Once upon a time, I worked as a pantry chef at a wonderful restaurant in the old section of Oakland called the Gulf Coast Oyster Bar and Specialty Company. It was during the heyday of new restaurants in the 1980's when people like Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower were just starting to influence the food scene. My boss Dan, architect turned restauranteur, hailed from Louisiana and everything about his restaurant vision had to be authentic NOLA and very fresh. He had his poor mother fly in red fish, shrimp and oysters straight from the gulf on a daily basis! I remember the cast iron skillet being on the stove non-stop, ever ready for that spiced, red fish to hit the pan. Boy, we could hardly breathe when the spices started to 'blacken'. This bread pudding hails from that time in my life. It has been on every café menu of mine ever since (Lily's, Alchemy, Wren Café). It is a fond memory of many of my beloved customers so I thought it was about time to share.
Laissez le bon temps roule!
Croissant Bread & Butter Pudding
1 ¾ c heavy cream, extra for whipped cream on top (if desired)
2/3 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
½ t cinnamon
½ c unsalted butter, melted
4 -5 croissants, torn into random pieces (or 4 cups day old bread, cut in to 1” cubes)
¼ cup golden raisins soaked in bourbon until plump (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the croissants in a 9 x 9 square cake pan. Scatter raisins over the top, if using. Whisk together the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Melt butter on stove top or microwave and add slowly to cream mixture whisking constantly. Pour over bread cubes and allow them to sit for a few minutes to soak up the cream mixture a little bit. There should be enough bread to cover the bottom of the pan and a scant second layer. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the custard is set and the pudding is puffed and brown. Cut in to 6 - 8 portions and serve warm or chilled with whipped cream. Raspberries, strawberries and peaches are delicious on top. Feel free to substitute any kind of leftover cake, bread or muffin for the bread cubes. Some of my favorite’s are banana bread, ginger bread, apple-spice cake, cinnamon rolls and brownies! You get the idea!
I usually make fruit crisps for an easy summer dessert (June 2016) because they are inexpensive and go together quickly, but a cobbler strikes me at my Texas roots with its biscuit-like topping and homey appearance. The topping is "cobbled" rather than smooth; and is generally dropped or spooned on in small clumps over the fruit, allowing bits of the filling to show through. A great ending for a late summer bbq. Just add some homemade ice cream or whipped cream and you're all set! Priscilla, this recipe's for you.
Texas Hill Country Nectarine Cobbler
8 nectarines, pitted and sliced
4 T sugar
3/4 t cornstarch
juice & zest of one lemon
1 t vanilla
pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 c flour
2 T sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
1 c buttermilk
6 T unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 400°F and set rack to middle position. In a large bowl, combine nectarines with sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice/zest, vanilla and salt. Stir well to combine. Scrape peaches and any juices into an 8- by 8-inch baking dish and set on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake on middle rack for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine all dry ingredients for cobbler crust in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers, to make the texture like coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and stir to form a soft dough, don't over mix. Drop spoonfuls of biscuit dough all over nectarines, smoothing slightly to avoid any overly thick sections and mostly covering the fruit, return cobbler to oven and cook for 25 minutes more until the biscuit topping is browned and a knife comes out clean when inserted through the top. Let rest at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream on the side.
When Meyer lemons are in season, I love to make curd. This tried and true lemon curd cooks up in minutes in the microwave and tastes like you slaved over it for hours. Originally taken from the Microwave Gourmet cookbook by Barbara Kafka, I have been using this recipe in my catering for years. It makes a simple piece of puff pastry into an elegant dessert with hardly any effort. Try it spooned onto these easy blueberry tarts at your next dinner party or spread it on biscuits, scones or pancakes at breakfast!
