Saturday, October 25, 2008

The easiest way to share a pie... to make multiple pies in miniature!

One of the biggest challenges of cooking for two, for me anyway, has been finding ways to experiment with desserts and baked goods. Most people I know would just bake a cake if they felt so inclined, then just keep it around and gradually eat it over the course of a few days or a week. But, truth be told, neither J nor I have ever had a particularly strong sweet tooth, and although we enjoy having dessert once in awhile we tend to lose interest and let things go to waste if we have a lot of a single thing sitting around. And since we've been making a concerted effort to improve our eating habits over the past year and a half or so, even if I were able to produce some fantastic sweet treat that we could both eat forever without getting sick of it, we wouldn't allow ourselves the indulgence.

Of course this doesn't stop me from baking on a relatively regular basis, and both of our workplaces have gotten rather spoiled from being gifted with our leftovers (apparently I have something of a reputation at J's office, and anything he brings in disappears in half an hour, tops). This is particularly easy to do when it comes to things like muffins, quickbreads, biscuits and scones, and even yeasted breads, as they can all travel well and can be either baked in individual-sized portions or divided with ease. These types of things have made up the vast bulk of my baking experiments for nearly three years.

But, there's so many other things I want to try! I'll always love making muffins but sometimes, I just want to do something different and challenge myself a bit. But the additional challenge is always finding a way for J and I to enjoy something new, without ending up drowning in custard and buttercream for a week.

My favorite solution to this problem is to bake in miniature.

Now, I have a particular fondness for all things tiny, so I don't mind much that miniaturizing regular desserts almost always creates twice as much work. Some folks would balk at that, and understandably so, I think - making these itty-bitty apple pies took me a LONG time last weekend, and there are a lot of other things I could have done with that time. But the finished result was absolutely worth it: buttery, flaky, peppery crust filled with sweetly spiced diced apples and topped with decorative pie-crust cutouts, each one just the right size for a single diner's after-dinner sugar fix. J and I were each able to have one the day I made them, and the rest were packed away in tupperware and carried into the office the next morning, to be devoured by my coworkers before 10am. I consider those hours in the kitchen to be time well spent.

Of course, I ended up making too much apple filling, and had to use it up by (you guessed it) baking muffins. I think I'll just have to accept eventually that my destiny lies in a muffin tin.

Miniature Apple Pies

I made these pies using the excess half-batch of dough made for this weeks Barefoot Bloggers challenge, to which I had added a generous amount of kosher salt and black pepper, so my crust was savory rather than sweet. However, I very much enjoy the interplay of savory and sweet in a dessert, probably because my tolerance for sugar is a little on the low side, so I actually thought the crust was perfect for this. You can, of course, use your favorite pie crust recipe, or use store-bought. I promise to look the other way if you do.

Also, as I said, I had way too much pie filing when I made these, so I'm guesstimating on how much you'll ACTUALLY need. I'd recommend making extra though, just to be safe, because there will always be uses for sugared and spiced apples. Put them on yogurt, or in some oatmeal, or just eat them straight out of the bowl. Or, you know. Make some muffins.

Pie Crust Dough (you'll need about the same amount that you'd use for a single-crust pie, whether its homemade or store-bought)
2 medium-sized baking apples (granny smiths are common, but I used a couple of massive sweet Mutsus that we'd picked ourselves a couple weeks ago)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray the cups of a standard 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick baking spray (I'm a big fan of Pam For Baking, myself) or butter and flour them.

Peel and core the apples and cut into a small dice, somewhere between 1/2" and 1/4". Place in a bowl with the lemon juice, brown sugar, and dry spices. Stir to coat every piece of apple with the sugar and spice mixture, then set aside to macerate while you prep the dough.

Roll our your pie dough so that its slightly less than 1/4" thick. Using a round cookie cutter thats slightly bigger in diameter than the muffin cups, cut out 12 rounds of pie dough. Collect the scraps and reroll if necessary.

At this point, if you'd like to decorate your finished pies with crust cutouts, roll out whats left of your scrap and use miniature cookie cutters to make itty bitty crust cookies (or, freehand it with a sharp knife). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place them an inch or two apart. They can be baked as-is or brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sugar for a crunchy sweet topping (this is what I did). I recommend turbinado sugar.

