PISTACHIO CREME BRULLEE

ÉA couple of months ago I invited you for a tour of our kitchen, and talked about a very special ingredient: pistachio paste. Pause for swoon. At the time I promised to share my first experiment with it, one that involved macarons, but I’m not quite ready to reveal that. Instead, I must tell you about my second adventure because I am feeling on top of the world about it. Pistachio Crème Brûllée.  It resulted in a heartfelt O.M.G., with a Happy Dance to boot!

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PISTACHIO CRÈME BRûLLÉE
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

2 cups heavy cream (about 460 g)
2 tsp pistachio paste
pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar (65 g)
1 tsp vanilla extract
turbinado sugar for the surface

Heat the cream in a saucepan until bubbles start to form at the edge. Add the pistachio paste, whisk to fully dissolve it. Heat in low heat for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat and cover the pan. Allow it to steep for 20 minutes.

Transfer the infused cream to a bowl, add the salt, egg yolks, and vanilla. Whisk to combine all ingredients. Add the sugar and mix until fully dissolved.  Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a large measuring glass, preferably with a spout.

Divide the mixture into four ramekins, 6-ounce size.

Pour 1 cup of water inside a crock pot. Place the ramekins inside, and turn it on low.  Cook for 2  to 3 hours, checking the temperature after 2 hours with an instant thermometer. It should read 185 F for perfect texture. If you don’t have a thermometer, stop cooking when the custard is still a bit jiggly in the very center.

Remove the ramekins to a drying rack. When fully cooled, transfer to the refrigerator, covered with aluminum foil. Before serving, sprinkle turbinado sugar over the surface and burn it with a torch.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: Cooking the custard in the crock pot is simply brilliant. Granted, it takes longer than in a regular oven, but the texture turns out perfect. The instant thermometer is a must to get it exactly right, though. Your cooking time may vary a little. Mine hit 185 F after 2 hours and 20 minutes. Overcooked crème brûllée would be a shame, but the crock pot considerably reduces that risk.

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When serving this delicacy, you’ll have two options: burning the top right before serving, or doing it earlier and placing the custards back in the fridge. The former allows you to show your skills with the culinary torch in front of your guests, for that wow moment… The latter lacks the awe factor, but results in a homogeneously firmer texture. When you burn the top, the custard right beneath it will be a bit soft.  Honestly, it doesn’t bother me. So I always go for the awe factor.  I realize that pistachio paste is not a common ingredient, and pretty pricey, but a little bit goes a long way, and it freezes well, in small, teaspoon size portions. Of course, you could infuse your heavy cream with other ingredients, make a maple, coconut, chocolate version. Whatever you do, try the crock pot if you have a chance. I can only fit four ramekins in mine, but I rather not have too many brûllées around anyway.  Four is a perfect number…

pistachio-creme-brullee-from-bewitching-kitchen

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NEW MEXICO PORK CHILE, CROCKPOT VERSION

Ah, the best laid plans! After being away from home for two weeks, resuming the routine can be a bit tricky. I chose simple recipes for our dinners, as we did not have much of a chance to catch our breath. We landed around noon on a Sunday, and went back to work early next day. One simple dinner would be a pork chili made in the slow-cooker. It is so convenient to arrive back from work to a dinner waiting for you. So, I set the ingredients at lunch time, and worked the whole afternoon with that feeling of accomplishment and anticipation on the back of my mind. But fate had other plans for us. It turns out that the electricity company stopped by to install a new meter in our backyard, and shut the power off for a little while. We saw them arriving just as we drove away, but did not think much about it. When I arrived home for dinner, the crock pot was off. The meat had stayed inside for 6 long hours, at room temperature. It all went to the trash, even if part of me wanted to cook the heck out of it in a pressure cooker.  I decided safe is better than sorry. We ordered pizza instead. But, undeterred, I bought another piece of meat that same evening, and made this chili next day. It was totally worth it!  I advise you to make it, and if you don’t have a slow-cooker, just use your oven low and slow.

new-mexico-pork-chili

NEW MEXICO PORK CHILE
(inspired by America’s Test Kitchen)

3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoons New Mexico chili powder
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup strong brewed coffee
2 teaspoons instant tapioca
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 to 3 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs
Salt and pepper to taste
fresh cilantro leaves, minced
zest and juice of half a lime

Lightly spray inside of slow cooker with vegetable oil spray. In a small saucepan, heat the tomato paste, New Mexico chili, oil, and garlic powder until fragrant. Add chicken stock, coffee, brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Warm it all together for a minute or so, transfer to slow-cooker. Sprinkle the tapioca, mix to combine.

