Sour Cream Raisin Pie

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Right before my 10th grade school year, our family moved from New York to Utah. At that time I don’t think I could have located Utah on a map, although geography has never been one of my strengths.

Salt Lake City was quite different to me, in so many ways. Regarding the food scene, well, there was none. Not that I was a modern foodie in 1970, but my mother certainly was.

There was no Chinatown, no German deli, not even a cheese shop. In fact, Salt Lake City remained in the culinary dead zone for a long time, until nearby ski resorts like Park City, where we lived, became popular to the world.

After graduating high school, I moved west for college, but when I went home for visits, there was one restaurant that my mother and I would lunch at when we shopped in Salt Lake City – it was our only choice – Marie Callender’s.

Because of having been raised and fed by my mother, who was a chef in her own right, I wasn’t a burger and sandwich eater. But there were a few things on the Marie Callender’s menu that I liked, especially the wilted bacon salad. Plus I always had sour cream raisin pie for dessert.

I remember it well – the creamy filling with the soft raisins and the meringue on top. And even back then I wasn’t much of a dessert eater.

So recently I was shocked to come across a sour cream raisin pie whilst browsing on Epicurious.com. It’s funny how food-related memories come rushing back.

I decided to go online and check the spelling of Marie Callender for the sake of this post, and discovered that her restaurants are still around. Sadly, neither my wilted bacon salad nor this pie is on their menu anymore.

But there is an interesting story about Marie Callender, who was a real person and a pie baker from California. I never thought about Marie possibly being a real person.

These days, if I were to pass by a Marie Callender’s restaurant, I’d turn my head and give a little chortle. Sorry Ms Callender. It’s just not my type of restaurant. But back in the days when I had no other choice, Ms. Callender satisfied my gastronomic needs.

I’m making this pie in her honor. Below, a young and older Marie Callender.

Here’s a sour cream raisin pie recipe, from Epicurious.com.

Sour Cream Raisin Pie
printable recipe below

1 cup raisins
Pastry dough
Pie weights
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a bowl soak raisins in water to cover by 2 inches at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Drain raisins in a sieve. I also let them “dry” a bit on paper towels.


On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out dough into a 14-inch round (about 1/8″ thick) and fit into a 9-inch glass pie plate.

Trim dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, and crimp edge decoratively. Chill shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly prick bottom of shell all over with a fork and line shell with foil. Fill foil with pie weights and bake shell in middle of oven for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove foil and weights and bake shell until golden, about 8 minutes more. Cool shell in pan on a rack.

Reduce temperature to 400 degrees F.

Separate eggs. Chill whites until ready to use.

In a bowl whisk together yolks and sour cream and whisk in 1/2 cup sugar, flour, vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and raisins. Pour filling into shell and bake in middle of oven for 10 minutes.d


Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake pie 30-40 minutes more, or until filling is set.

Remove pie from the oven but keep temperature at 350 degrees F.

In another bowl with an electric mixer beat whites until they just hold soft peaks.

Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until meringue just holds stiff peaks.

Spread meringue over warm pie, covering filling completely and making sure meringue touches shell all the way around.

Bake pie in middle of oven until meringue is golden, about 10 minutes. Cool pie on rack and serve at room temperature.

This is absolutely wonderful.

I had a piece of warm pie, but it was a bit too wobbly,

So I let the pie come to room temperature.

It was magnificent, and so much like what I remember. The only negative might be the amount of sugar. If I make this pie again, I would only add 1/2 cup of sugar to the pie filling.

Keep in mind how lovely this pie would be during the holidays, made with dried cranberries!

 

 

Roasted Fruit Packages

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The sub header of my creatively named blog, the Chef Mimi blog, is “so much food, so little time”. I could have easily made it, “so many restaurants, so little time.”

Dining out may be my favorite thing to do. Like it’s my serious hobby. Whenever we have a travel destination, I’m researching top ten restaurants, new restaurant openings, best new chefs, and working online at open table.com for reservations.

Of course this is more challenging in major cities like New York. I’ve tried to get us in to ABC kitchen 5 times with no luck. And I start early.

One restaurant that has always been on my NYC list is Buvette – so much so that I bought the cookbook “Buvette – The Pleasure of Good Food” by Jody Williams, who is the chef and owner.

The restaurant, considered a gastrothèque, opened in 2010 and has received many accolades. Before opening Buvette, Jody Williams worked with such culinary notables as Thomas Keller and Lidia Bastianich.

When I first received the cookbook from Amazon, I bookmarked quite a few intriguing recipes, but one really called to me – Fruit in Parchment Paper.

For the recipe, Ms. Williams oven-roasts fresh and dried fruits in squares of parchment paper, much as how one would prepare fish. She serves the packages of fruit with cheese as an “unexpected alternative to the ubiquitous cluster of grapes that seem to accompany every cheese platter in the world!”

