Irish Booze Infused Cupcakes? Don’t Mind if I Do!

Cupcakes

Irish cream in solid form, what could be better?

In case the name Kerry Patrick didn’t give it away, I’m a little bit Irish. Or at least that’s what I’m told. And though I’ve had my fair share of foggy-sighted nights where I’ve nearly forgotten my name (or where I tried luring and petting possums, mistaking them for cats with stinkfaces – a story for another time and place), I go against the Irish stereotype of being a boozehound. However, anyone who visits my kitchen might suspect the opposite to be true as I regularly keep an impressive array of wine and liquors handy should I find them to be appropriate dinner companions, which is often. For instance, when I want to splash a little bit of red on a few beef cuts before braising the life out of them, or when I need to get my good friends, the Chicken Breasts, completely obliterated with a few liberal dunks of vodka (which happens more often than you would think because as you could only imagine, being a couple of chicken breasts is living a pretty sordid life).

Anyway, it came to my attention that I had never had Irish cream before. And I’m not talking about the cheap syrup your local hipster-friendly coffee house uses, because that stuff – in my truly well-regarded opinion – is terrible. How a liquor of any kind has gotten past me without so much a taste is a mystery. I don’t enjoy being out of any loop, much less a loop that contains an ingredient both Irish and flavorful, so last weekend I ran down to my nearest liquor store to pick up a bottle. You know, for the sake of an experiment. Let’s just say it’s a lucky thing I have no interest in drinking myself into oblivion on a regular basis, because it became apparent that my nearest liquor store is nearer than my nearest grocery store. This would make for a very tempting misuse of my grocery funds, I’m sure.

Back to the point, of course I found Irish cream to be delicious. What reason would I not? The only negative with Irish cream is that you can seldom use it in savory dishes, if at all, given its sweet, candy-like zing. Desserts, however…endless possibilities!

My good friend Sarah was in town last week from Missouri, which accounts for the last 11 days of no posting (hey, I was on vacation, and I’m allowed to take a break!) and I took this opportunity to put her hands to good use and punch out a few dozen cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes, mind you, but Irish cream white cupcakes with an Irish cream buttercream frosting and an Irish cream chocolate truffle on top. If that description doesn’t make you tingle downstairs, you should probably check your pulse immediately.

Diabeetus. You want some?

Cupcakes. Who came up with the idea to make cakes individual-sized, I ask you? I want to meet this guy and personally shake his hand. I also want to ask him a few questions, because I always have the damnedest time making sure my cupcakes come out and stay moist. This is even when using an oil-based recipe and loading it up with sour cream. The moistest cupcakes in the world were these incredible chocolate cupcakes made with a cup of scorching hot coffee that I put into the mixture before baking. Truly these were the kinds of moist and delicious sweet cuppin’ cakes that they could earn you titles such as “God of things pastry and chocolate” and other ear-pleasing monikers.

Anyway, that doesn’t matter because the cupcakes I was making were supposed to be white cupcakes and adding even the slightest bit of Columbian roast will ruin everything. Everything, I tell you!

After a rigorous cupcake making session, Sarah and I decided it best to put our cooking gloves away and grab something quick and easy. I took her to Evos, which is an organic and healthy (or healthier, I should say) fast food chain that currently has only a select few locations in the United States, which is really unfortunate because they are truly fantastic.

We strolled in about a quarter to closing time and went to the counter to order our air baked fries and organic burgers when the googly-eyed cashier (whom gave me a semi-weird feeling from the get-go) shifted his gaze toward Sarah’s lower mid-range and asked, “is that a cupcake?”

In my tired state I initially, if just for a split second, thought this guy was proving to us the creepiness I’d been sensing all along and was referring to her lady parts while using the wrong pastry-related euphemism. I understand that this isn’t the most rational or even likely conclusion to jump to, but one cannot control where his mind wanders off to when left unguarded, regardless of how much of a stretch it may be. I quickly gave a deeply arched eyebrow for his surprising, but admirable, suspected inappropriateness.

Becoming immediately self-conscious Sarah looked down and started brushing off her pant leg that I then noticed was covered in cocoa and flour, “Oh, uh, yeah. We were baking cupcakes…”

He smiled, “no, on your BELT.”

All of us looked down to realize Sarah had been wearing her cutesy, colorful belt that indeed had a dozen or so multicolored cartoon cupcakes on it. Sarah and I sighed with relief, though I suspect for different reasons.

