As an American Apple Pie

One Michele T. Fillion in our life is the Pie Queen. Any baked item, for that matter.

Here is the definitive recipe for Apple Pie.

Secret: She follows the recipe in the Joy of Cooking exactly. But ... for the shortening element — good butcher rendered Lard. (Do it yourself. Or, from an Italian Pork Store or Polish butcher. Not the packaged bland supermarket kind. )


[Exactly as presented in the Joy of Cooking — "Pie Dough Cockaigne"]

1. Sift together ...

— 2.5 Cups All Purpose Flour
— 2 tsp. Sugar
— 1 tsp. Salt

2. Add ...

 — 6 Tbsp. cold unsalted Butter
 — 1/4 Cup chilled shortening*
          *MTF uses rendered Lard. (Not the supermarket kind, but from a real            butcher.)

3. Cut in half of the shortenings, then the remainder. Dough should become crumbly pea sized.

4. Sprinkle with 6 Tbsp. ice Water. (More if necessary for ingredients to hold.)

5. Divide in two, shape into a disks. Wrap with plastic. Refrigerate.

6. Roll out chilled Dough and assemble pie**.

** If making something like an Apple Dumpling, roll out a portion of Dough large enough to wrap peeled and cored whole Apple. Follow directions for additions to the filling as below.


For 9" Pie pan. (Again, Joy of Cooking.)

1. Preheat oven to 425° F.

2. Combine ...

— 2.5 Pounds crisp tart Apples, peeled and sliced; 5-6 large. (Rome is at the top of the list. Or, mix 'em up.)
— 3/4 Cup Sugar
—  2-3 Tbsp. Flour (to thicken juices)
—  1 Tbsp. fresh Lemon juice
— 1/2 tsp. ground Cinnamon
— 1/8 tsp. Salt

TIP: Add Apple slices to bowl with Lemon juice to prevent slice from browning.

3. Let stand for 15 minutes to soften Apples.

4. Evenly pour into pan lined with bottom crust.

5. Dot with 2 Tbsp. unsalted Butter.

6. Place top crust. Crimp edges. Cut slit in center for steam to escape.

7. Dust top with 2 tsp. Sugar and 1/8 tsp. of ground Cinnamon.

8. Place Pie on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 425° F, then turn oven down to 350° F for 30-45 minutes until pie is done, and juices are bubbling.

9. Let baked Pie cool for 1/2 to 1 hour before serving.


Mom's Apple Pie

We love one Michele T. Fillion. Not least for her excellent pies. She in our world is the "Pie Queen".

Here is her recipe for Apple Pie using a 10 inch pie pan. The crust will work for whatever other filling you may choose.


Dough Ingredients:

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
5 Tbsp. Sweet Butter, chilled
3.5 Tbsp. Lard, chilled (from butcher, not store packaged)
4-5 Tbsp. ice Water 

Crust Preparation:

1. Sift dry ingredients (Flour, Sugar, Salt) together into a large mixing bowl.
2. Cut the shortening (cold Butter, Lard) into the flour mixture until well combined.
     (Not too fine, leave some large pieces. This will ensure flakiness of crust.)
3. Criss-cross divide the flour/shortening mixture into four equal parts in the bowl.
4. Add 1 Tbsp. ice Water a few drops at a time to each of the four portions, mixing in each with a fork. (This will ensure equal distribution and right amount of water. Careful not to add too much rendering the dough mushy.)
5. Lift dough with the hands in the bowl and form into a ball which holds together. (If dough doesn't come together add more water, but only a little at a time.)
6. Cut dough ball in two pieces, wrap in plastic, and let rest refrigerated for 1/2 hour to chill (while preparing the Apple filling).

Apple Filling:

1. 8-10 medium to large baking Apples. (Rome, Northern Spy, Granny Smith. Try a mixture of types. Baking Apples are preferred since they won't melt while baking.)
2. Peel and core Apples cutting each into 8 pieces.
3. Sprinkle onto Apple pieces a little Lemon juice or Citric Acid solution to prevent browning.
4. 1-1.5 Cups granulated Sugar mixed to combine with ... (HINT: Adjust Sugar amount according to sweetness/tartness of selected Apple variety.)
5. 4 Tbsp. Corn Starch.
6. 1/4 tsp. Grated Nutmeg. (1/2 tsp.Cinnamon optional to taste.)
7. Simply combine half of Sugar mixture with Apples, stirring just once. Set remainder aside.

