Just a reminder that on Saturday, you can take part in a pie contest at The Pie Pantry in downtown Belleville. Judging is at 1 p.m., with Leisa Brockman, coordinator of the Culinary Arts Program at Southwestern Illinois College, as one of the judges. Her sister, Amy, a professional baker, also will be judging. Former News-Democrat food editor Maureen Houston (now our BND Magazine editor) will be there as well, plus I'm riding everybody's coattails, ready to help out with the taste-testing. It's all part of the National Pie Day celebration, which technically is Thursday.
If you want to enter the contest, have your homemade pie, with recipe, to the restaurant no later than 12:30 p.m. Prizes are gift certificates from The Pie Pantry.
In case you want to take a class in piemaking, head to Eckert's Country Store classroom on Sunday for Hands-On Technique Class: Best Apple Pie. It runs from 1 to 3 p.m. and costs $15.
You get to put your hands on the dough and the rolling pin and learn a few techniques to make a great pie. Plus, there will be tips, and participants will make their own shell and filling to take home, bake and enjoy. For more information, or to make a required reservation, call 618-233-0513 or go to eckerts.com.
I swiped this adapted recipe from the Los Angeles Times; it's from La Casa Sena, a favorite restaurant in Santa Fe, N.M. I like the idea of tasting the richness of potatoes pureed with heavy cream with the heat of roasted diced chiles.
LA CASA SENA'S POTATO GREEN CHILE SOUP
3 pounds baking potatoes
1 dozen fresh green chiles, preferably New Mexico, Anaheim or poblano
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced white onion
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup white wine
4 cups water, plus extra for cooking the potatoes, divided
Salt and pepper
1 cup each julienned fresh leek, red bell pepper and poblano chile, for garnish
Oil, for frying
1. Peel and halve the potatoes and place in a pot filled with water. Simmer until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. While the potatoes are cooking, roast the chiles: Place the chiles over high heat on a rack over a stovetop burner. When the skin is charred all over, place the peppers in a paper bag. Set the peppers aside for about 10 minutes to cool, then remove and peel the skin; do not rinse. Discard the stems and seeds, and dice the peppers into one-eighth-inch squares; you should have about 2 cups. Set aside.
3. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the white wine, scraping any flavoring from the bottom of the pan.
4. Stir in the cream, water and potatoes, and bring to a low simmer, then remove from heat. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or in batches using a stand blender.
5. Stir in the diced chiles, and season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste. Thin the soup, if desired, with cream or water. Hold in a warm place.
6. To prepare the garnish, heat a small pot of oil to 350 degrees. Deep-fry the leek, bell pepper and chile until brightly colored and lightly crisp, about 30 seconds. Drain.
7. Plate the soup, topping each serving with the fried garnish.
Serves 12, each with 384 calories, 5 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 25 grams fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 3 grams sugar, 418 mg sodium.
Here's how to reach me: Phone, 239-2664; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org; or write, Suzanne Boyle, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.