Friday, November 30, 2012

Simple Gifts: Vanilla Bean Body Scrub

I've decided this year to make holiday gifts for my friends and family rather than spending hundreds of dollars on things that are less personal and involve me having to wait in line for hours at the big box stores.

At the top of my list this season is homemade Vanilla Bean Body Scrub from the book Simple Gifts. A friend of mine bought a ton of vanilla beans on Amazon, so we automatically have our theme. ;) You can find the vitamin E (oil or capsules) at your local grocery store near the bath and body stuff. For the essential oil you'll have to visit a health food place.

Vanilla Bean Body Scrub
Excerpted from Simple Gifts

Make your own sugar scrub

Simply Perfect For: Anyone with rough skin.

"I love sugar and never turn down a sweet treat. That includes a delectable sugar scrub for the body. More gentle than rock salt (which can sting), sugar is just as effective for smoothing the skin. You can use whatever essential oil you fancy; I like infusing mine with vanilla and adding a dash of orange essential oil for a calorie-free, delicious-smelling Creamsicle treat. Just remember that this goes on, not in, your body."

You'll need:

1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup (62.5 ml) carrier oil (such as sweet almond oil or extra-virgin olive oil)
1 cup (201 g) brown or raw sugar
Vitamin E capsule
15 drops orange essential oil
Large pot
Metal spoon
Measuring cups
Metal tongs
Cookie sheet
8-ounce (236 ml) jar

Step 1:
Sterilize the jar and tools in a hot-water bath.

Step 2:
Add the carrier oil and vanilla bean to your jar. Screw the top on loosely and let it sit at room temperature for a couple of days. You can leave the bean in the oil or remove it when you are ready to mix your scrub (and since vanilla beans are spendy, you can reuse this for another batch).

Step 3:
Puncture your vitamin E capsule with a sterilized pin and add it, along with your essential oil, to the jar and mix well. Add the sugar to the jar and stir thoroughly. That's it. You're ready to wrap this one up.

To Use:
Simply stick a finger in the jar to mix up the heavenly scrub. Then step into the shower, scoop up a handful, and rub it on dry skin. Rinse off with hot water and marvel at your skin's velvety texture.

One 8-ounce (236 ml) jar or tub.

Clean up the tub after use so you don't leave an oil slick for the next unsuspecting bather.

Wrap it up!
Reuse a glass container, such as a large salsa jar, and affix a round label to the lid to hide the printed text. Cover the label with clear plastic tape to protect it (sugar and oil can wreak havoc on a label). You can also affix buttons or shells to the lid with a hot glue gun for a more decorative presentation.


Want to try your hand at homemade gifts? Simple Gifts offers a little bit of everything. Once you flip through these pages, you're going to want to try it all.

Simple Gifts by Jennifer Worick

Heartfelt + handmade = the perfect gift. In Simple Gifts, Jennifer Worick offers step-by-step instructions for creating easy and inspired handmade gifts that won’t break the bank. Learn how to stitch a wine bag for your favorite foodie, sew pajama pants for a tried-and-true friend, roast coffee beans for an office pal, or felt a ring for your sweetheart. Also included is Jennifer’s helpful, witty advice on choosing the right gift for anyoneman, woman, or childand how to wrap up your present with style.

From a sweet knitted apron to a hand-embroidered handkerchief, personalized note cards to soothing natural lip balm, a quilted baby blanket to a manly wooden toolbox, these heartfelt, handmade gifts are certain to wow and touch your loved ones.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Feed Your Sweet Tooth with Homemade Baklava

I have a friend who makes the best baklava. She brings it to holiday parties each year and everyone raves about how delicious it is. The entire tray of dessert disappears within seconds. She's a hero. A baking hero. I'll admit I've always been slightly jealous.

Unfortunately, her recipe is a family secret and so until I somehow convince her to cave and share it, I'm in the dark about her magical baklava recipe. So I never bothered to make my own baklava. That was, until I flipped through The Honey Handbook. This baklava recipe is from a honey expert (the man is a beekeeper and has written multiple books on beekeeping and honey), so what better person to get the perfect baklava recipe from?

And ... since I'm nice, I'll share this one with you!

