Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Just Peachy!

Home grown peaches...divine

Around the Harasick Homestead things are rather peachy - literally! Our little peach tree was loaded this year (I'm guessing 300+), and we have thoroughly enjoyed eating them out of hand, sharing them with friends, making multiple batches of jam, and especially eating Vanilla Peach Pies! I just picked the last peaches today. I wish they were on the tree year 'round instead of just a few short weeks - I'd never get sick of them.

Christmas gifts all put up!

Here's the recipe for the pie. It's so worth it!

Vanilla Peach Pie

4 lbs. ripe peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, each half cut into 6 wedges
(about 8 cups)
½ c. + 1 T. sugar
¼ c. brown sugar
¼ c. flour
¼ t. cardamom (or nutmeg)
1 scraped vanilla bean or 1 T. vanilla

unbaked double pie crust - see note below

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine peaches, ½ c. sugar, brown sugar, flour, cardamom, and vanilla in large bowl. Toss to blend well. Let stand 15 minutes.

Roll out first pie crust. Transfer to 9” pie dish. Spoon peach filling
Into crust, mounding slightly in center. Roll out second pie crust and place over filling; trim overhang to ¾” and crimp edges to seal. Cut 4 slits on top of pie. Brush crust lightly with half and half(or milk). Sprinkle with remaining 1 T. sugar.

Place pie on foil lined baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes. Cover crust edges with foil if it is browning too quickly. Continue baking until crust is golden and juices bubble thickly, about 30-40 min. longer. Cool 1/2 hour before serving. Great with vanilla ice cream!

Now, a bit about crust. Yes, I do make my own crust. I must say, I garner much praise from Rich over this crust! He always says the same thing - "you make a MEAN crust, Karen." After much experimentation, here is my favorite recipe
for a two-pie crust.

Pie Crust (double)

3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups Shortening (Crisco in the blue can), chilled
Ice water

Combine flour and salt in large bowl. With a pastry blender, work in the cold shortening until it looks like tiny peas. Stirring with a fork, slowly add the ice water, a couple tablespoons at a time, until the mixture BARELY sticks together. Gather dough up in a large ball and divide in two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. On a heavily floured board, with a heavily floured roller, roll out the smaller ball to about 12" diameter. Fold in half, then in half again, then transfer crust to deep dish pie plate - press into pan.

Add desired filling. Roll out the second crust to about 14" diameter, then transfer to top of filling. Crimp edges of top crust to bottom crust, sealing all the way around. (You can trim any extra dough if necessary.) For nicely browned crust with a sweet bite, brush with 1 beaten egg and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.

Now, the key to getting the perfect crust is NOT TO HANDLE IT ANY MORE THAN NECESSARY. If you start kneading it it will lose its flakiness when baked. Successful pie crust is all in proper handling.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another nostalgic lunch

As most of you could figure out by my blog about the Apple Pan, I dig on the historic restaurants in and around L.A. I like the kind of places that have a history, a devoted following, as well as the everyday customer. So, today it was a real treat to visit Philippe the Original in downtown L.A. We had a couple of reasons to be downtown today, so we picked up Rich for lunch and headed to this beloved landmark. Established in 1908, Philippe's is apparently the original French Dip Sandwich (so they claim).

Once you step inside, and head down a short flight of stairs to order, you feel like you're in a cool joint. It's quite a large place, with many rooms to sit in both upstairs and down. To order, you step up to the high countertop and are usually greeted by a middle aged woman with a bun in her hair (must be a prerequisite).
Never trust a server without a bun. Check out the purple egg jar!

Once you order, your food is prepared by the same person. All the fixings are right in front of her, and it is delightful to watch as she slices the french roll, dips it in the au jus, and places in your desired meat (they have roast beef - the traditional choice, as well as turkey, ham, pork, and lamb). Then you add your sides, potato salad, coleslaw, pickles and some pecular purple hard boiled eggs. You better get your dessert then too, or you'll have to come back later and stand again in the long line. Their pies look heavenly, but I've never had the guts to try to eat a slice after a Philippe sandwich. For drinks there are fresh lemonade and iced tea ($.65) or coffee (still a dime). The sandwiches are about $5-6 each. Gotta hand it to them on the value issue. They could easily charge $1.75 a drink and get it. And, here's one thing you must know: it is customary to tip your cashier/server. Yes, do the math and figure out how much these bun-wearing women make per hour...well over $50 in tips plus their regular wages.

Now, the sandwiches are good, but really quite plain. Just a crusty french roll dipped in au jus, and the meat. No tomato, lettuce, pickles, mayo, etc. They do have this wicked mustard on the tables that, if taken in large quantity, does simulate the wasabi nose throb. I tried asking for a side of au jus to dip in - nothing doing. (Now, I know that they could put some in a little cup if they wanted to, but they won't.) So what makes these plain sandwiches so popular? I think it's the atmosphere, the history. Sitting in a place like Philippe just makes you feel like you're in a cool place, like you're "in the know." Knowing that a place like that has been doing the same thing day in and day out for hundreds of people each day, for almost a hundred years, just gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. And isn't food really so much about the feeling it evokes. Visit Philippe soon! French Dip, Potato Salad, Pickles and Purple Eggs!