When we got back to my apartment we dug into the cupcakes we had left out to set, and while they were not quite as moist as my awe-inspiring chocolate coffee cupcakes, they still had the right amount of fluff and moistness to satisfy and — dare I even say it? – even cuter than the cutesy cupcakes on Sarah’s belt.

The only slight disappointment was that the actual cake part of the cupcake did not taste as much like Irish cream as I’d hoped, in spite of the amount put in. Don’t get me wrong, these cupcakes were championship belt deserving successes, but when the alcohol cooked off what was left was a light, golden, sweet cupcake that tasted mostly like a deep vanilla. The additional layers, the rich frosting and soft, decadent, cocoa-powdered truffle, had the perfect amount of Irish cream mixed it to remind you that you were still eating an adult dessert.

It’s been days since we made our batches of cupcakes, and Sarah since returned back to her home in Missouri. A few surviving cupcakes have made it this long, and I’m finding it more and more difficult to eat them though they’re still just as inviting as their first appearance. Knowing they won’t last much longer before they harden and are subsequently and inevitably used as deadly projectiles, I grabbed one (okay, since we’re being honest here, I grabbed TWO) and shoved them down my gullet.

Now, I’d always been in shape and thin, but upon finishing that second cupcake I sat down heavily on the couch and felt an unfamiliar flub ripple go through the once taught, now softened section of my lower back, and I sighed.

It may be a while before I make cupcakes again.

Irish Cream Cupcakes with Irish Buttercream Frosting, Topped with Irish Cream Truffles (UPDATED RECIPE)

Irish cream cupcake

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 45 minutes total

Serves: 12

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup natural sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Irish cream, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the buttercream frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 6 tbsp Irish cream

For the truffles:

  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate (no more than 55% cacao, unless you prefer a more bitter flavor)
  • 1/4 heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 Irish cream
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Cupcake directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  3. Using a hand or standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high and continue mixing for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy and set aside.
  4. Making sure you use a separate clean, dry bowl and clean beaters, mix the egg whites on high until stiff peaks form and set aside.
  5. In ANOTHER bowl (we are at 4 bowls right now, which may seem like overkill, but these will be worth it) whisk together the milk, Irish cream and vanilla and (as you may have guessed) set aside.
  6. With your mixer on low speed, first add 1/3 the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until just combined.  Then add 1/2 the milk/Irish cream mixture and mix until just combined.  Continue this process until both the flour and milk mixture are fully incorporated into the butter/sugar mixture, making sure not to overbeat — to simplify, you will add the flour to the butter/sugar mixture in 3 parts and the milk in 2 parts, starting and finishing with the flour mixture.
  7. Fold whipped egg whites into the batter.
  8. Ladle batter into cupcake cups and bake for 10 minutes or until you can prick the cupcake with a toothpick and it comes out fairly clean.  Don’t be afraid if it is slightly wet as the cupcakes will continue to bake a bit when removed from the oven.
  9. Brush the top of the cupcakes with Irish cream to keep them moist while they cool.
  10. While the cupcakes are cooling, you can start the truffles.

Truffle directions:

  1. In a double boiler, melt the  chocolate until liquid and add the heavy cream and Irish cream until warm and well incorporated, making sure not to overheat.
  2. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool slightly before whisking in egg yolks one at a time.
  3. Finally add the tablespoon of butter and transfer mixture to a freezer-safe bowl and freeze until set — it will not harden.
  4. Using a melon baller (or good eyeballing!), roll the truffles into small balls and then roll into cocoa until well-coated and place back into the freezer while making your buttercream frosting.

Buttercream directions:

  1. Mix together butter and sifted confectioners sugar until just incorporated and immediately add the Irish cream and mix for 15 to 30 seconds, making sure to just allow the ingredients to coalesce, not whip.
  2. Using a pastry bag, decorate the cupcakes however you like and place truffle on top.  Serve with milk, because you’ll need it.

Remember, only serve these to adults.  Not because serving alcohol-based foods to kids is illegal, but because adults are the only ones who deserve it!

Meringues: The Mean Dessert

Whipped Egg

Whipped Egg - do not lick.

Have you ever had a meringue?  I have.  And you know what?  I really don’t like them.

