Friday, December 31, 2010

first things first

I think dessert belongs with every meal, even breakfast.

Tonight is our annual New Year's feast in PA. 10-12 of us get together and spend the evening cooking, drinking, eating, and doing what comes naturally. As hosts, we get first choice of menu contributions and I do dessert. Why? Because I love dessert. And I secretly don't think anyone else will do it as well as I do. There, I've said it.

Every year I make the same thing because I can never think of anything I like better. I rack my brain and this year ALMOST succumbed to the lure of gooseberry fool. But in the Our guests may get bored, but thus far no one has had the nerve to complain.

Gianduja Mousse Cake

In a double boiler, melt 9 oz. bittersweet and 7 oz. milk chocolate. Stir in 1 c. nutella and 3/4 c. unsweetened hazelnut (filbert) butter.

In a separate bowl, beat 6 eggs till frothy, then add 1/2 c. sugar slowly and beat on high till it holds a ribbon.

Pour chocolate mixture into eggs and mix in at low speed.

Beat 1 c. cold heavy cream into soft peaks and fold into chocolate/egg mixture.

Butter a 9" springform pan liberally and wrap the bottom in aluminum foil. Pour batter into springform and place in a roasting dish, 1/2 filled with water.

Bake at 350 (F) for 1 hour, 10 minutes; straw should come out clean. Allow to cool before removing the springform surround.

Serve with creme fraiche; regular whipped cream is too sweet. If you can't find creme fraiche, combine 2 Tbs. buttermilk with 2 c. heavy cream and let sit on the counter for at least 8 hours, till it clumps & thickens.

Every year I think it can't possibly be as good as I remember it. But every year, it is.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

home for the holidays

photo by Mark Karlsberg

Whatever you celebrate, I hope it's a good one.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

acorns and apologies

I'm so sorry. I just realized it's been almost a month since I posted. No excuses, I'm sorta kinda overwhelmed at the moment (and for the foreseeable future).

That being said, I FINALLY had some leisure time to play with my acorns.

When last we saw them, the dehydrated, cold and hot leached nuts were safely jarred and waiting in the fridge. After hours of internet research and obsessive recipe reading, I decided on two dishes. Ed and Beverly were coming for dinner, and since I collected the nuts from their deck, I hoped they'd get a kick out of eating the harvest. Of course, I didn't plan to tell them what they were eating till after they'd had a bite.

If you grew up in New England, you may be familiar with Boston brown bread, baked in a bean can. At Prodigal Gardens I found several acorn recipes, including one for Acorn Molasses Brown Bread.

It's moist, dense, and slightly sweet. Slid out of the can like a dream. I sliced it thin, toasted it, and spread with a little butter. So very delicious. Here's the recipe with my (few) tweaks:

Acorn-Molasses Brown Bread
1/2 c. acorn flour (cold-leached)
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. butter milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/8 c. dark molasses (not blackstrap; it's not quite sweet enough)
1 c. chopped raisins

Mix everything together to form a batter, then scoop into 2, 16-oz, clean and well-greased bean cans. Fill to 3/4 full, then cover with aluminum foil and attach w/a rubber band. Cook in a boiling water bath for 2 hours; a canning rig comes in handy. Let cool 10 minutes, then slide the bread out onto a plate to finish cooling.

And what better to accompany Acorn-Molasses Bread then Acorn-Mushroom Soup? This recipe came from a blog I can't believe I'm just now discovering: Hunter, Gardener, Angler, Cook. Again, I tweaked it just a little and was thrilled with the results:

Acorn Mushroom Soup
1.5 c. acorn bits (hot or cold leached)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbs. butter
1 oz. dried (foraged) oyster mushrooms, rehydrated
2 bay leaves
1/8 c. sherry
2.5 c. chicken/mushroom stock
1/2 c. non-fat Greek yogurt
chopped parsley

Saute the carrot, celery, and onion in the butter till they soften. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and acorn bits and stir to combine. Saute for another few minutes.

Add sherry, bay leaves, and stock, and simmer for an hour, uncovered. Let cool, then blend to puree and add salt to taste. Return to heat, and if it's too thick, thin with additional stock.

Remove from heat and stir in yogurt, then top with chopped parsley. Ed took one bite, then said, "I don't have a clue what this is but it's freakin' delicious." Words to warm a cook's heart.

That pretty much does it for my first foray into acorn foraging; I only have about a cup of nut meats left. Yes, it's labor intensive, but totally worth it in my book. Here's hoping for another mast year in 2011!