September 9, 2012

LongHouse Food Writers Revival and Molly O'Neill's Rose Water Pie with Summer Berries

The LongHouse Barn and a trial-run of the pig roast. 
Two nights ago I was up until 1:00 a.m. planning a Pop-UP Food Magazine.  The day before I spent the bulk of my afternoon procuring a 1912 copper-sided washing machine to be converted into a vertical spit roast for a Mexican pig roast on September 15. The day before that I visited an artist named Earl whose office is in a fried chicken shop in downtown Hudson, NY. The fried chicken looked real good, but the art - a collection of playfully painted sneaker-wearing roosters, floppy-eared dogs and a cigarette-smoking frog - looked even better.

Everything's lovely in Rensselaerville -- even the graveyard. 
These are just a few of the activities that have filled the past six weeks of my life spent coproducing the LongHouse Food Writers Revival with Molly O'Neill and Cook N Scribble. LongHouse is a gathering of food media thinkers from across the country - food writers, bloggers, cookbook authors, television producers, radio correspondents, and so on - in Rensselaerville, New York on September 15. It's a day-long discussion on "Old Media, New Media and the False Divide" featuring stories of Mexicans living in the Hudson River Valley - chefs, famers, tortilla-makin'-grandmothers, writers, artists, and more. It includes a generous helping of fabulous food, too: an on-site espresso shop, a pizza lunch cooked in a copper-domed wood burning pizza oven and a fabulous Mexican 3-Pig-Roast that night cooked by pit master Neftali Duran.

Dinner in Rensselaerville in preparation for the event. LongHouse dinner, here we come!

This is not your grandmother's food writers conference (unless your grandmother is a Oaxacan immigrant named Marghartia who makes tortilla from scratch). In fact, it's not really a conference at all - it a Revival and a day-long journey exploring the wonderfully complex and evolving world of food and food media. 

The Revival will include a farm-to-table dinner in a restored barn, a Pop-UP Food Magazine featuring presentations by some of the nation's food media leaders like Katherine Alford of The Food Network, Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl, Francis Lam of GILT Taste, Brian Halweil of edible Communities, Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan of, Kathy Gunst of NPR, Tanya Steel of Epicurious, Corie Brown of Zester Daily, Molly O’Neill and more. 

Along with Molly and a dedicated team of hard-working interns, videographers, content creators, designers, farmers, builders, and community members, I've spent the last six weeks planning out every last fork, knife and spoon for of this one-of-a-kind gathering. Sorry that's it has been quiet around here at Dorn Room Dinner -- there are a lot of forks, knives and spoons to be organized. 

My days have also included a healthy dosage of time on Google Docs and fuzzy cell phone calls. They've included hours of driving around this beautiful countryside, conducting oral histories and sampling Mexican food (tripe tacos anyone?).

My days have included setting foot in what is easily one of the most beautiful towns in America: Rensselaerville, New York, a small town of about 100 people in the upper Hudson River Valley that seems to exist in a time and place all it's own. A quiet Main Street contains a cascading row of lovely homes, a restaurant, a bed and breakfast, a wood shop and a charming historic library. People know each other intimately here, they leave their back doors open and drop by fig tarts to neighbors at opportune moments.

My days have also included pie. Lots of pie, filled with the tart summer berries, blueberries, and ripe, juicy peaches. You find in these situations of endless planning and organizing and coordinating that certain things sustain you late into the night when a busy excel sheet becomes a blur of lines, and sleep, or at least the thought laying on the couch and watching Mean Girls, feels so perfect yet so far away. Coffee, of course, makes frequent and much needed appearances - a warm mug in the morning by my computer and a tall glass of the stuff iced and loaded with milk and sugar (just how I like it!) by midday. Short walks in the late afternoon help clear my mind before setting back to work for much of the evening. And Molly's pie, a generous slice after dinner, sustain me well into the night. As anyone planning a Pop-UP Food Magazine at 1:00am can tell you, pie sustains.

(More on the LongHouse process at the fabulous, new LongHouse Blog!

Molly O'Neill's Rose Water and Berry Pie 
Makes 1 pie

A pie made with rich custard and the summer's ripest berries is already a decadent offering, but the addition of rose water transports this pie to a time and place all its own - just like Rensselaerville, NY, where I first enjoyed it. 

For the crust 
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon mace
1/2 pound cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
8 tablespoons ice water

For fruit filling
1 pint very ripe, small strawberries, hulled and rinsed
1 pint raspberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon raspberry jam
1/2 teaspoon rose water

For custard
1 egg
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon rose water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar

1. To make dough: Whisk together flour, salt, sugar and mace in a large mixing bowl. Using the tips of your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture becomes the texture of crumbled feta cheese. Combine vinegar and water in a small bowl. Slowly pour in ice water and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until the dough comes together - you may have to adjust the amount of water.  Knead together into a cohesive mound and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. 

2. When dough is chilled, use a rolling pin to roll out into 1/4 inch round and place in pie pan. Press into pie pan to form against the edges of the pan and remove excess dough. Keep chilled in fridge. 

3. Preheat your oven to 350. Blind bake your pie shell. First, prick the pie dough all over with a fork, and then place parchment paper over the surface of the unfilled pie shell and filling it with baking weights or dry beans.  Bake 15-20 minutes until dough is light golden brown and just cooked. Remove from oven. 

4. To prepare fruit filling: In a mixing bowl, lightly toss strawberries, raspberries, sugar and salt. In a small bowl, combine rose water and jam. 

5. To prepare custard: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, heavy cream, rose water,  flour, salt and sugar. 

6. To prepare pie for final baking: Spread rose water and jam mixture on the base of the prepared pie crust. Top with an even layer of the mixed berries and pour the custard on top - fill all the way but do not allow to overflow. Place pie pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  

7. Bake for 45 minutes until the the filling is set and the custard is just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and cool at least 1 hour. Serve and enjoy thoroughly.