I call meringues the mean dessert, because if you’ve never had a meringue before you will look at them expecting one sugary,flavorful experience, but instead get a mouthful of disappointment.  The first time I had a meringue was at a large potluck while unloading my fully-loaded 5 layer mexican dip.  I was alone in the kitchen with the dessert table, and anyone who knows anything about me knows I like my desserts, so this meant trouble.  I was trying to ignore them as they threw out cat calls to me, tantalizing me, and I was doing so well until one dish in particular caught my eye.  It was simple, no chocolate, no coloring, just a bunch of perfect mounds of white whipped cream/mousse looking structures.  Nobody else was around, so now was my chance to act before anyone else could see.

I pulled a spoon out of the drawer and drew it near the glob of cream, readying my attack.  I was fully convinced I was about to dip into silky whipped cream heaven when my spoon bounced right off of some form of forcefield and made a CLINK sound on impact.  Something wasn’t right here.  I picked up the hardened whipped cream impostor and studied it before biting into it, when red lights and sirens went off in my head and my brain screamed back at me, “WHATDIDYOUPUTINYOURMOUTH?!”

Obviously I just stupidly tried to eat a decoration.  I spit it out, pulling shards of whatever this thing is out of my teeth, and threw the rest away quickly before anyone came into the kitchen and caught on to my idiocy.  I stood off to the side, eyeballing the plate holding those blobs of evil with the nervous glare of a lunatic, waiting desperately to see if anyone else would fall for the jerk host’s mean trick.

ingredients

You will end up needing more dishes than ingredients to make meringue.

It took all of 3 minutes for the kitchen to fill up and for others to walk over to the plate — excitedly, even, just as I had at first — only they didn’t try to spoon into it like I had.  They picked it up immediately, as if they knew all along they weren’t soft and velvety, and bit into them.  At first I felt like I’d just shifted from being the butt of the joke to the part of the jokester and was feeling particularly proud of myself.  That is, until they took another bite, made a yum face, and continued eating it until it was gone, and I realized I was alone in my ignorance.

Since that party I’ve learned to tolerate meringues for the most part, but the confusing thing is that people actually LIKE them.  They ENJOY them and consciously will BUY them to EAT them.  I don’t understand it, but I’ve learned that it isn’t polite to yuck someone’s yum, even if their tastes are horribly disgusting.

MERINGUES

Blackberries!  Oh, and meringue.

Blackberries! Oh, and meringue.

Difficulty: Very Easy

Ingredients:
2 eggs
1/2 cup Confectioners sugar
Garbage can

Making a How-To post may be a little pointless when the author is obviously biased negatively against his subject, but I also think it’s important to know how to make a wide variety of recipes, even if you don’t particularly like what you’re making.  Who knows, I might have some guests that actually ENJOY meringues!  Though it’s doubtful, because why would I allow someone with such poor judgement into my home?  It’s just asking for trouble.

ingredients

You will only need the sugar and egg whites, so ignore the yolks. In fact...

Eff you egg yolk

...there! That's better.

There are numerous variations of meringue, and some are actually passable as edible, but this recipe will be for your basic Plain Jane meringue.

To make the foundation of a meringue you really only need two ingredients: eggs and confectioners sugar.  That’s it!  It’s pretty lucky that is all it calls for, because if there were anymore ingredients needed, I can tell you I would not be making them today.

Whipped Egg

Whip it good...er, well.

What you will do is you will separate the yolks from the whites and then beat the hell out of the whites until they form stiff peaks and you can literally flip the bowl over your head without anything coming down on top of you.

Upside Down Egg Whites

These whipped whites aren't going anywhere.

Once that is done you will beat about half of your sugar into the mixture and then gradually beat in the remaining sugar until it is well incorporated, making sure to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.

Take a spoon (or you can pipe them) and plop those disgusting turds onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  You’ll want to make it pretty enough to trick your guests into thinking they’re going to be tasty.

Bake them in the oven for about an hour at a very low temperature, possibly the lowest your oven will go.  For me, that is 170 degrees and it seems to work out fairly perfect.  After 1 hour turn off the oven, do not open the door, but let the meringues sit in the hot oven for another 40 minutes.  If your meringues are gooey after the 40 minutes, go ahead and turn your oven on and continue cooking until they are solid and sound hollow when you tap on the bottom of them.

Take them out of the oven and then immediately put them in the garbage, because that’s where they belong.

Or you can top them with whipped cream and fruit or chocolate, whatever.