Now here is the slightly tricky part. Carefully lift each round of dough and place into one of the cups of the muffin tin, and use your fingers to very gently press it into the bottom of the cup, making sure its flush to the bottom and sides with no air bubbles but not tearing it. You may need to work the dough further up the sides of the cups by pressing it upwards with your fingers. I won't lie, this is a fiddly bit of work and its very easy to end up with holes. The good news is that its easy enough to patch those holes by tearing off little bits of dough from your inevitable pile of scrap and just pressing them into the crusts to seal. Just be sure that you do patch any holes that appear, or you'll have pie filling running all over the place when the pies are baked.

Once all your little dough rounds are in and you have a tray full of mini pre-pies, take a fork and prick the crusts all over to allow steam to escape - this is called "docking" and will prevent bubbles from forming in the crust when you parbake it. But don't worry, these holes won't be big enough to cause filling-leakage.

Slide the muffin tin (and the baking sheet with your cutouts, if you made them) into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until the crusts are just starting to crisp up and take on some golden brown color - this will prevent them from getting soggy bottoms when they're baked with the filling. Remove from the oven and set the baking sheet with the cutouts aside to cool. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of apple filling into each crust (or more, if necessary - you want the filling to be rather mounded, as it will cook down and become more compact after it bakes, so if you need to go back and add a bit more to each one after filling them all, go ahead). Spoon any syrup that's collected at the bottom of the bowl over the pies for a little extra moisture and flavor.

Return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, until the filling is hot and bubbling and the edges of the crusts are a nice rich golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand in the muffin tin for a moment to cool - now would be a good time to add the crust cut-outs, so that they'll stick while the filling is still warm and gooey. Then remove the pies to a wire rack to cool completely. Or, eat immediately, if you're so inclined. Mmmmm, warm-from-the-oven apple pie.

Remember, these are designed specifically for sharing, so spread the love! Give some to a neighbor or invite some friends over, or just do what I did and bring them into work. I guarantee, people will love you.

Optional: If the pie-crust cutouts are a little too fussy for you, you could bake the pies "naked" or make a streusel topping from some cold butter, flour, brown sugar, and oats if you like them. Just top the pies with streusel when you fill them, and they'll bake up with a sweet and crunchy topping that everyone will love. I do not, however, recommend actually making these double-crust pies - in their diminutive size, the ratio of crust to filling would be way off.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Vegetable Pot Pie

Hey, lookit me posting a Barefoot Bloggers recipe EARLY! I hope my fellow BBs are proud of me, despite the fact that it will probably never happen again. I only managed it this time because I knew this recipe was going to be time-consuming, and since we're getting into crunch time for our annual Halloween party, I didn't want to leave it till next weekend. So, here we are.

The second recipe for October is Ina's Vegetable Pot Pie, chosen by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen.

Now, I love pot pie, and although I tend to make chicken or turkey versions I have been known to make a mean vegetarian version as well. When you live with vegetarians, as I did for 2 years, you learn to be flexible. However, there were a couple of things about the recipe that I had some difficulty with.

First, the sauce/gravy for the filling called for Pernod, which is a licorice/anise-flavored liquor and which I not only would not have in the house, but I wasn't entirely sold on having that flavor in the pie. In my version, I just used chicken stock and a bit of 2% milk to make the sauce, but added some fennel pollen to up the flavor quotient and complement the fresh fennel that, when caramelized along with thinly sliced onions, makes up the base of the sauce.

As an aside, if you've never used fennel pollen, I seriously recommend that you seek some out. It tastes like fennel seed but with floral, almost sweet overtones, and is heavily aromatic - sometimes I like to just open the jar and inhale the smell. It imparts a really unique, complex flavor to anything you add it to - we've used it in simple spice rubs for pork or chicken, added it to soups and stews, and used it to flavor sauces. In this particular application, I have to say that I think it really made the pie. Its not easy to find, and its not cheap, but it is SO worth the money and effort. I got mine from Zingerman's about a year ago, and we've still got a little less than half a jar left - a little goes a long way with this stuff. Seriously, treat yourself and pick up a jar. If you like the flavor of fennel, you will LOVE this spice.

Anyway, back to the pie.

I also omitted the butternut squash in Ina's original recipe, because although J really loved the risotto, he was still "heavily averse" to the idea of squash in the pie. In all honesty, I didn't really mind, because as much as I love butternut squash I wasn't totally in love with the idea of using it in this recipe, either.