Baklava, the Honey Dessert King! 
Excerpted from The Backyard Beekeeper's Honey Handbook

Homemade baklava

Honey Syrup

2 cups (475 ml) warm water
2 2/3 cups (535 g) sugar
4 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
Rind of a small lemon, cut into strips
2 cups (455 g) honey (use a rich, full-bodied dark variety, such as sumac or tulip poplar, or use a honey infused with thyme)
5 tablespoons (75 ml) fresh lemon juice

For the syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon rind and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid begins to thicken. Stir in the honey and lemon juice. Stir for a few minutes, until the honey dissolves and the lemon juice begins to fume. Remove from the heat and strain out the rind and spices. Keep in a jar at room temperature.


1 package (16 ounces [455 g]) fresh phyllo pastry sheets
1/2 cup (112 g) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups (190 g) finely chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cups (295 ml) Honey Syrup

For the pastry: Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Unroll the phyllo dough. Separate out a stack of 5 to 8 sheets, and place an 8-inch (20-cm) round cake pan on top of the stack close to all the edges. Cut around the cake pan with a sharp knife to make circles. Repeat the process until all of the phyllo dough is used.


Butter the cake pan liberally. Place one circle of dough on the bottom of the pan and brush with the melted butter. Repeat for 5 layers of dough. Sprinkle 1/4 cup (32 g) of the walnuts with a single layer of dough, brush with butter, and put 2 tablespoons of walnuts on the buttered layer. Repeat for the next 15 to 18 layers, depending on the walnuts and dough. As you build the stack, on occasion gently press down to make the layers fit in the pan. Finish with 5 buttered layers of phyllo dough. With a very sharp knife, mark in pie-shaped pieces 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) deep or so. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and while still hot, pour the Honey Syrup over the pastry. Cut the marked pieces all the way through and let stand for a day before eating. If you can wait that long.

Makes 8 servings.

The Honey Handbook by Kim Flottum

A truly lush, radiant enthusiast’s guide, The Backyard Beekeeper’s Honey Handbook goes beyond the scope of a cookbook to introduce to readers the literal cornucopia of honey varieties available. An intuitive follow-up to The Backyard Beekeeper, this book presumes beekeeping experience but reintroduces the basics. It is an insight into the practical, back-to-the-earth beekeeping lifestyle and well as the artisan cultivation of honey varieties.

Kim Flottum is the editor of Bee Culture magazine, published by the A. I. Root Company in Medina, Ohio, where he has been for more than twenty years. His book The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard or Garden was published by Quarry Books in 2005. Better Beekeeping: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Stronger Colonies and Healthier, More Productive Bees was published by Quarry Books in 2011. He edited (with Dr. Shiminuki and Ann Harman) the popular 41st edition of the ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, the bible of U.S. beekeeping published by the A. I. Root Company. Kim blogs for on the beekeeping world, plus he is a regular columnist for the U.K. beekeeping magazine The Beekeeper's Quarterly. He also writes articles on the beekeeping life for many agricultural and gardening journals. Kim and his wife Kathy keep a few hives in the backyard, while a garden, two cats, hundreds of exotic plants, and extensive travel for his job and volunteer efforts fill much of his time. Kim's best advice to beekeepers? Keep your smoker lit and your hive tool sharp, because next year will be better.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Making Your Own Cream Cheese

Cream Cheese
Basic Fresh Soft Cheese Recipe

Excerpted from The Cheesemaker's Apprentice

Making cream cheese is incredibly easy and its flavor is so much better than the tin foil-wrapped supermarket version. It is a fantastic starting point for your adventure of transforming liquid milk into a solid. Furthermore, the same technique is used for nearly all fresh cheeses. Once you have mastered cream cheese, try the recipes for fresh chevre, fromage blanc, and mascarpone, which are simple modifications of this basic recipe.

Make Your Own Cream Cheese

You can flavor any of these fresh cheeses after they are complete by adding fresh minced herbs, spices, finely chopped nuts, honey, or maple syrup (the real stuff, pleasenot maple-flavored syrup). Add about a teaspoon (or more to taste) of these after mixing in the salt in step 7, then stir to combine.