Oysters: My First Taste of Murder

Oysters

Oystahs

Two weekends ago I went to Clearwater beach with my great friend, Jamie Claire, and keeping with our usual beach-going tradition we finished our day by visiting one of the small, local restaurants for seafood and drinks.  Looking through the appetizers I noticed the raw oyster selection and mentioned how I’d never had a raw oyster.  Or any oyster for that matter.  She looked at me with a face that meant whatever I was saying was not jiving with her and this problem needed to be rectified immediately.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy seafood or shellfish.  In fact, I love all variations of clams, mussels, crabs and lobsters and would rub them over my naked body if it wouldn’t make me a social pariah.  That is how much I enjoy seafood.  But SOMEHOW I have made it this many years into my life without eating one.

Since I am and always have been leery on raw oysters, we decided to forego them for this trip and put in for an order for a half dozen oysters rockefeller.  When our oysters rockefeller arrived, my nose filled with the scent of briny Mollusca and sweet butter, and my mouth immediately salivated.

Oysters

Oysters before.

I don’t know where or why you people have been hiding these things from me my whole life, but I don’t appreciate having such delicious foods being kept a secret!

The following week I could not get the taste of oysters rockefeller  out of my mind.  My dreams were filled with dancing oysters moving saucily to a cheery tune while squirting themselves with lemon wedges and singing lyrics that creepily begged me to eat them.  After the third day of this nonsense I knew I had to find out where to buy my own oysters and satiate the craving STAT.

There was only one problem though: I have never killed and eaten a living thing before.

Wait, no, scratch that.  That’s a lie.  When I was 8 I ate two earthworms for twenty-five cents each on a double dog dare.  And then I bought a Firecracker popsicle from the ice cream man to wash down the gritty, dirty remnants of my two former squirmy worm friends.  I think we can all agree that Firecracker popsicles are terrible, but even back during my childhood fifty cents couldn’t buy you the good ice cream, so the whole scheme was a wash.

Oyster Shuck

Aw, shucks.

As stated in a previous post, I grew up in a southern home so I went fishing, but always threw my catches back, and acquired a hunting license that ended up gathering an impressive amount of dust until it ultimately expired, just as I’d planned.  My aversion to hunting began when I was a little boy (like, 4 years old little boy) and my well-meaning dad took me to our porch where there waited a grotesque scene of a decapitated deer head lying on newspaper and its lifeless body next to it as he wanted to show me and my brother that he had “killed Bambi.”

Cue the tears and terror of a four-year-old boy with a little dutch boy haircut.  I think it’s rightfully understood why I’m a little less than enthusiastic to go out with a glock and waste some deer for venison jerky.  Also I don’t think you use glocks for hunting, but what would I know?

So anyway, let me start this over.  In my adult life where I have much more respect and compassion for living things, I have never killed and eaten a living thing before, so this would be a first for me.

I went to my local store and bought two dozen oysters which sounds like a lot, because it kind of is a lot.  Twenty-four living creatures in a plastic bag, sitting in my passenger seat just waiting to get baked alive.

When I got home and opened the container I quickly realized by the revolting stench flying out of the bag that a few of my friends had already been dead before I got them home.  Of course, I also may have been a bit too vigilant in inspecting for dead ones since I am acutely wary and nervous of possible impending food poisoning (“This one was closed before I scrubbed it and now it’s open and won’t close when I tap it.  Is it dead?”).  By the end of my inspection I was annoyed (“You WERE a closed oyster and now you’re open and look dead!!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE OYSTERS?!?”) and had eleven oysters that I was certain were alive and ready to be baked.

Me with a crazy face.

I'm crazy-faced for oysters!

After I read that oysters can be tricksters and may actually be dead and still closed, I decided that instead of opening and baking them, I’d steam them open (*see note listed above recipe).  The last things these things would remember is that at one point I’m screaming at them to be alive and the next I’m throwing them into a boiling pan with water, stock and wine.  If they’re thinking anything at this point, it’s that this guy here is kind of wishy washy and, say, he doesn’t actually have our best interests in mind, does he?

With a few swift movements of my hands and loud humming to shift my mental focus, they all went into Into the pan and it was all over.  I murdered them.  My mind quickly shifted to the story of The Walrus and the Carpenter singing and dancing and luring the baby oysters from safety (“Oh Oysters, come and walk with us!”) and I felt terrible.

Of course once I got a whiff of them cooking my sentiment shifted from feeling sad to feeling hungry, and I was surprised at how quickly my guilt left me.

Steamed oysters

Steamed oysters -- a few minutes over-steamed, but still delicious.

