalgam of all these techniques this weekend.  My brother-in-law (we shall call him Kidney, or "Kid" for short) was in town for a conference and had free time to hang out on Saturday night.  I had originally planned on taking him to one of my favorite restaurants in town, but I'd heard through the grapevine what Kid was too shy to say -- he was hoping to try my cooking.  Well, Kid doesn't come to town all that often, so I had to indulge him, chef's block or not.

I worked my way backwards through that list of suggestions.  First, I considered what I'd eaten a lot of lately.  Two things came to mind: Indian food and Jimmy John's Vito with hot peppers.   One thing I've never done was buy store-bought and pass off as my own cooking, so I wasn't about to start by taking a Jimmy John's out of it's paper wrapping and throwing it on a plate for Kid.  So Indian food it would be.  Once again.

Second suggestion: Go exotic.  Check.

Third suggestion: Flip through some recipes.  Saveur magazine had a few interesting recipes and I am now the proud owner of a couple of Indian cookbooks, so check.

Fourth suggestion: Recreate a memorable restaurant meal.  So here's where I kill two birds with one stone.  I'd obliterate my chef's block while reminiscing about my trip.  For Kid's dinner, I would make prawns with saffron coconut curry and matar paneer (among other things).

Our trip to India took us to a lot of places in the country, but we did not get anywhere near the ocean.  Accordingly, we weren't confident about ordering seafood in many places.  But we did seek out one place, Sagwath Restaurant in the Defense Colony district of Delhi, that was recommended by Frommer's that specialized in southern Indian cuisine.  We ate a lot of prawns and other fish, all of which was rich and bursting with flavor.  We stuffed ourselves and ambled through a nearby bazaar set up for Diwali that was decorated with marigolds and temples for favorite gods placed at every corner before catching an autorickshaw back to the hotel.  I would recreate the meal at Sagwath with prawns in saffron coconut curry.
Chutneys at Sagwath
Ganesh, among beds of marigolds.
Matar paneer, or curried cheese and peas, is a traditional Punjab dish that we ate throughout the northern region where we were traveling.  Everyone had their own version of it, but the best one we had was the one at the Windamere Hotel in Darjeeling.  Darjeeling, famous for its tea, was a gift to the British Empire from the Kingdom of Sikkim in the mid-1800's.  It became a resort town where the British soldiers stationed in India could go to retreat from the heat and humidity of the plains into the more temperate climes of the Darjeeling hills.  We descended from our trek around Sikkim into Darjeeling and could immediately see why Darjeeling was such a treasured gift.  Perched on one hill amongst many hills, dripping with tea bushes, the local Hindus and Buddhists erected a temple at the peak of Observatory Hill, where they could be closer to heaven.  And truly, just below that temple, at the Windamere Hotel, the matar paneer, with its smooth and tender paneer and rich, velvety sauce, was close to godliness.
Clouds rolling over the hills surrounding Darjeeling
Prayer flags strewn around the Hindu/Buddhist temple
The Windamere Hotel
The meal I made for Kid also consisted of potatoes with asafeotida, daal, naan, and rice, followed by three varieties of kulfi.  But the greatest amount of the effort went into the paneer and prawn dishes.  Since I hadn't spent a whole lot of time studying the recipes, the dishes took a lot longer to prepare.  I kept referring back to the recipes, step after step, adding spices with painstaking precision, using measuring spoons rather than my usual approximations ("teaspoon" = big pinch with two fingers and thumb; "tablespoon" = big pinch with three fingers and thumb).  Each individual motion felt natural, but for the act of measuring out spices.  The measuring threw off my momentum and disrupted the flow.  Still, it felt good to be back in the kitchen.  The fog of chef's block hadn't yet lifted, but at least most of my cooking sense had come back.

We sat down for dinner.  The bronze statue of Ganesh I'd purchased at a curio shop in Khajuraho was already seated on the table.  Ganesh is the famous elephant-headed Hindu god, son of Shiva and Parvati, Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles.  I'm not a religious person, but it did not escape my attention that the Remover of Obstacles was sitting at the table where I hoped to exorcise my chef's block.
The meal, to me, was just okay.  It was definitely Indian food -- still the best Indian food in Denver -- but it was missing a certain je ne sais quoi... I can only surmise that it was the mechanical way in which the meal was prepared, the way someone with chef's block cooks.  And, what's worse, I'd left the pots and pans to soak in the kitchen sink overnight.  The scent of that Indian food this morning, though not unpleasant, was just too much.  I'd eaten my fill of Indian food, and there it was again in the morning, taunting me to eat leftover Indian food for breakfast.  It was enough to make me crave a big creamy bowl of steel cut oatmeal, followed by a big, fat, juicy ribeye steak (no, I'm not pregnant, I often crave a steak in the morning).

