judy garland’s steak pie

Judy in the 1938 film Everybody Sing

Judy Garland and I actually have quite a bit in common. I won’t go into some of the similarities, but some of the fun ones involve her children. She had three of them, two girls, one boy, the boy being the youngest, just like my family. Her youngest’s name is Joey, same as my brother. And her oldest’s (Liza) baby picture looks strangely like me.

baby liza


I remember watching Judy’s In the Good Old Summertime for the first time years ago, where at the very end of the film, little Liza makes her very first cameo. I jumped at the screen. “Holy cow!” I called my grandma in. And we laughed and gasped at the funny coincidence that my favorite actress’ (and, dare I say, obsession’s) daughter had my mouth, big eyes, and dark hair. Besides the almost daily, “Hey, you look like Anne Hathaway,” I get quite often, “You look like Liza Minnelli!” and I get super excited at the thought of having some sort of a connection with Judy. I’ve also had several strangers tell me that I resemble Judy herself, and that comment usually leads to a lot of hand shakes and lightheadedness and enough flattery to knock me out cold for a couple of days while I dream of having a Coca-Cola and something fancy with her at Ciro’s.

Judy and husband David Rose

As you may imagine, I love to eat. So did Judy. During her studio days, her menu and food were quite restricted, in an attempt to keep the ever-wanted and demanded Hollywood/MGM look. But in her younger, vaudeville days, she was often seen with a candy bar in hand, always snacking on something. Oh, man. I’m pretty sure in every home movie we have of me as a toddler I’m stuffing my face with something. I think there’s even one of me crying because my dad wouldn’t let me eat batteries (the following video is proof that I was a monster toddler, stuffing my face while my hungry younger cousin stood by, ignoring the prompts from the adults to give him a bite).

Anyway, it’s one of the marvelous things about her. Behind the spotlights and interviews and fans, she was very human. She loved socializing, entertaining, laughing, and making people laugh. Bing Crosby said of her, “…what really hasn’t ever been mentioned very much is the fact that she was a tremendously gifted comedienne…and liked fun and good times and laughs. I worked with her quite a bit, on radio and at benefits, and I found her one the most amusing women I have ever known. Her sense of humor was delicious. She was a good, low comedienne, baggy pants stuff. Did all kinds of dialects: Italian, Southern, whatever you wanted…She was unquestionably the most talented person with whom I ever worked.” I don’t think I could ever express the immense talent and genuineness and intelligence of this woman. After years and years of nerdy research and listening and watching, listening and watching, and more listening and watching, I still can’t wrap my mind around her complexity and perfect timing. It’s like I can never learn or know enough. I will always be enthralled.

(This video is one of my favorites and neat to see since video of her earlier live performances is quite rare. This is taken from Bob Hope’s radio show Command Performance USA in 1943.)

It’s said that Judy’s favorite food was steak and kidney pie. She was a real trooper and apparently an awesome foodie and braver than me. I suppose I’m not much of a kidney fan, but I do love most any dish made with a buttery pastry. Get it, Judy, and this one’s for you.

judy garland’s steak pie
adapted from emeril’s steak and mushroom pie
prep time: 25 minutes cook time: 2 hours 5 minutes yield: 6 servings
6 ounces minimally processed bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
olive oil
1 1/2 pounds minimally processed beef chuck or sirloin, cubed
1 tbsp Essence, recipe follows
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 
1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer 
2 cups beef stock 
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp chopped parsley 
2 tsp fresh thyme 
Pastry top, recipe follows
1 large egg, beaten, for glaze

emeril’s Essence
2 1/2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp onion powder 
1 tbsp cayenne pepper 
1 tbsp dried leaf oregano 
1 tbsp dried thyme

This mixture can be stored in an air-tight container for quite some time.

pastry top
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour 
1/8 tsp salt
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tbsp cold water

To make the pastry crust, sift together the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter and work in with fingertips until coarse crumbs form. Add enough cold water 1 teaspoon at a time to form a smooth dough, being careful not to overwork the dough. Cover and let rest, refrigerated for 30 minutes before rolling out.
To make the filling, cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a large skillet until browned. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Season the beef with the Essence. Add enough oil to the pan to equal 2 tablespoons of fat and heat over medium-high. When hot, add the beef (in batches, if necessary to prevent overcrowding). Cook until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and add the onions, adding more oil as needed. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the salt, pepper, flour, and Worcestershire, and stir well. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the beer and stock, and stir to deglaze the pan. Bring to a boil and add the bay leaf, parsley, and thyme, and return the meat to the pan. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf, and adjust the seasoning, to taste.
Preheat the oven to 400º. Roll out the pastry crust on a lightly floured surface into a circle large enough to cover the top of the baking dish.
Add the cooked bacon to the meat mixture. Pour into a large, deep dish, ceramic baking pan. Place the pastry crust on top of the baking dish, crimping around the sides to seal. Cut a vent hole in the center with a small sharp knife. Brush with the beaten egg and bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Judy and Gene Kelly rehearsing for For Me and My Gal (1942). Kelly said of Judy, “She
only had to hear a melody once, and it was locked in her mind. We used to call
her ‘Ol’ Tin Ear.'”

I am often overwhelmed with nostalgia and it’s sometimes hard for my relentless brain to rest until it can picture an entire situation, leaving no holes and knowing every detail (psychologists of the world, start analyzing). My sister used to tell me that I had an obsessive personality. It’s probably true. But this crazy brain has led me to my funny hobby of learning about the four-foot-eleven-inches tall firecracker of an entertainer who is rightfully dubbed as the world’s greatest. Her talents will never tire.

(Easter Parade, 1948)

Judy’s the greatest entertainer who ever lived-or probably ever will live…an amazing girl. She could do things-anything-without rehearsing and come off perfectly. She could learn faster, do everything better than most people. It was one of the greatest thrills to work with her. –Fred Astaire

Judy would have celebrated her 90th birthday this year on June the tenth.
(The celebrity quotations in this post are taken from John Fricke’s book Judy Garland: A Portrait in Art & Anecdote.

blueberry apple pie

Well, you little love chickadees, tomorrow is y’all’s day! I hope you have tons of fun, wear incredible heels, eat the bomb food, and, if you’re like me and will just be hangin’ around, I hope you have an awesome evening of normal activities.

Maybe you two can bake a lil’ pie together. How sweet is that?

The recipe for the crust is from Smitten Kitchen (swoon) and you really can make any combination of filling that you like. I did blueberry and apple and layered them separately (really just because I was curious and wanted to see what would happen), but you can cut the fruits into chunks, mix ’em all up, layer them, whatever your heart is fancyin’ because, honey, this is yo’ pie. Okay…go!

blueberry apple pie
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 tbsp natural cane sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, very cold

3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
2 cups blueberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup natural cane sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the crust, fill a small bowl with water and drop a few ice cubes in. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle the very cold pieces of butter into the flour mixture and quickly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles little peas. Add ice water (no ice cubes!) one tablespoon at a time until the mixture just comes together (I think I used almost a cup of cold water). Gather it up and turn it onto a floured surface. Knead gently and very quickly until it all comes together (Don’t let that butter melt. Those pieces of butter are gonna make a beautiful, flaky crust). Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disk. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 500º and position the rack to the lowest part of the oven. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack so it can preheat. Remove one of the doughs from the refrigerator and let stand until malleable. Roll the dough on a floured surface to a 12 inch circle. Transfer the flat dough to a pie plate (I usually roll it around the rolling-pin and then unroll it over the pie plate. This way, it doesn’t tear and stretch). Gently ease the dough into the plate corners and place in the refrigerator.

For the filling, toss the fruit with the lemon juice. In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, salt, and spices. Toss the sugar mixture with the fruit and turn the whole mixture into the chilled pie crust. It will mound up a little in the center.
Roll out the second disk of dough to a 12 inch circle. Transfer it to the top of the fruit mixture and trim the top and bottom crusts to 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the plate. Crimp edges together however you’d like so that the two crusts seal. Cut four slits in the top (or use cookie cutters to create something way more cute) to vent and brush the entire crust with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar.
Place the pie on the baking sheet and reduce the temperature to 425º. Bake until the top is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate the pie and reduce the temperature to 375º. Continue baking until the crust is deep golden brown and yummy fruit juices start bubbling, about 30 minutes more. Let cool to room temperature before slicing.