1 package store bought puff pastry sheets (such as Pepperidge Farm)
1 egg plus 1 t water, whisked for brushing the pastry
2 c fresh blueberries (raspberries or strawberries work well too)
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 T flour
1 T fresh Meyer lemon juice (or regular)
pinch of salt
Thaw out the puff pastry sheets, unfold and cut each into 4 squares. Roll out each square on a lightly floured board to a 6" x 6" square. Fill with 1/4 cup of the blueberry mixture and then, starting with one corner and going around the edge, fold the pastry towards the center being careful not to fold all the way, you want the berries to show. Brush the outside with the egg wash and poke with the tines of a fork. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and browned. Top with lemon curd and a bit of whipped cream. A leaf of mint or a fresh violet is a beautiful touch for serving.
Meyer Lemon Curd
1/4 lb unsalted butter
1/2 c sugar
4 T fresh Meyer lemon juice (or regular)
Grated zest of one lemon
3 eggs, whisked in a separate bowl
Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice and zest together in a 4 cup glass measure. Cover tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook at 100% for 2 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover and stir well. Whisk 1/4 of the lemon mixture into the eggs to warm them. Whisking constantly, pour the egg mixture back into the lemon mixture. Cook uncovered at 100% for 2 minutes. Remove from oven and whisk until smooth.
Whip some cream for the top of the tarts with a bit of sugar and vanilla.
Lemon Curd Cream:
Mix lemon curd with equal parts of whipped cream for a lighter more subtle filling or topping.
Valentine's Day means chocolate for dessert, it is simply obligatory. This recipe dates back to my days at Parigi in Dallas, the restaurant I helped to open with my Godmother and her daughter back in the mid 80's. Parigi is still going strong and the Chocolate Glob is still on the menu, that's how good it is!! Easy to make and naturally decadent... except for the name. it's perfect. Happy Valentine's Day everyone.
1 1/2 c sugar
3/4 c flour
3/4 unsalted butter, melted
1 c walnut halves, chopped just a bit but still chunky
4 oz good quality bitter, baking chocolate, *melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and flour together until fluffy. Slowly blend in the melted butter and walnuts. Pour into a greased baking dish, 8 x 8 square or I used a round fluted dish (prettier). Pour the melted chocolate over the batter and swirl it through with a knife or spatula until the mixture looks rippled. Bake for 20 minutes until the mixture is cake-like around the edges and gooey (but not raw) in the middle. Serve immediately scooping some of the cake-y outer edge and some of the gooey middle for each serving. Top with whipped cream or ice cream. The glob keeps at room temp for a few days but heat gently before serving. Serves 8.
*if you are super careful you can melt the chocolate in the microwave. Put the squares of chocolate into a glass bowl or measuring cup. Heat for 30 seconds, take out and stir. Heat for 30 seconds more and stir again, it should be melted! So easy.
Yes, you read that correctly, pie with bacon. You thought you'd seen it all with the bacon thing but no! I was going over the shopping list for all of the Thanksgiving food on the phone with my daughter, Lily, last week and found what I thought were pecans in my freezer. She started making the pies and I pulled out the 'pecans' and put them in front of her. MOM, this is BACON! Oops. ( I always keep leftovers from my catering jobs to use in other things...cooked bacon bits included). I went to the store and bought pecans but when I got home I thought, 'what's wrong with adding bacon to the pie?' So we did. I can't tell you how good it was. Even my naysayer friend Kris loved it!
Dixie Pecan Pie with Smoky Bacon
2 T sugar
2 T flour
2 c dark Karo
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
1 c pecan meats
1/3 c cooked, smoked bacon cut in bits
one pre made pie crust, unbaked (see recipe below or store bought works too)
Beat eggs until light. Mix the sugar and the flour and add to the eggs. Beat well. Add Karo, vanilla, salt, pecans and bacon bits. Pour into an uncooked pie shell. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes or until set.
My Plain Pastry
2 cups flour, sifted
1 t salt
2/3 c unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" chunks
6-8 T cold water
Place the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the butter chunks and pulse until the mixture is grainy. Add the cold water and pulse until it comes together in a ball. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Rol out on a lightly floured board to as thin as you like. Remeber to handle as little as possible so your crust will be light and flaky.
Makes one 2 crust pie or 12 tart shells.