J actually ended up taking care of the sauce and veggies for the most part, and he added a bit of worcestershire sauce and red hot to the filling because he felt it needed a little kick - neither addition was recognizable in the finished pie but they definitely added that certain something that was missing before.

Oh, and we totally cheated and added some precooked and shredded chicken breast because we had some leftover from lunches this week that we needed to use up. It was barely enough to be noticeable, honestly.

All that aside, making the filling for the pot pie was easy - pot pie fillings are always easy. I mean, all you're doing is making stew, right? And although the technique here was a little different, it amounted to the same thing.

We sauteed the onion and fennel together with some minced garlic, then used that as the base to make the sauce/gravy by adding the fennel pollen, some flour as a thickener, chicken stock and milk. Cooked together for a few minutes, it became velvety and thick and fragrant.

The vegetables (a mix of carrots, asparagus, and potatoes) were blanched in boiling water for a couple minutes, then shocked in an ice bath to keep them from getting mushy pre-baking. Then they were added to the pan with the gravy, along with a handful of frozen pearl onions, and everything was all mixed up. Ta da! Pie filling. Easy-peasy.

But the crust... now, that's another story.

I have only made pie crust from scratch maybe twice in my life, and I have never felt like I did a really good job with it, but this recipe in particular gave me a LOT of trouble. I mean, to begin with I was at a disadvantage because my food processor only holds about 2 cups, and is nowhere big enough to manage a full batch of pie dough. So, I had to do all the mixing by hand, which is tiring but I feel works a hell of a lot better than using two knifes or even a pastry blender (which I didn't have anyway) as most recipes would advise.

I appreciate the tactile closeness of blending in the cold butter and shortening with the flour and being able to actually feel when the texture is right. I feel like I have more control, and its very easy to see when the mixture starts to resemble small pebbles (as the recipe indicates) and a handful sort of sticks together when you squeeze it.

But I also end up with some rather unpleasant cramps in my wrists and fingers. Is it worth it? Who knows. But I can guarantee that when I can afford (both financially and spacially) to have a real grown-up food processor, I'll probably never do things this way again.

But anyway, the point is, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on things up to this point, but when it came to the adding-ice-water step, I frankly didn't really know what I was doing. I tried to judge by touch when the dough had the right consistency, but I had a really hard time with it. When I felt like the dough had the right moisture content, it was really crumbly and didn't want to stick together in a cohesive whole. But when I tried to add more water, it started to feel more like slimy play doh than pie dough, and I knew that the more I handled it while trying to work in the water, the less tender it would be after cooking. So, I erred on the side of dryness, and ended up with a dough that cracked and broke left and right, but seemed to stay stiff enough to work with. I suspect I did it totally wrong, but I think I did the best that I could under the circumstances.

I divided the dough into two pieces, shaped them into rounds, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and tossed them into the fridge to chill for half an hour. I know this is supposed to give the gluten in the flour time to develop, but I feel like the chilling step just made the dough MORE likely to break when I rolled it out. This may just have been due to my failure to achieve the proper proportion of water to flour in the dough though. I have no idea.

After some rather frustrating rolling, I managed to get an evenly flat piece of pie dough that I could trim into two circles that would fit over the mugs I intended to bake the pies in. Having made a full batch of the dough, rather than halving it as per usual, I used half to make some miniature apple pies (another post, forthcoming) and used the scrap of the second half to cut out some decorative pieces for the top of the pies. Completely unnecessary, but it sure looked nice.

I spooned half the filling into each large mug, then topped each with a round of pie dough, brushed it with an egg-and-milk wash, then stuck on the pie crust decorations (cut in the shape of pumpkins and leaves) and coated the decorations with more egg wash. The crust got sprinkled with coarse sea salt and some fresh-cracked black pepper before being placed on a baking tray and shoved into a 450 degree oven.

About 20 minutes later, the crust was crisp and golden brown round the edges, and the filling was bubbly and leaking just a bit from underneath. Sure looked like pot pie to me.

The finished pies were delicious: savory, comforting, and filling, but not overly rich. With the weather being what its been recently - namely, chilly and windy - it seemed like the perfect Sunday dinner. The crust, for all its difficulties of production, baked up just right: crispy, flaky, and buttery. The filling was aromatic and highly flavorful, and just slightly warm on the tongue from the heavy black pepper and touch of hot sauce in the gravy. I couldn't quite finish mine, but every bite was delightful and satisfying.

