Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ralph and I Bulk Up

This is Ralph at the self-service counter. Usually he either curls up beside his dish and quietly stares at me until I put some kibble in the bowl -- or he walks all over me at o'dark-thirty in the wee hours. Occasionally he decides to serve himself, working on the theory that you have to do it yourself if you want it done right.

I do try to limit his portions in an effort to limit his proportions but Ralph insists on maintaining himself at about 20 pounds. Okay, we can live with that. It doesn't seem to slow him up any or give him any difficulty when jumping up or down so maybe a little chubby is okay for His Fluffiness. I just don't want him headed for the dimensions of that 44-pound cat on the news today. If you'd like to see Princess Chunk, go here. I certainly wouldn't want her to give me a walk-over wake-up call!

Speaking of food, if you click on Jo's Journal over in the sidebar, you'll see she's been making lots of apple pies. Gorgeous apple pies. Which made me really hungry for an apple pie of my own -- except I didn't have any apples on hand. But I do have plenty of chicken and there's certainly nothing wrong with a savory pie. Besides, I wanted to try the Cook's Illustrated vodka crust and the only vodka I have is ginger-flavored. My thought was the ginger would better compliment savory than sweet. As it turned out, there was no ginger taste to the finished crust so it wouldn't have mattered. Other sources say you can use any liquor to make this crust. Vodka was the choice for the original because of its neutral flavor. Go here for the recipe if you feel like giving the booze crust a shot. (No pun intended but, heh, heh.)

As for the filling, I wasn't in the mood for the pot pie version with peas and carrots and gravy. So I Googled around and found lots of terrific recipes, mostly South American or Spanish or Greek, that called for raisins to accent the savory content. I rarely use raisins anymore. It's dried cranberries all the way for me. They're certainly excellent with the chicken.

The filling I settled on was from a Greek recipe, calling for a sweet onion, diced and sauteed in olive oil, along with 1/4 cup of uncooked long grain rice. Toss the onion-rice mixture into a bowl and add chopped cooked chicken -- I think I had between 1 1/2 - 2 cups each of onion and chicken -- a little bit of nutmeg and cinnamon and salt and pepper and 1/2 cup of dried cranberries. Then beat 2 eggs and stir well into the mixture. Fill an unbaked pie shell, cover with top crust, vent crust and bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

Okay, this is the finished pie. And the crust is tender and flaky -- but not as flaky as it might have been had I used shortening instead of olive oil. It's just that there was so much butter in the recipe, I decided the olive oil would be healthier than the shortening. I even stuck it in the freezer awhile, along with the vodka and water, to get so cold it was like thick honey. Still, the oil makes more of a tender shortbread effect than a flaky one.

I was kicking myself for forgetting to put shredded cheese in the filling but, as it turns out, the pie reheats beautifully whilst a slab of cheese melts quite nicely on top. Whilst. You don't often get to use that word.

My opinion on the crust? Allowing for the fact that I altered CI's recipe a bit, I think the crust was very good but too rich for my preference. Too much butter for me. But I might experiment with the vodka in other crust recipes that aren't so butter-rich. Gotta use up that darned ginger-flavored stuff somehow. I guaran-damn-tee ya, I ain't gonna drink it.


Jo said...

Ah, I have inspired you for once instead of you inspiring me, :-).

Wendy said...

Dee, being a nosy boots, what possessed you to get the darned stuff initially? (She says, fishing for another recipe.)

Dee said...

Right on, Jo! You can inspire me any old time.

Wendy, I honestly don't remember what I was thinking when I got the ginger vodka. I should have known better because I didn't like the citrus rum either. (sigh) Some things just shouldn't be messed with, I guess.

John Bailey said...

There's a fiery ginger liquer(sp?) I tried once and found to be pretty good but I'd be deeply suspicious of strongly flavoured vodka, wondering if perhaps they weren't trying to cover an industrial odour!

Love the crust on that pie, Dee... :-)

Bonnie said...

Got a real giggle out of Ralph. Maybe we should put Chan's bag down and teach him to use it so I could sleep in the o'God hundred hours.

btw he also plays around in that litter and scatters it hither and yon.

Dee said...

Flavored vodkas and rums seem to be a fad this last couple of years or so, John. One I will no longer indulge, even out of curiosity. It isn't that a given flavor is necessarily objectionable, just restrictive. For instance, vanilla flavored vodka might be good in cocoa or coffee but ginger flavored?

Bonnie, the litter will fly about. Ralph scatters it, too. I think it's simply that the wood flakes are so light. Easy to sweep up, though.