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Recipes


Boys, I am going to give you the most ridiculously easy and flexible recipe I know. It is definitely one of my top five favorite things to eat, and one of favorite things to make.

Chili is one of those things can cause fights during family gatherings. There is probably a different type of chili for each state in the Union. There are probably as many recipes as there are chili cooks. And each one is spirited and sure of their recipe’s superiority. I too am that way, though I love the absolute flexibility of the dish. Its original name, Chili con carne, means chili with meat.

There are people who think that the chili is only meat. Others like to add beans. Others even add stuff like corn or quash or chicken.

Here is my point, sons: take this base —protein, chili powder, tomatoes— and make it your own.

I love my chili, but I play with it. And I will show you how below.

Alberty’s Chili

Ingredients

- 1 lb. of ground chuck (or more if you want it meatier, or you can use whatever meat or protein you want…seriously, sometimes I use steamed lentils in place of the meat)
- 2 yellow onions, diced medium
- 4 cloves of garlic (or more), minced

- 1 28oz can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (but I’m just being particular about my canned tomatoes)
- 1 15oz can Muir Glen Tomato Sauce

- 5 cans of beans (I love beans in my chili. LOVE beans. I use a mix of black, pinto, kidney, great northerns, and cannellini), drained

- Chili powder, tons, but to taste (Here again, I use a variety. I use what is probably two tablespoons of generic chili powder over the whole of the dish. I augment that with about a tablespoon of Ancho chili powder as well as a couple of shakes of Allepo pepper.
- Ground cumin, a tablespoon or so
- Salt and Pepper
- Cholula Pepper Sauce (my favorite)

- 4 tbs white vinegar (this is my secret ingredient)

Directions

Use a crockpot. Take time to let the flavors meld, six hours or so.

Pour all the canned goods in the crockpot and set it on high.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Sauté the onions until they begin to soften and get translucent. Toss in the garlic and add some chili powder, cumin and salt. Sauté for about four minutes. Dump into crockpot.

Brown the meat in the same skillet. Add some chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. When browned sufficiently add to crockpot.

Add a ton of chili powder, some cumin and the vinegar. Turn the crock pot down to low and cook for six hours. Taste it often to adjust seasonings.

NOTE

You can do anything to this that you can dream up. I usually like to add chorizo, but your mother doesn’t like chorizo, so I don’t. I also like to add jalapenos and dried ancho chiles, but you guys don’t like spicy food yet, so I don’t.

Sometimes I like to add cubed sweet potatoes or maybe go with all black beans. You can even add some cinnamon for that Cincinnati flair.

I could honestly probably enjoy a week of chili. Here are some ways to do that very thing.

Chili + melted American cheese slices + chips

Chili + spaghetti noodles + cheese (called Threeway, and you can add a little extra vinegar)

Chili + macaroni + cottage cheese

Chili + rice + broccoli

Chili + potatoes

Seriously, if you can make chili, you have one of the greatest basic meals in your back pocket. What you do with it is only bound by your imagination.

Well, crockpot season has hit and I couldn’t be happier. I love my crockpot. But I admit to being in a crockpot rut. Don’t get me wrong, I love my roasts and chilies, but I’m pretty sure that the wife has gotten enough of them.

Well, this season I am breaking out, baby! I’m planning on a new crockpot a week. Each Sunday I will embrace and prepare a new and hopefully funky recipe.

My first foray into the funky footwork was a doozy. It is so good, I have dreamed about it after eating it. I’m serious. I hope you try it.

This is my variation on a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens. They use couscous, but I used a wild rice blend.

Crock Pot Moroccan Short Ribs

Ingredients

THE RUB
1 tablespoon dried thyme, crushed
1 tablespoon dried cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 1/2 pounds beef short ribs, bones in
olive oil

2 cups beef broth (plus one to deglaze)
1 16-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 large onion, cut into thin wedges
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into thin wedges
2 medium carrots diced
1 medium sweet potato diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried, washed lentils (or better 1 pkg of Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils)

Directions

Mix all your dry rub ingredients together and rub all over the short ribs. Keep your short ribs in the slabs, or cut the slab in half to help the browning or the crockpot accommodate them.

