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Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’

I mean, really — aren’t all dinner parties “parties with benefits” in the end? You get to eat the great food AND keep the leftovers. Which is particularly nice when the leftovers include a bottle of Bailey’s. But let’s start at the beginning…

I invited my sister and her husband over for dinner last night, and presented them with the following menu options to pick from:

Menu 1

Menu 2
*Recipe is the same as the one in the link, with the following alterations, made by my grandfather: Omit fennel seeds & Sambuca. Double amount of pistachios, and substitute 1 c. chopped dried apricots for the figs. Increase the amount of flour to 2.5 c. Can substitute orange zest for lemon zest.

Menu 3
Unanimous prize-winning “Jo’s is the best” Brownie Pudding & homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Menu 4

Can you tell I had asparagus that needed to get used up?

And the winner…

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MENU #1!

Except…oh, except…that french bread recipe did NOT work out at all. Two attempts and 12 CUPS of wasted flour later, I moved on to Plan B, which was orecchiette pasta with some homemade pesto I put in the freezer at the end of the summer. Save! I’m afraid the asparagus appetizer got eaten up before I thought to bring out my camera, which is probably the finest testimony to the success of that recipe you can get. So let’s just look at those gorgeous scallops again instead.

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The salsa was great, the scallops good, and the pasta heavenly, especially in the middle of this dreary winter. I still need to refine my scallop searing technique (I found a great tutorial here that I need to reread before my next attempt). I couldn’t find satsuma oranges, so I substituted tangerines for the juice and zest, and used blood oranges for the whole segments, because, well, they’re just so gosh darn pretty to look at, don’t you think?

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As for the cupcakes….they were AMAZING. And I clearly need to take a cake decorating class. Let’s recap: The recipe starts by melting two sticks of butter in Guinness. I pretty much don’t see how anything that starts like that can end badly. This eventually turns into Guinness Stout Cupcakes, which I made extra chocolatey by using an extra-dark cocoa powder. Next, you scoop out the centers (technically you should use a 1″ cookie cutter or an apple corer, but not owning either, I made do with a small melon baller).  After (ahem) “disposing” of the centers, you fill it with a chocolate whiskey ganache, made with Jameson’s of course. Next up? Yup. Top it off with Bailey’s frosting. My only edit to the recipe is that it calls for 3-4 cups of confectioner’s sugar for the frosting, and I probably only got through 2 cups before the frosting hit its saturation point.

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My sister thought the stout/yeasty beer flavor in the cupcakes was strong; the rest of us wanted it even stronger. The ganache filling was TO. DIE. FOR. I may or may not have eaten it by the spoonful while in the process of filling the cupcakes. The frosting was definitely on the sweet side (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”), and the Bailey’s flavor was perfect. In making these, I, of course, always went with the higher suggested amount of booze whenever it gave you an option in the recipe. And drank the leftover stout. And ate the leftover chocolate. And disposed of the cupcake centers in my stomach. And licked lots of wooden spoons and spatulas and paddles and fingers and… I’m going to change the name of my blog to “The Hygienic Chef.”

So, which menu would you pick if you were coming over to dinner? I’m pretty much dying to try them all, myself…


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How is it possible that I don’t yet have a tag for “chocolate” after 10 months of blogging? Consider that remedied with today’s post, and hopefully many future posts will follow suit. Before I get into the Mexican Chocolate Tart, though, I thought I’d do a pictoral recap of Thanksgiving. Credit where credit is due — the ONLY thing I contributed to Thanksgiving dinner was the chocolate tart — the rest of these lovely photos showcase my amazing aunt’s efforts.

For starters, we had a crudite of radishes, celery and black olives; my grandmother’s famous Pepper Clam Dip; and crostini topped with goat cheese and orange-fig preserves (below). The crostini were fabulous, easy…and therefore highly recommended for your next party!

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For me, the star of the show this year was the turkey itself. Incredibly moist with perfectly golden skin…Yum.

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And then there’s the stuffing. Stuffing will ALWAYS be my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. This year, my aunt shook things up a bit, and in addition to her usual sausage and water chestnuts, added a medley of dried fruits — cranberries, blueberries, cherries, and plums. Delicious!

