Pi Day!

19 Mar

So, I am back from Sudan and working for a caterer in Atlanta. We’ll see if they require my pie skills in the future… they already made tons of delicious empanadas last week! In the meantime, here’s a quick update of the pies made for Pi Day posted on Neatorama.

Piespiespi…s

However, some of those are repeats from last year, as is this Pi-rate ship pie, which really takes the cake!

Baked and photographed by Susan S of Diamonds for Dessert. Adorable!

It’s an apple pie, in case you were interested, but I think a more apt filling would be salted beef and potatoes in ale…

I wish I had actually remembered it was pi day before the evening, when I was reminded by Young Katie. Otherwise I could have posted this link from Illinois Science featuring Chicago restaurants with pie specials.

With the family on diet, it’s unlikely I’ll be baking pies in the near future. However, I saw an ad for KFC’s new chicken pot pies, and boy, if that isn’t a heart attack in a tin… must try nomnomnom. I rarely eat fast food, but if I can sneak away from dietland I will post a report.

Pumpkin pie in a pumpkin

25 Nov

This is the most ridiculously adorable thing ever.

eeeeeee! Original here, by Brooklynsupper.

It’s a pumpkin pie baked into its own miniature pumpkin. I wish I had more time before Sudan, otherwise I’d totally make this. And imagine other ones… you could bake things inside gourds! You could mix and match squashes! However, it might be a bit difficult to eat, as I fear the crust would separate from the skin upon slicing.

Cherpumple

24 Nov

Cherpumple in all its glory. Photo credit Charles Phoenix.

I didn’t know such a mixture of awesome and disgusting existed (and I study diseases for fun). The Cherpumple is a giant cake with three layers, each of which is a pie (cherry, pumpkin, and apple). Comedian Charles Phoenix invented it and posted the recipe on his website, inspiring numerous lesser imitations, or “fanpumples”, I guess.

Fanpumple. Photo by anonymous submission.

He declares it to be the turducken of desserts.

It doesn’t appear to be that difficult, as the recipe calls for frozen pies and box cakes; the key difficulty seems to be keeping it solid enough to survive slicing and serving. If anyone is really good at cakes and sweet pies, this might be your thing.

“If everything we ate was a pie… wouldn’t we all be happier?”

22 Nov

The editor of Serious Eats has made an all-pie Thanksgiving, including a turkey-and-stuffing pie, mashed potato pie, turkey pot pie, and green bean casserole pie.

All-Pie Thanksgiving (video)

All-Pie Thanksgiving (article)

AWESOME.

I am actually not making a pie for Thanksgiving, but will be making an Ottolenghi roast vegetable platter and sweet potato souffles.

OccuPie

6 Nov

A cute picture from Reddit (source unknown).

Small things

26 Oct

This article in the NYT explains why small foods – mini pies, people! – are so very satisfying.

Mark Bittman hates pies

10 Sep

After reading the NYT Magazine today and doing some follow-up research, I have discovered that Mark Bittman, noted food blogger, hates pies. This article, titled “Bye, Bye American Pie”, has the tagline “You could just bake fruit in a crust. Or you could let the season’s bounty really shine.” This is a intensification of his minimalist pie, the recipe for which was given in 2009’s “Another Way to Elude the Pie Crust” . That recipe, which I used at TPS at one point, was actually delicious. I don’t agree that a pie without a bottom is a minimalist pie, but just a much easier way to make one. I mean, your pie is going to spill all over the place when you serve it whether it has a bottom or not, so why bother? Unless it’s a mini pie, it’s a big messy affair.

Moving back in time to 2008, Bittman’s How to Cook Everything featured this recipe for flaky pie crust, which he states is “flavorful-delicious in its own right, no matter what the filling”; he follows it with recipes for blueberry pie and pecan pie. Now he has moved away from crusts towards interiors. Read in fearmongering journalist voice: Does this signal the end of the pie’s spot in the sun?

