Monthly Archives: December 2013


Merry Christmas

I’ve taken a brief hiatus from the blog. Between wacky work obligations and my husband coming down with what Dr. Mom here thinks was the flu (no, he never actually made it to the doctor), there just hasn’t been much actual cooking in the Matlack household. Although I did manage to squeak out a couple of loaves of bread:


No worries — I hope to rekindle my relationship with my kitchen very soon, and until then, Merry Christmas!!



A little holiday cheer!

This little sweetie was born out of a summer competition. Some friends of ours down at The Shack were hosting a summer potluck on the beach. Their German guests were to leave soon, so we were all asked to bring a German dish. There would be voting. And prizes. Since I’m rarely one to turn down a challenge, I knew the game was ON. My favorite German delight is Black Forest Cake — hardly a beach-friendly summer dessert! So instead, I decided to make a drinkable version, in the form of a shooter. By the way, I won third place.

So these same friends had given me some chocolate vodka, so I was covered for that flavor. I had Chambord (stand-in for cherry). I acquired Whipped vodka. And used some Bailey’s with Hazelnut for some body. Add a maraschino cherry and you have the liquid Black Forest Cake, right?

SAMSUNGBlack Forest Cake Shooters
Serves 2

1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) chocolate vodka
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) whipped vodka
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) Chambord
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) Bailey’s with hazelnut
2 maraschino cherries

Put the vodkas and liqueurs in a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice. Shake vigorously for at least 10 seconds until the cocktail shaker is icy. Strain into your shooter glass. Garnish with a cherry on the rim.


The party version: pour equal amounts of each vodka and liqueur into a large pitcher (1 cup each makes ~24 to 32 shooters). Refrigerate until well chilled. Put a maraschino cherry in a disposable plastic shooter or condiment cup. Pour the chilled shooter concoction over the cherry. Keep in mind, this wasn’t diluted by ice, like the shaker version, so it’s a bit stronger. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. This makes a nice Welcome to your holiday parties!


Conquering the Crust

A good pie crust is more than just a vehicle to get the filling to your mouth. A good pie crust has flavor and flaky layers, and is tender but still snaps. My mother makes a fine pie crust. My grandmothers made very fine crusts. Me? Not so much. Until recently, I bought my crusts. Every few years, I gave ’em another try. All were sad disappointments. Tough. No layers. No flavor. I have tried shortening, butter, a combo, even oil (Mom uses oil with great success). I used a pastry cutter, two butter knives, my fingers. I overworked it. I rolled it too thick. I gave up.

So with the start of this blog, shame finally drove me to the pie crust again. I read ALOT. I watched Ina Gartner and America’s Test Kitchen and asked around. I took a cooking class where the dessert was a tart crust. I kept coming back to “DON’T TOUCH IT TOO MUCH” and “KEEP IT COLD” … over and over and over. The key equipment seemed to be a food processor. I didn’t have a full-size one, I don’t have the space to store one, but if I was ever going to conquer pie crusts, I felt I had to give it one more try. So I bought myself a basic Cuisinart food processor.

My first attempt was with an all-butter crust (from Cutie Pies by Dani Cone). I found I needed far less water than the printed recipe called for, but by carefully following the **technique**, I produced one FINE pie crust. Me! A pie crust! And I did it again and again!

Buoyed by my initial successes, I tweaked the recipe a bit, replacing some of the butter with lard. Yes, lard. Fruit of the pig. Properly rendered lard is as neutral in flavor as vegetable shortening, but none of that trans-crap. Lard truly elevates this crust from delicious to sublime. The lightness and flakiness and layers upon layers … I tell you, the lard really makes it. So I share with you, today, my pie crust.

Pie Crust
Makes 1 double-crust 9″ pie or 2 single-crust 9″ pies
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup lard
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1/2 cup ice water

Put the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse 2 or 3 times to combine. Put the lard and butter cubes on top of the flour.


