My sister and I started making this alternative to the ubiquitous ultra-processed fried chicken nuggets for my niece Sarah a decade ago.
Store-bought bread crumbs can be stale and loaded with sodium, so try making your own. Toast two slices of bread, let them cool, and process them into crumbs in a small food processor. You can also use panko, Japanese bread crumbs, or toss in ground cornflakes for extra crunch.
Cooking the chicken on a cooling rack allows the dry heat to crisp both sides, but if you don’t have one, simply coat a parchment or foil-lined cookie sheet with cooking spray, and turn the chicken pieces over after10 minutes. Try to use real cheese rather than a canned variety; it will make a big difference in flavor.
Baked Chicken Nuggets
Makes about 2 dozen nuggets
1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts or tenders
1 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme or mixed herbs
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup skim milk, yogurt, or buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a cooling rack in the center of a cookie sheet. Set aside.
Cut the chicken breasts into 1-1/2 inch pieces. In a shallow bowl or a large plastic bag, mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, salt, dried herbs, cayenne (if using), and a few grinds of black pepper. Combine the egg and milk in a small bowl. Dip the chicken into the milk mixture and then coat it well with the bread crumbs mixture, either in a bowl or by tossing it inside the bag.
Place the coated chicken pieces on the cooling rack and put the cookie sheet into the oven. Depending on your oven and the size and thickness of the chicken, the pieces will take 15 to 20 minutes until firm and cooked through. Spritz the chicken lightly with cooking spray and then place the cookie sheet under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, until browned, if desired.
Related post: Melissa Clark's Carroty Mac and Cheese
I had been craving a vegetarian Moroccan Tagine for weeks before I got it together enough to buy the ingredients I needed to make it. You see, it’s been lurking in the back of my mind since I made preserved lemons. One of the most common uses for preserved lemons is in Moroccan cuisine.
I had originally wanted to just follow a recipe I found on Epicurous, but I ended up changing most of the veggies and some of the spices so now it really doesn’t look like much like the recipe that inspired our dinner. Surprise, surprise, I couldn’t follow a recipe.
Some of the changes ended up being mandatory to fix the taste. The original was really not worth writing about or sharing. For me this was more a lesson in how to fix a mediocre recipe than finding that perfect veggie packed tagine recipe. Now fortunately for me and my guests, it turned out great in the end and we enjoyed it for days with all the yummy leftovers. If I could teach one thing it would be the skill of fixing mediocre recipes into fabulous creations. If this is something you’d be interested in learning, let me know.
We all get excited about a recipe we’d like to make, only to be disappointed with the results. It happens to all of us. Now there’s not much one can do about baking except make it over again with the appropriate changes, but stews and soups are a whole different story. Additions can be made at the end and often can take a meal to new heights. I am so glad I had used less preserved lemon than suggested and less brined olives. I don’t know if it would have been fixable otherwise. In this case, it was a matter of adding honey and cinnamon to balance out the briny-ness, and yogurt to balance out the salt.
And then the flavor heavens opened up. AAAHHHHH! and the angels sang.
It was a beautiful thing.
Vegetable Moroccan Tagine
3 cups of quartered tomatoes
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
1 teaspoon each coriander seeds and cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried red chilies
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons olive oil, coconut oil or oil of choice
2 medium onions chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste (homemade is a great option)
5 medium carrots cleaned and chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped
4 cups water
1 eggplant, diced into 1 inch cubes
1 zucchini, diced into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup diced brined olives
2 tablespoons honey
3 quarters of preserved lemon, pulp included
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 cup full fat yogurt (or coconut cream for a vegan option)
Set the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place quartered tomatoes on the baking tray. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until they start to shrivel and dry out. About 45 minutes.
In a small pan over medium low heat, toast the coriander and cumin seeds, about 2 minutes. Grind the spices using a spice grinder, mortar and pestal or a clean coffee grinder. Add the chilies, turmeric, and cinnamon to the ground seeds and set aside.