2-quart (2 L) saucepan
Dairy thermometer or instant-read thermometer that reads accurately in the 70°F to 100°F (21°C to 38°C) range
2-quart (2 L) glass or porcelain mixing bowl
Butter muslin cheesecloth
Colander or large sieve and a larger mixing bowl for draining 

1 pint (500 ml) whipping cream
1 pint (500 ml) whole milk
1/8 teaspoon dried mesophilic culture
2 drops of liquid rennet or 1/4 of a dry rennet tablet
Bottled water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of pickling salt


1.     Sterilize all equipment that will come in contact with the milk or cheese.
2.      Combine the cream and the milk in a saucepan. Attach the thermometer and heat the milk mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches 72°F (22°C). Transfer the milk mixture to the mixing bowl. Alternatively, combine the cold milk and cream in the mixing bowl and heat in a microwave for 1 minute. Stir the milk and check its temperature. If the temperature is less than 72°F (22°C), return it to the microwave, heat another 20 seconds, then stir and check again, repeating as necessary. Take note of the total microwave time used to heat the milk for the next time you make this recipe.
3.      Add the mesophilic culture to the milk and stir.
4.      Dilute 2 drops liquid rennet in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of bottled water, or crush ¼ of a dry rennet tablet with the back of a spoon and then dissolve it completely in 2 tablespoons (28 ml) of bottled water. Add rennet to milk-and-cream mixture and stir well with a spoon for 1 minute.
5.      Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm (about 70°F, or 21°C) location for 12 to 16 hours. Do not disturb the cheese while it is ripening and coagulating or it will not set. The mixture will resemble thick yogurt when it is done.
6.      Empty the bowl into a cheesecloth-lined colander or sieve. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth together and suspend it over a sink or a large container. Allow to drain at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours or until the cheese is thick enough that it holds its shape when spread with a knife. Do not let draining whey accumulate and rise to the level of the cheesecloth or the cheese will not drain properly.
7.      Discard the whey and transfer the cheese to a clean bowl. Using a clean spoon, mix in ¼ teaspoon (0.5 g) of salt into the cheese until it is evenly distributed. Wait 5 minutes to allow it to incorporate and then taste the cheese to see if the salt level is to your liking. Add additional salt if necessary.
8.      Store the cheese in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The flavor will continue to improve over the first few days.


The Cheesemaker's Apprentice by David Bleckmann

Learn from a wide range of cheese making professionals and discover delicious artisan recipes with The Cheesemaker’s Apprentice! This step-by-step book contains interviews with worldwide experts on everything from culture strains to pairings, while the easy-to-follow, original tutorials outline this fun, productive, and classic skill. You’ll also find an array of mouthwatering homemade recipes that will help you apply these newly-gained tips and techniques

Sasha Davies is an author and cheesemonger in Portland, Oregon. She started her cheese career in New York City as an apprentice in the cheese caves of Artisanal Premium Cheese, going on to manage the caves at Murray's Cheese, serve as a resident cheese expert for Marlow & Sons, and consult for cheese shops across America. Sasha serves on the board of the American Cheese Society. Her interest in cheese led her to embark on a tour of 45 American cheesemakers, a project documented at Her first book, The Guide to West Coast Cheese: More than 300 Cheeses Handcrafted in California, Oregon, and Washington, was published in September 2010. Davies has taught classes at the French Culinary Institute and the Cheese School of San Francisco. Other food writing by Davies has appeared in Mix Magazine, the Diner Journal, and the cheese-focused magazine Culture.

David Bleckmann is an obsessed home cheesemaker in Portland, Oregon. Before cheese, he worked his way through other domestic culinary crafts including making beer and wine, preserving jam, pickling, curing bacon and other meat, and roasting coffee. This interest in creating food from scratch and a fascination with food science led to an immersion in the art of turning liquid milk into solid cheese. He teaches cheese making classes and writes freelance articles for Culture, and also maintains a blog and hosts a hobby cheese making podcast at his website,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An Interview with Cheesemaker David Bleckmann

How did you get into cheese making?

I have always been interested in how food is made and fascinated with the details of making something from scratch be it beer, wine, jam, or bacon, and now cheese. My wife surprised me with a cheese making class in 2009 for my 42nd birthday, and my obsession began. During the class the instructor mentioned that the books on the market on home cheese making really were not all that great, at least at the time. I made it my goal to learn all I could about cheese making and then write on the subject from the home hobbyist point of view.

When I write and teach about cheese making I always try to explain the food science behind the process. I do this partially because I find it interesting, but mostly because I believe to become good at cheese making it really helps to understand what is going on chemically in the milk and cheese.

