On Saturday night, we joined our friends Brendan and Danny for a screening of “Sunset Blvd.” at the Hollywood Forever cemetery. (You can read all about that in this week’s newsletter.) I was assigned the task of bringing a salad and a dessert. The salad was cous cous with roasted broccoli; let’s not dwell on that. Instead, let’s talk about the dessert… a dessert that featured (everyone!) butter, chocolate, pecans, coconut and Bourbon. A dessert so addictive no one could stop eating it.
Here’s how you know I’m the real deal: whereas most food publications will cram an upcoming holiday down your throat in hopes that you’ll link to their page as you plan your holiday meal, I’m not so clever or strategic. I wait until the holiday’s over, when the post will no longer be relevant, and then I blog about it. This means: (1) I’m not very smart; and (2) I’m pretty authentic. And so it is that I share with you now a cake that would’ve been very nice to bring to a St. Paddy’s Day Dinner this past weekend (as I did) but which you will probably not make anymore because the holiday’s over.
I suppose I must really like a challenge because, on the night that I made the bouillabaisse, I also attempted a famously difficult dessert: Lindsey Shere’s Almond Tart.
Lindsey Shere, in case you don’t know, helped open Chez Panisse in 1971 and stayed there as pastry chef until 1998. I first heard about her famous almond tart on my trip to San Francisco in 2007; I think it was at a place called Jojo in Oakland, with my friends Derrick and Melissa, that I first heard tell about it. The word “legendary” might’ve been applied.
Sometimes it’s nice to choose a theme for a dinner party. It makes it easier to pick an appetizer, a side dish, an entree and a dessert. At last week’s dinner party, the theme was The South (we had three Southerners in attendance) and I served up Rachel Wharton’s Pimento Cheese as an appetizer, the fried chicken from yesterday’s post, a homemade coleslaw on the side and then, for dessert, this here Hummingbird Cake.
It was only after I’d started making this coffee cake, mixing the butter and sugar, that I realized this wasn’t a round 9-inch cake sort of deal; this was a 13 X 9-inch beast.
Yes, I know, you’re supposed to study a recipe carefully before proceeding; and yes, you’re supposed to butter the pan before you start (I tend to do it right before adding the batter). But the point is: I made a giant coffee cake. And the larger point is: it was so outrageously good, with a chocolate cinnamon swirl inside and pecans on top, that it was gone in a matter of days.
It’s pretty comical to come to Bellingham, Washington for Christmas. Comical because, for this Boca Ratonian Jew, it’s like stepping out of a noisy deli into a Christmas card. I’m writing this right now in a coffee shop with a Yule log burning on the fire and several people sitting around me who look like Santa Claus. Last night, when Craig and I stepped out of the car after driving up here from Seattle, a crowd of people stood around a bonfire singing Christmas carols. He’s not even dead but I’m pretty sure the rabbi who oversaw my Bar Mitzvah is rolling around in his grave.
Let’s say you have a loved one who doesn’t cook (ahem) and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner (ahem) and you’re sick and tired of slaving over a hot stove, day in and day out, and wish that just once (ahem) they’d make you dessert.
Ok, my “ahems” are a bit unfair: that made it sound like I’m complaining about my own domestic situation. I’m not. I don’t want Craig to make me dessert–I like making my own dessert, thank you very much–but you, yes YOU, may wish your loved one to make you dessert this Valentine’s Day. It’s very understandable. Well here’s the solution: open up this post on their computer, leave it open, and maybe they’ll get the hint. This is a pretty foolproof beginner cook dessert option and it’s out-of-this-world good.
What you see here is documentation of a very strange practice, a funny thing I do each time I pull a recipe from the internet. What I do is: instead of printing the recipe out with my printer (which is totally hooked up and ready to use), I grab a piece of paper and write the recipe down off the screen. It occurs to me now that the reason I do this is so that I’m aware of all the steps of the recipe before I go into the kitchen to see the recipe through. Writing it down allows me to synthesize everything–the ingredients I need, the prep I need to do, the oven temp (if the oven has to go on)–and I think that this funny thing I do accounts for the frequent success I have with recipes. By the time I begin the actual cooking, I’m well aware of all the steps and what has to happen to make it all come together. That’s way better than printing the recipe and winging the recipe step by step only to hit a wall when you realize you have no smoked paprika.
The recipe you see above is a New York Times recipe for vanilla bean pudding which you can read by clicking here. The pudding came out great, though the picture didn’t:
Trust me, though, it’s one of the simplest most rewarding things you can do with a vanilla bean. It takes just minutes and after an hour or so in the fridge, dessert is done. So do what I do: click the recipe, write it down off the screen and get to it. You may want to buy a vanilla bean first, though that’ll occur to you once you’re writing it down. You’ll never print a recipe from your printer again.
…and for your entertainment, while you’re eating, a pudding video I suddenly remembered from the TV show The State: