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One of the best foods I tasted in 2016 wasn’t in a restaurant, but at the Tulsa State Fair.
As a judge for the baked goods, I ate my way through dozens of cookies, pies, cakes and breads to determine the blue ribbon sweepstakes winner for culinary arts. That winner was an apple pie, though not your grandma’s apple pie. MichalBeth Freeman’s prized pie was dotted with smoked Gruyere cheese and thyme leaves. That sweet and savory combination wrapped in pastry was perfection.
Not all prize-winning cooks are so generous with their recipes, but Freeman was quick to share hers with me so that I could share it with you.
This win wasn’t a fluke for Freeman, a college student. She has won previously at the fair and other contests for recipes including a beautiful braided challah bread. Freeman has been cooking since age 3 or 4, first washing dishes and then making pies with her great-grandma Opal.
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 stick butter (cold)
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
4 ounces smoked Gruyere cheese, grated
2 ½ cups flour
Small pitcher of ice-cold water
In a bowl, combine the shortening, butter, salt, thyme and cheese with the flour, using a pastry cutter to cut the butter and shortening down to pea-sized lumps; some a bit larger are fine. Sprinkle in the cold water, a small amount at a time, mixing lightly with your hands. Add 2 tablespoons water at a time until the dough holds it shape. Once the dough is firm enough, divide in half, shape into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to an hour.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Flour your surface and the top of the dough disk, and roll it out rather thin. Carefully fold the dough onto itself. Fold once, then once again. Put onto your pie plate, and unfold. Let settle into the pie pan; the edges will hang over. Leave the long edge for now.
8 medium apples (4 tart, 4 honeysweet)
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pat of butter
Coarse sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut apples in ¼-inch slices. In a bowl, mix all the filling ingredients together, then place into pie crust, packing tightly and mounding the filling up in the middle. Add a pat of butter on top.
Roll out your remaining dough disk, and lay across the top of the pie. Trim the edges to around 1 to 2 inches, and roll them under. Crimp in any way you like to seal. Apply an egg wash of 1 egg, beaten, to the top. Cut vents in the top of the pie crust. Sprinkle top with coarse sugar or leave plain.
Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes to set the crust. Then, lower the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the apples are tender when a knife is put into the vent holes. Remove and let cool.
Q&A: Hillary Rankin
Although I read too many food blogs to properly keep up with, I was glad to be introduced to Hillary Rankin’s 918Plate.com. I like it so much, in fact, that it has taken the place of a former favorite as a go-to place to find reliable, inventive recipes with great writing and photography.
What makes it even better is that 918Plate.com is Tulsa-centric, referencing Tulsa restaurants and happenings from the viewpoint of Rankin, who cooks and writes about food for fun when she’s not at her day job at an oil company.
What do you think about the Tulsa food scene? The Tulsa food scene is honestly one of my very favorite things about living here. There are so many great local spots. My husband and I haven’t eaten at a national chain restaurant in ages. We do have favorites, of course ... and spend an awful lot of time at STG Pizzeria.
Do you have a favorite food or two you’ll be making in December? Any holiday food traditions? I’ll be making my mother-in-law’s recipe for wassail, which you can find on the blog. My family didn’t have any specific food traditions, but my great-grandmother’s dressing recipe is one of the “famous” ones in our family. She even used hot dog buns in it! One non-winter holiday tradition that my husband and I have is that ever since we started dating, we always try to have pizza on Valentine’s Day. We made (pizza) together from a box our freshman year of college and have celebrated with pizza ever since.
What has been the most popular recipe you’ve published? The most popular recipe always surprises me because it’s not the one with the best photos or even the best story attached. It’s my spinach and bacon quiche, and it really just took off on Pinterest somehow. It gets me the most views on the site nearly every day.
It looks like you do some experimenting in the kitchen. Have you ever had a colossal flop? I read about the method called “velveting,” which Chinese restaurants use a lot to tenderize chicken. It involved dredging the chicken in baking soda, and I think I let it sit for too long and the result was so terrible. That’s one of the moments I wished we had a pet so it wouldn’t have all gone to waste.
Something that might surprise us to know about you? I like to have jam sessions in my kitchen. Inappropriate hip-hop is my music of choice during said sessions.
When you’re down to the last of your leftover mashed potatoes, make these. Rankin’s recipe is a great way to turn holiday leftovers into something great.