I haven’t posted on the blog in a while. It hasn’t only been because I’ve been a slacker, really!
I was basically out of town the entire month of October. I went to Brazil for a conference and business trip (don’t even get me started on how amazing the food was, once I had some time on my own to go and find it) and then to Bangkok and China for the cooking adventure of a lifetime. Since returning home, I have been buried at work and honestly, I have so many photos and so much I could write about the trip to the Sichuan Culinary Institute, I haven’t known where to begin. I’ll try to jump into that this week, and share some of the recipes and experiences with the people who read this blog from time to time.
Yes, I’m speaking to both of you.
Since coming home, I’ve been trying out the Sichuan fare I learned on David and some of our friends, and to my delight, so far every recipe has been delicious. I’ve found little tweaks here and there, scribbled notes in the margins of my notebook on how I’d adjust the recipes in the future when I bite the bullet and make them for my mean, cruel, judgy Chinese girlfriends (you bitches know who you are), but overall have been completely thrilled.
Typically when I’m focusing so much on the savory courses, I cheat with dessert. Ala Mode Pies in Seattle delivers, (Did you hear me? THEY DELIVER. TO YOUR DOOR. SAME-DAY. Put down your bong for a moment and contemplate that) and their pies are out of this world. More than once I’ve had to call these guys at the last minute to have something amazing delivered, and they always come through. (My personal favorites, the apple and ginger pear pie and the coconut cream pie. Watch out, Tom Douglas—you have some competition here.)
This weekend I decided to man up and try one of the bajillions of dessert recipes I have found and saved in my cooking file. This recipe from Food and Wine Magazine caught my eye, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I breezed through the recipe while making my shopping list for the weekend and thought, “Even this baketarded idiot can pull this one off”, not thinking about the time factor. This isn’t a recipe you can pull off in a few hours. There’s not a ton of active work, but there are a lot of delays in between steps as you wait for components to cool and freeze. When you’re executing an ambitious menu and are as easily distracted OH LOOK! A BUTTERFLY!!! as I am, it’s not the ideal. Turns out, it was completely worth it. This dessert looked great when it was completed, and I was fascinated by how quickly the meringue colored when using a brulee torch. It was magical for someone who had never done that before. I even had to call David into the kitchen to watch. The slightest touch of heat colored the meringue in broad brushstrokes, like painting on the computer.
I know, the real bakers out there are going, “Get over it, Mary, it’s meringue for fuck’s sake”. Yeah, yeah…I know. It was still cool.
You can adapt this with any citrus you like for the curd. I thought it was amazing with pink grapefruit juice as the base, but anything will work. You can also flavor the caramel with something like, oh I don’t know, marijuana butter if you want to add a little something special to finish off dinner. Allegedly.
Naturally, since it isn’t legal here until next month, I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing. I just want both of you to have options, should you choose to take them.
Happy thanksgiving, kids. Next up, I promise some insights into cooking in Chengdu.
Chilled Grapefruit-Caramel Meringue Pie
Modified from FROM GRAPEFRUIT-CARAMEL MERINGUE PIE
PUBLISHED JANUARY 2006
Food and Wine Magazine. Recipe by Deborah Snyder.
ACTIVE: 1 HR
TOTAL TIME: 3 HRS PLUS 5 HR FREEZING
1 cup fresh pink or Ruby Red grapefruit juice
Coarsely shredded zest of 3 pink or Ruby Red grapefruits (1/2 cup)
1 dozen large eggs, 6 eggs lightly beaten, 6 eggs separated
3/4 cup plus 1 1/3 cups sugar
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened, plus 4 tablespoons melted
9 whole graham crackers
1/2 pound cream cheese, softened
Caramel Sauce (Recipe Below)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1) Bring a medium saucepan filled with 2 inches of water to a simmer over moderate heat. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the grapefruit juice and zest with the 6 whole eggs, 6 egg yolks and 3/4 cup of the sugar. Set the bowl over the saucepan and cook, stirring frequently, until a thick curd forms, about 15 minutes; don't worry if the curd looks slightly curdled. Strain the curd through a fine sieve set over a bowl, pressing on the solids; discard the solids. Whisk the softened butter into the curd until blended. Place a sheet of plastic directly on the curd and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
2) Meanwhile, in a food processor, crush the graham crackers; pour in the melted butter and pulse just to combine. Pat the crumbs over the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3) In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in 3/4 cup of the Caramel Sauce. In another medium bowl, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold the heavy cream into the caramel cream cheese.
4) Spoon the grapefruit curd into the springform pan and tap gently to form an even layer. Spoon the caramel cream on top in a smooth, even layer. Drizzle the remaining 3/4 cup of Caramel Sauce all over the caramel cream and freeze until slightly set, about 1 hour.
5) Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan filled with 2 inches of water to a simmer. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the 6 egg whites with the remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar, set the bowl over the simmering water and whisk over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot to the touch. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with a whisk and beat at medium-high speed until the whites are stiff and glossy, about 8 minutes. Spread the meringue over the caramel. Swirl decorative peaks in the meringue. Freeze the pie until firm, at least 4 hours.
6) Before serving, preheat the broiler and position a rack 8 inches from the heat. Broil the meringue just until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes, shifting the pan for even browning. Alternatively, brown the meringue with a propane torch. Carefully remove the ring and transfer the pie to a platter. Let stand in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.
MAKE AHEAD The pie can be prepared through Step 5 and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Cover once it's frozen solid.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1) In a medium saucepan, combine the butter with all three sugars and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook over moderately high heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the cream and boil for 2 minutes longer. Transfer the caramel sauce to a pitcher. Stir in the vanilla and salt and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.
MAKE AHEAD The caramel can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Whisk to combine before serving.