Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sugar High Friday #38: White Chocolate Pudding with Scotch Butterscotch Sauce

I have been blogging sporadically these days and I don't completely know why. Well, I do know why and it involves badness and sadness and a little pain here and there but I won't bore you with the details.

But life goes on and we have to eat. And the holidays come around and we have to eat sweets. Back in December of last year I participated in Sugar High Friday, a monthly blog event started by Domestic Goddess and hosted by various bloggers across the blogosphere. The theme last year was sugar art and, while I was not particularly artistic, I was creative and brave enough to do something I do not usually do: improvise with a baking recipe. I was actually quite pleased with the resultant Pomegranate Kisses, about which you can read here.

And then I kind of dropped out of blogging events. I did make something for one other SHF event, but the results were underwhelming, and my post has been languishing in draft mode for almost a year now. I suppose it will languish for a while longer before I get around to it.

Now that I have started posting more regularly again, I thought I might drop in on Is My Blog Burning and check out the blog events to see if there were any in which I might want to participate. I'm thinking it might help me stay motivated to post more frequently if I have some challenges and deadlines to meet.

I was quite delighted to see that this month's Sugar High Friday, hosted by Zorra at Kochtopf, is dedicated to pudding. Pudding is one of my all-time favorite desserts, but I rarely have it unless it is on the dessert menu at a restaurant. The ready-made puddings that you can buy at the grocery store are not really what I consider to be pudding. They are really just artificially flavored, artificially thickened sauces that just do not have that thick, rich creamy mouthfeel that a real bona fide made from scratch and thickened with egg yolks pudding provides. That being said, I had never made pudding from scratch before and was slightly hesitant about my ability to do so.

I had, however, pulled a recipe for Rich and Creamy Butterscotch Pudding from the January '07 issue of Food and Wine magazine. I love anything butterscotch. It's another one of those things that, if it's on the menu, I'm going to order it. No matter how double-triple-or quadruple the chocolate, how mocha the mousse, how lava-like the center, nothing comes close to the luscious buttery caramel-ly creamy scotchy richness of butterscotch pudding.

So when I saw that the theme for this month was pudding, I knew I had to give it a try. I was a little nervous because I do not have that much experience with puddings and custards and the like, although I did make my friend Bob a fruit tart for his birthday a few years ago that, while it did not exactly look perfect, did taste the way a fruit tart should taste (thanks to Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, whose recipe it was). But what are blog events for if not to give us reasons to stretch our reach that little bit further?

So I went to the grocery store fully intending to buy all the ingredients necessary for butterscotch pudding. And had everything I needed until I got to the baking aisle and found only one brand of butterscotch chips available. And that brand was artificially flavored. What to do? I really really really wanted to make butterscotch pudding. I really really really did not want to use artificially flavored butterscotch for a SHF blog event!

The thought did cross my mind that I might try to make some from scratch, but I quickly (and wisely) squelched that thought. Instead, I opted for white chocolate chips and decided to take a stab at making a butterscotch sauce from scratch to go with it. I found a recipe that looked good at Recipezaar.

I was pleased overall with the end result. The white chocolate pudding was incredibly rich and creamy, and the butterscotch sauce was a nice foil, although it was a little strong. It called for light brown sugar and all I had was dark. I did not think it would make that much of a difference but I was wrong. The molasses in the sugar was a little too overpowering for the more subtle butter/scotch combination and I will definitely use light next time I make this.
Home Cookin Chapter: Desserts

Rich and Creamy White Chocolate Pudding

3-1/2 cups plus 1-1/2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp Scotch
1-1/2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 cup white chocolate chips (6 oz.)
Scotch Butterscotch Sauce (recipe below)

Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Set a fine mesh sieve in another medium bowl; set the bowl in the ice water bath.

In a small skillet, combine 1-1/2 Tbsp of the cream with the Scotch, brown sugar, water and salt and cook over moderate heat just until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool slightly.

Put the egg yolks in a medium bowl. In a heavy medium saucepan, bring the remaining 3-1/2 cups of cream to a simmer with the vanilla bean and seeds. Remove from the heat. Add the butterscotch chips to the hot cream and let stand until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Gradually add the hot butterscotch mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring costantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until thick, about 15 minutes. Do not let it boil. Strain the pudding into the bowl in the ice bath and stir in the Scotch mixture.

Pour the pudding into glasses and refrigerate until thorouthly set, at least 4 hours or overnight. Serve the pudding Scotch Butterscotch Sauce.

Makes 6 servings

Slightly adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, January 2007.

Home Cookin Chapter: Sauces

Scotch Butterscotch Sauce

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp dark corn syrup
2 Tbsp Scotch whiskey
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, cream, butter and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly.

Lower heat and boil gently, stirring often, until sauce thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat and stir in whiskey and vanilla.