All that being said... I doubt I'd ever make this particular pot pie again. It was tasty, but not really what I normally want when I crave pot pie. I guess I'm just a little too married to the basic and beloved chicken/potato/carrot/pea combo to want to mess around much. And, although the pie crust was awesome in favor and texture after it was baked, I just found the dough to be way too difficult to work with and the recipe a bit too vague to ensure that I wouldn't have worse mishaps with it in the future. I think I'll be searching around for a good, reliable pie crust recipe for awhile.

Hooray inspiration

I think I'm in love.

Not necessarily with the Halloween ones (that's a little too fiddly for me) but the basic ones... they're like truffles for n00bs! I think even I could manage these! And they're so cute!

(You can tell I'm excited by my apparent inability to resist using exclamation points.)

I'm going to be home alone again on Friday.... I think I know what I'll be doing ;)

Also, I've been following the votes on the Ile de France Recipe Contest and finally realized that the recipe that is currently way out in front is, in fact, by Bakerella herself. That's it, I yield. I can't compete with her readership, and lets face it, her recipe far surpasses mine in originality and creativity (and her photos are actually pretty). So, congrats in advance Bakerella, I think you'll have earned this win. :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ile de France Recipe Contest

Hey folks, the Ile de France recipe contest entries have been posted, and its time to vote! If you liked my panini recipe, please go to the blog and cast a vote for me!

My entry

Full entry list

Friday, October 10, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Butternut Squash Risotto

Well, it seems fall is officially here, if this month's selections for the Barefoot Bloggers are any indication. I have to say I was thrilled to see that this Butternut Squash Risotto was on the list for October - I've been wanting to make something like this ever since I first discovered that I liked butternut squash (perhaps 3 years ago) but we make risotto maybe once a year, and J's really not a fan of winter squash so this one never made it onto the to-make list.

But, conveniently, J was out this evening, attending opening night for the New Jersey Devils with a friend (and man, am I jealous...) so I had the perfect opportunity to make this dish all for myself.

Thanks to Rachel of Rachel Likes to Cook for picking such a great recipe!

Now, onto the food.

For the most part, I stayed true to Ina's original recipe. I wouldn't be me, though, if I didn't make a couple small changes. First, as usual, I halved the recipe. I added a few extra seasonings along the way (most notably garlic) because it felt necessary. I had to omit the saffron because I forgot that I was out and didn't buy more, and didn't realize this fact until I was gathering my ingredients tonight. Doh! Same goes for the shallots, which I subbed with red onions because, much like the last BB recipe, I realized belatedly that we'd used all of our shallots in the previous evening's dinner. Also the parmesan, which I subbed with 1-year-aged manchego because I had it in the house and I thought its nuttiness would complement the autumnal flavors in the finished dish. And the white wine, which I subbed with a mix of lemon juice and red wine vinegar - may sound weird but added a really wonderful tangy undertone to the finished risotto that I happen to love. I also cut way back on he butter, because I just don't think there's any need for even 4 tablespoons of butter in my halved version - 1 did the job just fine.

Actually, I guess I made a lot of changes... but, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The first step in the recipe is to cube up some fresh butternut squash and roast it. I think this was the most difficult part of the whole process, honestly - cutting butternut squash is HARD. Its really dense and hard, and even using our heaviest and sharpest chef's knife I really had to lean on it to get through the squash. I ended up using just the thinner "neck" portion of the squash for this, saving the round base for another as-yet-undefined use. Peeling was easier than I'd expected, and once I'd gotten the big piece halved it was a lot easier to cut up the rest of the way. I made rather smaller cubes than Ina specified, because I didn't really want massive chunks of squash in the finished risotto - they were probably closer to 1/2" cubes than 3/4".

The cubes went into a foil-lined baking dish and got tossed with some olive oil, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a bit of garlic and sage for some extra flavor. Then it was into 400 degree oven for about 20 mins while I got some of the other prep work done.

First, the easy step - putting some chicken stock on the stove to heat up. Then the slightly-harder-but-really-nothing-resembling-a-challenge step of dicing up some red onion, garlic, and pancetta.