In a large heavy bottomed pot (you could also use a crock pot to make this) with a tight fitting lid, heat 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the cumin, coriander spice mixture and the tomato paste. Stir until well combined. Add the carrots and celery to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Add the water, oven roasted tomatoes, diced eggplant, zucchini, diced olives and honey to the pot. Brush off any excess salt from the rind and pulp. Finely chop the preserved lemon, including the pulp. Add the chopped lemon to the stew and bring the stew to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes or until carrots are tender.
Add the cilantro, mint, yogurt and chickpeas to the pot. Heat until chickpeas are warmed through.
Serve hot in bowls on a bed of couscous, quinoa or bulgur.
We chose to serve this with Curried Fig Butter Biscuit Rolls.
This meal wasn’t going to be a post. It was just meant to be dinner. But suddenly, the kitchen was smelling heavenly (assuming there’s cumin in heaven, and I certainly hope so). And when I served the chops and spooned the chickpea spinach mixture next to them, the plates looked really inviting. So before cutting into my chop, I had Marion taste hers. She smiled and nodded, and here we are.
This particular dish came together because we’ve been eating too much chicken. We love chicken, but even for us, there’s been a lot of it. So when I saw a nice looking pair of pork chops in the grocery store, I grabbed them. My first thought for sides were mashed potatoes and a salad, quick and easy. But we’ve been doing those a lot lately too.
So I asked myself what we hadn’t been doing lately. Chickpeas immediately came to mind. These delicious, nutty-tasting beans are packed with proteins and other nutrients. No wonder they’ve spread from their Middle Eastern beginnings to tables all over the world.
I love cooking like this, by the way, making up the dish as I shop. After picking up a can of chickpeas, I headed back to the produce department for some spinach, another nutrient powerhouse. Onion and garlic would round out the produce for this meal. For the spices, I would go with salt, pepper, lots of cumin, a little chili powder and, to heat things up on a winter night, some cayenne pepper. Heading for the checkout, I could already smell and taste everything coming together.
Pork Chops with Chickpeas, Spinach and Cumin
Serves 2 (can easily be doubled)
2 bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick and 8 ounces each
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 to 5 cups loosely packed baby spinach (about 3 ounces)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-1/2-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth (or water)
About 1/2 hour before cooking, let chops come to room temperature on a plate on the kitchen counter. (Don’t leave them in their package, especially if they’re on a Styrofoam tray – its insulating properties will keep them too chilled.)
Mix the cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, lidded skillet over medium flame. When the oil is shimmering, add the spinach in handfuls, tossing to coat with oil. When all the spinach is incorporated, remove the pan from heat and cover. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes; the spinach will wilt and condense greatly in volume.
Meanwhile, pat chops dry with paper towel and season on both sides with salt, pepper and half of the cumin mixture. Gently press the seasonings into the chops. Transfer the wilted spinach to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. Wipe the pan clean with paper towels and heat 2 more tablespoons of oil over medium flame. Sauté chops for 5 minutes on one side, tilting the pan occasionally to make sure they stay in contact with oil and don’t scorch. Turn chops and cook for another 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add onion to pan, drizzling in more oil, if needed. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning or browning too much; reduce heat slightly, if necessary. When onions are just softening and turning translucent, add garlic to pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add chickpeas to pan, sprinkle with remaining cumin mixture and stir to combine. Add chicken broth or water to pan. Nestle chops among chickpeas, adding any accumulated juices, cover pan and reduce heat to low. Cook until chops are just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. An instant read thermometer should read 145 degrees F when inserted in the thickest part of the chop (avoid touching bone with the thermometer).
Transfer chops to a plate and tent with foil. Add spinach to skillet and toss to combine. Cook until spinach is just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Plate chops and spoon chickpea spinach mixture alongside. Serve.