Wait... What was that?  I had a craving?  Yes!  I have finally kicked my chef's block!

Thank you all for providing your helpful tips to get me through this difficult time.  Thanks, especially to my twin, Lawyer Loves Lunch, for knowing me well enough to know that it was the act of eating the same thing over and over again that would ultimately drive me into the arms of another food.

I should add that, despite the fact that I didn't love what I'd cooked up last night, Kid liked it well enough, and he had seconds of both the prawns and the paneer, so, at the very least, the recipes are at least worth sharing.  Here they are, with links to the original recipes and adjustments where, now that I think I've kicked the chef's block, I would have made substitutions and adjustments.  I'm also giving you these recipes with the caveat that none of the measurements should be used precisely -- it'll all come together much more nicely if you trust your intuition better than your measuring spoons.

Prawns with saffron coconut curry (adapted from Vij's Cookbook)
Serves 6
2 lbs prawns, shelled and deveined
1 tsp saffron
1/2 c warm water
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 c canola oil
1 1/2 tbsp whole cumin seeds
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp ground black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
1/2 tbsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground tumeric
3 c water
2 c coconut milk

In a medium bowl combine prawns and 1 tsp of salt and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 6 hours.
In a small bowl, crush saffron with the back of a spoon and add 1/2 c warm water.  Set aside.
Heat oil in large saucepan on high heat.  Stir in cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for 30 seconds.  Turn the heat down to medium and add tomatoes, ground mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cayenne, tumeric, and 1 tbsp salt.  Stir well and cook for 5 minutes.
Add 3 cups of water, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring regularly.  Add coconut milk and saffron (with water).  Stir well and cook for another 10 minutes.
Bring curry to a boil on medium heat.  As soon as it start to boil, add the prawns and stir gently.  Cook for about 4-6 minutes, till the prawns are just done.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with basmati rice.

Matar Paneer (Curried cheese and peas) (adapted from Saveur)
Serves 6
Included in this recipe are instructions for making paneer.  Paneer is not difficult to make, and it comes with 30-minute blocks of waiting time, during which you can be doing something else, like preparing the matar paneer sauce or making naan -- it's up to you to decide what to do with your spare time.  Mix and mingle your kitchen activities as you wish!
1 gallon + 1 pint whole milk
1/2 c lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2" piece peeled ginger, half of it coarsely chopped
6 tbsp clarified butter
1 tbsp whole cumin seeds
3 green cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
3" stick of cinnamon
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp smoked paprika
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 c canola oil
2 c frozen peas, thawed
1 tbsp garam masala
Salt and pepper to taste

Paneer Instructions:
In a large stock pot, heat the milk till it almost boils, stirring occasionally.  Add the lemon juice.  Do not stir so as not to break up all the curds, but with a wooden spoon, gently, push the curds toward one side of the pot in no more than 4-5 strokes.  Let the milk mixture sit for 5 minutes.
Set a large colander in the sink and line it with a large piece of cheesecloth folded into 4 layers.  Pour the milk mixture into the colander, allowing the whey (the yellow-ish water) to drain off.  Let it drain for another 5 minutes.  Then, pull up the corners of the cheesecloth and tie them into a light knot and run the wooden spoon under the knot, so it looks like a hobo's pouch hanging on a stick.  Prop the stick across the top of the empty stock pot so the pouch of cheese hangs into it as it drains.  Let it drain for 30 minutes.
Untie the cheesecloth and gently form the pouch of cheese into a flat rectangle.  Fold the cheesecloth back over the cheese, wrap the package in a kitchen towel, and set it in a shallow baking pan.  Place a heavy cutting board onto the cheese package and set something heavy on it (I used a large dutch oven filled with canned food).  Let it drain this way for 1.5 hrs, unwrapping it every 30 minutes to squeeze out the liquid from the cheese cloth, and rewrapping it tighter.
When the cheese is done draining, cut off the rounded ends to create a rectangular block with squared off edges.  Cut the block of cheese into 1/4" cubes for the matar paneer and crumble the rounded ends for garnish.
Matar Paneer Instructions:
Purée garlic, chopped ginger, and 1⁄4 cup water to a coarse paste in a blender and set the paste aside.
Heat clarified butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.   Add cumin seeds, cardamom pods, whole cloves, and cinnamon stick, and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until just browned, 7-8 minutes.  Add ginger-garlic paste, ground turmeric, and paprika, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter starts to separate from the paste, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and cook, stirring slowly so that the tomatoes caramelize but don't burn, until brick red and thickened, 12-14 minutes.  Add 4 c water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
Add paneer cubes, peas, garam masala, and salt to pot and stir to combine.  Heat through, 2-3 minutes more.  Garnish with crumbled paneer and cilantro.  Serve with naan or basmati rice.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chef's Block