Whenever I eat pie, I always remember that cartoon Little Bear. Anyone? Anyone? I feel like they were eatin’ blueberry pie every episode. And they were always pickin’ blueberries. They lived a delicious life. Speaking of, the blueberries from my pie were picked back in the summer here in South Carolina. Blueberry picking is so fun, but so hot. I mean, like 100 degrees before nine o’clock AM hot. Despite the drenched shirt and sweaty hair and bumble bee, yellow jacket, and honey bee (what other kind of bee is there?…that, too) battle, it’s totally worth it. Those berries are the best, goodness gracious. South Carolina has a talent in blueberry growing.

Next mission: find a pretty pie plate. I’m pretty sure I bought that glass plate in college from a gas station.

chicken pot pie

This (beat) is (beat) the best (beat) chicken pot pie you will ever eat.

Whoa, startin’ out a little strong there, are we? No story? No “this is what I did today”? No “I ate this with my grandmother when I was six years old”?

Self, calm down. The truth is, growing up, I didn’t like chicken pot pie. What the hey, right? I’m not sure what it was. Maybe I thought gravy looking white stuff tasted icky. Maybe I didn’t like cubed carrots. Maybe it was because the only chicken pot pie I ever ate was at school, where the crust was the consistency and taste of a spray-painted egg carton. All unnecessary negativities aside, I’m an adult now (psh, hah, let’s all laugh at that) and I absolutely enjoy, and crave, chicken pot pie. Let’s think for a minute. It includes two of my total favorites. 1. Sauce. It’s kind of like soup. You all know how I feel about soup and all of those ingredients mashed up into one spoonful. And 2. Biscuits. The top isn’t really a biscuit, but it’s like a thin flaky and doughy one. Goodness, why are all of my cravings centered around butter and cream and carbohydrates? I’ve a feeling I’m not alone in this.

It should come to no surprise that I’m, once again, referencing Ina Garten. This time, though, she’s got a co-star: Smitten Kitchen! Oh, how I love them both, both filled with foundational references that are good enough to keep coming back to over a lifetime. This recipe is going to be, kind of, an adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, which is an adaptation of Ina’s recipe.

chicken pot pie
2 whole (4 split) hormone-free chicken breasts, with bone and skin
3 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped
3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups frozen peas

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup (or more) ice-cold water
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water, for egg wash
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350º. Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and roast for 40 minutes (or until cooked through). Let the chicken rest until cool enough to handle and pull the meat from the bones and discard skin. Shred the meat with your fingers and set aside.

Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan. In a large pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions with salt and pepper (and, if you’re like me, a little cayenne) on medium-low heat until translucent, about 10 or 15 minutes. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock and simmer over low heat, continuing to stir, for 1 minute until thickened slightly. Stir in the heavy cream. Add the chicken, carrots, and peas and mix well.

To create the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the diced butter (this butter should be COLD. Like, real cold. The non-melted fat in the precooked dough creates little pockets of air in the postcooked dough. We know those little pockets as flakiness!) to the flour mixture and quickly crumble the butter pieces into the flour, until it resembles little peas. Add the ice-cold water and fold it all until it just comes together to make a dough (you may need to add more water; just add small amounts until it all holds). Turn the dough onto a floured surface and quickly knead it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375º. Divide the filling equally between 4 oven-proof bowls (or, in my case, coffee cups). Divide the dough into 4 quarters and roll each one into an 8″ circle. Brush the outer edges of each bowl with egg wash and place the dough on top. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make sure it sticks. Brush the dough with egg wash and cut 3 slits in the top. If you’d like, make little personalizations (like initials or hearts) with dough scraps and add to the top. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and bake, on a baking sheet, for 1 hour or until the dough is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Like I said, this pie is what’s up. I can picture you all hovering over your bowls, building forts around it with your arms and cereal boxes and daring anything moving to come toward you. Protect it with your spoons and elbows and the threat of its boiling, molten lava-like temperature. That may not work, though. My tongue is still burned from dinner. And that was (looking at watch) six hours ago. Oh well. Time for another pie.