Related post: Turkish Style Red Lentil Soup with Chard
January 27 is National Chocolate Cake Day in the United States. To be honest, I thought every day was chocolate cake day. This warm (and flourless) chocolate lava cake is delicious enough to declare a national celebration. But to help keep us all focused, there are several national food day lists floating around like this one to make sure all kinds of decadent delights get their day.
I’m a little curious, though, how National Pie Day, National Peanut Butter Day, and National Chocolate Cake Day all fall in the same week. I have a sneaking suspicion that the final week of January is right about the time that most folks have felt pretty good about the three weeks of intense dieting and exercise they have done after the holidays. Admit it. Your thinking has probably come close to this at some point: “I’ve been to the gym twice this week. Of course I deserve pie/peanut butter/chocolate cake!”
Molten lava cakes are the perfect little cakes to celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day. They require relatively little effort and bake in less than 15 minutes. Even if the cakes collapse into a quivering pool of warm chocolate, I promise you that your guests will not complain. Cover them with enough ice cream and in one, two, three, swoops of their spoons the cake will be gone.
But if you do want to impress a loved one, you might want a practice run or two to figure out the best results with your oven. If you underbake it, you will end up with a puddle of chocolate (there are worse things). If you overbake, by even a minute, no molten center – and you’ll end up with more of a brownie cake (again, not a travesty).
Now get celebrating. And keep this recipe handy for Valentine's Day.
Molten Lava Cake
Adapted from Bon Appétit
6-1/2 ounces bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, chopped (Note: good-quality chocolate chips are an easy shortcut)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar, separated
2 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter four 3/4 cup custard cups. Dust with flour, shaking out excess, and set aside.
In a double boiler over simmering water, combine chocolate, butter, and salt and heat. Stir until chocolate and butter have melted and mixture is smooth. Remove upper pot from water and let cool 10 minutes.
Beat egg yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until thick and light, about 2 minutes. Fold in chocolate mixture. In a separate bowl beat egg whites and 1 tablespoon sugar using electric mixer with clean, dry beaters, until whites are stiff but not dry. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Divide batter among prepared cups.
Place custard cups on a baking sheet. Bake until cakes are puffed but still soft in center, about 11 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to rack; cool cakes 1 minute.
Using a small knife, cut around sides of cakes to loosen. Place plates on top of cups. Using an oven mitt or tea towel (the cups will be hot) invert cakes onto plates; remove cups. Serve immediately with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
January 27 is National Chocolate Cake Day so of course, I have to post a chocolate cake recipe. Last year, I had posted the Mexican Chocolate Fudge Pecan Cake which is one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes. This year, I tried out this "Simple Chocolate Sheet Cake." True to its word, it actually is pretty simple, especially if you need a quick and easy recipe for a crowd-pleaser, upcoming Super Bowl party, family picnic, classroom treat, etc. Because it's made as a sheet cake, this is easy to make, there's no muss or fuss to cut up and serve and it tastes pretty good.
I did modify the directions a bit, mostly in how to make the frosting. The original recipe calls for making it like a typical ganache where you chop the chocolate fine, heat the cream, pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is all melted and smooth. Unfortunately, I find this method imprecise. My chocolate doesn't always melt and I'm left with little bits while the cream has already cooled. Instead, I advocate melting the chocolate first, heating the cream, then whisking the two together. The chocolate will seem to seize at first but keep whisking and it'll smooth out. Or, if you want to play it safe and go with the more traditional method of making ganache, if your chocolate doesn't completely melt with the addition of the hot cream, you can always strain it smooth. But I prefer the other method and save myself the straining.
I liked the flavor and texture of this cake – it was as a good chocolate cake should be. However, be sure to use a dark, high quality, unsweetened cocoa – the grocery store/generic brand won't cut it for flavor. I use Pernigotti but you can also use Scharffenberger, Valrhona, etc. You can taste the chocolate flavor from the cocoa in this cake so don't cheat yourself by using anything less than the good stuff. As for the frosting, it came out with a really silky-smooth texture. I myself am not a frosting lover so to me it was "OK," but I wasn't in love with it. It's soft and spreadable when you first make it but it does cool into a firm consistency. Not firm like a pure fudge layer but it won't be spreadable anymore after it's cooled. Because it's a milk chocolate frosting, it makes a nice contrast to the dark chocolate cake. And of course, use high quality milk chocolate in the frosting; you won't be sorry.