Slight aside, but I love the way pancetta looks. I love the spiral pattern of the slices, and then striated white and red layers when you cut into it.... its one of those ingredients that looks lovely just as it is, with no adornment.

Anyway, at this point I looked in on the squash and decided that it was just about soft enough, but I wanted it to be a little more browned, so I switched the oven from bake to broil for about 5 mins - that way they came out soft and golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside, sort of like roasted potatoes. I ended up snitching quite a few cubes while I was cooking because they were insanely tasty just as they were.

Once the squash was out of the oven, it was time to start the risotto.

I got a tablespoon or so of butter melting in a large saucepan, then added the pancetta cubes and let them render slowly over medium-low heat to bring out their tasty fats and crisp the cubes. Ina's recipe has you add the pancetta and shallots (or in my case, onions) at the same time and just leave them all in the pan while the risotto cooks, but I knew that'd just make the pancetta chewy. So instead I did added this rendering step, then removed the cubes from the pot and tossed them in with the squash cubes to add later - this way, they'd stay somewhat crisp in the finished dish.

The onions and garlic got added to the melted butter and rendered pancetta-fat and stirred around until they were softened and just a bit golden around the edges. Then, in went the rice, which was also stirred around until the outer layer of each grain turned translucent.

I deglazed the pan with an equal mix of lemon juice and red wine vinegar, about 1/4 cup total, and cooked until the liquid had almost entirely evaporated. Then I added my first ladleful of stock.

And this is where the magic of risotto happens. From Wikipedia:

"The rice is first cooked briefly in butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat, this is called tostatura; white wine is added and has to be absorbed by the grains. When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently and almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid." More...

So, I spent the next half-hour adding hot stock to the risotto one ladleful at a time, stirring not constantly, but often enough to be sure the liquid was moving around the individual grains of rice and nothing was sticking.

While that was going on, I went ahead and grated some manchego so it'd be ready to toss in at the end.

Finally, all the stock had been added and the risotto was cooked, creamy and barely al dente. I took the pot off the heat and stirred in the grated cheese, roasted squash, and crispy pancetta. Spoon onto a serving dish, top with some extra cheese, and its time to eat!

Oh. My. God.

This was good. Terribly good. Wide-eyed-back-of-the-throat-moaning good. Rich and creamy, highly flavorful, savory and ever-so-slightly tangy, with shots of slight sweetness from the pieces of squash and saltiness from the pancetta. This was the best risotto I've ever made, by far, and easily the best thing I've put in my mouth since last week's visit to the North Fork (more on that later). And I almost think that J might like it, as the squash flavor itself wasn't really that strong.

It is, however, VERY rich - I was only able to eat a small bowl for dinner, and had to put the rest away for probably at least two more meals. I definitely think its best eaten as a side, perhaps with a green salad or a simple herbed chicken breast, or some roasted vegetables. I'd actually intended to make some roasted brussels sprouts to have with, but I forgot, and its just as well because I couldn't have eaten them with the amount of risotto I dished out for myself.

Not the healthiest dinner in the world, but definitely delicious... and one of the things I love about risotto is that although it looks and tastes decadent and horribly fatty, when it comes down to it, its really not that bad in terms of fat content. A bit of butter and olive oil (the way I make it anyway, which I guess is significantly lighter than s traditional), and the fat from the pancetta - that's it.

I may just have to bring this out at the holidays this year - I think it'd be popular at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and it'd certainly impress the hell out of either of our families. ;)

UPDATE: J tried some of my leftovers last night as a late-night snack, and he loved it so much he ate it all! (Though I did manage to snitch a couple bites myself.) I guess this one really is a keeper. Plus, I now understand that the only application of butternut squash that he's had is halved and roasted squash, which is apparently what he doesn't like, and he's open to trying it in other ways. I think we'll have to use the rest of the squash a side one night this week and see if I can change his mind about it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ooey Gooey Crispy Savory-Sweet Heaven

Its not often that we make sandwiches here at Table for Two. Mostly because we try to keep our carb intake at a pretty low-level, and sandwiches are arguably defined by the bread they're made with. Don't get me wrong - I love bread. I love it in a way that is not entirely healthy or chaste. But if I ate it all the time I'd be a whale.