Make your own cheese at home
How difficult is it to get into cheese making? What supplies do you need?
To make fresh cheeses like cream cheese and fresh chevre, you need just a few things beyond what is already in your kitchen. You need a thermometer that reads accurately between 70F and 120F. A decent digital instant read thermometer will work for this. You also need a fine mesh cheesecloth, finer than what is normally sold in stores. Cheese making suppliers sell butter muslin which works best. In a pinch you can use four to five layers of regular cheesecloth.

As far as ingredients go, you need good quality milk that has not been ultra-pasteurized. You will also need cheese cultures and rennet which you can obtain through local cheese making suppliers or ones found on the internet.

When you move beyond fresh cheeses and into the world of hard cheese, the equipment list gets longer. This list includes large stockpots to hold all of the milk, and cheese molds and presses. You will also need to create an environment called a cheese cave in which to age the cheese. There are a lot of ways obtain or build these items inexpensively to get started, but as you get more and more serious about the hobby you will find having good equipment is nice.

Cheesemaking supplies
Do you have a specialty cheese?
I made a blue cheese once that was truly exceptional. I followed a recipe but accidentally made a slight variation. I have tried to recreate the recipe, and while some of the results were good, I have never replicated the taste of that first cheese. I tell this story when talking about the importance of taking notes while making cheese. You never know when something you do is going to make a big difference in the final result.

What’s the strangest cheese you've ever made?

Taking making cheese from scratch to the extreme, I once decided to grow cardoon thistles so I could harvest rennet from them. You harvest part of the flower and steep in it warm water. It was a strange experience since you normally go to great extremes when cheese making to keep things as sanitary as possible, but to use this rennet you are transferring plant parts that were out in your garden just hours ago directly to your milk. I was amazed and thrilled when the milk coagulated as it was supposed to and the cheese turned out great.

Do you have an all-time favorite cheese?

Blues and washed rind cheeses are my favorite cheeses, both of which are some of the most difficult cheese to make.
Washed rind cheeses are the stinky cheese like muenster and limburger. Although they often have a strong smell they often have a mild, but full, meaty flavor.

What is the one thing someone new to cheese making should know?

Sanitation is important. Making cheese is the process of letting bacteria spoil milk in a controlled manner. You want the bacteria you introduce to be the ones changing the milk, not others that could ruin the cheese or even possibly be dangerous. All equipment should be rinsed in a sanitizing solution or be sanitized in some way by heat (such as immersed in boiling water).
The second "one thing" I would have new cheesemakers know is this: In contrast to fresh cheeses, which are pretty easy to make, aged cheeses can be difficult and frustrating to make at home. Even if you perform every step correctly, you will be lucky if 50% of your cheeses turn out the way you intended. Knowing this in advance may help cushion your disappointment.

What is the most challenging aspect of cheese making?

Aging cheese is difficult. You need to keep the temperature and humidity of the environment in the right range for months. This means you have to check on the cheese frequently, as often as once a day. This is a lot of work, and I have lost quite a few cheeses to neglect. It is easy to forget a cheese when it is in your basement for 3 to 6 months.

How do you perform quality control?

Unfortunately there is not much a home cheesemaker can do to determine if a cheese is contaminated with the wrong culture or mold. We don't have the equipment to do it properly. All we can do is use our senses to determine if something is not quite right. If it looks, smells, or tastes bad, it is probably not wise to serve it to your family or friends. It is always wise to error on the side of caution in home cheese making.

What type of cheese or cheese recipe would you recommend to someone just starting off in the world of cheese?
Definitely cream cheese. With the exception of rennet and culture, you can find the ingredients easily and the results are realized in 24-48 hours.

Stay tuned! We'll be posting up David's cream cheese recipe tomorrow.