Except for serving a compote, a chutney, or aigre doux of fruit, I have never served roasted fruit as a cheese platter accompaniment. So needless to say I was excited. And being that it’s early summer, I have access to a good variety of fresh fruit.

Ms. Williams suggests mixing up the fruit to suit your taste. She suggests the combination of pumpkin, apples and dates. I’m saving that for next fall.

Fruit in Parchment Paper

2 tables of dried currants (I used dried sour cherries)
1/2 cup vin santo* (I used Sauternes)
1 apple peeled cored and thinly sliced
1 quince peeled cored and thinly sliced (I used plums)
2 tablespoons honey
A pinch of coarse salt
1/4 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl soak the currants in the vin santo for at least 10 minutes. Once they’re a bit softened, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.



Meanwhile cut out four 8″ squares of parchment paper. Evenly divide the mixture among the squares. Bring the edges of each square together and fold them over each other creating a continuous seal. ( I had parchment bags that I used.)

Place the four packages on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until the fruit smells fragrant and the paper is browned, about 15 minutes.

I almost made my smoke alarm go off roasting the fruits; so much of the syrup leaked through the bags and began smoking.

I paired the fruit with Mimolette, a smoked Raclette, and Saint-Félicien, along with some bread.


If you’ve never had Saint-Félicien, you need to get some. It’s mild, a little salty, and oh so creamy. It paired especially well with the fruit.


The fruit was also perfect for a torchon of foie gras I served that evening when friends came over (not pictured).

I understand that the parchment packages help steam-cook the fruits, but honestly they ended up being terribly messy.

In the future, I will place the fruit mixture in a large gratin pan, and roast at 375 degrees, maybe stirring once. That way, you don’t lose the syrup, and the fruit will still be cooked but also a bit more caramelized.


* Ms. Williams states that Banyuls, Port, or Sauternes can be substituted for the wine.

I’m already thinking of new fruit combinations…
Cherries apples dried apricots
Pears grapes dates
Peaches apples figs
And so forth

note: When I make this again, I will also chop the fruit. I think the smaller pieces will be easier to place on breads and crackers.

Pesto Ranch Dip

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I’ve written before about what a purist I am in the way that I make most everything from scratch. It doesn’t matter if it’s barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, you name it. I just can’t do it any other way.

Sure, a lot of those products are real time savers. But they’re also horrible. Or, should I say, that home-made is always better. Plus you don’t have to include the uncessary salt, sugar, fake colors and preservatives.

During the summer months especially, I eat a salad every day. I typically use a good vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil on them – that’s it. Or, I use a vinaigrette that I’ve made ahead of time.

A few years ago, we were at a local restaurant with our daughter and son-in-law. I ordered a Cobb salad for my meal, and with it Ranch dressing. If you haven’t heard of Ranch dressing, then you’ve probably never lived in the U.S.
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My son-in-law kidded me about ordering such an “American” dressing. So I threatened him. Nicely. Something like, “If you tell anyone I ordered Ranch dressing I’ll have you killed.”

But to this day, at most restaurants, and for basic salads, I ask for Ranch dressing. I’ll tell you why. (And I still threaten folks if they tease me about it.)

1. Italian dressing, which is supposed to be oil and vinegar, is disgusting at restaurants. It’s not typically made in the restaurant kitchen. It’s a Kraft product, somewhat gloppy, overly sweet, with little unidentifiable bits in it.
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2. If you ask for oil and vinegar for your salad you will simply get stared at by nincompoop waiters.

3. If a “specialty” salad, say an Asian salad, is offered with a dressing, it is usually so disgustingly sweet that I can hardly eat the salad. I’ve learned that if the menu states “sweet chili lime dressing,” it basically means simple syrup. I wish I was kidding but I’m not.

So, that’s why I order Ranch dressing. At least I know what I’m getting. It’s not healthy, but it has its merits in the taste department.

Last week while grocery shopping, I happened to spot Ranch dressing. I quickly checked to see if I knew anyone near me, then I stuck the bottle of dressing under bags of produce. I actually purchased Ranch dressing for the first time in my life.

Flash forward to a recent impromptu evening with friends. I got out my usual hors d’oeuvres – cheeses, crackers and fruit.

Then I spotted a slab of bread cheese that I hadn’t needed for salad I’d made the week before and decided to grill the bread cheese at the last minute for a fun change.

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For a quick dip, I used freshly-made pesto, along with, yes, some Ranch dressing. The dip turned out so good I thought I’d share it with you. Here’s what I did.

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Pesto Ranch Dip

2 heaping tablespoons prepared basil pesto
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/3 cup Ranch dressing
Olive oil
Approximately 10 ounces Halloumi or bread cheese, cut into 16 or so pieces
Fresh pepper

Place the pesto and lime juice in a small blender and process until smooth. Then add the Ranch dressing; set aside.

Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the pieces of cheese and cook until browned on both sides. Place them on a serving platter and sprinkle them with pepper. Continue with the remaining pieces.

