Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Preserved Lemons #3 - Haddock En Papillote

I was pondering how to use my preserved lemons to make a fish dish, and I happened to watch an episode of "Top Chef: Masters", which just wrapped up, where one of the cheftestants was inspired by the concept of "Mystery" to make a fish dish en papillote, which means it was baked in paper (usually parchment, but sometimes aluminum foil or paper bags) with some other goodies. This put the idea into my head of using my preserved lemons in an "en papillote" dish of my own.

I went to the grocery store and looked through the selection of frozen fish. I settled on a pair of large frozen haddock loins, for no particular reason other than they weren't particularly expensive (as opposed to my first choice, halibut, which WAS), and it was a nice, firm fish, and relatively healthy.

To go in the paper package with the fish, I bought a box of couscous, a can of chickpeas, some scallions and some mushrooms. I had some fish stock at home I wanted to use, along with the lemons and the olives from my first attempt at using preserved lemons.

So, the day before I made this, I placed the frozen haddock loins in my refrigerator to thaw. The next day, I prepared the couscous by emptying the box of couscous into a bowl, along with the drained can of chickpeas. I brought two cups of fish stock, some turmeric for color, a generous pinch of cinnamon, and a generous pat of butter to a boil, and poured it over the couscous and chickpeas, and let them sit.

(Note: None of the measurements in this are very precise; it's a very flexible, forgiving recipe)

Meanwhile, I preheated my oven to 400 degrees. Then I diced the bunch of green onions (8 of them), and thinly sliced about 1 cup of fresh mushrooms. I also minced about 1/4 cup of green olives and I took out 4 preserved lemon quarters, which got their pulp and pith removed. These were finely sliced into thin strips and set aside. Finally, I took out the two thawed haddock loins and cut them in half cross-wise.

Now that the prep work was done, it was time to do the assembly. I took out my roll of parchment paper, and cut 4 large squares from it (side note: parchment paper is easy to find at any supermarket; it's in the same section as the aluminum foil, although you may prefer using foil). I laid one piece of paper on a dinner plate, and put 1/4 of the couscous and chickpeas onto it. Then I sprinkled over 1/4 each of the green onions, olives, and mushrooms. On top of that, I laid one piece of the haddock loin and then carefully laid out one bunch of the sliced lemon peel over that, and salted and peppered the mixture. Finally, since I was feeling a bit fancy, I finished it off by pouring a generous splash of white wine over everything. Then I took the four corners of the paper and brought them to the center over the fish, and bound them together by wrapping some twine around the bunched paper and tying it off. Into the oven they went, for 20 minutes - the bag the haddock came in said 15, but I wanted to be sure. And...

Everything came out nice and neat and perfectly done. The flavors all melded together nicely, and the parchment paper held up to cooking just fine - no drips, tears or leakage making a mess in my baking dish. The fish was flaky and delicious, and tasted faintly of the lemon peel. The couscous had absorbed all of the flavors in the parcel - the onion,mushroom, fish and lemon were all detectable and it was delicious. A definite cook-again, although next time I'm going to use bigger fish fillets or maybe try it with some large shrimp or even mix some bay scallops into the couscous with the lemon and make a sort of miniature fish casserole.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cooking with Heart

And I don't mean that in a "taste the love, hootie-hoo" kind of way, either.

Valentine's Day 2007 found me in a particularly black mood. I decided to celebrate the holiday of love by taking one of it's most beloved symbols - the heart - and doing something special with it.

So I took a beef heart, slow-cooked it in red wine and beef stock for three hours, and ate it. Like I said, a black mood. And actually, it was quite tasty. Seriously, I would recommend everyone trying to cook with a beef heart at least once - it's a cheap cut of meat, and it's nutritious, flavorful, and if cooked properly it's quite tender. Good stuff.

