12.25.10 Holiday Cheer

Caramelized-fruit-790-xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
Merry Christmas! I hope you're doing whatever makes you happy today, whether on your own or en famille. I know that this is a big time of year for loneliness and heartache. There is so much pressure on us to resemble the classic picture: parents, grandparents and children all gathered together in good health with plenty of food and lots of presents. Reality is so much messier, what with divorce, Alzheimer's, diabetes and all the human foibles that stand between us and perfection. The point is to do your best and to be grateful for what you have, whatever that may be. I launched this blog a year ago with the hope that I might be able to share my passions with kindred spirits, and the time has gone by in the blink of an eye. I've explored and learned a great deal, including how wonderful it is to get support from so many friends, both old and new. Thank you from the bottom of my heart: without you, I'm nothing.

I was privileged to spend Christmas Eve with a group of great friends (including my sister and niece) last night, in a beautiful home filled with laughter and good smells and delicious food. MiK and Ben served up two kinds of paella, both to swoon over. When MiK had called to discuss the menu, he suggested I might bring dessert. "I had the most delicious dessert at Blue Hill the other night," he said. "Caramelized apples with yogurt ice cream and honey granità." "Ooh, I said, that does sound good." There was a long pause. I began to see where this was going. "Do you want me to recreate that?" "Could you?" he inquired. "Of course, " I said, wondering how I was ever going to manage that with even one iota of Dan Barber's finesse.
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pears caramelizing on the stovetop
Well, I did it my way! I caramelized miniature Lady apples and Seckel pears, and served them alongside a scoop each of said yogurt ice cream and a granità made with honey, clementine juice and orange flower water. The final touch, for a little textural interest, was a crunch of candied walnuts. None of this was at all difficult, and you could easily make any one of the components for a great dessert.

The yogurt ice cream would be delicious with fresh berries or atop a piece of rustic apple cake. The caramelized fruit would be perfect with just a dollop of crème fraîche. The walnut brittle makes an addictive snack. The granità was the biggest revelation. I was a little nervous about this as I'd never used the simple scraping method to make this classic Italian ice. You have to rake it with a fork every half hour or so, but the texture is fantastic. It literally melts in your mouth with a burst of icy, refreshing flavor. I invented my recipe with what I had on hand—wildflower honey, clementines, orange flower water—and you can do the same.
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walnut brittle is just sugar, walnuts and a little salt
 

Caramelized Winter Fruit

serves 10
  • — 10 Lady apples
  • — 10 Seckel pears
  • — 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • — 3 tablespoons organic cane sugar
  • — 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • — 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

Prepare a bowl of acidulated water (squeeze a lemon into some water). Halve apples and pears lengthwise, remove cores and place in bowl. Once you've finished them all, melt butter in a 12" heavy ovenproof skillet over moderate heat and sprinkle with sugar and spices. Arrange fruit halves, cut sides down, on sugar and cook, undisturbed, until sugar begins to caramelize, 3-5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

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Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

Bon Appétit, September 2009
makes about 4 cups
  • — 1 cup whole milk
  • — 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • — 3/4 cup organic cane sugar, divided
  • — 3 large egg yolks
  • — 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
  • — pinch sea salt

Combine 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 cup whole milk, and 1/2 cup sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Bring mixture to simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Whisk 3 large egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in large heatproof bowl until blended. Gradually add hot cream mixture to yolk mixture and whisk until blended.

Return mixture to saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens slightly and coats back of spoon when finger is drawn across and instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 170°F, about 3 minutes (do not boil).Pour custard through strainer set over medium bowl. Place bowl with custard in larger bowl filled halfway with ice and water. Whisk occasionally until custard is almost cool to touch, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl with custard from ice water. Whisk yogurt and pinch of salt into custard. Refrigerate custard until well chilled.

Transfer custard to ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer yogurt ice cream to freezer container. Cover and freeze until ice cream is firm. (Can be made up to 3 days ahead.)

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Clementine-Honey Granità

serves 10
  • — 4 cups water
  • — 1 1/2 cups wildflower honey
  • — 2 cups fresh clementine juice
  • — 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • — 3 tablespoons orange flower watwer

While you are assembling the recipe, place a large (approx. 13x9) shallow metal pan and a fork in the freezer to chill.

Combine the water and honey in a large saucepan and stir over medium heat until honey is completely dissolved. Mix with fruit juices and orange flower water, and cool to room temperature.

When cool, pour into the metal pan. After 20-30 minutes in the freezer, use a fork to stir the granità, scraping it off the bottom and sides of the pan. Break up the frozen parts near the edges into smaller chunks and rake them toward the center. Do this every half hour or so, continuing to break up ice crystals until completely frozen, about 3 hours. If at any time the granita freezes too hard, simply leave it out at room temperature for a few minutes until it softens enough to be stirred again with a fork. Then return it to the freezer.

Check your granita mixture 20-30 minutes before serving to make sure that you can scoop the surface with a spoon. If it is too firm, let it stand at room temperature until serving time. To serve, scrape across the top of the frozen mixture with a large spoon. Granita is usually served in chilled footed dessert dishes, goblets, or wine glasses.

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Walnut Brittle

makes about 3 1/2 cups
  • — 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
  • — 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • — 3 cups walnuts

Oil a baking sheet and set aside. Cook sugar with salt in a dry 8" skillet over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until sugar begins to melt, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar is melted into a deep golden caramel, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat. Add walnuts, stirring with a heat-proof spatula to coat, then pour onto baking sheet and cool 10 minutes. Break nuts into smaller pieces, or finely chop, as desired.

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5 Comments

You are a genius. I can't believe Glutton is a year old. It's been so enjoyable to read - even though I can't even cook a bowl of oatmeal. Merry Christmas! xxx Lisa
lisa garriss on December 25, 2010 at 6:38 am — Reply
I can't wait to show this post to my Mom. As soon as she gets a break from her Christmas dinner cooking. . . . .
lisa garriss on December 25, 2010 at 6:39 am — Reply
You're obviously a very intelligent woman! xoxo
laura on December 25, 2010 at 7:50 am — Reply
I also can't believe that this blog is just a year old - the voice is so well-seasoned. Such a joy to read.
David on January 15, 2011 at 6:35 pm — Reply
Thanks, David. Right back at you!!
laura on January 16, 2011 at 3:01 am — Reply