I’m not convinced. Although my excavation and thesis-writing have kept me away from pie blogging, they seem to be as popular as ever, at least in London. Pieminster, the market pie chain, now produces pies in boxes for sale at Waitrose. All the flavors one can enjoy at their restaurant locations and market stalls can be enjoyed in the home after only 20 minutes of oven re-heating. Keep watching the trend, and keep me informed if you see any more pies in the news.

A photo

2 Aug

Sent by Clive Bank, so I presume these were made by Sandra Bank of Added Touch Catering. Cute!

So, this tiropita thing:

19 Jul

I have written before about Greeks and their pies. I am now in the land of the ancients and have been eating cheeeeese like crazy. HListen: when I was at the Athens airport (which is now actually connected to the city by the metro) there was literally not a single food sold that did not have cheese in it. The best? Feta tiropita.
A tiropita is fillo dough stuffed with some mixture of Greek cheeses. It is sort of like a pasty, but more delicious (if that’s even possible). They make them with other stuffings sometimes, like spinach (technically a spanakopita), but cheese is the best. Sometimes we have them for lunch.
However, I have yet to have a gyros on this island because the gyros place only opens in the evening and it’s 2.5km uphill. Considering I walk 5km every day anyway, I am reluctant to go another 5km for a gyros, particularly as this island does not actually know when anything opens or if it’s open every day or what. Stores are only open from 10-12 (on certain days) and 6-midnight (theoretically), but lord help you if you show up for dinner at 6, since the usual eating time is 9:30 or later.
We are also getting tons and tons of feta in our Greek salads. I saw the bucket the feta comes in: it’s the kind one uses to transport live fish. Every meal is served with Greek salad. Breakfast is the only meal missing cheese, but there are like 30 cups of Greek yogurt on the table each morning. Oh, and the tzatziki I make every week and share with my three roommates.

Tzatziki, island style
The stuff: 1 pint Greek yogurt, 1 cucumber, 1 head of garlic
The method: Remove about three big scoops of yogurt – you’ll need the space. (We don’t have tupperware.) Peel the cucumber, scoop out the seeds, and chop it really, really small. (We don’t have a grater.) Crush the garlic with the spoon and then cut it up really small. Mix these into the yogurt. Let sit overnight so the garlic soaks in. Breathe deeply, but not deep enough to smell your neighbor’s breath, as they’ll definitely have their face in the garlic as well. I’m pretty sure all four of us go to sleep with the worst garlic breath EVER.

Ruizpies

8 Jul

I am in Greece! As promised, I am now putting up Richard Ruiz’s months-ago picture of the pie he made. This appears to be some kind of roll with rhubarb filling…

Credit: Ruiz.

ALSO I will soon write about tiropitas and all that delicious Greekness!

Catch-up

20 Jun

Gah, no posts! I was lazy, then busy, then I got shingles and pretty much every activity left me exhausted. I’m working on some things now, but in the meantime I have TWO Londontopias and one OW for you.

Londontopia: Disability in the City and The NHS

Orientalist Whore: First Travels

Also, the NYT Magazine had a review of a Connecticut pie shop, but it was only about sweet pies! The shame! Anyway, if you’re in Connecticut apparently you should head to Flour Garden Bakery this summer.

Double Event!

14 May

Hello, pieists! Apologies for the delay. I had 10,000 words to write and chemistry problems to solve and et lag to get over. But in return for your patience you get a DOUBLE EPISODE. A double event, one may say, to borrow the term from Ripperology. Two pies, one post.

The near-absence of pies on my travels (save Lee’s eponymous pie) was redeemed by my cooking an entire dinner centered around a Greek pie. My granny, an avid follower of this blog, came to visit Atlanta and requested a pie. Having pretty much never had the opportunity to cook for her, I decided to make a Greek extravaganza. (Note that my family is not, in fact, Greek. I just wish we were.) I decided on the Greek Vegetable Pie as it’s a guaranteed winner, a Greek salad, and a reprisal of my Greek chicken.

First the pie: I guess I’ve already written about it, but just to remind you, it has sautéed zucchini and onions stewed with tomatoes and finished with feta. The only spices are s+p and oregano.