So, recently I'd been thinking about that dish and decided to try doing something a little fancier with it. I pondered making a classic Bœuf bourguignon, but I found an old church cookbook my grandmother gave me that had a simpler, somewhat bastardized version of that recipe, which had an appropriately less-fancy name of Beef Burgundy.

I purchased a nice two-pound heart from the grocery store (you can see in the picture the valves were trimmed out - are we hungry yet?). Beef heart is actually quite cheap, and I was hoping that by braising it and slow-cooking it in the crockpot for several hours, it would turn into a nice, tender, tasty cut of meat.

Ah, Flossie - nobody had a heart as big as yours, old girl. Or as succulent.

So, the first step was to make a seasoned flour mix of flour, thyme, salt, and pepper, and dredge the beef heart in it. While that was sitting and allowing the flour to permeate it, I heated up some oil and some chopped bacon in a large pan and fried until crispy. The bacon was removed and into the bacon-y oil I chucked some onions and some nice quartered baby bella mushrooms. After those were cooked a bit, they were set aside and it was time for the heart to get browned in the frying pan. Typically for Beef Burgundy (or bourginion, if you prefer), you used cubes of stew beef, but I decided to leave the heart whole while it simmered and carve it at the end of cooking.

So, with the heart browned all over, I set it aside and took out my crockpot. I heated up some beef stock and some Burgundy wine, and added the heart to the liquid. Lid on, set it on HIGH, and I went off to clean house a bit while the heart cooked, and slowly tenderized from the acidic wine.

Three hours later, the onions and mushrooms joined the simmering heart in the crock pot for one hour, and voila - done! I wasn't very happy with the thickness of the liquid in the pot, though, so I whipped up a little thickening agent with some flour, melted butter, and some juices from the crockput, and stirred that back in and cooked it for another 15 minutes.

Now that it was finished, I took the heart out of the crockpot and cut it into cubes.
You can see from the picture that the appearance and texture of a cooked heart really isn't that distinguishable from other cuts of beef.

I boiled some whole-grain egg noodles to go with, and dished myself up a plate. I thought it was quite tasty - the hours of slow-cooking had made the heart tender and easy to cut. It still had a very slight rubbery texture to it and also a slight gamey taste that made me think of venison, believe it or not, but still delicious. However, a 2-lb heart made a LOT of Beef Burgundy, so decided to take a bit in to work and see how people liked it.

Not that I was going to TELL them what it was, mind you.

So, I dished up some noodles and beef into a Tupperware container and gave it to my boss' assistant. She took it home for lunch, and I took the container I brought for myself and heated it up in our break room. The first person I gave this to was our accountant, who took one bite, and proclaimed it "good". She wasn't fooled for a second, though - apparently she'd eaten much stranger foods, and while she didn't quite get what it was she was eating, she knew it was not typical beef and she didn't really care. Poo - I was hoping for a more dramatic reaction. Oh well.

As I was heading back to the break room, I crossed paths with one of the ladies from our HR department. I asked her to try it. She took a bite, and proclaimed it delicious and it was "sooo gooooood".

Then I told her what she'd eaten. Her eyes bugged out, and she immediately turned and hurried into the ladies' room. AH, now that was more like it.

Meanwhile, my boss' assistant came back from her lunch break. I asked her if she liked it. She gave me a VERY tight-lipped smile, and said "I liked the mushrooms."

Me: "How about the beef?"
Her: "Yes, I had a piece of the beef. I liked the mushrooms."

Enough said.

The final unwitting subject was our receptionist. I honestly wouldn't have offered her a taste, but she could smell it and remarked that it smelled delicious, so of course I HAD to offer her a taste. She tried it, and liked it. At least, she did until I told her what part of the cow she was eating, and without the slightest hesitation, she turned her head, opened her mouth, and leaned forward slightly, letting the half-chewed piece of heart hit the countertop with a splat.

Her: "I can't BELIEVE you let me eat a cow heart, you ASSHOLE!"
Me: "I can't BELIEVE I didn't wait until you'd actually SWALLOWED it to tell you!"