Once they finished steaming, I opened them up fully, discarded half the shell and baked my formerly-bivalved dinner pals with shallots, panko, garlic butter, parmesan cheese and spices until they were golden brown on top.  They were all dressed up with nowhere to go….except my stomach.

Looking over their remains — the shiny, briny shells — I recited a little poem I made up before bidding them farewell forever:

Little oysters, you taste so sweet
I’m glad you don’t have any feet
or faces, either, cuz that’d be creepy
and cooking you would make me weepy.

Little oysters, in my belly
I’m sad that some were way too smelly
for me to eat, to taste, to savor
instead you’d have a nasty flavor.

So little oysters, I thank you
for tasting good on shell, in stew
I’m sorry I cooked you up in ghee
but truth be told, better you than me.

OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER

Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters Rockefeller - the real deal

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 30 minutes

Serves:2

* This recipe has been altered so the oysters are not steamed prior to baking, I found that steaming prior to baking was an excessive step and compromises the flavor, so unless you’re a paranoid freak like me, don’t steam before baking

Ingredients

  • One dozen FRESH oysters
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/8 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 cup Panko
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges
  • Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Scrub oysters well with a firm-bristle brush and set aside in enough fresh water to cover all the oysters.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  3. Melt butter over medium heat and saute garlic until aromatic.  Add a small amount of the sauteed garlic and butter to the Panko, not to exceed 1/2 the total butter mixture.  Include the olive oil, Parmesan cheese, mix well, and set aside.
  4. Add the minced shallot to the rest of the butter and saute until soft.  Include white wine and season with salt and pepper and simmer until reduced by a third and remove from heat.  Allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes and then add to the Panko mixture.
  5. Remove the flat shell on the oyster so the large, cupped shell remains and retains the oysters’ natural juice.  Leave oyster on the half shell, do not shuck completely.  Liberally apply kosher salt to a baking pan and set oysters on the baking pan.  Add about a teaspoon of the mixture to each oyster until none is left and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Remove oysters from oven and serve immediately with squeezed lemon and parsley.

Seduced by Naked Pies

Raspberry Torte

White Chocolate Raspberry Naked Pie

I have a massive sweet tooth that is of epic proportions and it. is. relentless.  No, it’s beyond relentless.  It’s absolutely unstoppable.  I am the keeper of the great, irrepressible sweet tooth.

During Lent this year I made the foolish assumption that I could go forty+ days without eating processed sugar.  I’m not even Catholic, I just like a good challenge.  However, life and that damned sweet tooth had other plans in store for me.

You see, my birthday falls on March 29th, and if you check your calendar you’ll see that March 29th is inconveniently placed during Lent.  A true challenge.

Also if you check my mother’s credit card statement, you’ll see that she sent me a devil’s food cheesecake around the same time. So really, I never stood a chance.

By this point you are probably under the correct impression that this post is about sugar. However, it’s going to be more than just about sugar. It’s going to be about chocolate.

And tortes.  Or are they tarts?  Well, we’ll get into that in a bit.

Generally I allow myself to eat quantities of chocolate most would deem inappropriate.  Obscene, even.  See, I allow myself to eat so much chocolate because I have a god-given metabolism that allows me to eat bad-for-you things and not feel a hint of guilt.  Also because I think it’s delicious and I’ll eat whatever I please, whenever I please thankyouverymuch.

My mild fondness for chocolate led me to make not one, but TWO chocolate tortes this week.  The first being a white chocolate raspberry torte topped with chocolate ganache, and the second a chocolate torte topped with white chocolate ganache and dusted with cocoa framboise.

Topless Naked Pie

Topless Naked Pie

If this sounds decadent, it was.  If this sounds indulgent, it was.  And please stop LOOKING at me like that.  Who gave YOU a license to judge with your big, dumb face anyway?

Did you know that a torte and a tart are completely different?  Or at least I think they are.  I’ve always assumed that tarts were fruity and, well, tarty, and that tortes were more chocolatey and decadent and less zingy in flavor.  Turns out I was wrong.

Upon further investigation I learned that tortes need not even be sweet, which blew my mind!  But since this is a post about sweets, I won’t go into this too much — but you’d better believe there will be some savory tortes making their way into my life and blog in the near future.

Finished Naked Pie!

Finished Naked Pie!

To begin this torte vs tart lesson, a tart typically consists of a pastry layer filled with delicious fruits and custards OR, as mentioned before, delicious meats, veggies, etcetera, and no crusty pie top.