Get an iron on skillet medium. Put enough oil in to just coat the bottom and put your short ribs in flesh side down. Let this brown for about five minutes. Turn it over to the bone side and brown for three to four minutes.

While the ribs are browning, put everything else (except one cup of the broth) in the crockpot and give it a good stir. Go ahead and turn your pot on high.

When the ribs are fully browned lay into the crockpot and deglaze the skillet with the last cup of broth. Pour the tasty deglazed brown-bits over the ribs and put on the lid.

If you’re home, I would let it go high for two hours then turn it low for four. Otherwise, you can leave it low for eight to ten hours.

You can tell it’s done when you pull a bone and it the meat pulls away.

When it’s done take out the meat, remove the bone and chop the meat.

Serve the veggies over rice or couscous with the meat on top.

This is a delicious recipe!

 

Every Christmas morning that I can remember I woke up to the smell of Danish Puff. Besides my kooky family and their odd shenanigans, eating and smelling Danish Puff is my favorite Christmas memory.

And, boys, I hope that I can work it so that Danish Puff is high on your list of happy Christmas memories. Even better, I would love it to be something that we make together because there is a moment of absolute chemical magic in the making of this bad boy.

You know, I didn’t make this until I was 42 years old. It took your grandmother getting cancer for me to make this one. That’s because she always told me it took two hours to make, which was only a little misinformation. I was always happy to sit back and let her do it. But this Thanksgiving (2011) to help out your grandmother I decided to make the food. And since we all were having two Thanksgiving dinners that night, I suggested we change one to a brunch. And what better to start out with than our favorite family breakfast item?

It isn’t the fasted thing to make. But the time served is certainly worth the end product. So, while I don’t normally spend much time thinking or pining about the future, I certainly see you guys in kitchen patting out the crusts for these tasty pastries.

Danish Puff

Ingredients:

Puff Base
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp water

Puff Custard
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup flour
3 separate eggs, each slightly beaten

Puff Icing
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
some milk
some sliced almonds

Directions:

Heat oven to 350.

Put first cup of flour into bowl and cut in butter. Sprinkle with 2 tbs. water and mix with fork.

Round into ball and divide in half.

Put in fridge for a while to let it stiffen for about 20 minutes.

Remove from fridge and, on ungreased cookie sheet, pat into two strips about 12″ by 3″. Place 3″ apart.

*****

Bring water to a boil and add the stick of butter.

Once it melts remove pan from heat and add almond extract.

Slowly beat in flour, stirring quickly to prevent lumping.

When smooth, add one egg at a time, beating well after each egg until smooth.*

Divide in half and spread one half evenly on each pastry base.

Bake for 1 hour. Center should still be moist and custardy.

*****

Put a little milk into the bowl with the powdered sugar and mix until smooth, but not too liquidy.

Add just a hint of almond flavoring.

Drizzle over finished puffs.

Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

*NOTE: When you add the first egg to the warm flour/water/butter mixture, it may turn your stomach. It becomes the weirdest nauseating looking alien gloop you could imagine. But keep stirring. It will turn back. It will do this with each egg you add. It’s a little bit of magic.

Okay, boys, I’m going to let you in on a little secret of relationships. And it revolves around food. If we are smart, we understand that food can speak for us, especially to those we love.

It’s a pretty simple rule to remember: entrees are for romance, but dessert is for love. That is something to take with you forever. I hope that when you are 80 year-old men you’re still firing up the brulee torch for the love of your life.

Your mother has, on occasion, made me crème brulee. She does it, even though she is horrifically lactose intolerant.

If you want to show your mother how much you love her, make her Apple Crisp. She would eat it until her stomach explodes. She loves it that much.

There is a bit of psychology to it, which is really where dessert lays in the whole thing. Dessert usually sends ups back to childhood, which, hopefully, is a comfortable, nostalgic, warming place.