I've got chef's block.  I'm not referring to the 500 lb block of wood in the center of my kitchen; I'm referring to the chef analog to writer's block.  I can't think of anything to cook.  It should be so easy to combat:

Step 1: Chef develops a craving.
Step 2: Chef becomes hungry.
Step 3: Chef goes to kitchen and cooks up whatever chef was craving.

The only problem is that this chef hasn't had a craving over a month.  I have literally been eating whatever comes my way, without ever having a desire to eat anything else.  While in India, every meal was Indian food.  Sure, there were choices between one masala and the next, lentils or chickpeas, paneer or potatoes, but there was no way to satisfy a craving for, say, a hamburger.

Upon returning from India, I, like everyone else, expected that I would have missed hanging out in the kitchen and I'd be totally inspired to cook.  But no.  Every day at lunch, I've had either leftovers from dinner the night before or a Jimmy John's sandwich (Vito with hot peppers -- because that's what my secretary knows I always get there so that's what he's been bringing me as I slave away at my desk).  Dinner the night before has been leftover chicken curry that Mr. Rose requested for dinner on Sunday night.  We ate it for 3 days.  There are no more leftovers and I wonder if it's healthy to consume three Vitos with hot peppers in a week.  What if this continues and I consume three Vitos with hot peppers per week for the next three weeks?  Is that healthy?

Health consequences aside, I wonder if I'll ever get my chef mojo back.  What happened to the daily lunch daydreaming that would start at approximately 10:15 a.m.?  What happened to the daily dinner daydreaming that would start approximately 30 seconds after I swallowed my last bite of lunch?  I recall that being fun, albeit a little obsessive-compulsive.  Unfortunately, you can't make up an obsession where there is none.  And I appear to have misplaced mine.

Well, the chicken curry I made last Sunday was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.  And getting back in the kitchen did feel natural -- like I'd never been gone.  I presume I can still make anything upon request.  But I'm lacking the inspiration to create.  Someone.  Please send help.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Birth of Speakeasy Kitchen.

A dear friend of mine, grandmomma of "technocuddly," and owner-proprietor of Mer-Chan, K-Cub, recently blogged about an unlicensed restaurant she stumbled upon in Dubai, UAE.  It reminded her of the original Speakeasy Kitchen.  My Speakeasy Kitchen.  I was touched to see that she had retained (or found) the link to the original Speakeasy Kitchen blog!  Click here to read about the inception of Speakeasy Kitchen, the underground restaurant.

Remembering that I'm a Food Blogger: Cholon Bistro

I'm back after three weeks in northern India -- stay tuned for the highlights (and the lowlights) of the trip -- and realize that I'd forgotten that I'm a food blogger.  I'd just purchased a new camera for two big reasons, primarily to (1) capture the colors of India better than my point-and-shoot, and (2) improve my foodtography upon my return from India.  I didn't use the camera for foodtography while in India since, well, it's Indian food.  How attractive could piles of daal on piles of rice (delicious as they may be) possibly look in the din of flickering florescent lights in restaurants around, say, Old Delhi?  But when Four-sides Reynolds invited me to join him and TLR (who recently wept with Mondo Guerra and 600 of his closest friends at the end of this season's finale of Project Runway) for dinner at the hip new place in town, I should have jumped at the opportunity to practice with my new camera.