A sweet torte is very similar to a tart as it, too, can be seen as a naked pie (or a flourless cake), and seems to usually be filled with mousse or a ganache-like center.

Or do I have that backwards?

Honestly, I could be misleading you with lies and I wouldn’t know the difference.  The lines seem to blur beyond that and starts seeming like a big game of semantics and in the end, all I want to do is just eat the beautiful naked pies in their entirety, completely and totally fancy free.

If anyone is reading this (and I hope you are!), what is your favorite tart/torte/naked pie to gorge on?

CHOCOLATE “NAKED PIE” WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE TOPPING

Sliced Torte

The best kind of layers

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 1 hour 50 minutes total, including resting time

Serves: Just me.

Ingredients:

For the crust

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped very finely
  • 5 tbsp melted, unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp confectionery sugar

For the filling

  • 9 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the white chocolate ganache topping

  • 3 oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp honey

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl combine all ingredients for the crust and mix with a spoon until the melted butter is mostly incorporated.  Then use your hands to ensure everything is well-mixed.
  3. Lightly butter your spring form or tart pan and then add the crust mixture, spreading evenly.  Apply pressure throughout, making sure to push up on the sides to ensure a solid rim for the ganache.  Once you have evenly spread and pressed the crust to the pan, place your pan in your preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes or until hard.
  4. Put chopped semi-sweet chocolate into a large bowl and set aside.  Over medium-high heat, bring the 1 1/4 cups of heavy cream to a boil and then immediately pour over the chopped chocolate.  Let sit for 5 minutes then whisk together the chocolate and boiled heavy cream vigorously until well-mixed.
  5. Pour mixture into crust and bake in over for 45 minutes or until slightly firm.
  6. Remove from oven and let sit on cooling rack for one hour or until room temperature.  You can also place into the fridge to cook more rapidly/thoroughly.
  7. Once your naked pie is cooled you can begin making the white chocolate topping.  Bring your two tbsp of heavy cream to a boil and pour over the chopped white chocolate and wait 5 minutes.  Whisk vigorously until well-mixed and then add the honey, continuing to whisk for another minute.  Pour over the top of the tart and tilt the tart until it is completely covered with the white chocolate.  Do not use any utensils to spread the ganache topping.
  8. Once the ganache has evenly spread across the top of the naked pie, place the naked pie into the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes to allow the ganache to thicken and solidify.
  9. Top with cocoa dust, chocolate pieces, nuts, or serve as is.

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin and Why Meat Should Not Be Sweet.

Pork Tenderloin ingredients

Ingredients -- except ignore the tomatoes, their job is to just look pretty.

I grew up in a southern home.  I was taught proper manners, I was made to work hard — and with my hands — for whatever I wanted, and had our house decorated with rustic Civil War era knick knacks.  And mallard ducks for whatever reason.

Yes, I grew up in a ill-decorated southern home.  In addition to the above, there were many other trademark southern-home aspects to my childhood, and one that stuck out most was the food.  In our house, we had baked apple pies and chocolate cakes, we ate our mustard greens and collard greens with fervor, and fried just about anything we could, because we could.

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Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, and Why Meat Should Not Be Sweet.

I grew up in a southern home.  I was taught proper manners, I was made to work hard — and with my hands — for whatever I wanted, and had our house decorated with rustic Civil War era knick knacks.  And mallard ducks for whatever reason.

Yes, I grew up in a ill-decorated southern home.  In addition to the above, there were many other trademark southern-home aspects to my childhood, and one that stuck out most was the food.  In our house, we had baked apple pies and chocolate cakes, we ate our mustard greens and collard greens with fervor, and fried just about anything we could, because we could.

One meal that seemed to go dance its way to our table fairly often was fried porkchops and applesauce; a truly southern dish that I truly could not care for.  I loved the porkchops on its own, and I practically drink applesauce by the jugful, but putting those two together is a gastronomical catastrophe.

Pork Tenderloin ingredients

Ingredients -- except ignore the tomatoes, their job is to just look pretty.

Ever since I was younger I have never enjoyed savory meats smothered in sweet sauces or sides, and I would snub my nose whenever it was offered.  Since then I’ve come out of my sweet-meat snobbery a bit and will eat it if it’s put in front of me, but you will never find me over a hot stove cooking teriyaki chicken or honey-glazed ham.  It’s just not happening.

Though the pork and apple gang tormented me endlessly when I was a boy, I look back on those family meals fondly.  I wanted to prepare a dish that was reminiscent of the porkchop/applesauce combination that my family seemed to favor, and today’s dish does just that.