I still have a Zip-loc bag of the leftovers in my freezer. I think I'll save it for the next church potluck.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

S'mac me upside the head

I'm trying to stay on a diet at the moment, and so far I'm doing good (7 lbs in 2 1/2 weeks - yeah, baby), and feeling good...

...and then I stumble across the website of a restaurant like this, and Oh. My. Gawd. I suddenly want to bolt to my grocery store and empty out their dairy aisle.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Eggs-traordinary aggravation

Oh, c'mon - I'm allowed a horrible pun once in a while. Cooking that deals with eggs has never been my strong point. I mean, sure, the first "real" cooking I ever did without the supervision of an adult was scrambled eggs (in the microwave) and they turned out perfectly, but beyond that I've always had issues. I don't know why. Making an omelette is a crap shoot - I've got even chances to pull it off perfectly, or having it split into two or three pieces mid-flip, leaving me swearing up a blue streak and mangling it into the scrambled egg equivalent of a ten-car pileup with my fork out of spite. Basic fried eggs? Not a problem... as long as you don't mind the underside being a blotchy white and yellow mess of hard-cooked yolk, the casualty of never being able to lift it quickly and cleanly enough to keep the still-raw yolk from sliding right off the spatula, and swan-diving to its splattery end in the skillet, leaving me to gently lay the cooked portion still on my spatula over it like a burial shroud.

The one thing that I have NEVER been able to pull off perfectly, though, has been a pie meringue. This is particularly galling for me, since I like to make desserts more than anything else, and I LOVE the lemon meringue pie recipe from "The Joy of Cooking." But even using their foolproof method for meringue, mine always "weeps". That is, shortly after it comes out of the oven it develops those small dark brown spots of syrup on top, which is a sign of an inferior meringue. One attempt I made was so pathetic that instead of small weeping drops, I actually had several puddles of syrupy imperfection all over it.

However, recently I found I had a nearly-empty bottle of Nellie and Joe's Key West Lime juice in the back of my refrigerator, just enough for a single key lime pie, and I just so happened to also have a can of sweetened condensed milk sitting in my cupboard. Key lime pie is probably the easiest pie in the world to make - you use a simple graham cracker crust of crumbs and butter. The pie filling only has three ingredients. The pie itself only takes 20 minutes to bake. And it is the only pie I love more than lemon meringue. Normally I see (and myself top) key lime pie with real whipped cream, but I realized that I would have 4 egg whites sitting around unused after I placed the required four egg yolks in the pie filling. I thought "what the hell", and went about making a meringue to top this pie off with. I used the "foolproof" method again, which basically means a few extra fussy steps of boiling some water, cornstarch, and sugar into a thick glue that is allowed to cool a bit and then gets stirred into the meringue prior to topping the pie. Eggs whipped, "glue" incorporated, spatula out, meringue dabbed onto pie. Then, the whole thing was shoved into the preheated oven, and I got down on my knees and f*cking PRAYED.

It came out of the oven looking nicely browned. Half an hour later, I was cautiously optimistic. No weeping. An hour later, still nothing and I oh-so-carefully slid it into my refrigerator and went to bed with a glimmer of hope in my heart. The next morning, I opened my refrigerator with crossed fingers, and was greeted by my very first, perfectly baked, weep-free meringue pie. Because I HAD MADE A PERFECT MERINGUE. FINALLY, perfection with eggs had been reached. Much hooting, hollering, fist-pumping, and an attempted cartwheel ensued. I was ecstatic.

Look at it. Not a blemish, not a spot of dark brown ooze anywhere. The jagged little peaks I made by dabbing at the meringue with my spatula held their shape, and turned that lovely dark brown shade. Sheer perfection! So happy, I was, and it was with great pride that I took it to where I worked and presented it in our company breakroom.

Within a minute, two co-workers confessed the "weeping" was their favorite part of a meringue.