Alas.  I left the camera at home.

My heart sank as dish after dish of the most visually interesting food I'd seen in weeks was delivered from the kitchen to our table, knowing that I had no camera to capture the moment.  So now I'm putting my food-writing skills to the test, without the crutch of photos to describe the food.  Just as well, since I haven't written about food in the last 3 weeks either.  I need the practice.

Let's start with my impressions of the hip new place.  When ChoLon Bistro was barely more than a twinkle in Denver's eye, it caused a bit of a stir around town.  Mr. Rose's college girlfriend emailed him with news that her grad school roommate's brother was coming to town and hanging up his own shingle.  "It will be called ChoLon.  It's a modern Asian bistro," Mr. Rose announced to me, knowing it would provoke a reaction.  I have long proclaimed that the word "Asian" (or any subset thereof, such as "Thai" or "Japanese" or "Vietnamese") has no business preceding words like "bistro" or "bar & grill."  A "bistro" is what I typically think of as being European, particularly, French.  A "bar & grill" is American.  As much as I love the melting pot that is America, I hate it when the cuisine of eastern and western continents collide, mostly because most chefs do a generally shitty job of it, making things far too sweet and foregoing the flavor complexity of both cuisines.  "Cholon?  Asian bistro?" I sneered. "Well, I guess we have to try this one out since you practically know the guy."

Who doesn't like saying, "I know that guy" when that guy is the likes of Lon Symensma, Chef-owner of the hotly anticipated, hip, new place in town?  Sure, he's my husband's ex-girlfriend's roommate's brother.  That puts me at only 4 degrees of separation, which is probably about 2 degrees closer than I am to Kevin Bacon.  I am so. Close to. So. Much. Greatness.

So when Four-sides Reynolds invited us to join him at ChoLon, I said, "Yeah, we know that guy.  See you there at 7."  The friendly hostess gave us a table with a great view of the kitchen, as if we actually did know him. 

Four-sides Reynolds and TLR had been planning this dinner for a few days, and TLR had been studying the menu fastidiously.  She fixated on the chili crab rolls with charred corn salad and Sriracha mayo.  They were scrumptious.  The rolls were tender on the outside, with a delightful crunch of corn complimenting the sweet crab meat inside.

After spending three weeks in India where cows are sacred and, therefore, never on the menu, my eyes honed in on the beef tartare with Chinese mustard and tapioca puffs.  Unbeknownst to us at the time we ordered, TLR does not eat red meat.  Not that she never has, but she chooses not to now (oh, those sweet fuzzy little cows!).  So when the plate arrived, adorned with white crisps made of tapioca and dotted with pale yellow Chinese mustard along side a log of luxuriously red beef tartare, she was a little torn.  She had never eaten beef tartare.  But she decided to give it a try.  Yes, that's right.  We popped her beef tartare cherry.  It was a good way to do it -- it was the perfect opportunity.  The tapioca puffs were both visually unique and satisfyingly crispy.  The mustard gave just a touch of zing.  And the beef melted in my mouth.  It was divine.

A little birdie from French Press Memo had tweeted at me: Don't miss the soup dumplings.  So we ordered the soup dumplings with sweet onion and gruyere.  They were indeed tasty little sacks of French onion soup, disguised as the Shanghainese steamed dumpling, xiao long bao.  Xiao long bao is magical to me because a delicious clear broth gushes out of the delicate flour wrapper just before your teeth sink into that tender nugget of minced meat inside.  To me, the addition of gruyere takes the magic out of it because the fat of the cheese could act like an impervious Gore-tex jacket, keeping the onion broth inside separate from the steaming flour wrapper, thereby aiding the wrapper by making it less susceptible to dissolving or falling apart in the steamer basket.  I tried to explain this to the table.  TLR paused respectfully, as if to show she was giving my science due consideration, then announced, "These are awesome. I could eat these all day, every day."  She was right -- they were awesome, magic be damned.  We all nodded in a moment of silence while we stared at the empty steamer basket longingly.

