Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Many Days of Thanksgiving.

For me Thanksgiving starts early, and extends well beyond that time-honored Thursday of near religious gastronomy. There are dinners and brunches well before the date with friends we may not see until the new year. There are relatives and friends abound, in from out of town for the big event, and the inevitable leftover sprawl as we nurse our food comas for another day. Then the weekend comes, we ourselves go out of town to see more loves, come back, and try to relax before the whole flurry of tradition, thanks, amazing people and amazing food subsides.

Somewhere in all that eating and cooking, I get tired of the same flavors and feel the need to diversify. I mean how many times can we really eat pumpkin pie? And cranberry sauce…and golden bird, and mashed potatoes…and stuffing. Honestly I’m drooling just writing about it, but at this time of year I find myself inundated with trendy riffs on the same dishes, from every direction. I know it’s all about tradition – I myself would have a fit if my Mom didn’t prepare “tootalings” each year, a simple but gorgeous Italian soup consisting of homemade pork tortellini in chicken broth with cheese and lots of black pepper. But when delving into the huge amount of cooking I do around this time of year, being that Thanksgiving takes up practically the entire month for me, I am drawn away from the traditional –especially with desserts. I need to work in at least a few non-pumpkin/apple/cranberry treats to keep my palate entertained, and keep me inspired in the kitchen.

This week I celebrated Thanksgiving with one of my dearest friends in the universe - my old college roommate, and her beau. We dined on beef bourguignon, something I was pretty sure none of us would be eating the rest of the week. For dessert I served salted butterscotch pots de crème. What's that you ask? They are scrumptious French custards - something like a crème brulee but without the crackly top. We each got our own dainty serving, topped with homemade caramel sauce and whipped vanilla bean crème fraiche. It was the perfect little dessert, and didn’t ruin our excitement for the traditional treats that will come later this week.

When you’re burnt out on pumpkin pie give this one a whirl – it would actually work any time of year, though running your oven for an hour during the summer probably doesn’t sound that attractive. I halved the recipe for 4 servings, but the one below makes 8. It’s an absolute winner with a divine texture, and just enough salt to make it interesting.

But before we get to the recipe, happy Thanksgiving to you dear reader! I hope it’s wonderful. If you’re feeling more traditional, I made this last year. And this is always a crowd pleaser!

Salted Butterscotch Pots de Crème with Caramel Sauce
from Food and Wine, September 2011

If you're not into salt, I'd suggest going easy on the recommended scant tablespoon. Its prominent and exciting in this dish, but maybe not for everyone. Also, when making the caramel sauce, I'd recommend plain old white sugar. It's really tough to get it right using less processed organic choices. (read: you will quickly end up with a black smoking pot of evil burnt sugar the likes of which would make even Voldemort cringe.)

Pots de Crème

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
5 cups heavy cream
1 scant tablespoon fine sea salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
6 large egg yolks
Boiling water

Caramel Sauce

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the Pots de Crème:

Preheat oven to 325˚. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add brown sugar and cook on medium high, whisking constantly until smooth and bubbling, about 5 minutes (this happened more quickly with me, when halving the recipe, so be alert!). Gradually whisk in the cream. Return the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Add salt and vanilla seeds.

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Gradually whisk in the hot cream mixture. Strain the custard into 8 6-ounce ramekins. Set the ramekins in a small roasting pan and place it in the middle of the oven. Fill the roasting pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the whole thing with foil and bake for 1 hour, until the custard is set but still wobbly in the center. Transfer the ramekins to the fridge and chill about 4 hours.

Make the Caramel Sauce:

In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar with 2 tablespoons of water and cook undisturbed over high heat until a deep amber caramel forms, about 6 minutes (but again, watch it! It can go from fine to really bad very quickly.) Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any crystals that form on the sides of the saucepan. Remove from heat. Add 2/3 cup of water and stir until smooth. Let the sauce cool, then stir in vanilla.

Top the pots de crème with the caramel sauce. I also whipped some extra vanilla bean seeds into crème fraiche and used this on top. The salty sweet custard, super sweet caramel and tangy crème fraiche were an excellent combination!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quicker than instant ramen!

Just a quick post to share Momofuku founder David Chang's recent fun appearance on Jimmy Fallon! I love that he makes one of my Italian favorites, Cacio e Pepe, out of instant Ramen! You can check out the recipe yourself, as well as other unique recipes and interesting articles in his quarterly Lucky Peach, put out by McSweeny's. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I'm baaa-aaaack...Part 2.

So as I was saying - I'm going to try and diversify my posts here on Effing D so that they're not all just a recipe and my (admittedly clever) thoughts about my experience with said recipe. There will definitely be a lot of those posts...but my goal is to switch it up, and this is my first "other" kind of post.

I wanted to share some splendid things I've eaten over the past few months, both close by and far away. One delicious destination that springs to mind is Chicago. We walked for miles, looked at art and architecture and dinosaur bones until our eyes were bleary, and spent time with great friends, for a few beautiful blustery blue-skied days. 

the bean
Me reflected in Kapoor's 'Bean' - Chicago is a mecca for public sculpture.

