Posts Tagged ‘Valentine Food’

A Perfect Balance

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

I don’t have a romantic Valentine right now. I have lots of love, however. Friends, family, and my dear little dog Truffle (with the prospect of a kitten later this month) fill my life and my heart.

I tried this Valentine recipe out on my brother David, his wife Leigh, and my nephew Michael. Like most 11 year olds, Michael is fascinated by fire. So he was tickled by the idea of flambéing up some Bananas Foster. This dessert was so quick he didn’t have time to get bored.

The recipe below isn’t original—at least, it isn’t original to me. It comes from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans, where the dish was invented in 1951 by Chef Paul Blangé. It was named after Richard Foster, a friend of the restaurant’s owner.

The Dutch-born Chef Paul is said to haunt the restaurant to this day, banging pots and pans and supervising the kitchen workers. He is particularly likely to look over their shoulders when they are making Bananas Foster.

I hope he doesn’t decide to haunt me. My version of his signature dish was a tad inelegant since I didn’t have the right pan with which to flambé. Most of my skillets are nonstick, and I had a feeling their coating wouldn’t like flames. So I used a stainless-steel pan with sides that were a little too high. As a result not quite all of my rum burned off.

The thing still tasted pretty darn wonderful. In fact, young Michael requested it for his birthday party. When I explained that we couldn’t legally serve a dish with alcohol (albeit flambéed alcohol) to his young friends he decided he would just have it for his FAMILY birthday party. “It balances hot and cold perfectly,” he pronounced. We are obviously teaching the child well.

Being cheap, I almost omitted the banana liqueur since I had to go out and buy it. Valentine’s Day falls only once a year, however, so I went to the liquor store. In any case, if Michael has his way, the liqueur won’t go to waste. I will be hauling it out to make Bananas Foster on a regular basis.

And I have sympathy for the child’s viewpoint. I have never seen the point of a banana split. Why would the texture of a banana add anything laudable to a sundae? Take that same banana and add a little butter and brown sugar and booze to the mix, however, and I swoon when it’s put on ice cream. A perfect balance, as Michael pointed out.

If you don’t want to make this dessert for Valentine’s day, wait a couple of weeks. As a New Orleans standard it makes idea fare for Mardi Gras. Let the good times—and the bananas—roll!

By the way, before I leave you with the recipe, please let me introduce … MY NEW BLOG! Since my blog about caring for my mother is winding down, I am starting What’s a Girl to Do, which will enable me to keep communicating with my readers. Of course, this blog will continue as well. How can I communicate if I don’t eat? I hope readers will read and subscribe to the new one as well, however.

Bananas Foster

Courtesy of Brennan’s Restaurant

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (a really nice touch; the cinnamon is there but subtle)
1/4 cup banana liqueur (I still think this could be optional!)
4 slightly under-ripe bananas cut in half lengthwise, then halved again
1/4 cup dark rum
vanilla ice cream

Instructions:

In a stainless-steel flambé pan or skillet combine the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Place the pan over low heat and cook, stirring, until the brown sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur; then place the bananas in the pan.

When the banana pieces soften and begin to brown carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot; then remove it from the flame, tip the pan slightly, and ignite the rum. (I used a long lighter for this; be careful!)

When the flames subside serve the bananas over ice cream and ladle sauce over all.

Serves 4.

Woof!

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

 
I was making chocolate bark on Tuesday for a couple of my long-distance Valentines when I realized that I had never posted my bark recipe on this blog. The omission HAD to be rectified! Chocolate bark is one of the easiest and most popular gift treats in my kitchen.
 
I was given the recipe by my neighbor in Hawley, Massachusetts, Philip Keenan. Phil is a selectman, a chef, and a builder—and he’s good at all three jobs. I made the bark a few years back on a Valentine’s Day broadcast on my local public-radio station.
 
In case you’d care to listen, here’s the link, courtesy of WFCR. (My favorite baritone, Don Freeman, and my favorite pianist, Alice Parker, joined me in the serenade at the end. I couldn’t let Valentine’s Day go by without a love song!)
 
Feel free to vary this recipe. Tiny jelly beans make nice filler at Easter, and crushed candy canes are Christmas-y, but the cranberries and almonds are my favorite add-in.
 
As I said on the broadcast, I recommend using the highest quality chocolate you can get. If you can’t handle three double boilers, just use two kinds of chocolate as I did in the picture below and on the radio.
 
Do not double the recipe unless you have two cookie sheets. I tried doing it on one sheet this week. Although I’m sure my Valentines won’t complain (well, I hope they won’t complain) I thought the layer of chocolate was too thick for optimal flavor and texture. 

Have fun!

 

Sweetheart Chocolate Bark 

Ingredients:
 
butter as needed
1/2 to 1 cup blanched almonds (according to your taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 cup dried cranberries (again, to taste)
1/3 pound milk chocolate
1/3 pound dark chocolate
1/3 pound white chocolate
 
Instructions:
 
Butter a cookie sheet. Place the almonds on it, and toast them in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8 minutes. Toss the almonds around on the sheet, sprinkle the salt on them, and toast for an additional 2 minutes.
 