We had a couple of large plates that did not disappoint either.  Of note, the Australian sea bass with wok-tossed boy choy and water chestnuts looked and even smelled like sweet and sour -- my biggest fear for the continental collision -- but it turned out to be bursting with flavor, and not sweet and sour at all.  It had a plucky bit of spice to it, with whole mustard seeds or maybe coriander seeds and cilantro.  The fish was battered and cooked to perfection (though I found the batter to be a tad on the salty side).  The water chestnuts and bok choy had a refreshing and complimentary crunch to them.  The roast chicken with potatoes anna and soy jus was incredible.  The chicken was so tender that you could cut it with a fork.  And you could actually taste the potatoes.  My mouth waters now, just thinking about it.

As we marveled over the large plates, our server brought us a bowl of the chicken fried rice with poached egg, "Compliments of the Chef."  I looked up toward the kitchen and locked eyes with Lon Symensma.  I smiled and waved thanks.  Fried rice made creamy with the yolk of a perfectly poached egg.  Yum.  Just yum.  Our server came back and asked, "I saw you and the Chef waving at each other.  Do you know him?"  I blushed.  "Um, no," I admitted, "But he's so kind to send us this rice!"  Four-sides Reynolds hypothesized that he recognized me from MasterChef.  I did my best impression of Gordon Ramsay, confusing our server, who clearly never saw the best show ever to hit FOX television.  He mumbled something about refilling our water glasses and shuffled off.

We got some dessert -- I fell in love with the spiced doughnuts with Vietnamese coffee ice cream for the rich flavor and departure from boring chocolate blahbiddy blah. 

Now here's where the story turns and 4 degrees of separation became just one degree.  Apparently, I confused more than just our server by waving at the Chef.  Chef Symensma emerged from the kitchen and appeared at our tableside for a chat.  We explained how Mr. Rose knows his sister, welcomed him to Denver, and then gushed about the gorgeous meal until he headed back into the kitchen.  If I'd had a camera, I would have taken one last photo, with the Chef.  Digital proof that "I know that guy."  Well, at least I met him.  Proudly. 

A hip and inventive restaurant that is completely different from anything else Denver has to offer, ChoLon Bistro dispelled some of the doubts I had about the word "Asian" preceding the word "bistro."  And it reminded me that I'm a food blogger in the most delicious way.  I'll remember to bring my camera next time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pizza Sojourn

A couple of years ago, I left the world of private practice to work at the Attorney General's Office.  Having not had a vacation in years, I asked the AGO if they could wait a few weeks before I started my new post.  I wanted to travel.  Big time.  I had no particular destination in mind, but wanted the place to be completely disconnected from anything familiar.  Although I ultimately ended up in Ecuador, I'd had my eyes set on places far and wide, from Tibet to Congo to Georgia.  Opting to eject any locales that were politically unstable, Tibet and Congo were out.  Georgia was not so stable either, but it is, if one believes what one reads online, a beautiful country with regal landscapes, centuries of fascinating Eurasian history, and diverse ethnic cultures.  I might have risked military coups had the photographs of their cuisine not looked so, ahem, dull.
Adjarian (or acharuli/adjaruli) khachapuri
This image of Georgian khachapuri, devoid of any seasoning, herb, or color, consoled me as I ate my way around Ecuador.  Ecuador is not known for its cuisine.  In the highlands, they have their own brand of meat and potatoes and lentil stew.  On the coast in Guayaquil en route to the Galapagos Islands, there is ceviche.  In the jungle, they have some interesting fruit that looked like it came from some Klingon colony planet.  They even have a certain South American delicacy: Cuy (guinea pig).  But that's it.  None of the food in Ecuador is all that exotic or mind-blowing.  So as I sat by the side of the road between Otavalo and the sacred Peguche Falls, sipping a Fanta while an old woman worked over a coal fire to cook the crap out of my spiced meat and potato dish, wondering why I had stubbornly decided to spend three weeks in Ecuador rather than, say, Tuscany, I remembered the khachapuri of Georgia.
That meal of dried up meat and potatoes was the 5th such meal I had eaten that week -- I desperately craved vegetables, ironic considering that Otavalo sits amidst a lush green countryside.  But at least I wasn't eating meal after meal after meal of boat-shaped pizza dough topped with butter and an egg.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post.  Project Foodbuzz's challenge this week is Pizza.  Everyone's putting their own spin on it, including one of my favorite contestants, Asha of Fork Spoon Knife.  Her pide from Turkey is remarkably similar in shape to khachapuri from, you guessed it, neighboring Georgia.  But of course every country and every ethnic culture puts their own spin on the pizza.  So as my own little side project, I'm going to take Asha's lead and follow the footsteps of pizza around the world (with a nod to Jules Vernes' Around the World in 80 Days).  From Italian pizza to Turkish pide to Georgian khachaprui, who knows where our versatile sauce-topped flatbread will end up.  If you, Readers, have some suggestions on where to go next from Georgia, let me know.