Apple crisp is her youth. But it’s also yours. You make her apple crisp and she will remember the happiness of us on one of our fall apple picking excursions. Of you picking your first apples and eating the red balls with the blinding white flesh in the sunlight of a crisp autumn breeze. And she will be overcome with her love for you. For her, Apple Crisp is a beautiful thing, like her boys.

Your Mama’s Apple Crisp Love

Ingredients

Topping

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick melted unsalted butter

Filling

3 lbs. apples (about 7 medium), peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges *
1/4 cup sugar **
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup applejack/apple liqueur or apple cider
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

FOR THE TOPPING

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine everything but flour in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter until mixture is thoroughly moistened and crumbly.

FOR THE FILLING

Stir the apples, vanilla sugar, and cinnamon together in a bowl.

Simmer applejack/liqueur or cider in a 12-inch iron skillet over medium heat. Cook it until it’s reduced to about ½ cup. Pour the reduced liquid into a bowl. Stir in the lemon juice.

Using the now empty iron skillet, eat butter over medium heat. When it stops foaming add the apple mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until the apples begin to just soften and become. You can’t cook them all the way here, because you’re gong to toss them in the oven, too. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the liquid.

Sprinkle the crumble topping over the apples. Place the iron skillet on the center rack and bake until the topping is golden brown and delicious, about 20 minutes.

Let it cool a little. Serve to the one you love.

*I like to use a variety of apples, some sour like Granny Smith, and some sweet like Braeburns.

**For this I like to use vanilla sugar because your mother likes it.•

•Vanilla Sugar: Two cups white sugar. One vanilla bean. Put the sugar in an airtight container. Split the bean lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and put those in with the sugar. Cut the split beans in half widthwise and throw those into the sugar too. Toss everything around. Use after two weeks. Taste nirvana.

One of favorite childhood food memories is of our family’s little Indonesian Rijsttafel.

I lived my first five years in the little village of Rumbai on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. It wasn’t just the middle of nowhere, it was literally the middle of the jungle. I kid you not. Our house was on the edge of town. It was our house, an oil road, fifty yards of grass clearing, then the dark green imposing, seemingly impenetrable wall of jungle.

How close were we to the jungle? We sometimes had monkeys living beneath our house—our houses were built up on stilts and cement blocks to mitigate the monsoon flooding.

How close were we to the jungle? I was once caught in the front yard playing with a green mamba, one of the world’s most poisonous snakes. I still don’t know why it didn’t bite me.

How close were we to the jungle? I got to once a pet tiger. It was dead. It had killed a local guy, so the town company called in a crazy Australian tiger hunter to come in and kill it. I still remember what it felt like — I have a horrible memory.

My mother seemed to embrace Indonesian food. And even though we never called it Rijsttafel, we did eat that way from time to time.

Rijsttafel is Dutch —I know, weird, but click here for a brief history of the Dutch in Indonesia — for “rice table.” It’s a bit like tapas.

Anyway, we would have a major entrée, then fill the table with tomatoes and olives, dill pickles and gherkins, eggs, and anything else mom may have thrown onto the table.

The mainstay of our Rijsttafel was Saté Ayam.

There is a scene from the animated film Ratatouille. Anton Ego, the villain puts a bite of ratatouille into his mouth and he is suddenly transported to his childhood. This is the one dish that does that very thing for me.

I really do hope that you try this bad boy. Now, it’s deecidedly an Americanized version. But it is so tasty.

Saté Ayam

Ingredients:

2 lbs. Chicken breast, cubed
4 clove garlic, thinly sliced
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp water
some oil

For Sauce

1 onion, Chopped
1 tbsp oil
1 c. water
1/2 c. crunchy peanut butter (Sometimes, I admit, I add a bit more. It depends on how thick you want the sauce.
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp chili
to taste salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp almond extract (this was Mom’s secret ingredient. It punches up the flavor)

Directions:

You will need bamboo skewers for this dish…or not.

1   Mix garlic, soy sauce, water into a bowl.

2   Add chicken pieces and pour in oil until the chicken is fully covered.

3   Shake, then marinade for up to three hours.

4   If using skewers, skewer five pieces of chicken on each skewer. If not, then, obviously, omit skewering chicken pieces.