The Cheesemaker's Apprentice by David Bleckmann

David Bleckmann is an obsessed home cheesemaker in Portland, Oregon. Before cheese, he worked his way through other domestic culinary crafts including making beer and wine, preserving jam, pickling, curing bacon and other meat, and roasting coffee. This interest in creating food from scratch and a fascination with food science led to an immersion in the art of turning liquid milk into solid cheese. He teaches cheese making classes and writes freelance articles for Culture, and also maintains a blog and hosts a hobby cheese making podcast at his website,

Learn from a wide range of cheese making professionals and discover delicious artisan recipes with The Cheesemaker’s Apprentice! This step-by-step book contains interviews with worldwide experts on everything from culture strains to pairings, while the easy-to-follow, original tutorials outline this fun, productive, and classic skill. You’ll also find an array of mouthwatering homemade recipes that will help you apply these newly-gained tips and techniques.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Millicent's Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Now that Thanksgiving is a fond memory, you're probably sitting back and wondering what the heck you're going to do with all of those delicious turkey leftovers. You could make casseroles (a popular item in our house), sandwiches, and yes, pies.

This post is going to be a long one, but sometimes it takes a bit of reading to create perfection. And this is going to be one perfect pot pie. Feel free to substitute in your leftover turkey when Millicent says chicken. I left in all of the instructions for when you want to try this must-make recipe a second (and third time).

Bon appetite!


Chicken Pot Pie
Excerpted from How to Build a Better Pie

"Chicken pot pie: synonymous with love for many, or just eating your feelings. It is iconic. Read this entire recipe from start to finish. You need to understand what you are getting into."

Chicken Pot Pie from How to Build a Better Pie
Basic Pie Crust (see recipe below), chilled

4 tablespoons (60 ml) fat or olive oil
3 onions, large dice
1⁄2 bunch celery, large dice
4 medium-size carrots, large dice
2 cups (300 g) English peas
1 cup (110 g) potatoes, large dice (optional)
3 cups (420 g) shredded chicken gravy
Chicken and stock (see instructions below)

1 lightly beaten egg or 3 tablespoons
(45 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon (19 g) sea salt
deep 9 1⁄2-inch (24 cm) glass pie plate or 9-inch (23 cm) cast iron pan
pie bird (optional)

These pies are not difficult, but it is imperative to accomplish more than one thing at a time. For this recipe, you must cook the chicken before it goes in the pie. You also cook the vegetables and make the gravy. Organize your tasks well and you can accomplish these things at the same time. If you only do one thing at a time in the kitchen, you’ll never get anything done. This sauce is very important for chicken pot pie. Don’t even try to do it without. A roux is a thickener that is equal parts fat and flour. This fat can be unsalted butter, chicken schmaltz, or bacon renderings. As food becomes more expensive, it is great to be able to use more and more by-products from what we make.

You’re not just cooking the chicken for pot pie, you are making stock from its bones that will then be used for the sauce for the pie, and the fat skimmed from the top of the stock can be used for the roux for the gravy. Or you can use bacon grease. The fat influences the flavor of the sauce. There are different kinds of roux, and for this one you want to get it a dirty blonde color. The longer a roux cooks the darker it gets and the more impact it has on the food. The point of this roux is to provide thickening and a bit of depth.

The other things you need to make this sauce are stock, white wine, and heavy cream or milk. The stock is the main liquid, and the cream and wine complement with their own flavors and textures. The same
ratio employed for a mirepoix (onion: 2 to carrot: 1 and celery: 1) works here (stock: 2 to cream: 1 and wine: 1). You can use any stock, but for the sake of chicken use chicken stock. The best pot for this is a Dutch oven or a big, somewhat deep cast iron. A roux really needs cast iron to cook well since it is so viscous.

6 tablespoons (75 g) fat
6 tablespoons (50 g) all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup (175 ml) heavy cream or milk, room temperature
3⁄4 cup (175 ml) white wine, room temperature
2 cups (475 ml) stock, room temperature

Place your cast iron over medium heat and put the fat in. As it melts, whisk the flour in batches so it can be incorporated into the fat as you go. This helps to cut down on the whisking lumps out on the back end.
Keep whisking the roux as it is mixed. If it bubbles a bit too much, turn the flame down. A roux is a thick entity that can burn easily. Keep whisking the roux. Turn it on low. Even though the flour is mixed in with the fat it is still separate, so the roux has to keep on cooking to get the flour flavor out.

There is a rawness of the flour that you can smell and taste, but beware, because hot roux is a burning affair. To understand when the flour cooks out and this concoction becomes a roux takes practice. Luckily this regards a roux, which is commonplace in cooking, so there should be ample moments to learn this. The entire cooking time for this roux is about 10 minutes. 