The salad: first off, a Greek salad should NEVER have lettuce. If your Greek salad has lettuce, something has gone terribly wrong in the mind of the chef. Lettuce never appears in Greek food. A proper Greek salad at its simplest contains coarsely chopped cucumbers and tomatoes with cubes of marinated feta. Optionally, you can drizzle a little bit of olive oil on the top or add in some kalamata olives. The salad I made for this pie night was a little sad as I forgot to marinate the feta (in a mix of good olive oil and oregano), but it was also hindered by the feta being low-fat. Listen: low-fat feta is great in cooking. It keeps the feta taste and appearance while cutting the fat by about 800 calories (just a rough estimate). But in a salad, where the raw ingredients contribute their unmixed flavors, low-fat feta is a killer. It’s dry, hard, and has a quarter of the taste. Fortunately, though, I am a pie-maker and not a salad-maker, so it wasn’t a huge deal.

The chicken: this is pretty much the simplest chicken recipe known to man. First, whisk together olive oil and honey in a baking pan. Honey is an amazing product: it may solidify over time, but it never goes off. According to legend, Alexander the Great’s body was preserved in honey for 300 years. If one was talking about formaldehyde, which also preserves bodies, one might ask whether it was safe to eat; fortunately, honey is an amazing natural product with numerous health benefits that just happens to also preserve bodies! A recent study in Connecticut came to the conclusion that eating local honey doesn’t decrease allergies, but it’s still worth a shot. It’s the lowest-fat, lowest-calorie natural sweetener. It comes in more varieties, flavors, and textures than other sweeteners, can be produced locally pretty much anywhere (including the roofs of urban buildings), and is just all-around awesome. I just bought some acacia honey from Sardinia at a festival this weekend with a thick, grainy texture and a crazy fruity taste. Once you try real honey, you can never go back to the bear. Anyway, the honey I used for the chicken came from the Friday food market in my neighborhood in Athens two years ago. Once the oil and honey are blended, add the juice of 1 lemon and oregano (or a Greek spice mix if you have – this will generally contain rosemary, ground olives, and more oregano). Roll the chicken around in some s+p and then rub the sauce all over it. Slice the used lemon and lay the slices decoratively on top of the chicken pieces. (Oh yeah, I use chicken breasts and thighs, but you can do this with a whole chicken – just stuff lemons inside it!) Cover and stick it in the oven (200 C). In the meantime, caramelize some thin-cut onions. When the chicken has been cooking for about half an hour, put the onions on top and cook for another 10 minutes.

This was so delicious I can not even tell you. You just have to try it.

Now, on to the second. This Sunday I went to the Real Food Festival at Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre (which I will write about later). I am pleased to say that I have never had more free samples of cheese in my life; it was wondrous. The best by far was the original type from a small Welsh creamery called Bleanaefon (pronounced Blen-AYVon). I tasted this cheese and pretty much started dancing with joy. Literally. I was jumping around and waving my hands (when they weren’t reaching for more cheese). I decided to buy the cheese and include it in my pie: a Welsh cheese pie!

I got home from the festival and promptly googled “traditional Welsh food” and discovered that Wales, once famous for nothing but sheep, is experiencing a culinary renaissance, part of the back-to-the-farm movement. Cider is apparently huge, and recent cider popularity has increased interest in traditional brewing methods and heritage apple varietals. Pork is big, but so are heritage breeds of sheep, which look amazingly picturesque wandering around the countryside. Root vegetables of all types have always been popular. The NYT even had a feature on luxury camping in Wales where you can stay in an old caravan or on a farm and eat in Michelin-starred country restaurants. I hopped off to TPS and bought a variety of root vegetables and a boatload of parsley.

The veg: turnip, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potato, purple cabbage

The spice: s+p, parsley

The rest: cheese, milk, pastry

The method: Peel and chop the root vegetables and boil til edible. Chop and boil the cabbage separately. Drain and put into a large mixing bowl; roughly mash, then add in the cabbage. Add in about half a cup of milk and, well, as much cheese as you like. Season with s+p and about a handful of parsley. Cover with pastry and bake til the pastry is done.

