On a night not fit for man nor beast – Salted Butterscotch Custard

Salted Butterscotch Custard-27

As I write this (Thursday) the Big Bad Wolf howls about our house, a slavering gale sniffing out chinks, probing for weaknesses.  The temperature is expected to plunge to 5 or 6 above zero by morning, with Boston adrift in over a foot of snow before the blizzard subsides Friday evening.  In our current larder we have bread, sweet potatoes and bitter greens that Jody made tonight, chewy papardelle noodles with smoked goose and tomato sauce–the last hurrah of our Christmas birds–and a few precious survivors of this week’s post, Salted Butterscotch Custards.  We couldn’t be snugger.

Sadie’s Gingersnaps

Sadie's Gingersnaps (1 of 26)

If you’re looking for something homemade this weekend but are ready to give elaborate cooking a rest, here’s a treat, Sadie’s Gingersnaps.  The eponymous Sadie is the grandmother of our great friend and traveling companion, Bette Ann (BA) Harris.  Several weeks ago BA arrived for dinner at our house with a plastic bag of these oversize ginger snaps.  Score!  There’s an embargo on our house for cookies, unless we make them ourselves.  It ensures quality control and minimizes temptation.  You can have a treat… as long as you make it yourself.  We do, however, issue culinary visas to all friends bearing baked goods.  After all, how often do friends show up at your door with homemade cookies?  These were definitely worth the wait.

Fig, Plum and Hazelnut Tart

Fig, Plum and Hazelnut Tart-530-8819

Oh, the things we do, the torments we endure, so you don’t have to.  The week’s Fig, Plum and and Hazelnut Tart didn’t start out as the walk in the park below.  After helping everyone become a tart shell master last week we thought we’d put the technique to good use with a simple fig and mascarpone tart.  However, after half our figs disappeared the night before we were scheduled to blog, we had to rethink our plan.  Nearby Allandale Farm had no figs, but they did have plums.  Voilà fig and plum tart.

Cherry Goat Cheese Clafoutis

Cherry Goat Cheese Clafoutis-2

I’m not a fan of cherry pie (too sweet).  How un-American is that?  You can practically hear George Washington grumbling as he rolls over in his grave.  Oh wait, George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, at least apocryphally.  Maybe he wasn’t a fan of cherry pie either.  Maybe if George had enjoyed a Cherry Goat Cheese Clafoutis once in awhile the father of the United States might have been depicted by contemporary artists looking as if he were actually pleased about it.  Clafoutis can cheer anyone up.  As a student without much money in the French-speaking part of Switzerland I would sometimes treat myself to a slice of a beautiful clafoutis displayed in a pastry shop window.  It was one of those dependable, not terribly expensive indulgences that made me feel comforted and sophisticated at the same time.  With one foot in the tart world and another in the cake world, a medium that tasted a bit like crêpes and felt like custard, how could it not brighten my day?

Chili-Ginger Granita with Watermelon and Pistachios

Chili-Ginger Granita with Watermelon and Pistachios-1

Our summertime preferences for sweets run to the light and refreshing, as versus the dense and sensual.  I want to rise from the table and feel as though I’ve beaten the heat and humidity, not stoked the furnace, which makes Chili-Ginger Granita with Watermelon and Pistachios the ideal dessert after a meal of grilled lamb and eggplant, or just a treat to dull the edge of a blistering afternoon.

If you’re unfamiliar with granita, think of it as the crunchy version of sorbet.  Granita’s gravelly texture would seem to make it the coarse country cousin of sorbet, yet somehow it manages a rude elegance, like handmade orecchiette, that sorbet can’t quite touch.  Aside from the fact that sorbet often contains egg white, and granita does not, the primary distinction between the two is that sorbet is made in an ice cream machine.  The machine churns as the sorbet mixture freezes, breaking the ice crystals into smaller and smaller pieces, resulting in a dense, even texture.  Granita predates the ice cream machine. The basic method begins with a frozen block of fruit flavored ice, then scraping it apart with a fork.   Surprisingly, this is quite easy.  A subtler approach is to stir up the granita a few times during the process of freezing, then scraping this somewhat looser product after it has frozen completely.  We tried both.  Both work.  The freezer interruptus method results in finer crystals.  Your call.

Coconut, Banana and Lime Bread Pudding – steamed in the pressure cooker

Coconut Banana Lime Bread Pudding TGF-1

Although our trip to Haiti wasn’t about food, we had hoped to reflect some Haitian flavors in this week’s post.  Plantains, for example, are ubiquitous.  You can’t drive for ten minutes in the Central Plateau without passing fields of what look like bananas that fell asleep downstream from the nuclear power plant and woke up with anger management issues and a family resemblance to the Hulk.  Baskets piled high with green behemoths are a common feature at every market.  At some point we’ll do a piece on green plantains, which we ate every day, but we reserved this last post in our current series on pressure cooking for dessert–and green plantains have no place in a dessert.* 

Ergo, Steamed Coconut, Banana and Lime Bread Pudding.   

Affogato Corretto

Affogato Corretto TGF -2

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single espresso in possession of a good head of crema must be in want of a shot of grappa.  This shot of grappa “corrects” the espresso, resulting in an espresso corretto.  It is also a truth universally acknowledged that a single espresso in possession of a good scoop of ice cream (which combination is known as an affogato) must be in want of a shot of grappa. This “correction” brings forth an affogato corretto.  As a different writer, bearded and burley, might have observed, it’s a damn fine way to drink a damn fine espresso.

Crespelle with Lemon-Rosemary Ricotta

See the crespelle.  See Ken photograph the crespelle.  See the crespelle run away from Ken.  Run, crespelle, run. See the crespelle run all the way to Brooklyn, where Jody cooks a Thanksgiving dinner for Ken and Jody’s son Oliver and 12 of his closest friends who had to work on the actual holiday.  See Ken stuck in Boston.  See Ken get his revenge.  Ken makes a batch of crespelle with Lemon-Rosemary Ricotta and he doesn’t share.

Revenge, says Ken, is sweet.

What the world needs now is. . . Goat’s Milk Panna Cotta with Star Anise and Grape Compote.

Another panna cotta recipe?  Really?

As well ask, Does the world need another saxophone riff?  Another short story?  Another poem?  Of course it does.  Look, if you’re filleting fugu or sautéing false morels (not advised), you want a recipe nazi with hairy calves and an I summitted K2 without O2 tattoo.   But panna cotta?  Ah, no.  Panna cotta is a melody that invites riffing, if only because sometimes no matter how wonderful the last iteration, the simple tune of cooked cream cries out for variation, a what if . . .  and because sometimes things just don’t work the way the recipe says they should, so you need to improvise.  That’s how we ended up with Goat’s Milk Panna Cotta with Star Anise and Grape Compote.

Grilled Figs with Crème Fraîche and Chestnut Honey

Grilled Figs with Creme Fraiche and Chestnut Honey.  What??!!  Two desserts in a row, what are Ken and Jody coming to?   Nothing spectacular–the blog reflects what we eat, and during August we eat a lot from the grill, including dessert.  I tumbled on to grilling figs one hot summer night when we were already planning on cheese and fruit for dessert and I had both figs and grill at the ready.  Hmm, I wonder what these would taste like?  Depends on how you feel about intense little packets of sweetness crusted with bits of caramelized fig sugar.  You will find no dessert with as high a ratio of taste to ease as this week’s recipe.