Final Assembly:

(Start oven to preheat to 425° F)

1. Roll out one of the dough halves large enough to fill pie pan.
2. Trim edges flush with a knife and prick bottom of crust all over in pan bottom with a fork.
3. Roll out top crust an inch wider that pie pan and set aside. In warm weather refrigerate to keep dough firm.
4. Add Apple mixture to bottom crust in pan.
5. Cut 2 Tbsp. Butter into equal pieces onto filling.
6. Drizzle on remaining 1/2 Sugar mixture evenly over buttered filling.
7. Unroll top crust dough onto pie. Crimp edges uniformly with fingers. Cut a vent crosswise in the center, prick all over with fork.
8. Make a Glaze — Beat 1 Egg Yolk with 1 Tbsp. Cream. Glaze pie with pastry brush.
9. Sprinkle 2-3 Tbsp. Sugar over top. (Optional to mix in Nutmeg and/or Cinnamon.)
10. Place on parchment or foil lined tray (to catch drips).


1. Place tray in center of a preheated 425° F oven, initial bake for 12 minutes.
2. Lower heat to 350° F and bake until done. Approximately 1 hour, or more as needed. HINT: Look for bubbles in center to gauge doneness.
3. HINT: Cover pie with foil to control browning of top crust.


Gnocchi Demystified

A Recipe ... and, a Story

It started with Bagels. Once in a while it'll be Bagels and Cream Cheese and a big cup of robust Coffee on Sunday morning. Or, if we splurge, Lox for on top of that. If it's that, then of course, with Onion, Tomato slice, Lettuce. Kosher Dills. And spicy Bloody Mary's. Who's hungry already? And, when we want to go all out ... Herring slices in Cream sauce with Onions. And, good Danish Pastry. Good. Not some limp imitation sold within a plastic wrapper.

In any event, the Scallion-Chive Cream Cheese was in the making. There was some Farmer Cheese which never saw itself into a recipe envisioned to be tossed into Pasta with Olive Oil, grated Parmisian, and Parsley. Yes, that's how we spelled it ... "Parmesian". 

So, in went the Farmer Cheese for the spread. Nice. Try it. We added Mayonnaise to moisten the mixture. Farmer Cheese is rather dry textured, you know. 

There were leftovers. Next day we added a half-plus portion of all purpose Flour and eggs. Parsley. Some grated Nutmeg. And, oh yes, served tossed in melted Butter with some Pork Cracklings for garnish. Dropped large spoonfuls into boiling water. Voilà ... Gnocchi.

The lesson is simply this. Gnocchi is what you make of it. The simplest of things, really. 



When every fiber of your being is oriented to just that one thing, and that thing is Pizza, here's what you are to do.

Herewith the can't miss, quick, works-every-time recipe ...

1. Slice and toast an English Muffin(s).
2. Slather with Tomato Sauce (plain, right out of the can).
3. Light Sprinkle of Oregano.
4. Grated Mozzarella.
5. Sliced/quartered Pepperoni.
6. Dusting of Parmigiana or Pecorino.
7. Bake at 350° F for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted.
8. Sprinkle with Pepper flakes (to taste).
9. Serve.
10. Enjoy.

BTW, keep English Muffins on hand at all times. It's the handy fall back for lots of things: Hamburgers, Breakfast (of course), PBJs.


Cooky Cat's Last and Definitive Word on Spicing

Like Julia Childs has pronounced vis-a-vis Nutmeg, Cooky Cat universalizes the topic to say that you don't want to introduce any spice or flavoring into a dish so much so that on first taste you'd say "Nutmeg!". Or, "Cumin!". Or, "Cinnamon!". Or, what have you.

If you're following a particular recipe, follow it closely the first time. Afterwords you can adjust as you like. This point, particularly in the arena of heat. Just to observe that with the essential flavors of the ingredients themselves, added flavorings, and spices ... there's an alchemy in the combination. Long tested recipes have got the magic of the proportions down. Follow them.

And, for the love of God ... take a tip from the Itralians: The thing itself has its own flavor. You don't have to go all over-spicing everything. String Beans sautéed in Butter with some Garlic ... it don't get no better.

This Cat has some preferences; Cumin ... he likes. But, just because you like it, doesn't mean to overdo it. Capish?



The Zen of Tacos

Jerk Pork Tacos / Photo David D. Wronski

We have right here the definitively proper take on Tacos ...

" ... making tacos doesn't seem like a particularly daunting culinary challenge. Make some tasty stuff and ladle it on a taco. That's about all there is to it."

— Michael Weinstein

Who would disagree. But, it is in that "tasty stuff" quotient ... wherein lies the proof. And, the love.

Birria and Chivo Tacos at Los Cuñados Passaic, New Jersey
Photos: David D. Wronski


Hard Cooked Eggs

How to make less ... "hard"

 Eggs Garnished with grated Horseradish/Beets
Photo David D. Wronski 

1. Raw Egg(s) at room temperature.

2. Place in boiling water, shut off heat, let stand for 15 minutes.

3. Remove Egg(s), place is cold water to cool.


Pizza in the Detroit Style

Photo: David D. Wronski

If you're from Detroit, Michigan or you know the town well, then you know about the kind of Pizza folks there prefer. The epicenter of what defines Detroit style Pizza is Buddy's Rendezvous.


