Friday, March 18, 2011

Waiter, there's a beer in my pudding!

 I was looking for a dessert to go with the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner on St. Pat's and stumbled upon this recipe for Chocolate Guinness Goodness. I happened to have some Great Lakes Brewery Edmund Fitzgerald Porter in the fridge and it sounded simple and delicious.

It didn't even dawn on me until recently that there was such a thing as homemade pudding until I saw a post on my friend Megan's blog A Sweet Spoonful on Butterscotch Pudding. I was reminded of this blog when I was looking for ideas for a personal chef client that loved old fashioned desserts. So I made some scratch chocolate pudding and my eyes were opened to how easy and delicious homemade pudding can be.

This recipe is a grown up pudding, perfect for a dinner party dessert when the menu focus is beer or just for a rich treat. The porter did not scream out from the recipe but gave an added richness. Guinness might leave a more obvious taste. I did not reduce the porter and add to the whipped cream, like the recipe said. I had some non-drinkers to serve and thought that might be offputting so I just sweetened the whipped cream. For adults I would take this extra step. I used Ghardelli Bittersweet chocolate chips for the chocolae. If you have pint glasses, the final dessert comes off looking like a glass of Guinness.

Should you finish off the extra beer even though it is 11 in the morning. You can't waste beer right? Just be careful it doesn't distract you and the cream boils over. Not saying this happened but it could, right?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Box of California

Opening shot: Woman bundled in warm clothes opens front door of house. Snow is piled up everywhere. She picks up a package left on the doorstep and carries it inside. Using a pairing knife, she slits the tape. She carefully folds back the flaps of the box. A golden glow eminates from the inside, bathing her in a mystical, warm, yellow light. (Think Pulp Fiction here.) She reaches in and pulls out a ...
Meyer lemon. This is California. Memories rush by. Our first rental house on the Bay had a Meyer Lemon tree laden with fruit year round, the sweet citrus scent so different than a regular lemon. And the life so short once picked.
So here I was with my box of California gold. The clock is ticking. What do I make? I have a whole file of Meyer Lemon recipes. Which one would do these beauties justice? Meyer Lemon marmalade with vanilla bean,? Mm that would be good but you have to do that whole sterilized jar thing. Meyer Lemon curd? Yes, delicious, a worthy option. I googled for a few more ideas and found it. The Shaker lemon pie. The pie uses the whole lemon, not a thing wasted but the pips. What better winter dessert to make than a sunny lemon pie!
 I found a version I like (there are plenty) on my friend Megan's website Shaker Lemon Pie. I trust Megan who is also Marge, a classic American bakery and forged ahead.
I sliced the lemons by hand with a very sharp knife. I should have used my mandoline but I didn't want to dig it out from the back of the cabinet. Then I poured sugar over them and let the lemon and sugar mixture sit on the counter for 24 hours. I would wander by every now and then and gaze longingly at them and give them a stir. And sigh.
The next day I tackled the pie crust. I am not a baker. Pet Ritz makes a fine pie crust. But again I trusted Megan and followed her recipe. I made it in the food processor and pulled it out when it was just starting to come together. I had my doubts. This would never stay together to roll out. I chilled it. Later I took it out of the fridge and began the scary task of rolling it out. Somebody share with me how you get that perfect circle when you roll it out! I get a raggedy edge misshapen thing. I kept rolling, swearing that it would never be large enough for my pie dish. My family steered clear of me while I muttered things about Megan and pies and making angry phone calls.
 I added some eggs, flour and butter to the filling and poured it into the shell. To my suprise I was able to crimp the edges and hide a few things and make a pretty darn good looking pie.

It was delicious. We ate while it was still warm. I closed my eyes and imagined myself on my deck in California, with the breeze carrying the scent of salt water and Meyer lemon blossoms. Thanks Dan and Liz for the box of California!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Melt - I apologize

I blame myself. I went in thinking Melt was a place that excelled in grilled cheese. Maybe it was all the postings on Facebook that showed patrons get 20% off for life for having a grilled cheese tattoo. Or the name. Or the menu heading "gourmet grilled cheese." I was so excited too. I had tried to get in previously and was told there was a 45 minute wait for a table and then a 45 minute wait for your food. All this for a grilled cheese? Okay if it is a really good grilled cheese it might be worth it. I have had some really good grilled cheese (Hog Island grilled cheese in SF.) So I persevered and went on a Sunday morning to insure a table.

I will say that is the time to go. The place was empty and we had a great waitress and a big disappointment. She made some recommendations and we ordered the February special which was Meatballs, cheese sticks, marinara sauce and mozzarella, the Big Popper - fresh jalapeno peppers, cheddar & herbed cream cheese, beer battered, mixed berry preserves and a BBQ chicken with grilled onions, sharp cheddar and a sweet BBQ sauce. Wait a minute - those aren't grilled cheese! Yes, they were grilled (except for the Big Popper which was fried) and yes, they had cheese on them. But that is where the relationship ends! I could have forgiven them the artistic license of calling all their sandwiches grilled cheeses if they had been any good.. Sad to say, all three of us came away disappointed. The thick bread overwhelmed the filling. There was none of that ooey gooey grilled cheese  - no strings of cheese after each bite. And the fries were so dark brown I thought they were sweet potato fries. They came piping hot and soggy. No crispness.

So I apologize to Melt. I should have ordered the Kindergarten - the only straight up grilled cheese on the menu. Then I could judge their grilled cheese.