January 6th is “officially” the end of the holiday season. In Christian cultures, January 6th–Epiphany, is celebrated in different ways around the world. One of the most interesting customs I recently learned about is from Spain where children fill their shoes with hay and grain for the three kings’ horses to eat and place them outside the front door or on balconies on Epiphany Eve. The next day, the children find sweets, cookies and gifts in place of the straw they left the night before. And speaking of sweets, today I am going to begin with the special pie I made for our Christmas dinner.
CHOCOLATE CREAM PIE
I found this recipe online on another food blog called www.thehungrymouse.com. The Mouse said this recipe is based on an original from Saveur Magazine. Her site is very pretty and sophisticated and the photos of this pie were amazing. I took my own shots, but take a look at the Mouses, too. The pie is rich, delicious, creamy, but not too heavy which makes it an excellent choice after a big holiday meal. The recipe is not difficult, but took a fair amount of time as there are many steps prior to assembling the pie, but definitely worth it. This dessert IS in the “Wow” category and my Dad said he believes the BEST dessert I have ever made.
8 Tbsp. butter (Yes, that is a whole stick! I used salted butter.)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (I used light.)
1-9 oz. package chocolate wafer cookies
3 1/2 cups half and half
8 Tbsp. butter, cut into pieces (Yes, that is stick #2!)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
9 egg yolks
9 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
(I made this pie at my Dad’s house and upon arriving realized I had forgotten to buy nice quality semi-sweet chocolate so instead used 1 cup of Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate bits and 2 Tbsp. of Hershey chocolate powder. I did have the 2 oz. of bitter chocolate. I am sure the taste will vary slightly depending on what type of chocolate you use, but his worked really well.)
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits
Makes 1 very full 9 inch pie.
Grease a 9 inch glass pie plate and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make the cookie crumb crust.
Crush the cookies into fine crumbs. Use a food processor to do this, or the Mouse recommended the ‘bag and bash’ method which is the one I used. Place the cookies inside a zip-lock bag and smash them with a heavy rolling pin until they are the consistency of fine potting soil.
Melt 1 stick butter in medium pan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar. Whisk until the brown sugar is dissolved in the butter. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Add the chocolate cookie crumbs and mix well until thoroughly incorporated with the butter. Pour the crumb mixture into the greased pie plate (–you wouldn’t think with all that butter you’d have to grease the plate, but I did anyway!) and press the crumbs using a glass or your fingers. Slide your finger around the edge of the plate which helps keep a nice edge on the crust when you slice it. Chill the crust for about 20 minutes and then bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until set. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. I did this earlier in the day.
|Chocolate Cream filling with plastic wrap pressed on top.
MAKE THE CHOCOLATE CREAM FILLING…
Put the half and half in a 3 quart pot. Heat over medium-hight heat until it just starts to bubble being careful not to scorch the bottom. While it is heating, combine the sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk together until combined. It will look like baby powder–the Mouse is exactly right–that is just what it looks like!
If you have not already, chop the butter and chocolate so it is ready to add when needed.
Add the egg yolks to the sugar/cornstarch mixture. Whisk until well combined.
In a thin stream, very slowly pour the hot half and half into the egg yolk mixture. If you add the hot half and half too quickly it will ‘cook’ the eggs. Pouring slowly ‘tempers’ the egg yolks so they do not scramble. Keep whisking the whole time you are pouring the cream in. Here’s a trick…to keep the bowl from moving all over the counter, set your bowl on a scrunched up dish towel which holds it in place as you are whisking with one hand and pouring with the other…unless you have 3 hands.
Pour the egg/cream mixture back into the pot. Set back on the stove over medium heat and whisk constantly for 4-5 minutes until thickened considerably (pudding should coat the back of a spoon).
Remove from heat and add chopped butter and chocolate or in my case the chocolate bits, bitter chocolate and cocoa powder. Whisk until completely melted. Texture will be velvety.
Strain into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer to filter any little pieces of egg yolk that may have ‘cooked’. This step is important to final texture so don’t skip it. It is a lucky person who gets to lick the strainer!
Cover the pudding with plastic wrap so it doesn’t form a skin on top. Make sure the plastic covers the entire surface of the pudding.
Put the filling into the fridge for at least 4 hours, which means you obviously are doing this step ahead of time, too. The mixture gets even thicker as it cools.
ASSEMBLING THE PIE…
When the filling is cooled, remove plastic and give the pudding a stir to smooth it out.
Pour the filling into your prepared crust.
Smooth it into a nice dome with a rubber spatula.
