Sunday, March 29, 2015

Quiche. Don't Do It OR How NOT To Make Quiche

How NOT to Make Quiche.

I admit it. I occasionally have Delusions of Grandeur. My latest delusion was that I could just whip up a quick bacon and asparagus quiche. I thought to myself, "What a wonderful, quick dish to put together for my family."

There was spring asparagus in the produce section of my local grocery store. It was pencil thin and gorgeous. None of this would have happened if I hadnt  seen that green goddess of temptation. That asparagus was singing it's siren's song to me. Tall, thin and green, it was a reminder of the spring we had not yet seen in Chicago. Ill admit it. I lusted after that asparagus. Instead of passing it by, I found myself answering it's siren's song. I picked it up and placed it lovingly into my cart, protecting it from harm.

I thought to myself, "Why should I make this hard on myself?" I bought pre-made refrigerated dough, smiling at my smart time saving decision.

I wanted my beautiful asparagus to be cradled in the lap of a luxuriant custard. I grabbed some light whipping cream, deluding myself by thinking, "At least it's not heavy cream.

I unpacked all of my ingredients after I got home, remembering to leave the pie dough out at room temperature. In the past, I had always forgotten to do this and was very proud of myself for remembering this time without reading the package. I whipped out the bacon from the refrigerator, and began the process of slowly cooking it in my cast-iron skillet, the way my mother had taught me. While it was cooking, I thinly sliced up a shallot, and cut my asparagus into 1 inch pieces, throwing away the hard ends into my compost bucket.

I needed the formula for the custard so I consulted the great international brain. That was my first mistake. The recipe I found said to put heavy aluminum foil over the piecrust in the pie pans and cook it at 450°F for eight minutes, then to remove the heavy aluminum foil and cook it for five more minutes. They specified not piercing the pie crust with a fork. I followed the instructions.

The aluminum foil pulled off a fair amount of piecrust with it. But still, I was not daunted. It was okay if it wasn't perfect. I pulled out the finished piecrust from the oven. One was in a glass pie pan and the other in a flimsy aluminum pie pan. As I removed the flimsy pie pan, it twisted and bent, spilling hot pie crust all over the chair next to my kitchen table. I cursed and lamented loudly, until my teenaged son came into the kitchen asking, "Ok, what did I do THIS time?"

I pulled it together and remembered that I had a pie crust mix from an apple orchard we frequent in the fall. This was becoming way more of a project than I had anticipated, but I was determined to please the asparagus gods.  I read the instructions for the crust. CRAP! All of my butter was frozen! Still, I thought, "I can do this. I mean, how hard is it to make piecrust?"

The asparagus gods laughed.

I chipped away the frozen butter into the flour mixture and almost broke the blades of my pastry cutter cutting the butter into the flour.  I remembered if that you put too much water into the dough, it makes gluten, and therefore, rock hard crust. I had heard an editor from Cook's Illustrated on NPR, pontificating that vodka worked to moisten pie dough because vodka did not form gluten with flour. I thought this would be a neat time to try this out.

Vodka does not really cause pie dough to come together very well. Just Sayin'. I ended up adding 3 tablespoons of cold water.

I had remembered reading somewhere that if you added dried kidney beans on top of the crust, it keeps it from bubbling up. So...I did. But without a barrier between the pie crust and the beans.

Don't do that.

After I picked out the hot beans from the now mushy, torn up crust, I decided to just patch it up and use it anyway. At this point, I just wanted it over.

I sprinkled the grated smoky Gouda (this, BTW was a GREAT idea) onto the crust, added the sautéed shallots and asparagus, and liberally sprinkled it with bacon, poured the rosemary custard mixture over the top, and baked it for 45 minutes at 375°F. I ended up with one quiche with store bought crust, one with a less messy homemade crust, and one that looked horrible with patched up crust.

This whole thing took me three hours more than I had allotted for this project.

A few take home points from this.

1.      Buy extra pie crust.

2.     Make more filling than you think you need. Teenagers love bacon and I had to fend them off.

3.     If you Make your own pie crust, DON'T use frozen butter. DO use vodka:water 50:50 to wet it. The crust was flaky and wonderful

4.     Don't put dried kidney beans on your crust.

5.     Put flimsy aluminum pie plates on a cookie sheet so you don't spill dough all over the floor.

6.     If anyone knows how to precook dough without it bubbling up or sticking to the aluminum foil, I would love to know.

7.     MOST IMPORTANT, Asparagus is dangerous. It's like the siren's song of spring. Lash yourself to the shopping cart and keep on moving, or you'll end up like I did, sweating over piecrust in a delusional attempt to make quiche.


The bottom is refrigerator dough. The top obscured one...It wasn't pretty but it tasted good.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

First Aid and CPR

Boy Scouts, CPR and First Aid Training

Once again, I am going to discuss Boy Scouts, but I want to thank Brittany Jones, a Red Cross teacher who came to our troop last night and taught all the boys and their parents and leaders CPR.

CPR, or Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation, is a skill that every single person who is able to get down on the floor on their hands and knees, should learn. The Red Cross trains more than 9 million people in life saving skills a year.

Why CPR?

CPR could save your family member’s life. CPR could save YOUR life.

CPR courses teach you how to do CPR and how to use an AED –Automated External Defibrillator. These are machines which can “shock” a person’s heart back into rhythm. Seconds count when someone’s heart has stopped. AED’s are found in schools, airports, and many private businesses. It is important that all people using AED’s be CPR certified. Also, it is important that the batteries be checked and the AED’s be periodically checked that they are functioning.

The more people who are CPR certified, the more people could be saved. You may be depending on a stranger to save your or a family member’s life. It’s not just enough that YOU get certified, but to encourage as many people as you can to get certified.
Many businesses are giving employees a bonus if they get certified.

Our troop spent the last month learning First Aid. We were preparing for a First Aid Meet, and I am happy to announce that we tied for second place out of 7-8 participating troops.

I can’t tell you how impressed I was with the boys though. They took this on and really got prepared. They can be first responders in an emergency. They know how to assess a scene for safety; how to call 911 and what to say; how to assess the people injured and triage them. They know how to do splinting and bandaging, how to make a stretcher, how to do a 2 man carry, how to treat snake bites and insect bites. They know to check for Medic Alert bracelets. 

Last year, in 2014, the TV journalist Ann Curry, was hiking in NY State when she broke her ankle. A Scout Troop from New Jersey (Yeah! New Jersey!) came upon her and asked her if she was okay. She wasn’t, and they splinted her ankle, and made a stretcher to bring her down off the treacherous path to get to safety and help. The boys had been training for this as part of their normal rank advancement, and they knew what to do.
See this blog post by Bryan on Scouting about it:

If you haven’t already, consider donating to either or both, the Boy Scouts of America, and the American Red Cross.

Below are photos from the First Aid Meet. 
Chicago Fire Department sent a First Responder Team of Firemen/EMT's and a Paramedic to the First Aid meet to show the boys their Trucks and EMS equipment. 

Thank you to the Chicago Fire Department Engine Company 78 for coming out and working with our Boy Scouts.