This pie night was so successful! 8 people showed up, and we had lots of additional food. Anna made pizzas, Katy brought dessert fruit, Ben made gluten-free pastry and covered the little pies beautifully, and Laura J brought wine (and her new bf!) and potatoes (both were very helpful in the kitchen!) I also made cheesy bread (one could call it Welsh rarebit, but it wasn’t really) and potato scones, which are basically mashed potatoes made into little patties and roasted. Everything was delicious!

Londontopia

11 May

A post on the royal wedding.

I won’t say if I bought one (ahem), but there are limited-edition Royal Wedding Oyster cards available at every tube station.

Woohoo!

30 Apr

Just found out that Pie Night shows up in google searches! Super exciting. I promise, more about pies is coming as soon as I finish this essay on nasal variations and sinusitis…

Londontopia: More Pubs

27 Apr

Basically the same post as before, but with more links!

Pubs in America; Or, Trying Too Hard

24 Apr

I think pubs are one of those essentially British (or Scottish/Irish/Welsh) traditions that entirely resist exportation. There’s just something about the age, the atmosphere, the patrons, the whole package – that  just can’t be replicated, although there are some good attempts. And some poor attempts.

One problem I see is that our culture values “authenticity”. In my opinion, Ciao Bella is a much better restaurant than Spaghetti House because it is a more accurate representation of Italian cuisine (Anna P agrees). Recipes are always believed to be better when it came from someone’s grandmother. Everyone likes to eat in an Asian restaurant that has real Asians in it. I could go into a lot more anthropological detail than this, but it’s late at night and you get the point. We like our food to be authentic. Just like everybody knows that Taco Bell isn’t real Mexican or Johnny Rockets isn’t really what the 1950s were like, everyone recognizes that pubs in the US aren’t really British.

Pubs in the US are really restaurants that serve beer on tap. They try to cultivate the atmosphere with wood paneling and beam ceilings, but they sort of miss the point: pubs are all about the booze and the company, and food is sort of an afterthought. America really replicates this with the sports bar, or something like Cheers – a little neighborhood bar where people just hang out. Maybe it’s been there since the 80s, or maybe since the 20s. They serve food (but mostly beer), generally things like nachos and fries and hot dogs. And they’re all about an activity: watching sports and hanging out with your pals and some beer.

Think of the word “pub”. It brings up images of old men in tweed suits, an old wooden bar, maybe a shady sheep deal going on in the corner. Perhaps there’s a roaring fire. An elderly man serves cool beer from the taps and his wife brings up a fresh-baked pie. You feel cozy, comforted, full, welcomed. Well, this is the ideal pub that you might encounter somewhere in the countryside. The closest I’ve found to this might be the Lamb or the Seven Stars, but it’s definitely not a Wetherspoon’s. They all have elements of this, and enough of them have enough atmosphere to make them “authentic”. But here’s the rub: it’s really, really hard to export authenticity. I think Greek restaurants do it best, followed by Italian restaurants owned by Italians, and then something like a fancy Beijing cuisine restaurant decorated with actual Chinese furniture. But others hardly come close to that feeling. Pubs try as hard as they can but never quite cut it. Item one: Booths. Where do they get the idea that pubs have booths? Pubs should uniformly have mismatched chairs. Every American pub I’ve been to has booths; this is wrong, as booths are an item of Americana commonly found in chain restaurants. And a real pub, even if it is a chain, never wants to act like a chain.

Case in point: Firkin and Pheasant, a pan-British pub on the north side of Chicago. Last time I was there, every seat was a booth. Every one.

Item two: the service. While British pubs are friendly in the British-polite way, American pubs are American-friendly. This means great big smiles, how-can-I-help-you-today, would-you-like-a-refill-on-that? British pubs (except for a couple gastropubs I’ve been to, but not all gastropubs) generally have counter service whereas Americans have table service. Again, this is because American pubs are really restaurants. You come in, take a table, order, pay and leave. In British pubs, your friends scramble for a table while you hold a place in the bar queue. Then you retreat to your table and stay there for as long as possible, perhaps until closing time. Then you move on to another pub.

