Before we finished last week, several friends, both old and new, brought in gifts. I want to thank a few right now. Bud Walters stopped in the office asking for “the cooking writer.” I introduced myself, and he promptly presented me with some whole-wheat lasagna pasta. He said that he found it at Fort Campbell where he was shopping, and thought of my recent column longing for such an ingredient. I would expect to be serving some lasagna as soon as Hawkins and I rally enough of the gang to feed. Thanks Mr. Walters.
I also have to thank my good friend Peggy Graham. She often lets me taste desserts and treats she has prepared for a local restaurant. We share recipe ideas all the time, and she has a buddy in Hawkins to discuss movies and television with. Anyhow, she sent us a bag full of her best homemade treats. Hawkins and I shared with the office before devouring them with uncommon zeal.
Spending time with my family, I wanted to prepare some treats of my own to share with them. My Aunt Karlyn requested some of my vegetable beef soup. Though it kind of got lost among Uncle Buell’s most gourmet of creations, everyone seemed to like it. I brought the leftovers home to Hawkins, his friend Kyle and his sister Elsbeth. I’ve written about that soup before, so no need for a review.
The second thing I cooked for my entire family was a cherry pie. Originally, I planned to flambé the cherries to infuse them with brandy flavor, but they got too much of a sauce on them for that to be successful. Still, it was a good pie. Hawkins and company got leftovers and seemed content.
Start with unsweetened cherries. I used about two cans of the tart fruit packed in either juice or water. Do not buy cherry pie filling, as it is already sweet.
Open the cans and drain one cup’s worth of juice from them into a large saucepan. Reserve the cherries and set them aside for now. I was hoping to find some amaretto to add to the juice, but no such luck. I thought about what to use, and considered almond extract, but went a different route. I added a tablespoon of vanilla extract to the cherry juice, remembering how much I like cherry vanilla soda.
In a separate bowl, blend one and a quarter cups of sugar, two-and-a-half tablespoons of flour, two tablespoons of cornstarch, and a quarter-teaspoon of both salt and cinnamon. Add this to the cherry juice and vanilla and begin mixing well as it simmers on low heat. When it begins to thicken slightly, add the cherries and a half-cup of brandy. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens to a gel-like consistency.
When the cherries are at a good consistency, pour them into an unbaked pie shell. Cover the pie with a top crust and bake it for a half-hour at 400 degrees. The cherries are cooked so the main thing is to brown the crust.
My cousin Rick Sanborn said he loved the brandy flavor of the cherries. Hawkins said that the pie was great, so I had little in the way of criticism.
When I made my way back to Cadiz, we watched the film Eastern Promises. Aunt Karlyn and her friend Maryanne Smith took me to see it over the weekend, but found it to be too violent. We left the movie. Upon seeing the conclusion, I think they made the right decision. Though a well made and acted movie, it was indeed violent. After that, we reviewed the Curb Your Enthusiasm season finale, with an amusing “Christmas Card” at the end. With family, friends, Christmas cheer a plenty, good leftover soup and a pie that I was proud of, a great Christmas was had by all. Good eating.