Sunday, June 5, 2011

Strawberry Pie

Strawberry Pie by TagDragon
Strawberry Pie, a photo by TagDragon on Flickr.

Strawberry Pie is a quintessential summer dessert. Cold fresh strawberries suspended in a simmering strawberry gelatin, you can’t beat it.

1 pound fresh, washed, hulled, sliced Strawberries (any areas discarded)
½ cup Water
1 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Corn Starch
¼ cup fresh Lemon Juice
1 packet of unflavored Gelatin (from a 1 oz box with 4 packets)
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
3 cups whole medium-size fresh, washed, hulled Strawberries
1 Graham Cracker Pie Shell

Add sliced strawberries and water to a small sauce pan. Cover and over medium heat simmer until strawberries are very soft. About 10-15 minutes. Watch the berries; it is easy for them to boil up. While still hot, strain the strawberry juice from the berries. Mash the berries to release all the juice. There should be a little over 1 cup of juice. Add water to make 1 cup if needed. Discard strawberry pulp. In a small bowl combine the lemon juice and gelatin and immediately mix until gelatin is dissolved. In a small bowl combine the sugar and corn starch and mix well. In a small sauce pan add the sugar and corn starch mixture and 1 cup strawberry juice and over medium heat bring to a boil and then boil 1 minute stirring often. Off the heat, add the gelatin mixture and vanilla extract to the strawberry syrup and stir until dissolved and completely mixed with the syrup. Cool 25 minutes. Carefully add the whole strawberries and gently stir until the berries are coated with the syrup. Starting with the larger strawberries, spoon them into the pie shell in an even manner. May have to add a few extra strawberries to fill in holes. Carefully pour the remaining strawberry syrup into the pie shell over the berries and around the edges. Do not over fill with the syrup. Refrigerate for at least three hours.

Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Makes one Strawberry Pie.

Use small, large, and odd sized berries to make the juice. Save pretty, medium sized strawberries to use whole. If using a premade pie shell, I prefer the Keeble Ready Crust Graham 2 Extra Servings Pie Crust.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Not just beer-battered, Schlafly Dry Hopped APA battered Vidalia onion rings

Reaally simple crowd pleaser: Thick slice 1 large Vidalia onion, separate into rings. Mix 1 cup flour & 1 bottle Schlafly Dry Hopped APA, or other Pale Ale, in large shallow pan. Add 6 dashes Tabsco, 1 teaspoon salt. Let batter sit at least 30 minutes or longer. Heat oil in frydaddy or cast iron skillet on stovetop at 385. Working in small batches, coat onion rings with batter and drop into hot oil. Cook until crispy and golden on both sides, turning at least once during frying. Carefully remove to plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt.

Serve with Creole Mayo: 1/2 cup mayo, 1tsp creole seasoning, juice 1/2 fresh lemon. Whisk ingredients together with fork. Adjust seasoning & acid to your taste. Also good with some roasted garlic or other savory mix-ins.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mashed potato gratin

Mashed potato gratin, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & cubed
2 tsp kosher salt, separated
4 tsp butter
1/2 cup milk, more as needed
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan 
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 T chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash & peel potatoes.  Cut in cubes and place in medium saucepan.  Fill with cold water until covered, add 1 tsp salt.  Bring water to a boil.  Boil uncovered until potatoes are tender, approximately 12 minutes.  Once tender, drain potatoes and return to saucepan.  Add butter, milk, sour cream, Parmesan, remaining salt, and pepper.  Using electric mixer, beat potato mixture until smooth, adding more milk to bring to the right consistency - you want them creamy, not soupy.  Adjust salt and pepper, to taste.  Spoon into gratin dish, top with a bit of parmesan, parsley and ground pepper. Bake uncovered 10 minutes to melt Parmesan. Place gratin under low broiler for 3-5 minutes until top is browned.  Remove from oven & serve immediately.  

Serves 6.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Making Gumbo

Making Gumbo, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

Following Paula Deen's lead on this one:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Venison chili

Venison chili
Originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002
Superbowl Sunday. Gotta make chili, had some venison in the freezer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Year of Not Blogging

Wow, where to start? It's been more than a year since I blogged here - made a recipe, photographed it, and committed my mostly improvised ramblings to the blog. Our blog. Our blog that's on the "blogosphere," a term our dear friend Brad Graham coined and he was further dismayed when the term 1) took off in popularity and 2) got an entry in the OED. Brad poo-pood it all, but I secretly think he liked this claim to fame. Not that he would ever admit it, mind you. He'd have gone to his grave shrugging off the fact that he invented the term blogosphere. And in January of last year, that's exactly what he did. Brad was found dead in his house on January 4, 2010. He was 41. He was supposed to have been at my New Year's Eve party the Friday before, as always, but wasn't feeling well. Some of his coworkers (and our mutual friends) were at my party and expressed concern for his absence, and for his overall health because recently he hadn't been as energetic, as lively. We were worried, we told him we were worried, and we were happy to learn he was scheduled to go to the doctor after the first of the year.

