Monthly Archives: March 2013

Out like a Lamb

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While it’s been colder than I would like, as winter stubbornly refuses to release its grip and surrender to spring, the Bradford Pears are in full bloom and the robins are hopping about in the yard and chirping with more fervor so I’m calling it. Spring has sprung. It’s my favorite time of year. I am eagerly awaiting Pimm’s Cup weather and the arrival of  fresh peas, radishes, rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries—(though it will be quite awhile for those) at the farmer’s market and am dying to make the following:

  • This vibrant Radish Cous Cous looks like the embodiment of spring…
  • This  Strawberry. Coconut. Margarita.
  • Spring also means Hot Cross Buns and I can’t wait to make them again…
  • The recipe doesn’t particularly scream “spring,” but I’ve had a hankering to make this black coffee ice cream
  • Desperately want to make this cocktail. Also desperately want to go to Pok Pok. Next time New York, next time…
  • I’ve never been a fan of dying Easter eggs (partly because I hate hardboiled eggs anyway), but these little beauts sure do like fun and I may have to do this

In the course of these past few weeks, there was a wedding…

and many leftover flowers

and many leftover wedding flowers

There were Spicy Soba Noodles with Shrimp and Tofu…

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A new obsession in the form of one bad boy of a sandwich (Fried runny duck egg, melted cheddar, bacon & caramelized onion jam, mayo, lettuce and pickled onion on the most luscious buttermilk bun), from Scratch, which may be the best sandwich I’ve ever had, or at least a tie with the Cuban roast pork sandwich from El Paseo, in Seattle). It’s certainly the messiest, which supports my theory that the best sandwiches are also the messiest ones.

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and a fleeting trip to Wilmington (for an essential Dawson’s Creek pilgrimage)

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And the gift of the sweetest, most amazing apron ever, from my dear friend Louisa (seriously, I can’t tell you how excited I am about this apron)!

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And I am ridiculously excited about this discovery—my preferred out-to-dinner beverage from about age 7-13, especially since for some odd reason I’ve been craving Shirley Temples lately (even though I haven’t had one in years). Probably because last week, I came across this little feature on this amazing looking small batch grenadine from Jack Rudy. It’s funny because right after I saw this, I spotted both the grenadine and the tonic at Bestway and then the past two nights in a row (at Dinner at RX—an amazing new restaurant, in Wilmington and Mateo in Durham), there were two cocktails on the menu with Jack Rudy tonic. The one from RX had gin, rosemary and lemon and the one from Mateo had saffron-infused tonic, local Cardinal gin and orange. I ordered them of course and it really is amazing stuff—it’s distinctly crisper and now I want to try that grenadine.  I’m curious to see delightful this little cutie would be when mixed with some gin…

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This week, I am excited to play with Elderflower liqueur (in baking)! Stay tuned.

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Oscar Wild

A couple weekends ago was all things Oscars-related and I kicked it off with my first contribution to the Foodie Crush blog, with a post about my family’s Oscar Dinner tradition and a pun-filled menu! If you aren’t familiar with Foodie Crush, you should definitely check it out. Heidi has created a wonderful virtual space with her gorgeous online magazine and blog, which is unique in that it is dedicated to food bloggers and she’s acquired quite the following! I’m beyond excited to continue brainstorming and working with her on some upcoming projects.

On Friday afternoon, Jay and I put our nerdy heads together to conjure up some more puns for our Oscar dinner menu (a challenge we look forward to each year) and here is what we came up with (I’m quite proud if I do say so)!

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As always, our house and stomachs were full and fun was had all around! I particularly enjoyed the entertaining, suave and witty antics of host Seth MacFarlane, Christoph Waltz’s and Daniel Day Lewis’ win, seeing the adorable, feisty Quvenzhané Wallis and Joseph Gordon Levitt’s charming dance moves. We had fun posing for our own red carpet photos, tallying up our ballots and either praising or yelling at the TV.

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quintessential “red carpet paparazzi photo”

And las night in our household was not just all about that little gold man. It was also about pie, as the case usually is. In honor of Life of Pi, I made two pies: one, a chocolate mousse pie and a new experiment that became quite the hit—a bourbon-butterscotch pie with bananas and salty caramel. A couple years ago for Valentine’s Day, I made Ashley Christensen’s Banana Cream Pie with Salty Bourbon Caramel, except I used walnuts in place of the peanuts, for the crust. I loved it and I thought it would be a good crust for this pie. In addition to using walnuts instead of peanuts (I just used one cup in stead of a cup and a quarter cup), I also used all brown sugar. The result was a caramelized, salty, nutty cookie crust that went beautifully with the bourbon butterscotch custard. I also made a salty caramel and layered it with bananas and the custard (two times around), then I topped it with a cloud of whipped cream, drizzled caramel and a few banana slices. This pie is precisely what Ron Swanson’s kind of pie and I imagine it goes quite well with a nice glass of neat bourbon. It’s dark and caramelly, slightly bitter and a perfect balance of salty and sweet.

I wasn’t sure what to call the pie but when our guests inquired about what it was and I gave my response, they deemed it “monkey pie,” and so monkey pie it is.

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Monkey Pie

Walnut shortbread crust:

  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a bowl, mix the baking soda, salt and flour. In a food processor, combine the brown sugar and toasted walnuts and blend until the mixture is sandy and there are no big nut pieces. Then add the butter, vanilla and egg yolk and blend until evenly combined. Add the dry ingredients and blend just until evenly incorporated. Dump into a 8/9-inch pie dish and press in and up the sides, making an even crust. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for at least a half an hour.

Bourbon-Butterscotch Custard lightly adapted from Zak Miller of Coquette in New Orleans, via Garden and Gun

6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 cups whole milk, divided
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 vanilla bean

1 tsp vanilla

6 egg yolks

½ cup cornstarch
4-5 tbsp. bourbon

Melt butter and sugar together in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Whisk in 2 cups of milk and salt. Split the vanilla bean, and scrape out the seeds into the pan. Whisk well, and bring mixture to a simmer.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks and cornstarch with the remaining cup of milk. Add ½ cup of the warmed milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture to temper. Add everything back into the pan of warmed milk, and whisk steadily until the mixture is boiling. Cook until pudding is thickened, about 8 minutes. Strain through a sieve if the pudding is lumpy.

Stir in bourbon and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto the surface of the pudding to avoid having a skin form. Chill for at least two hours.

Salty Caramel barely adapted from The Smitten Kitchen

1 cup sugar
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature

1 heaping tsp fleur de sel

Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat in a larger pot than you think you’ll need–at least two or three quarts, whisking or stirring the sugar as it melts to ensure it heats evenly. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice, dark copper color. Add the butter all at once and stir it in, before turning off the stove and pour in the heavy cream (The sauce will foam up quite a bit when you add it; this is why you want the larger pot.), whisking it until you get a smooth sauce. Stir in the fleur de sel.

You use it right away or pour it into a jar and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you take it out, it will likely have thickened a bit but 60 seconds in the microwave brings it right back to pouring consistency.

Assembly:

After the crust is cool and the pudding has chilled, peel and slice up 3 bananas. Cover the bottom of the crust with banana slices, then drizzle the caramel liberally overtop. Add half of the bourbon-butterscotch custard and spread evenly. Repeat, using the remainder of the pudding. Cover with whipped cream (about 1 cup of heavy whipping cream + 1 TBS powdered sugar). Drizzle some salty caramel on top and add a few banana slices to make it pretty.

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