Add the room-temperature stock to the roux. Always add in a slow, steady stream to a roux while whisking; it cuts down on clumping and ensures that the liquid is absorbed. Next add the white wine and heavy cream in the same manner. Whisk everything together and let it set for a bit, whisking every now and again. The gravy should be over a medium heat, or even a bit higher if you are attending to it. It needs to reduce, and the disparate flavors need to cook together. If you can still taste the separate components of a sauce then it is still raw and needs to cooks longer. This gravy takes about 25 minutes to cook. To find the sweet spot between too runny and too thick: take your spatula or spoon out of the gravy and swipe your finger across it. The line you create should keep its shape and the sauce should be a delicate balance between translucent and opaque.

Since it will cook and reduce a bit more in the pie, it is better to err on the side of a little thin rather than really thick. Season to taste. Gravy without salt and pepper is just a very loose, fat texture. It’s not worth it.

Cooking the Chicken and Making the Stock 
(Note from Katie: For those of you using leftover turkey, disregard this step and save for another time when you are REALLY craving chicken pot pie.)

Chicken and Stock
2 tablespoons (28 ml) olive oil
1 onion, medium dice
4 pounds (1.8 kg) chicken, preferably air chilled
3 stalks celery, medium dice
3 medium-size carrots, medium dice
water to cover
stems from a bunch of parsley (the leaves will go in the pot pie)
sprig of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons (10 g) whole black peppercorns


Just as there is a proper vessel for everything, there is a proper method in which to prepare chicken for a specific dish. Chicken is amazingly versatile; it can be roasted on high heat, deep-fried, pan-fried, braised, smoked, stewed, and even stuck on a beer can and put on a grill. Each way has its appropriate uses. For pot pie, if you have a whole chicken, put it in a pot with water. At the same time you are making stock for the gravy. 

Heat the olive oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat and add the onions when it’s hot. Stir it and when it just becomes fragrant, add the rest of the mirepoix (celery and carrots). Let it saute for a few minutes. Salt the chicken inside and out and put in the stockpot. Cover with cold water and add the parsley stems, thyme, and peppercorns. The stock will begin to bubble after about 25 minutes. As this happens, a dirty foam will collect on the surface of the liquid. Get a ladle and discard it. You are now skimming the scum. Skim it all before it comes to a boil and reincorporates the scum into the stock. Cover the pot immediately with a lid and turn the burner off. After 30 minutes check the chicken. 

Pull on the drumstick with tongs; it should be very wiggly. Pull the chicken out and let it cool until you can pick it. Take out the skin and bones, put back in the stockpot, and let it simmer for another hour. Shred your chicken into good pieces, not too chunky and nothing like cat food. Strain your stock and reserve 2 cups (475 ml) for gravy. Stock freezes really well or keeps in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

The chicken is good and the stock is made. One 4-pound (1.8 kg) chicken yields 3 to 4 cups (675 to
900 g) of shredded meat, packed a bit. The ratio of onions to carrots and celery should be even; this is a classic French mirepoix. It’s used in stocks, soups, sauces, and braises. When you cut a mirepoix it’s important for the vegetables to be the same size so they cook at the same time. These vegetables are an important part of the pot pie. They need to have some guts to counter the meat, so cut them in a large dice.

Heat 4 tablespoons (64 g) of butter, olive oil, or some other fat in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add
the onions and saute them until translucent, about 10 minutes. The longer you cook onions the more they
change, becoming sweeter and something completely different from their raw reality. Once they are soft and fragrant, add the celery, carrots, and peas. Mix together.

Continue until they are just soft. Add the 3 cups (675 g) of the shredded chicken, mix together, and then add the gravy. Mix it all together and taste for seasoning. Salt? Freshly ground pepper? These two things separate food that is simple and all right from food that is simple and delicious. Let cool before putting into the pie crust.

Constructing the Pie
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C, gas mark 7).

Roll out your chilled bottom crust to 1⁄8-inch (3 mm) thick. It should be about 13 inches (33 cm) in diameter. Place in your pie plate or cast iron. Trim the edges so there is no more than 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) of overhang. Lift and crimp the overhang along the rim of the pie pan. Chill bottom crust in the refrigerator or freezer. Chop up a bunch of parsley leaves and mix it in the chilled filling. Pull out the chilled top crust from the refrigerator and roll out in the same manner and thickness. Get the pie plate or cast iron out of the refrigerator. If using a pie bird, place it, beak up, in the middle of the bottom crust and spoon the filling in around it. If not using a pie bird, put the filling in the crust. Place the filled pie pan adjacent to the top crust and treat it the same way, quickly flip it in half, and lift on top of the pie.