I had seen him a couple of weeks before at his annual holiday party (looking gaunt, and I told him as much), and then again on a casual weekday evening when we decided to get together for drinks & gumbo at his place. Since we were nearing Christmas, I brought him a tin of the Hard Rock Candy I had made the Sunday before, along with homemade single malt butter scotch. He was quite pleased with the treats and had a few that night.

So we didn't see him at NYE. I sent him a text message 2 days after while sitting in the theater to watch Avatar in 3D, with no response. Not entirely unusual, but not exactly right, either. I left the next morning for meetings in Washington DC, which was cold and miserable, and I was cranky about having to travel so early into the year. My meeting was with the National Institute of Health and the National Library of Medicine for my "real" job, participating in a workshop on defining a schema for biodiversity publications. I took this picture and uploaded it to Flickr: I look at this picture as the last time my life made sense in 2010.

Less than 5 minutes later I got a call from Tagert. I knew something was up, but I couldn't leave the meeting. So I txtd him
I'm in dc in a mtg & can't use phone, but can txt. What's up?
His reply was
Sorry for this format. Brad Graham has died. Ken found him this morning.
I left the meeting & started talking with Tag. And honestly, from that point on the rest of the trip is a blur. I have flashes of activity, like standing at the platform waiting for the Red Line to take me to my hotel in Dupont, listening to Elton John on my iPod singing "Sacrifice", with tears streaming down my face. I was alone in DC while Brad's other friends were meeting in STL for an impromptu gathering, and that's where I wanted to be more than any other place in the world. But duty called, and I stayed through the meetings then made a return home, and within 2 hours of arriving in St. Louis I was over at Tagert's. That was tough, but so necessary.

And then the next day my partner and I had to make the very tough decision to put our 10 year old dog, Sam, to sleep. She'd been fighting cancer for more than a year, but it was clear she was getting weaker and her cough & discomfort were bad. We took her to the vet, fairly certain what the advise & options would be, and we were right. Our vet also knew Brad and so knew what a double whammy this was for us. We knew it was right thing to do, but that didn't make it any easier. I remember sobbing into my partner's neck, just shaking my head, not understanding why this was all happening at once. I stayed with Sam and she went peacefully with the help of the excellent doctors at Kingsbury Animal Hospital.

I was scheduled to leave for 10 days in Beijing at 4am the next morning, and as it turns out months before Tagert & our friend Mikey, plus me and my partner Chris, had purchased tickets that night for a Lady Gaga concert. None of us wanted to stay at home and feel sorry for ourselves, so we went and had a crazy, cathartic time. And then 5 hours later I was on a plane to Beijing.

The storm stopped there, thankfully, and the rest of 2010 went along with normal bumps & bruises, but nothing as brutal as losing the guy who completed Tagert & me. We were a great trio because we each had different relationships as duos: Brad & I had a bond over redheads and technology, Tag & Brad had SciFi and film, and together we had showtunes & shenanigans & laughter & friendship. So for Tagert & me to lose that essential third wheel has been a big adjustment.

And every time I went to blog, I thought of Brad. Tagert & I had talked to Brad, who was a PR/marketing whiz, about taking our blog to the next level - coverage in the local foodie mags, cooking segments on local shows, appearances and demos at STL food & wine events, publishing a cookbook, etc. But after Brad died, I felt alone in that endeavor. I mean, Tagert & I are quite capable dudes, but Brad was Mr. Connections. And without his help, it just seemed...pointless.

So throughout this year of course we've kept cooking, and I've got a stockpile of recipes that are now well-tested and ready to roll out. But I wonder if our moment has passed. Tagert & I set up this blog in 2007 as a way to advertise our unique culinary point of view, and now that I look around, there are many people doing our "downhome with a twist" thing. I feel I'm at a crossroads here, and I'm really curious from readers what *you* want from us, if anything. I still want to blog about food because I love food, I love to cook, and I think I have some unique insights to share with other people who like to cook, based on my rural upbringing and subsequent move to a diverse city full of new flavors and ideas.

So what do you think, dear reader? Have we lost you in this year of not blogging? Are you still interested in our recipes and stories about how we came to make them? Or, should we just close up shop, turn on Ina Garten, and leave the food writing to the pros? Leave your comments below. They really are appreciated!

Chris Freeland