Whip the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla together until stiff peaks are formed.
Scoop the whipped cream onto the pie filling so it completely covers the pie.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
MAKE THE CHOCOLATE SHAVINGS…
Melt the chocolate bits in a small pan over medium heat. Pour the melted chocolate onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper and using a spatula spread out so it is really thin. Place in freezer for about 15 minutes (or more–this can also be done ahead of time.). Once the chocolate is frozen, take out of freezer and roll up the paper so the chocolate crumbles in shards. Use a knife to fine-tune your shards so they are thin and relatively even. Sprinkle on top of the pie and serve! Both you and your guests will not be disappointed!
Here’s a quick and easy chicken dish that you may want to try. Apples and garlic pair well and I believe their flavors are enhanced when combined.
CHICKEN WITH APPLE AND GARLIC
|I served this with coleslaw with cranberries and apple and cauliflower mashed potato.
2 chicken breasts, boneless skinless
4 cloves garlic, sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut a deep slit in the fat portion of the chicken breast to create a pocket, but don’t cut all the way through; keep the breast intact. Thinly slice the apples and place as many pieces as will fit inside the pocket you have just made; really stuff them in. Add 2 cloves sliced garlic per breast reserving a few slices of garlic for the top. Add about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to a baking dish lined with foil. Place the stuffed breasts in the pan and add another tbsp. or 2 to the top of the breasts. Sprinkle liberally with salt/pepper. Top each breast with apple slices and a few garlic slices. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Pop under a hot broiler for 2 minutes to brown the top.
|This is the cauliflower before being reheated.
To make the cauliflower mashed potato, steam chopped cauliflower with a little salt until tender. Mash in a blender or food processor. Add a little butter, season with salt/pepper, and a couple tbsps. of light cream. The texture becomes much like that of mashed potato and it is a good low-carb alternative. This can be made ahead of time and heated in the oven. Pop it under the broiler for a couple minutes before serving if you want a nice brown crust. I got this from the South Beach diet. My husband and I really enjoy it so we have it quite often.
Here’s a fun little appetizer that I also used this Christmas.
LITTLE SMOKIES WRAPPED IN PASTRY
1 package Little Smoky dogs
1 package crescent dough
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry the smokies. Open the crescent dough and unroll. Cut the triangular pices into thin strips and wrap a strip around each smoky. Bake for 15 minutes until the dough is browned and dogs are sizzling. This is an old-fashioned appetizer and not very gourmet, but they all don’t have to be fancy and these little dogs were delicious!
I am going to close today with the meal I made for my husband on New Year’s Eve…
SOLE STUFFED WITH MAINE CRAB
I served the sole over truffled mashed potatoes topped with steamed asparagus. It was very yummy and took about 45 minutes to make and assemble the whole dinner!
4 pieces of filet of sole totalling about 1 lb. (more or less)
12 oz. fresh crab, not canned*
1 cup fresh bread crumbs**
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil for greasing the pan
3 Tbsp. Butter
Dash onion salt/dehydrated garlic, freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make the crumb topping…
Melt butter in a frying pan. Add fresh bread crumbs, spices, and stir until combined. If there is any liquid left in the crab container, add that as well. Cook over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
Put a Tbsp. of Olive Oil in bottom of casserole. Place sole in the dish and rub each side with the oil by dragging the fish over the bottom of the casserole dish. Evenly divide the crab between the 4 pieces of sole and fold into a loose roll. Top with bread crumbs and bake for 15 minutes. Pop the fish under a hot broiler for 2 minutes to brown the crumbs. Serve on truffled mashed potatoes (I used Yukon golds, mashed with butter, salt/pepper, and added a few drops of black truffle oil) and top each portion with a few pieces of steamed asparagus. We had this lovely meal with a bottle of champagne!
* When I am in Massachusetts I shop at Rock Bottom Seafood in Cedarville–a fabulous, family owned and operated store selling and serving incredibly fresh and delicious seafood, mainly local fish and shellfish. Dennis sells crab from Maine in 12 oz frozen tubs which works perfectly for this dish. www.rockbottomseafood.com
** Did you know that 1 piece of bread (I use crusts or stale bread to make my fresh crumbs) makes just about 1 cup of bread crumbs.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
|This is a bread bowl filled with delicious mushroom soup that I had in Poland.
I want to recreate this at home! It looks a little like a party hat!
We are beginning ‘Year Two’ together and I thank you
for sharing my love of cooking.
Make it a fun year filled with lots of
experimentation in the kitchen.
Go for the Gusto!
Take Risks and Chances…Challenge Yourself!