Unfolded Tenderloin

The Unfolded Tenderloin -- feel free to wrap it around your shoulders for warmth.

I made a pork tenderloin that was stuffed with a blend of crimini mushrooms, prociutto, swiss cheese, white wine, garlic, onion and — the nod to childhood dinners — a green apple.

Surprisingly, I actually L-O-V-E-D the pork and apple combination, and I was fully expecting to be disappointed.  The tanginess of the apple was greatly complimented by the sweet white onion and balmy swiss.  It was tart enough to satisfy those sugar-lovin’ taste buds craving activity, but not enough to overpower the expected savory.

Maybe I’m a convert now.  Maybe I can now shout from the rooftops that I, Kerry Patrick, am a sweet meat lover.  Probably not, though.  I see this as a babystep toward introducing my adult taste buds to something a little different, and maybe it’ll catch on, maybe it won’t.  Either way, it will still be a good, long while before you see me slathering apple sauce on anything other than the inside of my mouth.

PORK TENDERLOIN STUFFED WITH APPLES, PROCIUTTO AND SWISS CHEESE

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 20 minutes prep, 40 to 50 minutes cooking

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • One pork tenderloin, preferably one that maintains the same thickness throughout
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms, brushed off and diced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • three slices prociutto, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 green apple, diced
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 3 to 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 cup white wine
  • olive oil for brushing
  • salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste
  • butcher’s twine

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees.
  2. Take the tenderloin and make a cut longways roughly one-third or the way from the edge, and slice it leaving about 1/2 inch from the bottom.  DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO THE BOTTOM.  Then run a knife through the other 2/3 of the tenderloin exactly as you did the first, leaving 1/2 inch thickness between the cut and the end of the tenderloin.  The idea is to be able to roll out the tenderloin so it is flat, and you will then be able to lay your stuffing onto it before rolling up.
  3. After rolling the tenderloin out, drizzle the white wine over the cut and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper and let it sit.
  4. Prepare the stuffing by adding the two tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent.  Then add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and most of the liquid has reduced down to almost nothing.  Leaving a very small amount of liquid, add your apples and cook for two minutes and remove the pan from heat.
  5. Add the prociutto pieces to the rolled out tenderloin so it is mostly covered, and then add the Swiss cheese until the tenderloin is mostly covered.
  6. Finally, add the mushroom, onion and apple mix and spread across so it is evenly covering the tenderloin.  Be sure to not overfill as your tenderloin will end up overflowing and spilling out, which is just messy.
  7. Once the stuffing is in the tenderloin, take one side and start rolling toward the opposite end, being sure to make it rolled very tightly.  You are then going to take your butcher’s twine and tie up the roast, first on both ends so no stuffing spills out, and then throughout the middle to keep it together when baking.
  8. Brush a baking sheet lightly with olive oil and put tenderloin in the center.  Brush tenderloin lightly with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Place in oven and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until done.  Be sure to not overcook and dry out your pork!
  9. Once done, let the tenderloin sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

Breakfast the Italian Way. Kinda.

Whenever I make pasta I also make a ton of sauce to go with it, and without fail I finish the meal with no pasta and quite a bit of sauce leftover.  I’m not really sure what my issue is, but I have always had difficulty gauging just how much sauce is really necessary. Part of my proportioning problems can be blamed on old habits, I suppose.  When I was younger, I used to drown my pasta in sauce as though it were pasta soup.  Little did I know that this is seriously bad form, and if any true Italian had seen me pull such a stunt I’d probably end up sleeping with the fishes.

The following morning after I’d risen from my carb-induced coma from eating mounds of pastas I made late Saturday, my stomach groaned with heavy pleas.

“Mooooore carrrrrrbbsssss,” it moaned before finishing with a disconcerting gurgling sound.

Extremely tired and a little bit beaten up after making all that pasta, I grabbed my stomach and thought about how much I really wished I’d had some more leftover.  I understand it’s not a proper breakfast, but I wasn’t sure if I was up to doing anything at all that day, much less cook. I was fully planning to lie on the couch all day and command my cat, Connor, to grow hands and massage my feet.

When that plan failed, I went to the fridge to see what I could make that was minimally involved.  After rummaging through various condiments and not finding anything sufficient, I was about to say screw it and go back to willing a foot massage.  Before I shut the door, I gave the leftover marinara a second thought and decided that whatever I was making that morning, it was going to have tomato sauce.