Pour the pesto ranch dip into a small bowl and serve with the warm cheese.

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Dip away!

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I realize that this isn’t much of a recipe, nor is it that creative, but this dip is so good with the bread cheese. See what you think!

And if you’re even more stubborn than I am, substitute sour cream, heavy cream, or creme fraiche for the Ranch dressing!

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Pet Peeve

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If you were dining with me at a restaurant and asked me what I thought about my meal, my response might be like this:

“Well the bulk of the salad which is grains and tomatoes is ice cold, which I don’t like, and the grilled chicken is overcooked and dry. The avocados are brown and I can’t even find the feta cheese. The balsamic vinaigrette is completely overpowering, and the salad should be served at room temperature.”

(These words were actually spoken by me when my husband and I were having lunch out of town.)

And then I would see your eyes roll back into your head because you would think I was a negative Nancy and overcritical of food.

I am neither of these things, but I take dining out seriously. Where I live, I don’t go out for great food, although there is some to be had, I usually just want a break from my kitchen, and often meet up with friends.

I am critical, because I think all restaurants should have consistent, quality standards. I wish I could always give high praise, honestly. I mean, who wants badly cooked food?

Sometimes my husband complains as much as I do, because even though he doesn’t cook, he does know properly-cooked and seasonal food. So, here is his comment at dinner on that same day when we were out of town:

“Well they managed to overcook the steak. At best it’s medium, not medium-rare, and under seasoned. The vegetables aren’t roasted at all, they are just calling them roasted because they’re on a skewer, and they’re raw. And, the risotto is just a thick blob of tasteless rice.”

But my pet peeve goes beyond criticizing my restaurant meals, if criticism is necessary. It’s about the MENUS at these restaurants.

Menus serve a purpose. At least, they should. They should inform about the dish, whether an appetizer, entrée, or side dish. They should also be seasonally oriented. I don’t expect a restaurant to change menus daily, just make sure they’re seasonal. A strawberry salad on a menu when it’s January makes me nuts.

On a menu, a dish should be described much like you’d describe a recipe. The major ingredients listed first, followed by anything significant. And that dish should be under a clear heading of Salad, or Appetizer, so you know what category of dish it is.

So as I mentioned, my husband and I were out of town and excited to have a few great meals. We typically make travel plans around restaurant reservations.

At lunch, the same lunch where I had the awful cold salad, Hubs chose the chicken strudel, as you can see in the photo below, under SMALL PLATES (which means many different things to different restaurants):
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When this dish was served to my husband, he nearly passed out. The whole strudel was absolutely smothered with balsamic vinegar, which clearly isn’t listed in the menu description.

He hates vinegar, and he could hardly find any piece of chicken that wasn’t brown from the vinegar. I felt really bad, and was too shocked to document this with my iPhone.

There was too much vinegar for me, even, and I’m a vinegar lover. And why would balsamic vinegar be poured over a dish that is clearly a Southwestern dish?

Furthermore, this was no strudel, which implies layers. The chef could have layered thin slices of chicken, green chiles, Monterey jack within crisped phyllo rectangles, perhaps drizzled with a tomatillo sauce. That could be called a Southwestern-inspired strudel.

Also, this small plate could have fed four people, and looked very unappealing because it resembled a regurgitated casserole. If this dish had been written as below, my husband wouldn’t have ordered it.

SMALL PLATE
Casserole of Chunky Dry Chicken With a few Green Chiles and a bit of Monterey Jack Cheese, topped with a Heavy Drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar

Of course I spoke to the waiter. He didn’t know that balsamic vinegar was an Italian ingredient, and that this dish was obviously Southwestern-inspired. He also wasn’t aware that the balsamic vinegar wasn’t in the menu description. He talked to the chef who simply said, “No one has ever complained before.”

We’ve been lucky enough to travel and dine at high-end establishments, although these are not always my favorites at which to dine. Some of these restaurants are known for their famous chefs, like Erip Ripert, Joel Robuchon, Daniel Boulud, and so forth. But these restaurants have been about perfection. Of course, they should be.

I understand that in the competitive world of restauranteuring, some restaurant owners and chefs feel the need to stand out in some way – sometimes the decor, the dinnerware, a crazy drink menu, something. But there is one thing I’ve noticed at some restaurants: quirky, word-light menus.

For example, this does nothing for me on a menu than piss me off:

Pig, Arugula, Oregano

What? At least highly-rated restaurants typically have knowledgeable servers, but I’d prefer to read a menu, not listen to a list of dishes, because by the end of the descriptions, I’ve already forgotten the details about the first few dishes.

And typos on menus also make me crazy. Like this one:
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I don’t think Francios is a French name, and anyone with half a brain should have caught that typo. Plus, it should be François. Restaurants that serve imported wines should be able to type the names correctly, no matter what the language.

And servers who can’t pronounce anything, or help decipher improperly described menu items drive me crazy as well. That’s another post… Thanks for bearing with me!