Season the meat all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in the slow cooker, the liquid does not need to cover the meat, just make sure to spoon some of it over the top. Cover and cook for 5 to 6  hours on low. Half an hour before serving, use a fork to cut the very tender meat in chunks, and mix with the sauce. Leave it for 30 minutes, then add cilantro, lime zest and juice right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: Most recipes for this type of chili recommend using pork shoulder or butt, cuts with a lot of fat in them. You can definitely use either, but the drawback is that cutting the meat into chunks is a bit of a pain. I never think it’s going to be a big deal once I grab the huge bag and place in my grocery cart, but then, the moment I open it and realize the task ahead, a sort of sadness invades me. Followed by the Keep Calm and Carry On stance. America’s Test Kitchen hit gold when they changed the game by using boneless, country-style pork ribs. They are equally marbled with fat, and all the work involved is ripping the plastic cover of the grocery tray. I was a bit skeptical because my experience with this type of meat was less than stellar. More often than not, I ended up with meat a bit dried up and with an odd texture. Not the case. These were melt-in-your-mouth tender, very moist and flavorful. Just the right amount of heat for our taste. The quick cooking tapioca thickens the sauce ever so slightly, but I used a lot less than called for in most recipes. You could omit it, if you don’t mind a bit of a watery sauce.

served

Phil enjoyed the chili over white rice and some Ranch style beans, I opted for cauli-rice and half an avocado, with the mandatory drizzle of lime juice.  The package I bought had three pieces of country-style ribs, a little over 3 pounds total. Leftovers were enough for another full dinner for both of us.

new-mexico-pork-chili-from-bewitching-kitchen

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PUMPKIN BROWNIES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

It’s that time of the year, everything pumpkin showing up to say hello… I shall add my humble contribution to the party with this batch of delicious brownies that I made for our department a few weeks ago.  The original recipe called them bars but in my mind, brownies fit them quite well.  They are moist, sweet, with all the mandatory spices that warm your body from the inside. Perfect with a cup of coffee or tea. Perfect as a  little pick me up mid-morning. A shower of colorful sprinkles is optional. I found the recipe through a google search in the blog Sugar Apron. Such a cute name!

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PUMPKIN BROWNIES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
(from Sugar Apron)

for the brownies:
1(15 oz) can pumpkin
2 eggs
2 cups flour (250 g)
1 cup sugar (225 g)
1/2 cup oil (112 g)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

for the frosting:
4 oz cream cheese (115 g)
3 tbsp butter,softened
1 tsp milk, if needed
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar (110 g)
colorful sprinkles (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9 inch pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, ground ginger, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground cloves and cinnamon. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the eggs, vanilla, oil and pumpkin on medium speed until light and fluffy. Pour in the center of the dry ingredients, then stir gently, just until combined. Ladle the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. When completely cooled, frost.

Make the frosting by combining the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl beating an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low-speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. You may need to add a little milk to make it spreadable if your butter wasn’t soft enough. Spread frosting evenly on top of cake, add sprinkles if you like.  Cut the brownies into any size you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  These were another huge hit with our department, judging from the enthusiastic feedback and how fast they disappeared from the mail room. I of course loved them, with all those spices it could not be different. If you have homemade pumpkin puree, use it. I recently learned that most canned pumpkin products are actually made from types of squash. It doesn’t bother me at all, but if you are a serious pumpkin purist, consider making the veggie mash from scratch.  The frosting was a lot of fun to make, I did not need to include milk.  It doesn’t get hard, so I kept the whole pan in the fridge overnight, sliced and took to work early next morning.  Sprinkles of course make it very festive. My bottle of sprinkles is pretty big, so I need more reasons to use them before we get into the horrific, depressing, devastating, catastrophic dead of winter.

pumpkin-brownies-from-bewitching-kitchen

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