I wonder if they'd notice the next time I baked a cake if I substituted castor oil for vegetable oil. Weep over THAT, you bastards. Grrr.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stewed Lemon Chicken - Attempt #2

For my second attempt at using preserved lemons, I went back to a simpler recipe: one whole chicken in a crockpot. This time I was looking to avoid the overpowering flavor of the olives and bringing out the lemons more. I wasn't feeling particularly adventurous this time, so I stuck with flavors that I knew would work with chicken and lemon: just some fresh rosemary and garlic.

I only used two quarters of preserved lemon for this one. I scooped the pulp out of the quarters and set those aside. Then I trimmed away a bit of the pith, and minced the rind. I also took two big sprigs of fresh rosemary (courtesy of my Mom planting it in a box on my patio during one visit - thanks Mom!), stripped the leaves and minced those as well, adding them to the lemon rind. Then I chopped one large, fat clove of garlic and added that to the lemon and rosemary, and then whisked in some olive oil to all that to make a sort of chunky paste.

Next, I took my chicken (a 3 1/2 lb. roaster), and carefully separated the skin from the breast with my paring knife - this was the only tricky part, since it's hard for me to get under the chicken skin far enough towards the neck without tearing it near the cavity. I stuffed as much of the lemon-rosemary paste under the skin as I could, and then put it in the crockpot. I drizzled some olive oil over the chicken, and rubbed it over the surface, both to coat the chicken and also to distribute the lemon-rosemary paste a bit under the skin. I threw in some new potatoes and some unpeeled cloves of garlic around the chicken, and stuffed the pulp from the lemon quarters into the cavity of the chicken. Then I sprinkled a generous amount of Kosher salt over the chicken, and also a ground pepper blend for spiciness, and tucked a sprig of rosemary under each leg of the chicken. Lid on, set the crockpot to low, and off to the office I go!


Nine hours later, I got home and my kitchen smelled delightfully of garlic, rosemary, and lemon. The chicken had stewed in it's own juices and was a nice golden brown. The garlic cloves were soft and mushy and sweet and nutty and the potatoes were easily pierced with a fork.


This turned out a LOT better than the previous preserved lemon recipe. The chicken was tender and falling off the bone, and both it and the potatoes tasted wonderful from sitting in the herb-garlic-lemon-enhanced chicken juices. I just mushed the potatoes a bit and smeared the soft garlic cloves into them, and spooned the juice from the chicken over them and the chicken, and everything was deeeeeeee-licious. The flavor of the lemons was noticeable, but not overpowering, and nothing needed more salt or pepper.

I'm definitely going to be revisiting this recipe next time whole chickens are on sale, but I think the next time I use the lemons, I'm going to try then with seafood and see how that goes. I have to say, it was really heartening to find a dish I really liked that used the preserved lemons after the unpleasant encounter with those DAMN OLIVES AND YES I AM STILL HATING ON THOSE THINGS.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons

This was the first recipe that I used my preserved lemons on, which is courtesy of the Epicurious website - you can read the whole recipe here. I'm thinking this is actually a pretty common recipe, because I looked at about six different versions of the recipe before settling on this one. The others either asked for ingredients I didn't have (I don't keep harissa on hand, typically), or used chicken livers (not a line I'm willing to cross for this blog just yet).

So, I set to work on this recipe. I did the whole mise en place to start, and right away I ran into a little trouble. You see, the recipe called for 16 pitted green olives. I'd bought them with pits. No biggie - not hard to pit an olive, or so I thought. Apparently, olives are different from cherries and avocadoes in the sense that while cherries and avocadoes can have their pits coaxed out of them pretty easily, olives HANG the F*CK ON to their pits with their FINGERNAILS. My first three attempts at pitting an olive wound up with me nearly slicing my finger open with my knife, and the accursed pits lying on my cutting board, glaring at me triumphantly with tatters of olive flesh hanging off of them, in a puddle of brine.