It's made in a rectangular steel pan. In the first photo we used what we had. A round pan. [Whatever.] In the shot below, behold the inimitable original from when we last dined at Buddy's Rendezvous.

Photo: David D. Wronski

When I was a lad, Buddy's was the place. The friendly, warm and definitely hip waitresses there treated you right. After asking if I was of age (I lied), with a wink I was served my first alcoholic beverage — a Boomba of Beer — at Buddy's.

But this isn't about that place. It's about how you — yes, you! — can make a pie at home that will take you back to Motown in a jiffy.

Here's the secret. Whether square or round, use a high side metal pan. Butter the bottom and sides liberally. Form your risen dough to the sides of the pan. Let it rise again. And, again, if you want. Pressing it down if you're going to rise it twice.

Use a mild white Cheese. Some portion of Mozzarella if you want. In the Motor City they use what's called Wisconsin brick Cheese. Good luck finding that outside the Midwest. Mild white Cheddar or Monterey Jack, or something close will do it. No need to order some online. Unless of course you have the moola and the help is not too busy.

Buddies puts the Pepperoni down right onto the dough first. If you're asking why Pepperoni, maybe you should just stop reading. Alright, don't stop. If'n you no likka the Spicy Stick, then you are beyond salvation. But, that's OK with us. It's your bouche that you have to amuse.

Then add the cheese. This is key. Spread the shredded cheese liberally all the way to the edge of the pan. It's that cheesy crusty burntish edge that gives the Detroit Pizza it's claim to fame. It is addictive.


Sauce-wise ... cover or dot the top with chunky Tomato sauce. However much or little you prefer.

PS Last time at Buddy's the waitress confided that you can have the sauce added first, or last. Seems there are variations on the theme.

Bake as per your recipe. And ... enjoy.

Here's the Buddy's Boomba in all its glory. (With a shot of Tomato juice.)

Photo: David D. Wronski


Enchiladas en Casserole

Our buddy David D. Wronski posts photos of his awesome culinary creations on his Facebook page. And ... friends often request the recipes. We interviewed him on the subject of the above pictured Enchiladas, and here is the short and sweet.

An Enchilada is a Tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with Chile sauce. It's really the simplest thing.

A basic question you have to ask yourself at this juncture if you're going to make them at home is this: how much work do you want to invest?

The simple approach is to get all your ingredients off the shelf from your local market. Open some cans, assemble, heat through in the oven. Serve.

Cooky Cat cooks from scratch. So, it's none of the above. While Enchiladas are essentially the simplest of things, there are some considerations and steps to take. You decide how deeply you want to "scratch".


Tortillas, for example. Store bought are fine. Then, of course, there's the question of whether to select Corn or Wheat Tortillas. We prefer corn for that distinctive flavor. But, wait! Maybe you want to make your own. You can get Masa Harina (Corn Flour) and make a simple dough. Press out some Tortillas then bake on a heated flat pan. Or, if you want to go native, buy some dried Maize Mote (Hominy) and take these steps.

You can get a Tortilla press if you want. Not recommended, unless you're going for Tortillas in a big way; or, you're a moneybags and need to have a gadget for every step in the kitchen. A flat bottom of a stainless steel bowl and some elbow grease will get you a proper round Tortilla. As for grinding the corn, a food processor will do nicely. Traditionally a Comal is used to bake the Tortillas. It's just a flat pan with a handle. Wronski uses his Indian Tawa. Hear this!  A cast iron skillet will do the trick.

We suggest adding some good Lard into your Nixtamal-based dough. By "good Lard" we're talking about rendered Lard from a local butcher or a store selling cured Pork products. A well stocked Mexican grocery should also sell good Lard.

In the Southwest USofA freshly prepared dough can also be found in the refrigerator section at some stores. Or, go to your neighborhood Tortilleria and buy some fresh dough.

Had enough about Tortillas?

Hint on those store boughten Corn Tortillas. If you have a choice, give them a good old "Charmin" squeeze. Soft and fluffy is the word. Same with Flour Tortillas.

Chile Sauce

Here, again, some considerations. First ... Red? Or, Green? Or, both. That latter is quaintly called "Christmas" in the Southwest.

Muy Importante: DO NOT USE PACKAGED CHILI POWDER. That's what you use [rather, can use] to make a bowl of Red. Again, even for Chili Con Carne, make it from dried Chiles.

For Red: Get a selection of dried Chiles. Chile New Mexico, Chile Guajillo, Chile Passilla, Chile Ancho (dried Poblano) are a good basic range. Not too hot. Maybe canned Chipotle con Adobo, dried Jalapenos in sauce, for some kick. There are other Chile Peppers you may want to add for flavor and heat. Experiment. As you can tell, it's a subject in itself. Here's a link for a list of the varieties and their heat.