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On to potatoes. Rules for good mashed potatoes:

1. Use cream. If you’re gonna do it, do it all out.
2. Use a ricer. No more gluey potatoes!
3. Use horseradish. Yum.

Rules for FANTASTIC mashed potatoes:

1. Do all of the above…then add pancetta. Oh wow.

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For the artistic component of the program, may I present Bobby Flay’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranates and Vanilla-Pecan Butter.

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There was, of course, also gravy, squash, creamed onions, and (ahem) cranberry sauce, but those don’t make for nearly as exciting photos, so let’s move on to the pies, OK?

My family generally likes to go for a minimum 1/2 pie-to-person ratio, and I think we outdid ourselves this year. All the usual suspects were there: pumpkin, pecan, chocolate, pumpkin cheesecake….

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…and apple. Second only to blueberry in my personal hierarchy of pies.

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Finally, I brought my spicy Mexican Chocolate Tart, featuring Taza Chocolate from Somerville, MA. I originally made this tart for a holiday pot luck last year, and fell in love with the recipe. A forewarning: while it’s amazingly and utterly delicious, it’s also very rich. So this recipe gets filed in both the “Impress Your Guests” AND the “Eat Only Once A Year” categories of my mental recipe box.

We start by preparing our pecans for the top of the tart. Mix the sugars and spices with an egg white, and stir in the pecans.

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Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes (or less). The recipe says 30 minutes. It LIES!  Once toasted, we just put the pecans aside for later and start in on the crust. It’s a simple crust of cookie crumbs, a hint of cinnamon, sugar, salt and melted butter pulsed together in a food processor. Here’s what mine looked like after being mixed up.

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Pat it into the pan (recipe calls for a tart pan with a removeable bottom — I don’t have one so here we go! No big thang.) Bake for 20 minutes. Here it is cooling. Notice how super neat and perfect my edges are 😉 Again, it doesn’t matter. It’s chocolate and it tastes good. And THAT matters.

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Prepare your filling while the tart cools. The recipe calls for an imported Mexican chocolate like Ibarra, but I simply couldn’t resist trying to incorporate a more local ingredient, so I headed down to Formaggio Kitchen to pick up some of Taza Chocolate’s Mexicano Chocolate Discs. The recipe calls for 3.1 oz., but Taza’s bars come in 2.7 oz packages, so I had fun playing a little mix-and-match, and used 2.7 oz of the cinnamon discs and the guajillo chili flavor for the remaining 0.4 oz.

Once you’ve made your filling, you just pour it into the pie and chill for 20 minutes or so for it to set. Now it’s decorating time! Use your pecans to create a pattern of concentric circles on the top of your pie. I start off by dividing the pie into quadrants as shown and then fill it in from there.

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Now comes the hard part. You need to chill your pie for 4 hours before serving. Oooh, waiting is hard. The worst part is, once you unveil your pie, you will very quickly only have this remaining:

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It really is wonderful…and popular. The cayenne in the pecans gives it a subtle kick, while the cinnamon in the filling and crust adds a spicy warmth to the tart. The texture of the filling is a cross between a truffle and fudge — dense, chocolately, melty. I’m really sad it’s all gone.

Mexican Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon-Spiced Pecans
from Bon Appetit, Feb 2007

Pecans

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 T. light brown sugar
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 c. pecan halves

Crust

  • 1 c. chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about half of one 9-ounce package cookies, finely ground in processor)
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 5 T. unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 (3.1-oz.) disk Mexican chocolate (such as Ibarra), chopped*
  • 1/4 c. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, room temperature
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. salt

* If you can’t find Mexican chocolate, you can substitute semi-sweet chocolate and cinnamon, 1/2 t. cinnamon per each oz. of chocolate. I did this the first time I made this recipe and it came out great!

For pecans:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk all ingredients except pecans in medium bowl. Stir in pecans. Spread in single layer on sheet, rounded side up. Bake until just browned and dry, about 30 minutes (*OR LESS! I did 20 minutes). Cool on sheet. Separate nuts, removing excess coating. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Blend first 4 ingredients in processor. Add melted butter; process until crumbs are moistened. Press crumbs into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom, to within 1/8 inch of top. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack.

For filling:
Bring cream to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolates; whisk until melted. Add butter, 1 piece at a time; whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Pour filling into crust. Chill until filling begins to set, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Arrange nuts in concentric circles atop tart. Chill until set, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely with foil and keep chilled.

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