Simple Chocolate Sheet Cake
Adapted from Cook’s Country Chocolate Desserts
1-1/4 cups (6-1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour 3/4 cup (2-1/4 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 ounces unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1-/12 cups (10-1/2 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F.
Line a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
Sift together flour, cocoa and salt in medium bowl; set aside. Place chocolate and butter in the top half of a double boiler over barely simmering water and stir until melted together. Do not let boil.
Whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla in medium bowl.
Whisk chocolate into egg mixture until combined. Combine buttermilk and baking soda; whisk into chocolate mixture, then whisk in dry ingredients until batter is smooth and glossy. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake until firm in center when lightly pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out barely clean, about 35-40 minutes.
Let cool on wire rack until room temperature, at least 1 hour; serve, or ice with frosting if desired.
Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light or dark corn syrup
10 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled
Combine cream, corn syrup, and salt in liquid measuring cup and microwave until simmering, about 1 minute, or bring to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.
Melt chocolate in top half of double boiler. Add hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Melted chocolate might seize at first but keep whisking and it'll smooth out.
Pour into food processor, add confectioners’ sugar and process to combine, about 30 seconds. With processor running, add butter 1 piece at a time; process until incorporated and smooth, about 20 seconds longer. Transfer frosting to medium bowl and let cool at room temperature, stirring frequently, until thick and spreadable, about 1 hour.
Related post: Mexican Chocolate Fudge Pecan Cake
Now I know what you’re thinking, there’s nothing exciting going on here. It may not be the most innovative creation but it is a wonderful winter salad. This salad is simple and allows all the natural flavors to come through.
So a little history lesson for you. The Waldorf Salad was developed in the 1890s, but the addition of walnuts did not come until the 1930s. So, traditionally the recipe was made of apples, celery, walnuts and a mayonnaise dressing served on a bed of lettuce. All kinds of variations now exist including chicken, turkey, grapes and yogurt for the dressing. So I won’t be the first to scandalize this salad recipe said to be created by Oscar Tschirkyof New York.
Though I did take a few liberties, there were few and, quite honestly, they were harmless. Instead of the lettuce I chose rocket, otherwise known as arugula, for it’s peppery taste. I also chose sour cream as the base for the dressing. The result is a crunchy satisfying salad, one with healthy fats (from the nuts and cream), protein (nuts), fiber (apple) and anti-oxidants, vitamins and mineral in heap loads (rocket).
Note: If you don’t care for blue cheese, feel free to sub in feta or even grated asiago.
Blue Cheese Waldorf Salad
Serves 2 (multiply as necessary)
2 celery stalks
2 cups of rocket
1/2 cup roasted walnuts
Core and thinly slice the apple and set aside. Thinly slice the celery (any way you like, but I chose lengthwise to facilitate eating with my fingers). Place a cup (or more) of rocket onto a plate, top with celery and sliced apples. Add a 1/4 cup of toasted walnuts on top and drizzle with blue cheese dressing. Add fresh ground pepper.
Blue Cheese Dressing
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup of sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Place all the ingredients together and blend until well combined. If you’d like a creamier dressing, use a blender or mini food processor.
Related post: Roasted Spiced Chickpeas and Fennel Salad
About this time of year I miss seeing more of the sun’s face. Although I was delighted to notice this week that the 5 p.m. sky, instead of being an inky black, was more of a dark cerulean blue. Longer days are slowly creeping back.
I have a wooden Swedish star light on my windowsill that is timed to click on each evening and turn off as I get settled in between flannel sheets. It’s the only Christmas ornament that I allow to overstay the holiday season. I still need a bright spot to look forward to long after the festival of lights has ended.