The irrational part of my mind took over. Instead of satisfying my mouth's curiosity towards preserved lemon, I would satisfy my ears with the statisfying crunch the pits would make... when I crushed them with my claw hammer. Unfortunately, the pits were slippery and hitting them with a hammer only caused them to shoot across my kitchen and hit the far wall. I was completely frustrated at this point, but then I noticed that only the pit had gone flying - the flesh of the olive (what was left of it) was still on the cutting board. That was an "A-HA" moment I needed, and I dumped out the 16 olives I needed, and proceeded to GENTLY squish each one with the flat side of my knife. The pits came out pretty easily, and I cut the olive flesh into strips. The rest of the recipe proceeded smoothly; it's not a hard one to pull off. And the finished product looked just like the photo from the recipe.

And for all that... I didn't like the finished product. I'm not the biggest fan of green olives, save for in martinis, and the taste of the olives kind of overpowered most of the other ingredients, except for the preserved lemon. Which, I don't think I cut out enough of the pith from the lemon before putting them in this recipe - they were too bitter, although the lemon flavor itself was incorporated nicely into the chicken breast, which was about the only part of the recipe I kinda sorta liked.

What I DID really like was the couscous I made to go with this. I toasted a handful of cashews, pecans, and almonds in a frying pan, and prepared a batch of couscous with chicken stock, a dash of garlic powder, and butter. When the couscous was ready, I fluffed it, and tossed in the toasted nuts and a little bit of chopped dried apricot. Yum

So, the first recipe I used preserved lemons in didn't go over so well. But, I wasn't about to give up so easily after waiting a month to make them. I already knew what I was going to attempt for my next recipe, and this time, NO ACCURSED BRINY GALLSTONES-OF-SATAN UNPITTED FREAKIN' OLIVES!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Preserved Lemons

A few months ago, I was reading one of my Indian cookbooks for the umpteenth time, and came to a section that detailed the creation of pickled lemons. I'd also read about something similar in one of my Nigella Lawson cookbooks, although the recipe in that one was for "preserved", not "pickled". Most recipes and references to this ingredient call it "preserved", so that's what I'm going with, even though in both cases it's still technically a pickle. The idea of using these in cooking sounded interesting to me, so I decided to try and have a go at making and using my own batch of preserved lemons.

I wanted the unsweetened version, both as my own personal preference, and also because the recipe was a bit simpler: quartered lemons, kosher salt, and lemon juice. Combine and let sit for a month - piece of cake. I was tempted to use spices like cloves or bay leaves like my Indian cookbook did, but I didn't want to shoehorn myself into a particular flavor of preserve that might limit what I could use them for, so I kept it simple. The Nigella recipe used quite a bit of sugar and resulted in a much sweeter pickled lemon (of course), and also called for some boiling and just sounded a little fussier than I wanted to deal with.

It just so happened that at the time my supermarket had Meyer lemons in stock (they usually don't), and on sale. I'd never made anything with Meyer lemons before, and I'd read they were sweeter and more aromatic than regular lemons. They're also rounder, more plump with pulp and juice than regular lemons, and a slightly orange tint to their rind that makes them particularly bright and hints at more intense flavor than their paler brothers. I bought about a dozen of them and brought them home. Half-dozen of them got quartered and I managed to fit them snugly into a bell jar. Over those, I dumped a large amount of Kosher salt.

Then came the problem - the juice from the remaining six lemons wasn't nearly enough to fill the jar the rest of the way. I only got about a third of the way up the jar. So, I figured I needed another dozen Meyers, but unfortunately there were only about seven left at the store and three of them were ones I didn't pick for a reason - they were a bit soft and sickly-looking. But, I figured since I was only after their juice it didn't really matter what they looked like on the outside. I had to go with regular lemons for the rest of the juice I needed, but I did manage to fill the jar the rest of the way.

Once the jar was filled, it was a simple matter just to keep it in my refergierator, and gently shake it every few days to keep the brine circulating, and do it for a month. Ok, so I had a generous amount of pickled lemons at my disposal - the question was what was I going to do with them? It seemed that Middle Eastern, particularly Moroccan was the way to go, since preserved lemons figure most prominently in that region's food. I did find a recipe that intrigued me, but that's a subject for my next post. Later!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Vodka-marinated Steak

I found this recipe in Nigella Lawson's "Feast" - it was touted as being a Scandinavian-influenced recipe, and since I have a healthy dose of Scand in me and the recipe has just the right amount of quirk (beef and booze = cannot lose) in it, I had to give it a try. It's a really simple recipe with a few household cooking ingredients and quite a bit of vodka combined into a marinade that doubles as a gravy.

The marinade itself was easy to make, but I think the next time I won't even bother with the gravy, because that was kind of a pain to make. Basically you mix a few crushed garlic cloves with thyme, and equal amounts of vodka and olive oil. The steak needs to marinate for a few hours, so I prepared it a day in advance.

This is one SHINY steak, isn't it? Smells really good with the garlic and oil, though.

Cooking the steak itself didn't go so well. The problem was that the steak was so huge that it just barely fit into the pan I was frying it in. This might not sound like a big deal, but when the steak began to cook, all the accumulated juice and marinade seeped out of the steak, which under normal circumstances would have been fine. Problem was, since the steak already took up all the real estate in the pan, the juices accumulated on top of the steak, so instead of frying, it was submerged in liquid and I wound up with a braised steak instead of a fried one. It still tasted great, but instead of tasting like a fried steak, it tasted more like a big, flat pot roast.

The gravy was delicious, if a bit salty. You could taste the faint bite of the vodka in it. To be honest, though, I preferred those boiled potatoes I made to go with it. Those were done just by scrubbing a few red potatoes (and I had a small yellow one I added as well), and boiling them in salted water until they were easily pierced with a fork. Then I drained the water out, leaving the potatoes in the pot, and threw in a big glob of butter and snipped some fresh dill in as well. When the butter was melted, I just popped the cover on the pot and gave it a good vigorous shake to coat the potatoes with the butter and dill.

I think I'm going to try this one again with a thicker cut of steak and cook it the way I like it - more seared, with a crispy brown exterior and a juicy rare inside. For now, this recipe is on probation.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cocoa Sauerkraut Cookies

Yeah, this is an actual for-real recipe. Ok, a little background on where I got this. My uncle has made it something of a tradition in the last few years to collect family recipes, newspaper clippings, little bits and pieces of family mementos and photocopy them and make cookbooks for my siblings and I as Christmas gifts. I found this recipe in the first cookbook he gave us (and as this blog grows, I'm almost certainly going to include a few other recipes from these cookbooks) - there's a few variations of this recipe online, but I stick with the original. This was one of the recipes that prompted me to start this little blog in the first place. I'm not sure exactly what prompted the creator of this recipe to use sauerkraut as a cookie ingredient. Maybe the rinsed sauerkraut was originally intended to be a cheaper substitute for shredded coconut. Or maybe some chef got a bit confused while crapulent on cooking sherry. I lean towards the former.

What I didn't particularly like about the original recipe when I first read it was that outside the sauerkraut there wasn't a whole lot going on in these cookies, seeing as how cocoa was really the only other major flavor. I think just about every chocolate cookie recipe, particularly homemade ones, has to have chocolate chips in it - the only chocolate cookies I like that don't have them are the Girl Scout's Thin Mints and Oreos. The original recipe also called for shortening, and I thought I would try using unsalted butter. Shortening is much cheaper, but I thought using real butter would give them some extra richness and flavor. Also, with the idea that the sauerkraut was intended as a coconut substitute, I got the idea to add a little bit of coconut extract to the cookie recipe to see how many people I could fool. Anyway, with the coconut extract and chocolate chips being added, and the butter softened to room temperature, I was all set.

