I have no real culinary training other than what one can gain from reading cookbooks like novels and spending thousands of hours playing in the kitchen. When you are self taught, sometimes there are basics that you somehow never really learn to do well. I find this is true of my culinary skill, gardening and quilting among other self taught loves. When I put my goal list together, I added quite a few goals that aimed to correct some of these gaps - either through practice or learning from the hands of people who know better than me.
|half butter and half leaf lard for a perfect dough|
Pie crust is one of those basics that can be so simple yet so difficult. It consists of only a few simple ingredients: flour, fat, water. Yet ten cooks can read the same recipe and end up with different outcomes ranging from tender flaky layers to dense chunks of drywall. Its one of those things best learned from an expert.
|use the pie pan to measure out the fruit for the filling|
Kate McDermott is this expert. Her pies have been featured on the cover of Saveur and Edible Seattle. Seattle Magazine named her Food Rock Star of the year. Ruth Reichl, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine, called baking pie with Kate a "liberating experience." Every Seattle blogger has blogged about her (so, I am about two years late to the party). Anytime anyone on twitter talks about pie they reference Kate. This is the person to learn pie from. I caught the Kate bug and she made it onto my goal list - number 48 - "learn to make pie from Kate McDermott."
|a heaping cup of sugar and a third cup of flour to thicken and sweeten the rhubarb|
This last week I was lucky enough to be invited by Kate to drive out the peninsula and learn from her. I wasn't going to miss this opportunity and I squeezed my ninth month pregnant self behind the wheel and headed down to the ferry line.
Kate was all she had been cracked up to be - a pie expert with a warm personality and cold hands (all the better for flaky dough). Being comfortable in the kitchen, and able to make a perfectly acceptable pie already, I wanted to learn more than I could from a good recipe - and I did. She showed me all the secrets that no written recipe could have taught and a few that are easier to pass on (use "leaf lard" instead of shortening). I had been making my dough too wet and my filling without enough thickener. I learned to work the fat into the flour until it looks like "peas...and almonds and a few walnuts," to not be afraid to use my hands and to stop before I think I am done.
|The beautiful Kate and swollen pregnant Lara|
Before the week was done I had already tried my hand at another pie to see if my talents would translate out of her kitchen and into mine. My guests raved about my strawberry rhubarb pie and I even impressed myself. No gift is more valuable than a newly learned skill. Follow this link for a tutorial from Kate herself. Thank you Kate!
|Pure spring time - rhubarb pie and cherry blossoms|
Sources for Leaf Lard:
Sea Breeze Farm, Vashon Island, University District and Ballard Farmers Market
Skagit River Ranch, Sedro Wolley, University District, Ballard, West Seattle and Bellevue Farmers Market
Dietrich's Meat, Pennsylvania, order on-line