That’s why cheddar corn chowder seasoned with tumeric is the perfect bright! and sunny! soup for a cold and dark winter twilight. I had spotted a recipe for it on The Food Channel (not the Food Network, The Food Channel is a great Web-based cooking resource with lots of ideas and how-to videos). I adapted their recipe for cheddar corn chowder quite a lot. Theirs fed 10 (!), I eliminated some of the fats (oil and butter?), and added garlic, sweet orange pepper, and fresh cilantro for flavor and color.
The evening I made a pot of this chowder I was in a huge rush after work to make dinner and head off to a meeting. But I still had time to chop up the vegetables and let it all simmer so this chowder is a really fast and hearty weeknight meal. I also wanted some warm biscuits. In the interest of time I whipped up some Bisquick biscuits and added fresh rosemary. While the rosemary added a lovely fragrant flavor to the biscuits, there was an aftertaste that reminded me the mix was from a box. Bummer. As a scone snob, I should know better.
Cheerful Cheddar Corn Chowder
Serves 4 to 6
4 slices of bacon, cut into pieces (about 6-8 per slice)
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup sweet orange pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
3 small to medium potatoes, skins on, washed and diced
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup half and half
1 15-ounce bag frozen corn
Fresh cilantro or parsley, for garnish
In a large stockpot on medium-high heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp. Remove and set on a paper towel and save for garnish.
Reduce heat a bit and add onion to bacon drippings and cook, stirring until translucent. Add garlic and sweet pepper and cook another minute or two.
Stir in flour, tumeric, salt, and pepper and cook for several minutes.
Add chicken stock and diced potatoes, bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when poked with a fork.
Add the corn, half-and-half, and cheddar cheese, cook and stir until cheese is melted and soup is heated through. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Serve in bowls and garnish with cilantro or parsley, bacon, and a crack of pepper.
Notes: You could easily make this a vegetarian chowder by eliminating the bacon and cooking the onion in a tablespoon of olive oil or 2 tablespoons of butter, and using vegetable instead of chicken stock. If you are using vegetable stock, you may want to add more salt. Also, do not use pre-shredded cheese. While highly convenient, packaged shredded-cheese is coated with cornstarch as a preservative measure, doesn’t melt as well, and simply doesn’t taste as delicious as the block cheese you grate yourself.
I've been toying with the idea of making a homemade version of a Snickers bar for awhile. Snickers is another childhood candy favorite but I rarely eat it nowadays. I've done a homemade Twix version and a homemade Almond Joy version. Now it's Snickers' turn. Technically, I suppose this really isn't a Snickers bar though since it doesn't have nougat. Instead, I used a peanut butter blondie as the base, covered it with a layer of caramel and roasted peanuts and topped that with the peanut filling from a buckeye recipe that Lauren, one of my friends from culinary school gave me. Lastly, I enrobed it in milk chocolate.
To make this, you need 1 pan of Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Brownies without the milk chocolate in the middle, a cup or so of caramel melted with a little milk until just the right consistency (not too thick, not too thin, Goldilocks), sprinkled with chopped roasted peanuts (roast the peanuts first then let them cool before using), topped by a layer of Lauren's buckeye filling (recipe below), enrobed in melted milk chocolate candy melts.
I received a new-fangled brownie pan for Christmas that makes bite-sized square brownies. While they would make "Snickers" that were a bit too big to be bite-sized, it still was a good petit four-type size that I thought would work. Because my vision called for multiple layers, it was important that no single layer be too thick. The layers don't have to be equal in thickness unless you want them to be but at a minimum, the bottom peanut butter blondie layer should be the thickest since it's the base, the caramel and peanut layer should be enough to "glue" the bottom and top layer together without oozing out and overflowing between the layers and the top layer should be no thicker than the bottom layer. If you use a similar pan, fill the square cavities no more than 1/2 full for baking. Alternatively, you can make the peanut butter blondie recipe in a 10-inch square pan without the chocolate layer called for in the original recipe and just cut the blondies into small squares for the base after it's baked.