Cocoa Sauerkraut Cookies
1 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3 3/4 C. flour
1 1/2 C. shortening (or unsalted butter)
3 C. sugar
3 eggs
1 T. vanilla (or coconut extract)
1 lb. canned sauerkraut
2 C. (12-oz. bag) chocolate chips (optional)

Mix the first five ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. Cream together the shortening, eggs, sugar, and vanilla/coconut until smooth. Drain the sauerkraut, rinse it thoroughly, and chop it. Stir that into the creamed mixture, then add the dry ingredients and stir together until well-blended. If you are using the chocolate chips, add them now and stir just until they are incorporated. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Dry ingredients

Rinsing the sauerkraut for the 3rd time.

The result of mixing the sauerkraut and the dough. No matter how thoroughly I drain and blot the sauerkraut with paper towels beforehand, the dough always starts to get kind of alarmingly wet at this point, almost like cake batter instead of cookie dough.

Whew. Two in the morning, and I wound up with roughly 4 1/2 dozen of these oddities (this was the first batch I pulled out). They look pretty normal, don't they? Of course, there's the real question - how do they taste?

Not bad. What you wind up with is a cookie that is almost brownie-like in softness and moistness. There is a little hint of the sauerkraut texture in there, but if you didn't know it was sauerkraut, the coconut flavor would throw you - it certainly fooled everyone I gave these to. And actually, I'm thinking that the butter wasn't such a hot idea after all. When I made these cookies with shortening, the cookies held up to baking better and weren't quite as flat as these.

Monday, October 6, 2008

An Improbable Pie-Mutation

I was looking through a Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbook of my mother's last Thanksgiving. This particular cookbook is 40 years old, and I frequently like reading recipes from the 1950s and 1960s because it's kind of neat in a funny way to read recipes that proudly trumpet the amazing dishes you can make for your family using things like Spam, Wonderbread, and Cheez-Its.

Anyway, I was reading it and THIS leapt out at me:

Wow - I don't even know what to say about this. It looks like a pie that mutated, and the list of ingredients indicates a truly bizarre mix of flavors - coconut, pecans, and lime. It's actually pretty simple to make - It's just pre-baking the crust, with a little toasting, a little whipping, a little spreading, and a little spooning.

And y'know what? This is actually pretty tasty. I would suggest letting the lime sherbet sit out of the freezer for a good 15 minutes or so to soften it, or spoon it out into a large bowl and stir it a bit until it's softer - if it's too hard, you're going to have a hell of a time spreading it without breaking the crust.

Macaroon Crunch Pie

9-in. pie crust
1/2 c. shredded coconut
1 pint lime sherbet (1/2 a quart)
1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1 cup crushed macaroon cookies* (I bought a brand that was called (I think) Southern Kitchen)
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Pre-bake a 9-in pie crust, either using a store-bought brand or your favorite homemade recipe. When the crust comes out of the oven, spread the coconut on a small baking sheet or a piece of heavy-duty foil and toast it for a few minutes. Let the crust and coconut cool COMPLETELY.

Set aside 2 tablespoons of the coconut and spread the rest in the bottom of the crust. Spread the soft sherbet over it and pop it in the freezer while you get on with the rest of the recipe.

Whip the heavy cream until it begins to thicken, add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside 1 cup of that for later. Fold the cookie crumbs and pecans into the rest of the whipped cream. Take the pie out of the freezer and spread the crumb-cream mixture until it completely covers the sherbert (it will help keep it frozen later). Take that reserved 1 cup of whipped cream and dab spoonfuls of it around the edge of the pie, then sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut in the center. Put it back in the freezer and let it sit overnight.

*Buy thin, crispy coconut cookies. DO NOT buy those delicious, soft, mounded macaroons that look like snowballs - they are FAR too soft to crumble well.