That being said, part of the appeal of receiving that free sample of Ile de France cheese was the opportunity to enter a recipe contest using the cheese. And as much as I love soft-ripened cheeses exactly as they are, I really go ga-ga for them when they're given a bit of heat and turn into molten, decadently-creamy bliss. And I also think that this particular application of the cheese is perfectly suited to sandwiches, particularly pressed sandwiches, where the heat melts the cheese and helps it act as a binder for all the other fillings. So, upon receiving and tasting my wheel of camembert, I just knew that it needed to go in a panini.

I'll admit, this maybe isn't the most original sandwich recipe in the world, but it IS sinfully delicious. Crispy-outside/tender-inside ciabatta rolls are spread with a lemon garlic aioli, then topped with fresh, vibrant spring mix, crunchy and pungent red onions, herb-rubbed turkey cutlets, slices of camembert, and finally, sweet apples. In the absence of a panini-press or, perhaps, a George Foreman grill (my favorite and most-missed kitchen appliance from my two years living with three friends in Queens), the sandwiches got wrapped in tin-foil and pressed beneath foil-wrapped bricks that had been heating in the oven for almost an hour.

The final product is a significantly flatter, crispy, crunchy sandwich just oozing with ooey, gooey, melty cheese, acting as the glue between the turkey, apples, and roughage. Biting into this sandwich is like getting a little taste of early fall, warm and comforting with the aromatic flavors of autumn produce and herbs. This is one we'll be making again, for sure.

Pressed Turkey Panini with Camembert and Apples

Its fairly easy to get thin-cut turkey cutlets in most grocery-stores nowadays - we're partial to Shady Brook Farms, ourselves, and buy them often. This time, we bought a whole boneless breast from Iavarone and sliced off four cutlets ourselves, pounding them to an even thickness before cooking. Whatever method you use, just be sure you have enough turkey (one cutler or two) to create a single even layer on the sandwich.

Also note that we aren't going for overstuffed, here - the key to this sandwich is even distribution of fillings and the proper balance of flavors, and a huge sandwich will never press correctly.

I'm writing this recipe using our hot-brick method, but if you happen to own a panini press or George Foreman grill, you can use that however you normally would.

4 thin turkey cutlets
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 tsp black pepper
zest of one lemon

2 fresh ciabatta rolls
1 cup spring mix salad greens or arugula
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1 small sweet apple, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (we used a Macoun but any sweet or semi-sweet variety would do)
4 oz Ile de France Camembert, cut into 1/4 inch slices (trim the rind if you like)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Wrap two bricks in foil and place in the center of the oven and allow to heat for 45 minutes to an hour.

For the turkey:
Sandwich the turkey cutlets between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound then gently with a meat mallet to flatten and tenderize them - you want them slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. If your cutlets are already very thin, you can skip this step.

Season the cutlets with the poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large skillet until a drop of water flung into the pan pops and sizzles. Carefully add the turkey and sear on each side for about 2-3 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the aioli:
Stir together the mayo, garlic, lemon zest and pepper.

To assemble the sandwiches:
Split the ciabatta rolls and pull out some of the bread from the center - this will make more room for the fillings and keep them from being squeezed out during the pressing step.

Slather the tops of the rolls with the aioli. Stack the fillings on the bottom half of the roll, starting with the salad greens, followed by the red onions, then the turkey cutlets, the cheese slices, and the apples. Divide your fillings evenly between the two sandwiches, and don't try to use all of them if you don't have room. Remember, less is more here.

Finish with the tops of the rolls and press down slightly with your hands. Wrap each sandwich tightly in tinfoil, and place on a baking sheet.

Using hot pads/oven mitts, carefully remove the now VERY hot bricks from the oven. Again carefully, place one brick on top of each sandwich, pressing down to be sure they will be stable. Place the entire baking sheet back in the oven to give the sandwiches a chance to heat through - 5 minutes or so should do it.

Remove from the oven and remove the bricks. Unwrap the sandwiches enough to expose the tops of the rolls, then replace the bricks or a few minutes to crisp up the crust. No need to put them back in the oven for this - the sandwiches will be plenty warm and the bricks will have retained enough heat to do the job.

Remove the bricks to a safe place to cool down, cut the sandwiches in half, and enjoy!

This is my entry for the Ile de France recipe contest. If you like this recipe, please visit the Ile de France blog and vote for me between October 16 and November 3!