For the most part, this turned out, although not exactly as I had envisioned. The peanut butter blondie base squares didn't come out very easily from the new-fangled pan as the texture of the blondies was a bit delicate. Still, a little coaxing with a mini spatula yielded them easily enough without breaking apart. This turned out to be more like a peanut butter bon bon than a true Snickers knockoff. Next time I would make the caramel peanut layer a bit thicker and possible add the milk chocolate back into the peanut butter blondie base. But if you're a peanut butter lover, this is a good one to try.
Lauren's Buckeye Recipe
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
8 ounces confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
Melt butter. Pour over graham cracker crumbs and mix. Add confectioners' sugar and peanut butter. Mix until smooth. Use as needed for above recipe.
If making traditional buckeyes, shape into balls and dip in melted chocolate.
Let cool until chocolate has set.
I have a real treat for you today. There used to be a really fantastic bar and restaurant in Hoboken, N.J., called Lady Jane’s. I’m told that it closed a few years ago, which is a shame. The place featured a huge, horseshoe-shaped bar in the front with a few tables and several booths along the walls. In the back, there was a small, elegant dining room. Regardless of where you sat, you could order from the same delicious and creative menu.
During one of our visits to Lady Jane’s I had the most luscious dessert and every so often, I get the itch to recreate it. Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie is the perfect combination of chocolatey crust and rich ganache, layered with fresh bananas and vanilla custard. A mound of fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate shavings complete the decadent pie.
Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie
For the filling:
3 cups whole milk
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, seeds scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
2-3 bananas, sliced
For the crust:
2 cups chocolate wafer cookies, crushed
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
For the ganache:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (4 squares of semi-sweet baking chocolate)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
To make the filling:
Combine the sugar, salt, and half of the cornstarch in a sauce pan. Pour in the milk and vanilla extract. Add the vanilla bean and seeds to the mixture. Stir. Cook over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes until the mixture just comes to a boil and the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. In a bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks with the remaining cornstarch. Slowly add about 1/4 cup of the hot milk to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add another 1/4 cup of the hot milk and whisk to combine. (This slow addition of the hot liquid tempers the egg yolks and prevents them from scrambling when added to the hot liquid.) Pour the egg mixture into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the filling into a bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly against the filling. Refrigerate for about an hour to cool. Meanwhile, prepare the crust.
To make the crust:
Combine the cookie crumbs with the melted butter. Press the mixture onto the sides and bottom of a pie shell. Refrigerate.
To make the ganache:
Place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream, until it just begins to boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate completely melts. Pour the warm ganache into the pie crust.
Arrange banana slices in the ganache. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Pour about half of the filling on top of the ganache and banana slices. Arrange another even layer of banana slices on top of the filling.
Cover the banana slices with the remaining filling. Refrigerate until thoroughly cooled.
Beat the heavy cream with the sugar until thick.
Top the pie with the whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Tip: Banana slices which are exposed to air will begin to turn brown. If you want to decorate the pie with banana slices, either wait until the last minute or toss the banana slices in a bit of lemon juice to slow the browning.
Related post: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie Cream
The time has come. The cat is out of the bag. My secret has been revealed. My (new) boss now knows my true identity: GrilledShane. Not only is she interested but is also extremely impressed. She lent me a panini cookbook and allowed me to “have” a loaf of our signature bread, Milton’s Wheat, to use in a grilled cheese. (Don’t tell anyone though…*wink, wink*) From there, I used my Grilled Cheese, Please cookbook to gain inspiration and create this particular grilled cheese sandwich.
ingredients for balsamic glazed carrots & edamame grilled cheese…
cheese #1: kaltbach alpine extra cheese
Product: Swiss semi hard cheese, made from silo-free raw milk, with dark-brown rind, specially cave-matured
Flavour: Strong and harmonious, yet not at all strong or salty
Ageing Period: 7 months (Emmi-Kaltbach)
I had no idea what cheese would fit with the ingredients I was going to include. I almost chose beer cheese, but the sous chef talked me out of that. Instead, after searching Whole Foods, I went with a cheese I had never seen before, Kaltbach Apline Extra Cheese.