5a  If skewered, grill until chicken is fully cooked.

5b  If now skewered, saute the chicken until fully cooked.

Peanut Sauce

1   Saute the onion in hot oil until soft.

2   Add the water, peanut butter, spices, sugar, and stir well top combine.

3   Cook over low heat, stirring constantly.

4   Add soy sauce, lemon juice and almond extract. Stir until combined.

* I always like to add some sambal (an indonesian garlic/chili chutney available in any Asian grocery. It has a rooster on it.) but it makes it spicy. And soooooo goooooood.

The Finish

We usually put the chicken on a bed of rice and pour the sauce over the chicken.

Okay, in the last installment of this burgeoning family cookbook, I did my Dad’s Rummyrummy Rumcake. I mentioned that it is one of only three things he asks for.

Well, here is the second thing he asks for: Nutty Chocolate Sheetcake.

I also love this cake. It has a flavor that I can’t quite pin down. I think that the buttermilk is what does it. There is a chocolaty tartness to it that is almost exotic.

And the thing that I like most about this cake is that it is so easy to play around with.

You can add cinnamon, nutmeg, a little cayenne and you have a Mexican chocolate cake. Better yet, substitute crema for the buttermilk and Hazow!

You can substitute all kinds of nuts. Or you can exchange the nuts for dates.

You can add raisins to the batter. Or chocolate chips. Or mint. Or you could swirl in ribbons of cherry jam. Or, or, or you could put a thin layer of apricot jam over the cake before you pour on the liquid frosting.

Wow, I think I just messed myself.

Anyway, it is a rare thing that I go to my parents and happily find leftovers of this cake sitting in the kitchen. But when I do, I grab a bowl, slam a hunk of the cake in it, and douse it in milk. Then I say, “Hi,” to my parents.

Anyway, enjoy!

Dad’s Nutty Chocolate Sheetcake

Ingredients:

The Cake

2 C. Flour
2 C. Sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. water
1 stick margarine
3 1/2 tbsp cocoa
1/3 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Icing

1 stick margarine
1/3 c. milk
3 tbsp cocoa
4 c. confectioners (icing) sugar
1 1/2 c. nuts
1 t. vanilla

Directions:

For cake:

1   Preheat oven to 400°.
2   Bring to boil the water, 1 stick margarine and cocoa.
3   Mix with the dry ingredients.
4   Add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.
5   Pour batter into sheetcake pan.
6   Bake at 400° for 20 minutes.

For Icing:

1   Bring to boil 1 stick of margarine, cocoa, and milk.
2   Add confectioners sugar, vanilla, and nuts.
3   Pour over cake.

Seriously, this may look like a complicated cake, but it really isn’t. And it is tay yay yasty!

This one’s for Martini. She is a great and goofy friend of mine who has issues with wheat — gluten, to be more encompassing. But she is such sunshine whenever I run into her that I always think, “I’m going to make her the best gluten free (insert something here) she could ever eat!” And I meant it. But then the day would continue and the thought would be overwhelmed by so many other things.

Well, Martini, today is the day!

My wife’s best friend and her mother stayed at our house for three nights last week. And her mother has Celiac’s Disease. That means if she eats anything with gluten in it, she doubles over and wishes she were dead. So I was forced — and I really do mean this in a good way — to make gluten free stuff.

I knew very little about non-gluten stuff. Who am I kidding, I still know very little. But I know one thing now: clafoutis is best thing I’ve put in my mouth in a long, long time.

Just say the word: clafoutis (Kla-foo-tee). It’s fun to say. My wife nearly lost her mind the day I discovered it. Clafoutis clafoutis clafoutis! It’s just plain fun to say.

I think I happened across it on one of my crazy cooking shows. And I thought, I bet there has got be a gluten-free version of that bad boy. Well, there are about a gazillion (Martini’s word, not mine).

I found one that sort of looked good, whonked around with it a bit and here it is. It is soooooo good. I can’t even tell you. And, even better, it’s dangerously easy.