Case in point: Cullen’s in Chicago’s Lakeview. They seem to have rebranded themselves as a “Bar & Grill” since I last went, but it definitely used to call itself an Irish pub. The service there is so friendly you just want to tip them more. They’re really great. And also really quick. They have you in and out so you can head off to the theater next door or the bar across the street. It’s very dear. People come for the stew, I believe, not the Irish beers on tap.

Item three (the big one): they are all so caught up in making themselves authentic that they kind of miss the point. Recently, I went to a self-proclaimed “Irish pub” in Minneapolis with a bunch of Brits. The Local is obsessed with being Irish. Outside, they hung an Irish flag; they name a majority of their mixed drinks after some piece of Irish culture, such as the “Irish Wolfhound” and the “Emerald Cooler”. Here’s a clip from their website:

Founded on December 17th, 1997, The Local celebrates over a dozen years of enduring loyalty and adoration for its many offerings, from an 80-foot bar featuring a hand-carved back bar, numerous nooks and crannies for exchanging secrets, and ample space in the Whiskey Lounge for telling flat-out lies. Celebrate the highs and the lows in our Boardroom, Kissing Room and private event rooms, The Hollow, The Sanctuary and The Choir.

Root for the home team (a long way from home) in this large feeling, larger than life welcoming, joke telling, story creating, song singing (Being Irish ourselves, Irish lads need not apply), how’s-your-father asking place to make time stop. If you want to relax, it’s the grounded beauty on the other side of the bar you might try, where we offer a high dome, a sixteen foot high focal point, short snugs with tall ceilings, and cut glass reflecting the lighting of another era.

Our doors welcome you into the old world. In contrast with reputations in the lore of the Irish, our food is high priority. Fish & Chips, the classics and more than a few ringers for the worldly eaters. The craic is good. There’s always something to watch, even when the rugby isn’t on the screen. Come find a corner of the bar to lean up against, a snug to gather friends inside, or a lovely pub table to watch the world go by as you imbibe the finest pour.

It advertises another pub on an “Our Friends” page as offering “an original Irish experience”. I just want to know why Ireland feels so much like Minneapolis. The waiters (table service) were friendly, nobody ordered drinks, nobody was at the bar despite it being lunch hour, we were secluded in a quiet room away from other patrons, and at the end we tipped like 20%. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Cork anymore. I was not even assuaged by the fact that it’s owned by Irish people – it no longer matters. It’s American now. Also – the whole point of writing this – my chicken pot pie was covered in mashed potatoes! Don’t they know that’s what you do with a cottage pie??? I would have been better off with the bison burger. It was an ok pie, I’ll give them that. But it wasn’t a British pie. It was as if I’d gone through the looking glass into a Disneyfied version of Britain, or maybe Wee Britain in Arrested Development.

Anyway, if you want real pubs, you’ll know where to find me.

Londontopia: The Post

24 Apr

A post on the post.

Londontopia: My Vacation

17 Apr

And another, this time on my travels home.

In the news…

15 Apr

To tide you over until I can cook again, I decided to look up some pie news. Earlier this week, Andre-Joseph Leonard, archbishop of Brussels, was hit in the face with a pie by a group of “pro-gay” (read: anti-discrimination) protesters. He is not pressing charges. The video of the incident is on youtube; apparently this has happened before (skip to 0:35)!

Second, I found this picture of tonight’s Yankees-Orioles game.

Image credit Kathy Willens (AP)

I don’t follow baseball, so I have no idea what’s going on. Seriously. This news story made no sense to me. They appear to have won, and this dude still got pied in this face.

Londontopia: In the Movies

15 Apr

Sorry again for not posting anything, but I’ve been attending conferences in Sacramento and Minneapolis, both of which seem to be pie-free. (They do have some British-themed “pubs” though, but I heard from a quality reviewer that Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis is not to be trusted.)

Anyway, here’s the latest post as well as the next-most recent one (which I forgot to post earlier).

Also, I just won a “walk with the lemurs” tour. I am so excited. This conference is so awesome.