Lift the other half over the pie. If there is a pie bird, just punch its beak through the top crust to vent. Lift the edges of the top crust up so the crust sits on top of the filling, not just stretched across it.

Trim the edges to be flush with the bottom crust and crimp them together. Cut slits in the top crust even if you do use a pie bird, brush the top crust with the wash, and sprinkle it with sea salt. Put in the preheated oven and bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Yield: 1 pie (8 servings)

How to make a pie crust
Basic Pie Crust
This is an amazingly versatile recipe for a double-crust pie. It can be used for sweet or savory pies. It can be all butter, all leaf lard, all shortening, or any combination. For savory pies you can even use beef suet. 

2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons (18 g) kosher salt
2 teaspoons (8 g) white sugar
2 sticks (224 g) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup (120 ml) strained ice water, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml)
mixing bowl
plastic wrap

1. Choose a good-size bowl, one in which both of your hands can fit in and work. You will be mixing the crust with your hands.

2. Pour all dry ingredients into the bowl and mix together in the bowl with your hands.

3. Cut the cold butter into 1⁄4-inch (6 mm) pieces. It is very important that your butter be cold; its ability to maintain its shape is what lends flakiness to the crust. You can freeze it, but I find refrigerated butter to be quite sufficient.

4. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients. Incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients by pinching each piece. Do not break up the butter beyond this; it should keep its shape. You are really just introducing them to each other.

5. As you work, cup your hands and lift all the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl to the top.
Do this a few times so you aren't stuck with dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl. (The butter should not get warm or create tiny little butter pebbles. The goal is for the fat to have presence in the crust. It has a lot of work to do; leave it some backbone.)

6. Strain the ice water so ice doesn't end up in the crust. (Ice water is used for the same reason cold butter is: to keep the fat separate through the process.) You can also pour the ice water through a slotted spoon held over the bowl.

7.  Slowly pour the water into the bowl. Start with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water, and pour it around the outside of the bowl. Never sloppily dump wet ingredients into dry ingredients, especially for a crust. The water should be evenly distributed. Push the crust around with the fork, moving from the outside of the bowl. Add the second 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water and repeat.

8. When mixing the ingredients, make sure you are incorporating all ingredients on the bottom of the bowl. Youve added 1/2  cup (120 ml) of water. It is almost there, but you probably need to add at leas2 tablespoons (30 ml) more water. After adding the extra water, push the crust more with your fork.

Note: In warmer months you may not need the last tablespoons (30 ml) of water because of the humid air. Always slowly add water to a crust before adding any more. Once you add it, there is no going back. Now, a splash of water from your fingertips or a dusting of flour can tip the balance in the crust texture. Say your crust is almost together but just needs a little shove, or its beginning to feel a bit tacky. Try just a touch of water or flour to adjust the texture.

Shaping the Crust
Your crust is ready to be shaped when a few things occur:

You can squeeze it together and it wont fall apart, and the center is not just a crumbly, dusty mess. And, please, you are squeezing it, not kneading it. Its not bread or pasta dough, its pie crust. Quit touching it!

The crust becomes slightly golden and a little cooler to touch. This is the perfect moment when the mixture becomes crust, where the equilibrium between the dry ingredients and butter has been achieved.

Yield: 2 crusts (5-inch [12.7 cm] disks, before rolling)
Prep time: 5 minutes

9. Separate the dough into two equal-size balls and flatten them into disks. (For this recipe, the disks should be about 5 inches [12.7 cm] in diameter.) Wrap each one in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes beforrolling them out. And that is how you make crust.


How to Build a Better Pie by Millicent Souris

Pick up your copy of How to Build a Better Pie today. Then you can impress everyone with delicious and beautiful pies for the holiday season and beyond!

Millicent Souris is a New-York-based, self-taught, homegrown, DIY-driven pie-maker. She's made thousands of pies in the past 10 years (you may have tasted some of them in places as far-flung as Chicago and Brooklyn). A resident of Brooklyn, she teaches pie-making workshops at the Brooklyn Kitchen, and she can spot a limp crust from 100 paces.