Martini’s No Gluti Clafoutis

Ingredients:

3 cups any fruit or fruit mix*
2 tablespoons honey**
1 1/4 cup milk or milk like product***
1/3 cup sugar / vanilla sugar / cinnamon sugar ****
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup rice flour^
1/4 cup tapioca flour^
1/4 cup sugar^^

*Traditionally clafoutis is made with cherries. I make mine with 2 cups of blueberries and 1 cup of pitted, split cherries.
**The first time I made this I used basswood honey. I love this honey, it has a funky minty taste to it. But I didn’t think it worked so well, so I just use your basic clover.
***Almond milk is quite delicious as a dairy substitute for this dessert.
****I use vanilla sugar. Super easy: Split a vanilla bean. Scrape out the seeds. Fill a container with 4 cups of basic sugar. Toss in the seeds and shake. Toss in the empty pods. Close container. Let sit for week or more before using.
^You can substitute ½ cup of any blended gluten free flour mix. But I really love the texture that the tapioca flour gives to this thing.
^^I use a mix of cinnamon and sugar for this.

Directions:

1   Preheat the oven to 350°.

2   Wash the fruit and cut it up, if you need to. Toss it all with the honey and set it aside while you proceed.

3   Put everything else, but the last ¼ cup of sugar, into a blender and whir it up for a minute or two. It will look like popover batter…if you’re into that sort of thing.

4   Pour a thin layer of batter into a medium casserole dish. Make sure it covers the bottom, and bake it until the layer has set. This might take about 10 minutes. Jiggle the dish. If the batter doesn’t jiggle, or jiggles just a little bit, then it’s ready.

5   Spread fruit over the bottom layer of cooked batter. Sprinkle on the last ¼ cup of sugar. Pour in the remaining batter. Shake it to let the batter settle a bit.

6   Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top brown and crispy.

7   Let this thing cool, at least to just a little over room temp. That is where the custardy magic happens.

This stuff is great on its own. But if you are a devout over the topper, I suggest a little cream or half-and-half or crème fraiche. Mmmmmmm.

Several of you have asked me to bring back Pieday Friday. Alas, the unfortunately timed post-pie bout with the stomach flu has kept me from embracing your entreaties. However, I have decided on a new food-themed serialized post. For now I am calling it For the Boys.

The idea is this: Both my family and my wife’s family have deep food traditions. Her grandfather owned a diner and supposedly made donuts that people traveled a tri-county area to get. And my family…well they’re from the South which means food is in the blood.

Some of my favorite and closest memories are of food. Some dinners I can still conjure scents from. It’s that strong to me.

Very early in my two year-old’s life my wife started the spice game with him. She would hold him, standing by the spice rack and pull down spices, letting him smell them as they went. Some of the first things he could tell by sight were spices. He was never too keen with the whole baby rattle routine, but he loved to shake his cinnamon sticks. There was a time when he couldn’t sleep without them.

I’m pretty sure my boys will love their food. So I thought I would begin compiling a family cookbook for them. Since my mother’s birthday is on the first of July, I thought I would run each new recipe on the first posting of each month, so here it is.

Nearly every night my mother asks my father what he wants for dinner. Nearly every night he says, “Whatever.” One night she put together a heinous dish—I still don’t remember what was in it, but I think it might have had shrimp cocktail sauce and mini-sweet gherkins— which she called Whatever. No one ate it. But it did not have the affect she wanted. He still answers whatever.

There are only three things that my father asks for: Cornbread-beans-n-potatoes, sheet cake, and rum cake. I’ll hit all of these as the months go on, but I will begin with my favorite:

Dad’s Rummyrummy Rum Cake

This was probably the first alcohol I ever had. I love this cake. It is the special cake. Mom will make dad a sheet cake at the drop of a hat. But Rummyrummy Rum Cake—it only comes out for special occasions. That’s because it takes time. It doesn’t take time to bake, oh no. The time it needs is to soak, so enseep, to ingest the heady rum and sugar so that your head will begin swimming well before the fork reaches your mouth. Oh, god! I love this cake!