For now, I'm heading to northern India.  I'll do a little bit of research on the fate of the pizza in South Asia.  The only flatbreads I can think of at the moment are naan and poppadum.  Those flatbreads are perfect for putting stuff on, but neither of them come with the sauce and stuff already on them.  Somewhere between Georgia and India, the stuff fell off the dough (or did it go on... which came first, the naan or the khachapuri?).  It's about time I go investigate...

To be continued...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Turkey Pastries

It would not be a Thanksgiving feast if there were not heaps of leftovers to provide you with the challenge of how to make them into something delicious but different by the end of the first week.  It also would not be a Thanksgiving feast if some version of turkey pot pie was not attempted.  This year, we had turkey pot pies AND turkey empanadas.
They were stuffed with the same mixture of turkey and vegetables, but something about the portability of the empanadas make them an attractive option.  Maybe it's the grab 'n' go single-serving aspect of them.  Maybe it's the fact that they remind me of the delicious alternative-to-dollar-slice-pizza late-night snacks that I used to enjoy across from the 18th Street Lounge after a long night of, um, lounging.  Maybe it's just another vehicle by which to dispose of delicious deep-fried turkey.
Either way, the pastry dough I came up with was versatile enough to serve as both double crust pie and empanada dough.  The recipe creates a light and crispy crust, a perfect envelope for the savory filling.  In hindsight, I should have made a gravy to mix in with the pie filling (it wouldn't be necessary or, for that matter, neat for the empanadas), but the pies were not dry and were tasty nonetheless. 
Here's how to do it.

Turkey Pot Pies and Empanadas
Makes 2 double-crust pies and 4 generously sized empanadas
3 c unbleached white flour
1/4 c water
3 eggs
6 oz butter, cut into 12 pieces
4 lbs cooked turkey, shredded*
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 lb cremini mushrooms, brushed, de-stemmed, and sliced
4-6 multi-colored abominable carrots, chopped (approx. 2 c chopped carrots)
2 c chopped celery (approx. 4 stalks)
1-2 c turkey or chicken broth (I actually used turkey aspic because that's what I had after boiling the Thanksgiving carcasses)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
*If the turkey is unseasoned, I would also add 1 tsp orange zest and 1 tsp chopped sage.

Pulse flour, 2 eggs, and butter in a food processor until well mixed.  Gradually add water through the feed tube, pulsing until the dough just comes together in a clumpy ball.  Take the dough out, press it into a ball, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.  Over medium-high heat, sautee the mushrooms in the olive oil (I had the foresight to do this step in two deep-sided skillets -- this recipe simply makes two much to fit into one).  Once brown, add the onions, carrots, and celery, and sautee till tender.  Add the shredded turkey, broth, coriander, and salt/pepper to taste.  Stir to incorporate, lower heat, and let simmer under a lid for 10 minutes.  Then remove lid to let cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Unwrap the dough and roll out as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface.  Cut four pieces to fit two pie pans such that some dough flops over the sides of the pan.  Set aside the remainder of the dough for empanadas.  Press one piece of dough into the bottom of a pie pan.  Fill the pie pan with cooled turkey filling.  Lay a second piece of dough over the pie pan.   Working around the edge of the pie pan, roll the edges of the first piece, together with the edges of the first piece, over the edge of the pie pan, and tuck the dough just between the side of the pan and the outer edge of the pie.  Cut some vents into the top pie crust.  In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with 1 tbsp water to make an egg wash.  Brush the egg wash over the top crust.  Repeat with a second pie pan.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the top crust is golden and lightly browned.

For the empanadas, cut 6" diameter (or whatever sized bowl you can use as a template) circles out of the remaining dough.  Place a 1/2 c of turkey filling onto the center of each circle.  Fold the dough over and crimp the edges.  Lay the empanadas on a baking sheet lined with foil and brush them with egg wash.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve, unless you like burning off the roof of your mouth (ahem, Mr. Rose).