Macerated Fresh Berry Parfaits

maceratedberries

It’s been a month since I’ve posted anything, and for those of you that follow my blog I apologize. Most of you know I’m executive chef for a liberal arts university and we’ve been doing a lot of catering work leading up to summer graduation, which was yesterday, so my time has been short the past month.

As is customary for every graduation on campus, I create/prepare an upscale dinner for the board of directors and the guest speaker from graduation. Last night’s meal was a filling one, beef tenderloin with portobello-Madeira sauce, roasted purple and pink potatoes and sauteed broccolini, so for dessert I needed something light. Since fresh berries are plentiful right now, I made a simple fresh berry parfait. The guests were really impressed with the flavors and wanted to know just what I did. They were shocked when I told them, because this is so simple to do. It’s a way to heighten the flavors of the fresh fruit without covering it up, so while berries are everywhere you should pick some up and give this a try!

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, halved or quartered depending on their size
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp Grand Marnier or similar orange liqueur

and for the simple creme anglaise:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/3 cup sugar

To prepare the fruit, simply put all washed and cut fruit in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, lemon juice and liqueur. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

To make creme anglaise:

  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the cream and vanilla until bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan.
  2. While the cream is heating, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Slowly pour 1/2 the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Gradually add the egg yolk mixture back to the pot of remaining cream, whisking constantly, and cook until it thickens and will coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat and chill.

To assemble the parfaits:

Spoon fruit mixture in a parfait glass, alternating between layers of the macerated fruit and the chilled cream anglaise. Serve cold.

 

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Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

lava cake

 

Here’s an easy dessert you can serve at your next dinner party and really impress your guests! This recipe is adapted from Paula Dean’s recipe.

  • 6 1oz squares bittersweet baking chocolate
  • 2 1oz squares semisweet baking chocolate
  • 1 1/4 sticks sweet cream unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 whole large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp strong brewed coffee or espresso

Preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly grease 6 custard cups or ramekins.

In a Pyrex bowl (or any other microwave safe bowl), melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, until melted and well blended. Add the flour and powdered sugar, then stir in the eggs and egg yolks and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and the coffee.

Divide the batter evenly between the custard cups. Arrange custard cups on a baking sheet and bake for 14 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center still slightly jiggly.

Run a knife around the edges of the custard cups and invert the cakes onto dessert plates. Let sit for 3-4 minutes, then dust with powdered sugar and garnish. Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Here’s my recipe for a true Southern style pecan pie. The bourbon is optional, but it really brings out the flavor in this pie. Give it a try if you love pecans!

 

  • 6 tbsp unsalted sweet cream butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup dark brown corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp Wild Turkey or Jack Daniels (or whatever you’ve got around the house)
  • 2 cups pecan halves or pieces, divided
  • 1 9″ unbaked pie shell

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the vanilla extract, salt, corn syrup and bourbon.

Arrange half the pecans on the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Pour the batter over the pecans and top with the remaining pecans. Bake in a 350F oven for about 1 hour.

Be careful to watch the pie as it bakes. If the pecans begin to get too brown, lightly cover the pie with aluminum foil.

 

 

Homemade Cornbread

Until I was asked by a reader, it hadn’t occurred to me that I’ve never shared my recipe for homemade cornbread. I never realized so many people use a pack to make cornbread (not that there’s anything wrong with a pack, but if you don’t have one in your pantry you can easily make cornbread out of stock pantry items).

I’ve been making cornbread since I was a kid. I’ll never forget the recipe my grandmother gave me over the phone to make hers. It was, 2 handfuls of cornmeal, 1 handful of flour, 1 egg, a pinch of soda and enough buttermilk to make it wet. I’ve added butter to my recipe for a richer cornbread but I still use my grandmother’s recipe when making cornbread for dressing at Thanksgiving.

The trick to good southern cornbread is a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. I have several, but the 2 I use for making cornbread are an 8.5″ diameter pan (for enough for 2 people) or an 11″ diameter pan when I need enough for a few people. This recipe is using the smaller pan but I’ve made notes for the larger.

If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can still make cornbread using a muffin pan, sheet pan, etc. The advantage to the cast iron is you get a nice brown crunchy crust where a sheet pan or muffin pan will yield a more “cake like” cornbread.

First, put 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil in a room temp skillet. Put the skillet into a cold oven and preheat to 400F. While the oven and pan are preheating, mix up your cornbread as follows:

  • 2 cups hot-rise (self-rising) cornmeal (I use white but yellow works just the same)
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (I have always used non-fat cultured buttermilk because my grandmother did)

Whip up well using a wire whisk.

When the oven has preheated, remove the pan and pour the hot oil into the cornbread mix. Stir well to incorporate. Sprinkle bottom of skillet with cornmeal, lightly. This will ensure the cornbread won’t stick in the case that your iron skillet is not well seasoned. Pour the batter into the skillet. You will hear it sizzle as the batter is poured in.

Bake at 400F for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and set.

If you’re using a larger pan, double the recipe. Also, if you don’t have self-rising flour and cornmeal, put a pinch (about a teaspoon) of baking soda in for a small pan or a couple of pinches for a large pan.

I’ve got a pan in the oven right now to go with the fried pork chops, mashed potatoes and fresh green limas I have cooking on the stove. Nothing like a good country Sunday dinner!