The Cake

1 cup chopped pecans
1 box pudding in the mix yellow cake mix
3 eggs
½ c. water
1/3 c. vegetable oil
½ c. white rum (you can use dark or spiced, if you like)

I like to toast the walnuts and cool them before chopping them.

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan.

Sprinkle the chopped nuts into the bottom of the pan. I like to roll the pan around a little.

Mix the rest of the cake ingredients.

Pour the batter into the Bundt pan.

Bake for 1 hour.

Cool.

The Glaze

1/2 lb. butter
1/2 c. water
2 c. sugar
1 c. rum

Melt the glaze butter and stir in sugar and water.

Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. No longer! If you go too long the sugar will recrystallize.

Remove from heat. Stir in rum.

The Magic

Turn cake out onto a serving plate (I prefer something with a ridge to hold the glaze in). Poke the top with a toothpick. I like to use a skewer because it gets in deeper.

Pour or brush the glaze all over the cake. I like to pour some around the ring of the cake. Then I like to brush glaze along the sides so that there is glaze all over the cake.

Allow it to soak up the glaze, then repeat until it’s all gone. This can take a while.

Sometimes, if I don’t think the cake has the right, shall we say, nose, I will pour rum directly onto the cake. It should smell rummy.

I like to let this cake sit for a day before serving. It really makes it delectable.

Okay, hopefully some of your remember the post entitled “This Dog.” It was about our dog, Fenway, eating about a dozen of our favorite Blueberry Bran Muffins. He survived both the bran and our wrath.

Well, he has done it again. Except this time he has done it with some hand-rolled sugar plums. I would guess he consumed around 40 of the 80 that I spent an hour hand rolling. The other forty were spread over the counter and looking quite log-licked.

Again, I wanted to kill him. And it was, of course my fault, which made me even angrier. I even thought, I should put these in a Rubbermaid. But nope. I made a nice little sugar plumb pyramid. Festive! And apparently it makes it easy to stick your long black nose onto the counter and curl your pink tongue around like a furry black giraffe.

Well, I mentioned it on the Facebook and a couple of people wanted the recipe, so here it is. I tasted two of them. And they were really very good. A little Middle-Eastern flavor, which I really liked.

It is, as per usual, an Alton Brown recipe.

Ingredients

6 ounces slivered almonds, toasted
4 ounces dried plums (which is a nice way of saying “prunes” I used cranberries and it added a little tart to it)
4 ounces dried apricots
4 ounces dried figs
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup honey (I used a basswood honey that adds a slight minty flavor to it)
1 cup coarse sugar (although I used vanilla sugar)

Directions

Put the almonds, prunes (or cranberries), apricots, and figs into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 20 to 25 times or until the fruit and nuts are chopped into small pieces, but before the mixture becomes a ball.

Combine the powdered sugar, toasted anise seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, ground cardamom, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the nut and fruit mixture and the honey and mix using gloved hands until well combined.

Scoop the mixture into 1/4-ounce portions and roll into balls. If serving immediately, roll in the coarse sugar and serve. If not serving immediately, put the balls on a cooling rack and leave uncovered until ready to serve. Roll in the coarse sugar prior to serving.

The Sugarplums may be stored on the cooling rack for up to a week. After a week, store in an airtight container for up to a month.

But I highly suggest that you immediately secure them in a closed container.

Friday Pie-Day: Banana Cream Pie

Let me first say that this is not a pie for the faint of heart. Which is perfect, because the person who requested this pie is a steely-eyed life commando.

It is not for the faint of heart because this pie is a full on fat-filled, dairy-laden, velvet-mouthing, obese-inducing, culinary orgasma-rama. It’s pretty good.

I admit, at first I was not that jazzed about this suggestion. The only good banana cream pie I ever had was at a little diner in Okmulgee, Oklahoma called Coleman’s. I was probably nine years old. It was actually that memorable. But their coconut cream was even better.

Every subsequent banana cream pie has tasted like it was cobbled together with box pudding. It has been cloying, gelatinous and had some kind of manufactured after taste.

