Sunday, August 21, 2016


Lovesmiths saved me from a creative crisis when I started it, four years ago, and I have loved having this outlet to write about seaweed and pie and other obsessions. But Lovesmiths has reached a natural stopping point, at least for now. I don't want to yank it off the internet, so I'll just leave it sitting here in case people need a good recipe for Chickpeas and Chorizo, Farro Salad with Basil, Olives, and Marcona Almonds, or Saffron Risotto Cakes, to name a few of my favorites. Warmest thanks to those who have read and cooked along!
xoxo Freda
(I'm on Twitter and Facebook)

Monday, February 29, 2016

What Would Jimmie Rodgers Eat?: Apple Pie with Lard Crust

In a recent interview with Nashville's Paul Burch about his new album, Meridian Rising, an imagined autobiography of Jimmie Rodgers, I asked him to extend his imagination to a 1920's dinner on-the-road for the blue yodeler. Burch described a meal that included fresh-killed chickens, greens, rolls, and a pie with a lard crust. I was inspired, and attempted to recreate the meal for my family.

Results were mixed. I'd never attempted to fry chicken before, and as a mostly-vegetarian for most of my life I maybe don't have the skill or equipment to make perfect fried chicken. It was just O.K. I know how to cook greens, though, and my version of rolls (drop biscuits) turned out nice and disappeared quickly.

But the star of the meal was the pie. Or maybe I should say the star of the meal was lard.

I've baked my fair share of pies, but I'd never tried using lard in the crust (see mostly-vegetarian comment, above) and none of my hippie, vegetarian, macrobiotic cookbooks could help. So I turned to Ree Drummond, "The Pioneer Woman," the blogger/cookbook author/television star with whom I have a complicated love/hate relationship. I'll set aside the hate for now. I knew she'd be able to help with the lard thing and indeed she published this excellent pie-making tutorial a few years ago by baker Pam Regentin. Regentin insists that lard and butter are far superior to manmade fats, and she promises a superior, flakey piecrust using frankly heroic quantities of animal fat. I followed her recipe carefully, including her suggestion to add butter to the filling. Like a lot of butter.

It was the best pie I've ever made. I want to think that Jimmie would have approved.

Apple Pie with Lard Crust

8 apples (I like Granny Smith), peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup sugar
zest and juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons cornstarch
generous pinch salt
Prepared dough for double-crust pie (try this one, I'm telling you)
3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pats
egg wash: one egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

In a medium mixing bowl, combine apple slices, sugar, lemon zest and juice, vanilla, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside to macerate while you prepare crust.

Preheat oven to 375.

Refrigerate half the crust while you roll out the bottom crust and transfer bottom crust to a pie plate. Pour apple mixture into crust. Top filling with butter. Roll out remaining crust and transfer to top of filling. Trim edges to about 1/2 of overhang and crimp the edge tightly. Brush with egg wash.

Bake pie at 375 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350, and bake 55 additional minutes, or until filling is thick and bubbling.

Cool for two hours before slicing and serving.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hot Soup, Cool Music: Will Dailey's Beer and Cheese Soup

Will Dailey's Beer and Cheese Soup

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups diced carrots
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1 1/2 cups diced leeks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bottle beer, divided (we used a white ale, use whatever you like!)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Big pinch black pepper
Big pinch cayenne (plus more to garnish, optional)
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup half & half
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable or a combination)
4 cups grated cheese (we used a combination of sharp cheddar and gruyere)
Croutons (try 6 slices of rye bread+1/4 cup olive oil+2 teaspoons dried oregano+salt. Toast in 375 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes)

In a large pot over medium-low heat, melt butter and add carrots, onion, celery and leeks. Add a small pinch of salt, stir well, and cook vegetables 15-20 minutes (do not brown), until onions are sweet and mostly tender. Add garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes.

Add 1/2 the beer and stir well, scraping up any stuck bits. Add mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Add flour gradually, stirring well after each addition to blend well. After flour is fully combined, continue to stir for 1-2 minutes to lightly toast flour.

Add half & half and broth, gradually, stirring well until base is well-blended and creamy. Bring soup to a low simmer and cover. Cook 20 minutes, or until vegetables are very tender.

Add grated cheese and stir well until cheese melts (you can increase the heat slightly if necessary). Cover pot and cook at very low heat for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let soup sit a few minutes before serving with an optional dusting of cayenne and a mandatory pile of croutons.

"PS" (writes Will) "this tastes twice as good the next day."