Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pie and Potter

Last weekend was my sister J’s birthday, and we chose to celebrate with a Harry Potterthon of sorts. The original plan, of course, had been to go to the opening of HP6 at the movies, but then for whatever obscure reason, the studio pushed back its release until June and we were stuck with that silly Twilight dreck. We said a hearty “HELL no” to that, and decided to watch all the released Potter films in one go, with food and comfy blankets and beverages.

It was, in a word, awesome (though we only ended up getting through 4 of the 5 films). J and D came over around noon and we snacked on spinach dip and hummus, veggies and chips before getting started on Philosopher’s Stone.

When the pivotal scene on the Hogwarts Express arrived, where Harry buys up the sweets trolley and Ron explains chocolate frog cards to him, I paused the DVD and dashed into the kitchen to present J with a plate of chocolate sugar cookies shaped like frogs. We found the cookie cutter in Vermont and I fortuitously discovered a chocolate sugar cookie recipe in the current Canadian Living. They were very good, if a little too crunchy for my liking (next time, will underbake). J was exceedingly pleased with them, which was very gratifying.

After movie three (I think), we made supper. J had found a reference to chicken and ham pie in one of the HP books, so D did a little research and came up with a recipe that involved both those esteemed meats, plus potatoes, mushrooms, onions and cream of mushroom soup. We dumped this delicious mixture into pie crusts and topped it with grated Monterey Jack. It was totally decadent and delish. To wash it down, we had “butterbeer” – Stewart’s vanilla cream soda re-labelled by yours truly (cleverly so, if I do say so myself). Also a big hit.

My real home run of the day, however, was the birthday tart. J had requested a pumpkin pie, since we missed Thanksgiving this year due to an illness in the family, and I took it one step further and used the amazing unshrinkable sweet tart shell from Smitten Kitchen to give it more of a shortbread-like base (I made it by hand and added about 6 tbsp of ice water, though, because it wouldn’t come together with just the yolk). For the filling, I followed this recipe on Epicurious but subbed ground ginger for the nutmeg (I was out, and I always add ginger to pumpkin anyway) and 2% evaporated milk for the heavy cream. It was hands-down the best pumpkin pie filling I’ve ever made, and will become my new default recipe. The molasses really adds depth of flavor and I think subbing the milk made it lighter and less of a gut-punch.

It also looked gorgeous:

See? I cannot tell you how proud I was of that damn tart. I used a 9” springform pan and the crust shrank just enough that the ring came off beautifully without so much as a crack. I hope I can replicate it come Christmas! (Although I’m thinking I might make sticky toffee pudding instead, but that’s another post for another day…)

Anyway, J was totally thrilled with her birthday pie. We all enjoyed it immensely and had leftovers for each of us. Happy birthday, J. Hope you enjoy your year of being 26.

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