So, I really researched this one. I put some of my recipes side by side and decided on Emeril Lagasse’s. Well, most of Emril Legasse’s. You know how I like to screw with things.

I added a little cinnamon and a little nutmeg. I also made my own crust.

This is time-intense pie. You need to be serious about making this one, but it is a big pay-off. It will take you two days.

Because it is so time-crazy, I am going to break it into its four sections as four separate recipes. Got it?

Here is The Crust recipe:

50 Nilla Wafer cookies, processed to crumbs in food processor
1 tbs sugar (I used vanilla sugar for this)
¼ cup butter or margarine
1 tbs rum

Preheat oven to 375º.

Mix all ingredients together and let it sit for a couple of minutes.

Press it into a 9” pie pan

Bake it for 10 – 12 minutes.

Let it cool.

Okay, now for The Cream:

2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and seeds scraped (Yes, I did use a real vanilla bean. I wasn’t screwing around with this one! I got mine from Penzy’s)
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cornstarch (Yeah, you read that right. I didn’t believe it when I read it, either, but trust me, it’s not too much.)
take a cinnamon stick and grate some of it with a microplane, break the rest of it up.
five or six grates of a nutmeg

Combine 2 cups of the cream, the milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the vanilla bean, and the vanilla seeds in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

Combine the egg yolks, eggs, cornstarch, and 1 cup of the sugar, in a medium bowl, and whisk pale yellow in color. Set aside.

Whisk 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks (this is called tempering). Gradually add the egg mixture to the hot cream, whisking constantly. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a large wooden spoon to cook out the cornstarch and the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.

At this point the mixture started to glob up. It looked like it was curdling. So I let it go for a bit and then removed it from the heat, then I hit it with my hand blender (whisk attachment). Totally smoothed it out.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Yes, you read that right. Emeril is a bastard for this. My arm nearly fell off. But it does a couple of things. First it removes all the detritus, like the cinnamon bits and the vanilla bean. It also smoothes out any globules that may have formed. So, all-in-all, bastard move that it is, it is a good thing to do.

Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. This is really important.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. I did it over night.

The Assembly

a bunch of bananas, more than you think you’ll need (I’d go for, say, nine) It will vary.
the crust
the cream

Cut the bananas into ½ inch coins.

Spread 1/2 cup of the custard over the bottom of the prepared crust, smoothing with the back of a large spoon or rubber spatula.

Arrange enough banana slices in a tight, tiled pattern over the custard, pressing down with your hands to pack them firmly.

Repeat to build a second layer, using 3/4 cup of the custard and enough bananas to cover, smoothing down the layer evenly.

For the third layer, spread 3/4 cup of custard over the bananas and top with the remaining bananas, starting 1-inch from the outer edge and working toward the center.

Spread 1 cup of custard evenly over the bananas to prevent discoloration.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Okay, so I had left over custard and bananas left. So I soaked a bunch of Nilla Wafers in some Godiva Chocolate Liqueur for about a minute (no longer or they fall apart). Then I lined a medium ramekin with the soaked wafers. Put in some custard, then sliced bananas, then custard, then sliced bananas, then custard. Then I topped it with more soaked wafers. It’s still sitting covered in the fridge. It is calling me.

The Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar and the vanilla extract and whip again until stiff peaks form.

Pipe the whipped cream onto the pie. I liked the star dollop piping.

The Over-Doing It

3/4 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Scald the half-and-half and butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat.

Place the chocolate and vanilla in a medium, heat-proof bowl.

Add the hot half-and-half and let sit for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth.

Put into a squeeze bottle (or you can just drizzle with a spoon, but the bottle makes it infinitely easier) and drizzle over pie.

The Cutting

Dip your knife in warm water between each slice.


Orgasma-yum!

I would check to see what the wife says, but she is in Boston. That, and if she actually ate this pie, the evil god Lactocon would rend her asunder and use her writhing body as a battle horn to call the demons of Methania together creating a host that might very well kill us all. So…

But I say it was worth it.

NOTE: Wanted to add a little shout out to the MTG for watching the kid and chatting so I could get this pie done. Kudos and a piece is on the way.

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