Allow to cool slightly before serving. Can be refrigerated up to one week; warm gently before serving.

Recipe #139231. From Short and Sweet: 150 Sophisticated Desserts in No Time at All, by Melanie Barnard. by Chef Kate
© 2007 Recipezaar. All Rights Reserved.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.5 (

Friday, December 21, 2007

Deep Freeze Summer Challenge: Turkey Mole

Back in June I had grand plans to participate in the Deep Freeze Summer Challenge issued by Chris at Mele Cotte's. It's too bad, too, because it was right up my alley. The challenge was to cook something using ingredients from your freezer, which dovetailed right in with my goal to use everything in my freezer for Operation Freezer Burn.

All that remained in the freezer from last year's Thanksgiving turkey was half of a slightly over-roasted breast and a jar of the rich dark broth that came out of the roasting pan. I knew I wanted to take another stab at mole but was taking my time deciding to get started on it. Chris's challenge was just the motivation to get me started.

The last time I made it (for IMBB 25) , I did not let the mole cook down enough and it was too thin. I also added peanut butter, which Lynda said gave it a slightly Thai flavor with which I agreed and omitted this time around. I did, however, have some sliced almonds on hand, which I did not have last time, so I added those.

I can't remember how I pureed the sauce last time, but this time I just stuck my stick blender into the skillet and smoothed away. I believe I have mentioned before how much I love that thing but it bears repeating at every opportunity. It's a miracle tool.

So here is the mole simmering away on the stove. As you can see, it made quite a bit. I let it simmer for a couple of hours before ladling it over the sliced turkey breast and serving it with some purple potatoes that I boiled, sliced, and drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper, along with a tomato, cucumber, and yellow bell pepper salad. It was quite tasty.

But even while I simmered it for a couple of hours this time, I realized it could still stand to be cooked down some more. So a couple of days later I put it in a saucepan and let it really cook down. It came out darker, smokier, and even more flavorful.

While this has little similarity to the magical moles at New Rebozo, I am quite proud of my developing skills with this sauce.
Mole Pasilla

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 pasilla peppers
hot water
1 onion, chopped fine
6-10 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock (I used my leftover turkey stock)
3 Tbsp bread crumbs
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
2-1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tablet Mexican chocolate (or approximately 3 oz. semisweet chocolate and 3/4 tsp. cinnamon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add peppers and let plump for 1 or 2 minutes. Remove to bowl, leaving oil in skillet. Cover peppers with hot water, and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove stems (and seeds if you want less heat), break into pieces and chop in blender.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, for approximately 10 minutes. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder, almonds and bread crumbs and cook, continuing to stir frequently, for 3 more minutes.

Add vegetable stock and blended pasilla peppers. Place in a blender and puree, or puree in the skillet with a stick blender. Add chocolate. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally, until it has reached the desired consistency.

Delicious over sliced roasted turkey or pork chops.

Adapted from several recipes found online and in various cookbooks.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Himalayan Red Rice

When I was in Austin over the Thanksgiving holiday, my sister and I had a chance to take a quick run down to Central Market, which is the local HEB grocery chain's answer to Whole Foods or, more accurately, to what Whole Foods used to be. Lots of unusual fruits and vegetables, lots of familiar and not-so-familiar imported goods, local artisanal breads and cheeses, and a large, healthy bulk section of legumes, grains, nuts spices - something that is an endangered species up here in Chicago.

We don't usually buy much; we're happy to go through the store aisle-by-aisle, sharing information on some of the things we've each tried, oohing and aahing over the things we've never seen, and dreaming about how much we would buy and cook with if we had all the time and money in the world.

And of course we both buy something. I usually find some nice unusual bean - this time it was a repeat of the Anasazi beans I bought last year and some flageolet beans which I have yet to decide how I want to cook.

And I bought some Himalayan Red Rice. I had never heard of it before, and there's not a whole lot of information on it (that a quick google search can yield, at least) out there. But it was such a beautiful rich red color that I knew it had to come home with me.

It cooks pretty much the same as brown rice in terms of time, but as you can see in the photo below it holds its shape quite nicely. It has a strong, nutty flavor and a firm texture. It was quite lovely with the Rocky Mountain Chili with Anasazi Beans (of which more later).

I haven't yet seen this here in Chicago, but then again I haven't been looking for it. I better get cracking - I only have enough left for one more batch.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

Earlier this year I wrote this post about Split Pea Soup, which is one of the easiest things in the world to make - the peas do it all. When I made it before I just bought a thick slice of ham, threw it in the pot, and then cut up the ham when it was done.

In the meantime I found a real live hambone at the Apple Market. It was pretty big, so they cut it in half for me. I threw both halves in the freezer and then promptly forgot about them.