Pulse just a few times until the fats are distributed into flour-coated pea-sized globs. This might be as little as 10 pulses.


Pour the iced water through the narrow feed tube and pulse just until it’s through the tube and the mixture looks like wet sand. This might be just 10 pulses.


Reach in and grab a small amount. Squeeze. Does it stick together like play-doh? If so — you are done!! If dry, add water just a teaspoon at a time, with a minimum of pulses, to get to this wet-sand-squeezable state.


Dump the contents onto your floured countertop. Divide in half. Shape each half into a disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap (or a zippered bag) and refrigerate for AT LEAST an hour and up to 3 days. Freeze if it’s going to be around longer than that.


When ready to roll, let it set out just a few minutes (no more than 10). Lard is softer at refrigerator temp than butter, so it can’t sit around long. On a lightly floured countertop, roll out your patty to about a 12″ circle about 1/4″ thick. I like to put my rolling pin in the center, roll away from me. Pick up the pin and place back in the center, roll towards me. Rotate the patty about a quarter-turn, and repeat. The larded crust is a little more fragile than an all-butter, so you may get a little tearing towards the edges. Patch it. Who cares. This pie crust ROCKS.



A Seasonal Sangria

So I’m back from Florida and it is COLD. I’m a wimp, I know. But a week ago, I was snorkeling in the Gulf. In November! I got a sunburn! I slept with the windows open! I am NOT a winter person! The husband vetoed my suggestion that I telecommute from Florida this winter. **sigh**

So on my return weekend, I threw together an Indian-inspired lamb stew. I guess the CGP was in the mood for lamb, because three hefty shoulder steaks were waiting in the fridge when I returned (he came back a few days before me). But this was just the thing to let simmer on the stove for a couple of hours for supplemental heat :). The curry powder I used had a little spice to it, so I knew I needed an accompaniment with some body — hence a sangria rather than a wine. A basic white or prosecco would have been lost against this gamey, seasoned stew, and a red wine just wouldn’t have been thirst-quenching. So I reached into the larder and threw this one together — no complaints from you-know-who.

Seasonal Sangria
Serves 4

SAMSUNG1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
5 peppercorns

1 medium apple, cored and chopped
1/4 cup fresh cranberries (heaping)
1/4 cup apple jack
2 tablespoons ginger liqueur
1 bottle dry white wine, chilled
1 can ginger ale, chilled

Prepare your spiced syrup: Boil the water in a 2-cup pyrex cup in the microwave. Add the sugar carefully and stir to dissolve. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, and peppercorns and let cool to room temperature. Remove the cloves and peppercorns. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Put the apples and cranberries in a large pitcher. Add the applejack, ginger liqueur, and 1/4 cup of the spiced syrup. Throw that cinnamon stick in too. Let the fruit marinate for an hour or two. If your kitchen is cool — the countertop should be fine. If you are still wearing shorts, you should probably refrigerate it.


Just before serving, add the chilled white wine and the chilled ginger ale. Stir gently. Serve over ice, garnished with an apple chunk and a cinnamon stick. Try to keep the cranberries in the pitcher — they impart a bit of tartness but are mostly there for color. They are pretty much indigestable, even after the brandy marinade.




Applejack: Laird’s Applejack is a blend of apple brandy and neutral spirits. It is less expensive than 100% apple brandy but still retains the apple essence. You could substitute another brandy for the applejack.

Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur: I adore this! It is absolutely killer in hot chocolate. If you didn’t want to buy this, add some ginger slices with the cinnamon and spices in the syrup. Discard along with the cloves and peppercorns. Additional brandy optional :)


What to do with the cranberries in the bottom of the pitcher at the end? Dump them in a saucepan with the rest of the bag of cranberries, the rest of the spiced syrup, the cinnamon stick, and some extra sugar. A bit of water too. Heat over medium until the berries start to pop. Taste for balance — add a little lime juice if too sweet. Any apple chunks left? Throw them in too. Their natural pectin will help the cranberry sauce set up a little firmer.