Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rocky Mountain High Meyer Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

I love days like this.  Snow on the mountains, Sunshine and two cases of Meyer lemons.

I've lived in Colorado for almost 14 years and I still pause each time I see the Colorado Rockies covered in snow on a bright sunny day.  It's nothing short of spectacular!

This brings me to the second reason for this particular post.  Two cases of Meyer lemons arrived on my doorstep today.  They were sent by one of my California clients who claimed she had more then she could use. I jokingly said to send them my way (they are my absolute favorite ingredient in the world).....and she did! Love you, Mrs. D.!!

So... What to do? What to do? 

I remember a place in Fredericksburg, Texas called, The Rather Sweet Bakery, where the owner/pastry chef ( Rebecca Rather) was famous for a dessert called, "Texas Big Hairs, lemon-lime meringue tarts".  The name still makes me laugh.  

I decided to borrow her idea to a point, but I wanted to take it in a different direction.  So, I came up with a cupcake filled with Meyer Lemon Curd, topped with high peaks of lemon zest studded cooked Meringue, and the tips are nicely toasted for a dramatic effect. 

 In truth, other bloggers have done similar cupcakes, but they are so pedestrian and skimpy, they do not represent the spectacular peaks of our "Rocky Mountain High" (or TRUE Texas Big Hairs.!!).  Sometimes you have to show off, and these my friends, will do it every time!

Rocky Mountain High Meyer Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Use your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, or use a mix.

Pipe a few tablespoons of lemon curd, homemade or store bought, into each cupcake. No need to cut a hole first, just push your pastry tip straight in, and squeeze.

Cooked Meringue: 
2 cup sugar
8 egg whites
pinch, cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Whisk eggs, sugar and cream of tarter in a heat proof bowl that fits easily over a pan of boiling water (make sure the bowl is not bigger then the pan, as the eggs will cook along side of the pan). Continue whisking the egg mixture until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture heats to 160 degree F. Remove bowl from the heat. Using a hand mixer, beat egg whites until light, fluffy and cool. About 8 minutes. Once cool, add vanilla. Use at once.

To toast tops: I have a large blow torch I bought at a home improvement store for less then $30. Honestly, the ones they sell at most gourmet stores are a waste of money, are too tiny and do not have the fire power mine has.  Also, to replace the butane it is only $3, and I can find the refill at every hardware store in any part of small town America.  So, go out to the garage..that blowtorch you have hidden away is a very highly rated KITCHEN tool. It's time you gave it some use!!

Yes, this was really, really amazing!  

Here's to Hope, Sunny days, and big fluffy lemon meringue cupcakes!

Chef Deb T.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I heart Pot Pies; Quick and Easy Pot Pies

Chicken or any other combination that makes you happy!

You've roasted tons of chicken (or have a treasure trove of root vegetables and mushrooms), now what?  It's time to work some magic..... 

Pot Pies.

I have streamlined this recipe by cooking the filling on the stove while the crusts are baking in the oven. It saves time and it keeps the crusts from becoming soggy.

I also make my own puff pastry, pie dough or biscuit toppings. However, purchasing ready made dough will make these even easier.  In the photo above: Puff Pastry Pie (my favorite), the one in the back is, Pie Crust Pot pie ( my daughter's favorite).

Read through the recipe; assemble, chop and measure all your ingredients before beginning. Although I like my vegetables to be large and rustic, cutting your veggies smaller (1/4-1/2 inch) AND all the same size, will allow you to cook this dish rather quickly.

Basic Pot Pie Recipe

1-2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped 
2-3 gloves garlic, minced
2 whole carrots, peeled and chopped
4 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas (optional)
1/4 cup fresh green beans, chopped (optional)
2-3 quarts Chicken or vegetable stock
1 BG (Bouquet Garni= 6 whole peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 4 stems fresh thyme, 6 stems parsley, no leaves) I just throw everything in the pot and remove it later.
2 Cups chicken meat, or 2 cups sauteed mushrooms
3 Tbl butter
4 Tbl flour
1/2 cup milk or half & half
1/2 cup Sharp cheddar cheese, or smoked Gouda, or 3 Tbl Parmesan  (optional)
pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher or sea salt
Fresh Ground pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon

Topping Options:

Puff pastry
Pie Crust
Biscuit dough
Egg wash (1 egg with a Tbl of cream or milk)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Line sheet pan with parchment

*In a 3 cup bowl; melt butter in the microwave, then stir in flour. Set mixture aside.

*Heat oil in a 4-5 quart pot over medium-low heat. Next add; onions, celery, carrots and garlic, and gently sweat (sauteing without achieving color) for 3-4 minutes, then add potatoes, BG (herb mixture) and stock. Turn heat to medium high and simmer until potatoes are cooked through, about 10-13 minutes.

*While vegetables are simmering; cut/shape your chosen crust into desired shapes, place on parchment paper or a well oiled sheet pan.  Brush the tops of pastry/pie crust/biscuit dough with egg wash ( make sure the egg does not run over the edges of each crust) and bake in 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the crusts are golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
Note: I like a top and bottom crust on my pot pies, so I cut one top crust and one smaller bottom crust for each serving. 

*Once the potatoes are cooked, add chicken, and green beans if using. Cook mixture for an additional 5-7 minutes (more if you want softer green beans). 

* Remove bay leaf, thyme and parsley stems. Carefully, take one ladle of hot stock from chicken pot pie base and slowly whisk it into your butter and flour mixture. Whisk until all the liquid is completely combined. Now add milk and cheese,  and whisk again.  Add one more small ladle of hot liquid, whisk completely, pour flour mixture back into simmering pot and stir until combined. Add fresh or frozen peas, if using. Continue to simmer until base is nice and thick. It should take about 5 minutes. 

Taste. Add salt, pepper, cayenne and a squeeze of  lemon. Taste and adjust seasonings; also, fresh chopped parsley is a nice touch.

To serve: Place bowls in warm oven during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. When bowls are warm, place one crust in bottom of bowl, ladle hot filling into bowl, then top with larger crust. Serve at once!

One final note: The pot pie base doubles or triples easily,  and the extra filling can be packaged into sealable freezer bags.  Divide cooled mixture into quart or gallon freezer bags. Label and date each.  Place flat on sheet pan and freeze. Once frozen, remove sheet pan and filling will store easily.  When ready to use, defrost portion in the refrigerator and reheat mixture on the stove top or in microwave and follow the direction for pastry topping.


Chef Deb T.