Operation Freezer Burn is just limping along right now. What Operation Freezer Burn? you may be asking, and with good reason. My freezer is just as full as ever and, while there has been some significant rotation, there's still just as much, if not more, stuff in there as there's ever been. In fact, now I am putting more spices and nuts and things in there so there is no room whatsoever at the Inn.

But every once in a while, when I was rummaging around in there for something, my hand would bump into one or the other of the plastic bags that held my ham bones. And when the weather finally got cool enough, I decided it was time for some split pea soup. I was already playing with my slow cooker at the time, so I went to The Everything Slow Cooker Cookbook and found a recipe that turned out to be basically the same as the one I already use that is on the back of every package of split peas I have ever bought. The only difference is in the amount of water you use - a quart and a half (6 cups) as opposed to the 2 quarts called for in the stovetop version.

So why bother making this soup in the slow cooker when it's so gosh-darned easy to throw together on the stove? Well, I'll tell you. Because cooking this soup in the slow cooker creates the smoothest, most velvety soft split pea soup I have ever tasted. It comes out so thick that you could almost lift it out in one big lump if you had a big enough utensil. Once you add water and heat it up, the magic begins. If you like split pea soup, you have to try this slow cooker version.
Slow Cooker Green Split Pea Soup

1 lb. green split peas
1-1/2 quarts water
1/2 ham hock
2 bay leaves
1 chopped onion
3 stalks chopped celery
3 carrots, sliced
1 tsp salt
2 cloves minced garlic

Wash, sort and drain split peas. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker crock, turn on low, and let cook for 8-10 hours.

Before serving, remove ham bone. Cut ham off bone; dice and add back to soup. You will need to thin this soup with water before serving.

Loosely adapted from The Everything Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Margaret Kaeter (Adams Media Corporation, 2002).

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Doctor Dejamo's Distracted

We are indeed on the threshold of a brave new . . . something. A while back I wrote this post about Fantastic World Foods' Vegetarian Chili mix, which I had doctored up from the package instructions by adding onions, garlic, a jalapeno, cumin, chili powder, and corn. I have to admit that by the time I had finished with it, it was one tasty dish.

A week or so later, I noticed that someone from their website had spent quite a bit of time on that post. It was a little odd, but I figured it was just someone searching the web for items mentioning their products.

And then I forgot all about it. Until today, when I was looking at my stats and noticed that someone had come to that same post of mine from here.

I've got to tell you I have mixed feelings about this. Part of me is flattered that they thought my recipe was good enough to post on their site. And they did have the decency to credit the recipe to me, and to provide a link. But they could have contacted me to let me know they were going to use it, don't you think? Just as a professional courtesy, you know?

And the least they could have done was to make sure they had my blog name correct, right? Or am I being too sensitive?

December Flowers

Happy December. I hope everyone (American, that is) had a Happy Thanksgiving. My brother and nephew drove up for their third annual pre-Thanksgiving visit, and this year I was able to drive back down with them to spend the holidays in Texas. It was a lovely visit, too short as usual, but I am going back for Christmas so it's all good.

It's a snowy day today. I went to the grocery store around 11:00 for my usual Saturday morning trip, which is usually a busy time because that's when all the local assisted-living residences cart busloads of residents for their weekly shopping. It used to be Wednesday mornings (which I only know because I used to have Wednesdays and Thursdays off - in a way I kind of miss those days), but for some reason Saturday has become the morning of choice.

So I'm used to a little bit of a crowd, but I was surprised to see over two-thirds of the shopping carts gone from their stand outside the store. Uh-oh, I thought. This isn't good. The store was packed. It took me a minute to figure out why, and then I realized that everyone was trying to beat the snow. Ok, whatever. I resigned myself to a long wait in the checkout lines and went about my business.

I ended up in a line that was six-deep, right next to the flowers. And the more I looked at them, the cheerier I was feeling, so I decided to take some of that cheer home with me. And they really do make the day seem brighter. I highly recommend them when you're beginning to feel that winter chill.
On a food note, I haven't been cooking too much lately. What started as just cleaning up my place for my brother and nephew turned into an all-out overhaul that had us toting tons of stuff out to the dumpster, and my brother was kind enough to spend one of their days here while I was at work lugging a bunch of bags of clothes to Goodwill for me. I'm on a roll and am hesitant to stop so cooking is taking a back seat right now. It's amazing how much you can accumulate over the years, especially if you're like me and can't pass up anything that might be remotely useful to you some day. I have a tendency to collect things for the life I am going to have someday, rather than the life I am living right now. It's time to cut back, and I already feel lighter for having so much less stuff in my apartment.

I did find this most amazing loaf of pumpernickel-rye bread at Treasure Island. It was soft, thick and dense and made the most heavenly salami sandwiches I have had in a long time. One of my knitting students made rye bread over the weekend and she said it turned out really well. I have found myself thinking about baking bread lately. It's been over ten years since I made bread. Hmmm . . .
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