One of the great places we dined was Handlebar - it's the kind of place that makes you be able to picture just how it would be if you decided to move to the area. Small and unique with an awesome beer selection - casual but with thoughtful creative food. I especially loved these outstanding fried dill pickles. Exquisite.

fried pickles in chi-town

Another great adventure we had this summer was to Acadia National Park, on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. It is an amazing place - not sure how I went all this time without going there but I'm so glad I finally did! We hiked, biked, swam in the very cold ocean and gazed at some of the most incredible stars I've ever seen, while lying on cliffs listening to the waves crash beneath us.


We also did a lot of great camp cooking on our trip - it's true that everything really does taste better outdoors.


One very notable meal we had while enjoying our exploration of the island on bikes, on an extremely hot day, was at the Jordan Pond Tea House. Yes, there's a tea room in the middle of this wild national park. And it's a good thing too, because I think these decadent popovers and icy cold strawberry lemonades actually saved our lives that day. It was *that* hot. 

popovers to save us from death - Acadia

We also enjoyed some great food closer to home. The annual Island Creek Oyster Fest happened in September in Duxbury, MA, as it always does to help us usher out summer. This year the oysters were as fresh and delectable as ever, and I tried octopus for the first time. Can't believe how much I've been missing all these years! I enjoyed it thoroughly, tentacles and all.



kitchen at o-fest


As September progressed we moved from oysters to apples. We tromped through Mack's orchard in New Hampshire collecting Cortland and Macintosh, Honey Crisp and my very favorite tiny perfect Gala apples.

Some apples met this kind of fate...

apple cake

But others that we encountered out in Rutland, MA on a friend's farm became another kind of seasonal delicacy altogether.

cider press

The cider we drank straight from the spigot that day was so completely perfect - like the entirety of autumn in a glass. It made all the hard work on that unseasonably warm day, deflecting interested bees and yellow jackets as we chopped, ground, pressed and poured, so completely worth it.

We didn't just rely on other peoples' farming skills this summer/fall either - we also had a small garden of our own. It wasn't a great yield for us this year, and I'm still unsure why. But one of our successes was these gorgeous carrots. They were amazing both raw and roasted - we pulled them a few at a time and the last once I grabbed a week or so ago were so very sweet from staying in the ground until it got chilly.

This post has taken us all over the place - Chicago, Acadia, Duxbury, Mack's, and even my own back yard. I think that's what I was missing before - there are so many food adventures to get excited about outside my kitchen, and so much more to discover and write about. More coming soon as Thanksgiving rolls around!

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm baaaa-aaaaack...Part 1.

I bet you thought it wouldn't happen. Honestly somewhere in the relaxing and camping and swimming and frolicking and reading and vacationing and cooking (surprise) and taking photos (mmhmm) and writing (Yes, I still did all three) I came to agree with you. I thought I might never return to Effing Delicious. But then the universe told me in some subtle and not-so-subtle ways not to abandon this one - this project that I poured myself into for a year and a half and then willfully skipped away from six months ago. Friends flat out said "Start your blog again!" Readers kept reading old posts. (Thanks!) And of course I realized, as I said above, that I've still been cooking, taking photos of food, writing, and having food-related adventures. So...it seemed silly not to share all of that. But, I think I needed some distance to get that through my head!

So, I'm back - your truant friend. And it actually has been a fun and delicious six months. I had all these ideas about what my first post should be. But really I've got so much to share that I couldn't settle on just one theme. And I didn't want to get all heavy, tell you I've found myself, that it's my destiny to write this blog, etc. So I took a look back over my photos from the last six months and picked some out to share with you - highlighting some particularly yummy moments. I hope you enjoy this kind of epically long, two-part, photo-filled post. It's nice to see you again.

Here are some delectable things I've kept myself busy making over the last little while...

breakfast pizza!
Breakfast Pizza from Big Sur Bakery

vegan coconut pineapple rice tart
Vegan Coconut Rice Pudding Tart with Caramelized Pineapple from ReadyMade

lime curd italian meringue
Italian Meringue Lime Curd Blackberry Pie from Bon Appetit

peanut butter custard pie!
Peanut Butter Custard Chocolate Honeycomb Pie from Bon Appetit (making that honeycomb candy is the BEST science experiment!!!)

bday cake!
Killer Yellow Birthday Cake from the Flour Bakery Cookbook

banana muffs
Banana Mini Muffins using the Flour Bakery Banana Bread recipe

Oh I also made these Dharma Initiative Polar Bear biscuit cookies for a dear co-worker's birthday!
dharma cookies

But it wasn't all me cooking. And that's going to be the big change to Effing D, I do believe. I'm planning to start writing about other things I eat too - things I grow, forage and pick, things that are local to my area that excite me, and things that I travel far and wide to put in my mouth. (twss!)

And more on that, my dears, will be coming in the next post. Tomorrow!