"KALTBACH Alpine Extra is a new creation aged to perfection by the cellar masters at the Kaltbach caves located on the edge of the Wauwiler Moos area in the canton of Lucerne, Switzerland. (PerishableNews.com)"
How can you go wrong with a cheese that is aged in caves in Switzerland? Really, you can’t. Emmi, the company that is responsible for this yummy cheese, also makes a Gruyere variety as well as Emmentaler. All of these cheeses are in the same family, with slight differences. In the case of the Kaltbach, it has a nutty, creamy and very delicious flavor.
cheese #2: grafton village raw milk cheddar
Originally I stumbled on this raw milk cheddar and thought I would use it as the only cheese but as I continued looking, I saw the Alpine Extra and preferred it. Then I thought, why not use two cheeses? One can never have too much cheese in a grilled cheese. I bought a large chunk of the Alpine Extra and small chunk of the Grafton Village to use as a secondary cheese.
Grafton cheese handcrafts artisanal cheddar cheese that is aged from one to four years. This award-winning cheddar is made from primarily Jersey cow milk (raw milk, hormone free), all from small Vermont family farms.
Raw-milk cheeses have depth and complexity of flavor so appreciated by cheese lovers; aged cheddar, like fine wine, is a living, breathing product of the earth. (Vermont Cheese Council)
I do love my cheddars and the Grafton Village variety was no different. It was soft, creamy and very sharp. It provided a great contrast to the nuttiness of the Alpine Extra.
the ingredients: balsamic glazed carrots & edamame
I was looking through my Grilled Cheese, Please cookbook and stumbled on a balsamic glazed carrot grilled cheese recipe. I was going to follow it exactly when a lightbulb appeared over my head. Lately, I have been addicted to edamame and therefore thought, why not include it in a grilled cheese with the carrots?
"Edamame is a green vegetable more commonly known as a soybean, harvested at the peak of ripening right before it reaches the 'hardening' time. The word Edamame means 'Beans on Branches,' and it grows in clusters on bushy branches. To retain the freshness and its natural flavor, it is parboiled and quick-frozen. In East Asia, the soybean has been used for over two thousand years as a major source of protein. Edamame is consumed as a snack, a vegetable dish, used in soups or processed into sweets. As a snack, the pods are lightly boiled in salted water, and then the seeds are squeezed directly from the pods into the mouth with the fingers." (Edamame.com)
In a sauté pan, I placed the shelled edamame with the peeled carrots (instead of sliced) and a little bit of balsamic vinegar and cooked them for only about 5 minutes, stirring to make sure the veggies were covered with the vinegar. How much balsamic vinegar is used depends on your personal tastes.
the bread: milton’s wheat
When the restaurant where I worked remodeled, came with it a new concept and a new menu. Gone was the multi-grain bread I was used to and in was this Milton’s whole wheat that I had never heard of. I was a little skeptical, I tend towards multi-grain. The minute I tried it, I was converted. Ingredients such as honey and, I believe, mollasses, make this San Diego bread so yummy and so unique. Thanks to my boss for allowing me to “obtain” a loaf to use in this sandwich.
With the assistance of the sous chef, I ended up creating two versions of this sandwich. One was heavy on the cheese (photographed) while the other went light. The two versions provided very different flavors, but both as excellent as the other. If you are looking for a creamy, strong flavor, with an interesting texture, include more cheese. If you enjoy more of a mild flavor with great texture, limit the amount of cheese and include more of the carrot/edamame mixture. You cannot go wrong either way.