Upon further investigation I realized I also had half a baguette and two dozen free-range eggs just begging to be dealt with.  I placed them all on the counter, and it immediately became so obvious what I had to do next that I felt a little stupid for not thinking of it before.

While warming up the leftover marinara, I sliced up the remaining baguette, brushed each side of each piece with the extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh garlic and set them in a skillet over medium heat to brown. Snagging a few leaves from my basil plants, I ripped them into tiny pieces and tossed them into the sauce while it bubbled.  This guy was making himself some breakfast brushetta!

Bruschetta

Pan grilled baguette, coated in olive oil and garlic.

For those who live under sad, foodless rocks and are unfamiliar with what bruschetta is, I will fill you in: Bruschetta is an extremely popular Italian appetizer that has made its way around the world, and just like a raging harlot, it has claimed the hearts of many food lovers. Bruschetta has many variations, but most people will recognize it in its classical form: toasted bread brushed with an olive oil mixture comprised of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder (optional), covered with mozzarella cheese and then topped off with a tomato and basil finale, served either warm or cold. Eating brushetta is almost a religious experience, it is really that good. Not only will it make you question your holy affiliation, but it will most likely change your waistline as well. This is because it is virtually impossible to eat only one serving of bruschetta.  In fact, I suggest you never settle on just one serving of anything because I’m a firm believer that you never know the true taste of a dish until the second serving.  I’m positive this rule applies doubly to desserts.

Since my leftovers from the previous night didn’t include mozzarella cheese I instead replaced it with a fried egg, which made it exponentially more breakfast-y.  The only other suitable substitute other than an egg to make it MORE delicious would have been chocolate, but Brandon immediately vetoed that notion.  I’m still not sure why, but I can’t say I’m not disappointed.

Egg on baguette

Pan fried egg, pan fried bread, pan fried life.

Truthfully, this was the first time I’d ever attempted bruschetta in any form, so I wasn’t really sure how it would turn out.  Lucky for me, you have to be a huge failure to screw up bread, eggs and red sauce, so the dish came out even better than I’d planned. And that’s always the goal, isn’t it?

Even with the marinara sauce and the soft-yolk fried egg, the bread had every bit of crunch I’d hoped it would while also internally maintaining the soft chewiness of a baguette that makes it so hard to not eat the whole thing in one sitting.  This type of dish is probably more appropriately served durng brunch than breakfast, but that would lead people to start calling it brunch-etta, and I just can’t have that nonsense.

Brandon and I ate our bruschetta in silence, enjoying a painless, flavorful and satisfying breakfast.  The only words spoken by either of us during the entire breakfast were by Brandon when we were finished, and they were the words every cook hopes to hear as it’s a true testament to a meal well done:

Please tell me there is more.

BREAKFAST BRUSCHETTA

Bruschetta

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 40 minutes, start to finish

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • Baguette or french loaf, sliced thick
  • Olive oil for brushing (6 tbsp for every 1/2 loaf)
  • Marinara sauce
  • Eggs (1 egg for each slice of bread, or as preferred)
  • Canola oil (1 tbsp for each egg fried)
  • Freshly roasted garlic (or substitute garlic powder)
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Follow this step first if using fresh roasted garlic.  If using garlic powder, skip to next paragraph. Preheat oven to 400 and peel away the outer layers of  garlic and snip the top just enough to expose the garlic and brush lightly with olive oil.  Place garlic bulb in muffin tin (as this keeps the bulb sturdiest, I find) and cover each bulb with tinfoil.  Roast in oven for 30-35 minutes or until the garlic is soft and spreadable.
  2. Warm pan over medium heat until fully heated.  Mix together olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder, if substituting, and brush each side of each slice liberally and set in pan.  After 3 minutes, or when the first side is crisp and lightly browned, flip and allow the other side to brown.  Repeat for each slice and set aside on a plate when done.
  3. To fry egg, heat 1 tbsp of canola oil over medium high heat and drop in eggs one at a time (two if you’re good at frying eggs, which I admittedly am not).  Tilt pan while cooking and spoon hot oil over the white, uncooked part of the egg to help cool thoroughly, but remove from heat before the yolk cooks through.
  4. If using fresh roasted garlic, use a butter knife to remove garlic from their pods and spread over the pan-fried bread and then place egg over top.  Spoon marinara sauce over the egg and top with freshly minced basil and parmesan cheese.