Saturday, January 1, 2011

Far From the Madding Crowd

Yes, there is a reason why I haven’t posted anything recently.

 That’s because as I write this, I am in Florida, camped out at the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne, along with 21 other members of our family in the chilliest weather they have experienced here in 150 years.

Okay, I know they had it much worse on the Eastern seaboard. At least we weren’t stuck in an airport for 30 hours. I really can’t complain.

But of course, I will. Because this place feels like a cruise ship, what with families who have nothing to do and screaming, energetic kids everywhere. They can’t go outside and THE IN-HOUSE MOVIE SYSTEM ISN’T WORKING.

Please, get me out of here!!!!!!!!!

So, I made my escape. Rented a car and headed out to Miami Beach. Alone. Cruised through South Beach, then headed out further to appreciate those deco icons like the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc. I wish I had been old enough to appreciate the glamour of the 50's and the allure of Miami Beach back in the day.  Visions of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and The Godfather danced in my head as I drove north.

You might be wondering how on earth I am going to segue this into a recipe….

Backtrack to Christmas dinner. Since I am a Jew by choice, Christmas dinner is not exactly on my radar screen. Well, it used to be when my kids were little (before I converted) but now not so much. Of course, we still need to include my non-Jewish mother, so in a perfect world, I would make Christmas dinner.

Not this year, though. We were expecting snow and harsh weather here in the ATL so we had to re-think our usual pattern. Maybe we should do it on Christmas Eve so we could drive Mom home on Christmas Day before the snow and ice set in and before we needed to head out of our snowy, icy driveway at 0-dark thirty the next morning to board a plane for said family vacation.  I didn't really have a plan.

As it turned out, a good friend turned up on Christmas Eve and he had no plans for the night. We invited him to stay for dinner (along with my mom, who was spending the night here) and shared a lovely meal together.

Steaks on the grill (yeah, the grill is just outside my kitchen door so a little snow or rain never stops me from using it), sautéed wild mushrooms, baked potatoes and a lovely chocolate pot de crème. Not what you would necessarily cook for Christmas dinner, but exactly what we needed on a cold night in Atlanta, when all we wanted was the camaraderie of friendship and the warmth of simple, unpretentious food.

This recipe for Chocolate Pot de Crème comes from David Lebowitz. David honed his pastry chops at Chez Panisse and now lives in Paris. He is the author of several wonderful books, including the most recent Ready for Dessert. I met him years ago, when we were both cooking at a Meals on Wheels Event in NYC  (I was there cooking and prepping with Scott Peacock and the late, great Edna Lewis). I fell in love with Kip, who was David’s partner at the time and we stayed in touch. Sadly, Kip is no longer with us, but I will never forget him and I treasure his memory.

CHOCOLATE POT DE CRÈME (from David Lebovitz)

7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (60 - 70% cacao)
2 cups half-and-half
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher)
6 egg yolks (I used extra-large)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Softly whipped cream for serving, if desired

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  In a medium saucepan, combine half-and-half, sugar, espresso powder and salt.  Heat until small bubbles appear and mixture is very hot, but not boiling.  Pour over the chopped chocolate and stir until smooth and chocolate is completely melted.  Cool for 30 minutes, then whisk in egg yolks and vanilla extract.

Using an ice cream scoop, divide mixture between 6 ramekins (mine measured 4-inches in diameter).  Place in a bain-marie (water bath) and cover pan with foil.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until mixture is no longer liquid and wobbles slightly in center.

Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Serves 6

You can make this ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking.  This is best served at room temperature, before any refrigeration.  Nonetheless, you can bake and refrigerate it for up to 2 days if you have to.  It won't lose much in the translation, I promise.

If you want to learn more about David Lebovitz, here is the link to his blog:

Annie and Tess, giving me guilt for indulging in dessert!

Hope you are surviving the holidays!

1 comment:

  1. I really like David's site and his sense of humor. If you haven't read it yet, read "The Sweet Life in Paris". It is a fun read.