Remove the nuts from the oven, and put them on a paper towel to drain and cool. When they are cool, sprinkle them on a parchment- or silicone-covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle the cranberries on as well.
 
In each of three separate double-boiler pans (or their equivalent), boil an inch or two of water. While the water is coming to a boil, separately chop the milk, dark, and white chocolate into fairly uniform pieces. Place each chocolate in a pan on the top of one double boiler, turn off the heat below the boiled water, and stir the chocolates as they melt.
 
When the chocolates have melted, place alternating teaspoonsful of each on top of the cranberries and almonds. Swirl or splatter them together to make a pleasing pattern. Set the chocolate aside to cool and harden. (Do not refrigerate it.) This is best when eaten within 48 hours. 

Makes 16 large or 32 small pieces of bark.


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Snow Day

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Sous Chefs Anna (left) and Mavourneen (right)
Sous Chefs Anna (left) and Mavourneen (right)

 

I used to jump up and down when I looked outside and saw fresh snow on the ground. Once I got old enough to shovel and drive through snow it lost a lot of its charm for me. I still like being reminded that it can be a source of joy and play, however.

 

My mother and I are visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew in northern Virginia to get away from the ice and snow. Last week the snow followed us here for a couple of days, much to the delight of young Michael and his friends.

 

Unplanned snow days are perfect holidays for kids. The kids don’t have anywhere to go. (In fact, in many cases they CAN’T go anywhere.) They don’t have any extra homework. And they have mounds of cold, malleable snow to slide around in and hurl at each other.

 

Michael and his friends spent most of the morning last Wednesday outdoors trading sleds, throwing snowballs, and generally frolicking. By mid-afternoon some of them were beginning to long for a little indoor activity. I asked for volunteers to help make Boston Cream Pie. Several kids offered to EAT the pie (and in fact they all ended up getting some), but my most stalwart helpers were Michael’s neighbors and friends Anna Aguto and Mavourneen Carr.

 

The girls signed up, of course, to bake a “pie”—and they did look a little surprised to discover that Boston Cream Pie is a cake (so named because pie pans were more common than cake pans in the 19th century, and because the recipe supposedly originated in Boston’s Parker House Restaurant). They were terrific sous chefs nonetheless.

 

I had made the filling (which has to chill) the day before, but the girls helped with every other step of the process—mixing, baking, filling the pie, creating the glaze, and applying the glaze. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner they went just a little wild with heart-shaped sprinkles on top, but the final product was lovely, festive, and consumed before sundown.

 

I hope we cook again soon. In the meantime, here is our recipe. The filling and glaze are from Dede Wilson’s fun new Birthday Cake Book (published by Harvard Common Press). 

This is all that remains of the snow in Virginia........

This is all that remains of the snow in Virginia........

Boston Cream Pie

Ingredients:

 

for the filling:

 

1-1/4 cups milk (whole milk or lesser milk mixed with cream)

1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
2-1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pinch salt
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

 

for the cake:

 

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

 

for the glaze:

 

3/4 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
7-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, VERY finely chopped

 

Instructions

 

for the filling:

 

Place the milk in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium heat; remove it from the heat and keep it warm.

 

Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks in a medium-size bowl until creamy. Whisk in the flour, cornstarch, and salt until smooth.

 

Pour about 1/4 of the warm milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking gently. Add the remaining milk, and whisk to combine. Immediately pour the mixture back into the pan, and cook over low-medium heat. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, whisk vigorously and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to keep the filling from scorching. It should be thick enough to mound when dropped from a spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.

 

Allow the filling to cool, stirring occasionally to release heat. When it is almost at room temperature, scrape it into an airtight container, press some plastic wrap on the surface to keep a skin from forming, snap on the cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until thoroughly chilled.

 

for the cake:

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch-round cake pans.

 

In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the sugar, mixing well. Beat in the yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

 

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add them alternately with the milk to the butter batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

 

Wash your beaters so that they are clean for the egg whites! In a small bowl, beat the whites until soft peaks fold. Fold them into the batter, and pour the batter into the pans.

 

Bake the layers for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on racks for 10 minutes before removing from the pans. Cool the layers completely.

 

for the glaze:

 

Place the cream and corn syrup in a large saucepan, and bring them to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate in. Cover the pot and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. The warm cream will melt the chocolate. Gently stir the ganache until smooth.

 

for assembly:

 

Place one cake layer on a large serving platter. Spread the filling evenly over the layer, and top it with the other layer.

 

Pour the chocolate glaze on top. Gently spread it toward the edges. Allow it to drop down the sides. You will have a little too much glaze, but your helpers will help you eat it.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour (up to 6 hours) before serving. It is best eaten on the day on which it is made. Serves 8 to 10.

 

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