 

Garden Vegetable Breakfast Casserole

 

About this time of year, anyone with a back yard garden is looking for creative ideas to use up the abundance of zucchini, fresh tomatoes and herbs. Here’s a wonderful Saturday morning recipe for breakfast casserole, loaded with color straight from the back yard and a perfect recipe for a brunch. This makes for 12 servings, so cut it down as needed for a smaller family.

  • 1 12oz package of bacon, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 eggs lightly beaten
  • 4 cups frozen hashbrown potatoes, thawed
  • 2 fresh zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp Tabasco sauce

In a saute pan, cook the bacon and onion until the onion is tender and the bacon has browned.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the hashbrown potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes and toss well. Add the bacon and onions along with the pan drippings to the potato-vegetable mixture, then mix in the cheeses, Tabasco, beaten eggs and the fresh basil.

Spoon mixture into a 9″x13″ glass baking dish sprayed lightly with PAM. At this point I usually salt and pepper the top of the casserole as well.

Bake in a 350F oven for 35-40 minutes, until casserole has “set” and is just beginning to brown.

Serves 12 but can easily be cut down to 6 or 4 by equally dividing the ingredients.

The Perfect Meatloaf

Whenever I have meatloaf on the menu during lunch, I never seem to make enough. Everyone lines up and we sell out long before lunch service is over. Doesn’t matter which meatloaf I make (beef or turkey) or which glaze/gravy I use (traditional, caramelized onion, creamy mushroom, etc). In the south, meatloaf is as common as fried chicken. Everybody has their own meatloaf recipe.. Some are really good.. some aren’t so good. Most everyone knows how to make a meatloaf but not everyone can make a really good meatloaf. In my opinion, meatloaf should be tasty and moist. I like mine to “almost” fall apart on their own. No knife should be involved in eating a slice of meatloaf!

These days, meatloaf is a generic term for a dish that can be made with a variety of meats (beef, turkey, pork) or even vegetarian style. One thing I’ve learned, the leaner the meat, the less flavor and the “firmer” the meatloaf with be, so if you want a really tasty meatloaf, you’ve got to deal with some fat. Buying 93/7 lean ground beef won’t produce a really good meatloaf, although it will be a lot healthier. If you want to “lean up” a meatloaf but still retain the flavor and moisture, try using 1/2 ground turkey and 1/2 ground beef. You won’t taste the turkey.. in fact, because of seasonings, when I make a true 100% turkey meatloaf at work, most of my customers have no idea they aren’t eating ground beef.

This recipe is written for a standard, delicious meatloaf but has variations as noted. They all work and they are all wonderful, so if you’ve had problems making a perfect meatloaf in the past, give this recipe a try!

  • 1 pound ground chuck mixed with 1 pound ground round (or mix beef with ground turkey, or do all ground turkey if you prefer)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup PANKO (Japanese Breadcrumbs) or 1 cup crushed saltine crackers (do not use finely ground bread crumbs from a can)
  • 2 tbsp Montreal Steak seasoning (a blend found in the spice isle)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Grease a bread loaf pan with cooking spray and add meat to the pan. If you prefer one of the glazes below (traditional or creamy mushroom) add it before baking the meatloaf, or you can bake the meatloaf and then top with caramelized onions and brown gravy if you prefer.

Bake at 400F for approximately 45 minutes. Meatloaf is done when internal temperature (read with a kitchen thermometer) reads 165F, so check it periodically. One it reaches that temp, remove from the oven. If you cook it longer, it will dry out.

Glazes:

For a traditional glaze, mix 1 cup dark brown sugar and 1/2 cup ketchup and pour over the top before baking meatloaf.

For creamy mushroom meatloaf, simply open a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and pour over the top before baking meatloaf.

 

Chocolate Roulage

Every so often my 40yo sweet tooth with kick in and I’ll start craving a decadent treat. Growing up in Alabama, it was always a treat to eat at Cobb Lane and get chocolate roulage for dessert. The whole “jelly roll” concept always appealed to me; even the Little Debbie Swiss roll was a childhood favorite.

Chocolate roulage looks hard to make; most people see this dessert and think there’s no way they can pull this off, but it’s really quite simple. The cake is basically a sponge cake. It’s baked on a “jelly roll” pan but I’ve never owned one personally. I simply use a sheet pan. The trick is to cover the baked cake with a cold, wet towel until the cake is completely cool. This keeps the cake moist and allows you to roll it up without it breaking, but I’ve eaten “broken” roulage in some of Birmingham’s finest restaurants, so if yours breaks, don’t worry about it. Some sifted powered sugar will cover any mistakes!

  • 5 large eggs at room temperature, separated
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 6oz dark, semi sweet chocolate melted with 3 tbsp water
  • Dark cocoa
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the egg yolks thoroughly; add 3/4 cup of sugar to the yolks and continue to beat until thick. Blend the cooled melted chocolate with the egg yolks, then fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.

Butter a sheet pan or jelly roll pan. Line pan with wax or parchment paper and butter the paper. Spread cake mixture evenly on the buttered paper and bake at 325F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300F and bake 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven, cover the cake with a cold, wet towel and let cool completely.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the towel and loosen the cake from the paper. Sift cocoa all over the cake, then turn the cake onto a fresh sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Peel off the old paper. Whip the cream with the vanilla and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and spread liberally over the cake. Roll the cake lengthwise. Dust the top with more cocoa or with powered sugar. Slice to serve.

Cake can also be frozen once the whipped cream is added and the cake is rolled up. This will make the cake easier to slice with a more “set” filling.