You make a basic sauce by first deseeding and toasting the red Chiles in a pan [What! You don't have a Comal?] over medium heat. Soak until soft off heat in water brought to a boil. Blend to make a sauce. Strain to remove papery skins.

Finish your sauce however you want. Chicken or Beef Broth. The sauce leftover from a braise. Go ahead, if you have vegetables in with the braised meat, puree the veggies into your sauce. Some sautéed finely chopped Onions and Garlic, Cumin, and Oregano. Salt, Pepper. There's your sauce.

For Green: Green Chile Sauce is from fresh green Chiles. If you can get your hands on some Hatch Green Chiles ... do it. Roasted right there on the side of the road in Hatch, NM. You can hunt for some canned. You will not be disappointed. Great flavor. Chile Pablano is a good alternative. Be careful. Sometimes you get a hot one in there. Roast over an open flame, or on a fire grill. Peel blistered skin. Remove seeds, chop and add to sauce. Anaheim's are also a possible variety. Same as above: blister skin over heat, peel, chop. Seeds can stay.

Green Chile sauce is best kept ... green. A clear sauce with water or Chicken broth. Onions and Garlic. Cumin and Oregano. Salt and Pepper. That'll do ya.

The Filling

Meats: The filling in Mr. Wronski's superb creation pictured above is centered on braised short ribs of Beef. The key understanding for whatever you put inside that rolled Tortilla is to be sure it's ... "tender". Chicken, Beef, Lamb/Goat, Pork. You choose. Braise, buddy, braise! Roasted meats will do nicely. Just ... "tender". OK?

Seafoods? Maybe. But, let's not go there now.

Wronski likes to make Refried Beans at home. Very simple. Sauté fine chopped Onion and Garlic, add a can of Frijole Pintos (or whatever bean you may have a desire for to use), bring to heat, let liquid evaporate, then mash. Salt and pepper. Bring some heat if you want. Voilà! Refried beans. He likes to use good Lard in this dish too.

Queso: Here you have some more choices. Inside with the meat(s) and refried Beans goes some cheese(s). Wronski likes the Velveeta. Don't quibble. Any melty cheese will do. Also maybe some crumbly plain white cheese. The Mexican store has more than a few choices. Wronski used Feta! (He's so fusion.) Or, why not try some drained small curd Cottage Cheese? Do you get it? Do your thing, baby. 

Also, some melty cheese for on top of your assembled Enchiladas en Casserole. You like the Parmesan? Do it!


Put some sauce in the bottom of the baking pan. Fill, then roll them up. Arrange them nicely, flaps down. More sauce on top. Cheese. 


Really, just to heat through. Bake for 15 minutes at 325 F.


Put 2 or 3 on a plate and dig in. Crema or Sour Cream. Sprinkling of fine chopped white Onion/Scallion. Cilantro leaves chopped. Maybe some roasted or pickled Jalapenos. And ... whatever the heck you may also like to accompany.

Like ...

Salsa Ensalada

Coarsely chop sweet Onion/Scallions, Tomato, Cucumber, Jalapeno Chile (with or without the seeds and veins depending on how much heat you want), Cilantro leaves. Pulse in food processor until minced. Salt, pepper. Fresh Lime juice. A little good Olive Oil. 



Onion Confit

Before we get to the subject of Onion Confit, I want to get something off my chest. When you sauté onions to the point of they be getting nice and brown, can we agree to call them "browned".

The spirit of the culinary age seems to prefer the term "caramelized". It's true that they get brown through a process known as caramelization on account of the natural sugars; but do we have to make it so highfalutin? Or, like the word, "Melange". Which works best, a "Mess of Greens" or a "Melange of Greens"? Write it the way you want; but, no need to get all snooty-like. Like . . . that Martha person, for example. When the hostess says, "Soupçon" I immediately make haste for the dining room. "Soup's On!" And, you better beleive we'll be expecting a nice size bowl, no soupçon, if you please.

But, you say, what about Onion Confit? Look it up.


Challah French Toast

"Almond Touch"

Hankering after a good Almond Croissant. Instead, using homemade Challah, made French Toast and topped with toasted-sugared sliced Almonds.


French Toast Tip: Marinate the bread slices in the egg-milk-sugar dip to make moist through and through. Also, lots of Cinnamon.


 Los Cuñados

Mexican Grocery and Restaurant

195 Monroe Street, Passiac, New Jersey

The restaurant is open Saturdays and Sundays. Featuring Birria (Goat Soup), Carnitas (Pork), Chivo (Goat), and Lingua (Beef Tongue) Tacos. 

Also, warm hearts and smiles.

A peek inside the kitchen where fresh Tortillas are made to order.

Made and served with love.

Birria Consome and Chivo Tacos. Packets of red and green Salsa.

Our Lady of Guadalupe watches over everything ...