Sunday, August 3, 2008

Company's coming

We had some guests come to dinner last night - our parish pastor Father Horton and Father Rogers Byambassa, a missionary priest with the Apostles of Jesus from Uganda, Africa. It was such a pleasure to have them over and really interesting. A great experience for the kids, too. Father Rogers was quite entertained by Katherine (who is quite the conversationalist at 3 years old) and he promised to take her to Africa to see all the animals she kept talking about.

Unfortunately, I haven't had the time or energy for much entertaining (oh for the last 3 years or so) but I really enjoy it. There's something about planning and making a nice meal and dessert for people that really makes me happy!

I tried several new recipes this time (although my mother wisely told me once not to experiment on guests, but luckily it worked out this time). My brother-in-law sent me a great marinade recipe for flank steak (thanks, Dave!), and I found a recipe online for 3 cheese and garlic scalloped potatoes (though, I guess this was more like an au gratin); and another recipe online for chocolate pudding which I turned into a chocolate ice box pie. This latter recipe was found through a network called "Tuesdays with Dorie" where some foodie bloggers are working their way through a cookbook called Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I am hoping to join them - not sure if I can keep up with that and keep the 4 kids fed and clothed, but I'm going to give it a shot - it sounds like fun! I guess you'll find out soon (check back on Wednesdays :-)

Anyhoo, here's how things went yesterday with the dessert portion of the meal. Of course, nothing goes as planned and of course, I was under a time crunch because I didn't do any prep work the day before (and did I mention I have 4 beautiful, but always-needing-something-when-I'm-really-really-busy, children). First off, I realized I didn't have any whipping cream (and you most certainly can not have chocolate ice box pie without fluffy whipped cream on top!), so now a quick run to the IGA is on my to do list.

I made my crust using Nilla Wafers first thing in the morning and while that was cooling, made the pudding/filling. I had to alter the recipe a little because a) one recipe was not going to fill my deep dish pie pan and b) since it was pie, and presentation value matters when having company over for dinner, I had to make sure it ended up being thick enough to slice.

Here's the recipe (which I made one and half of). It's actually not that difficult (despite my trials) and it did come out very nice - smooth, chocolaty and not too sweet.

Chocolate Pudding
Courtesy of Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 ¼ cups whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and still warm
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Have six ramekins or pudding cups, each holding 4 to 6 ounces (½ to ¾ cup), at hand. Bring 2 cups of the milk and 3 tablespoons of the sugar to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

While the milk is heating, put the cocoa, cornstarch and salt into a food processor and whir to blend. Turn them out onto a piece of wax paper, put the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, the egg and egg yolks into the processor and blend for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the remaining ¼ cup milk and pulse just to mix, then add the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to blend.

With the machine running, very slowly pour in the hot milk mixture. Process for a few seconds, then put everything back into the saucepan. Whisk without stopping over medium heat – making sure to get into the edges of the pan – until the pudding thickens and a couple of bubbles burble up to the surface and pop (about 2 minutes). You want the pudding to thicken, but you don’t want it to boil, so lower the heat if necessary.

Scrape the pudding back into the processor (if there’s a scorched spot, avoid it as you scrape) and pulse a couple of times. Add the chocolate, butter and vanilla and pulse until everything is evenly blended.Pour the pudding into the ramekins.

If you don’t want a skin to form (some people think the skin is the best part), press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of each pudding to create an airtight seal.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.Makes 6 servings

Soooo, I didn't exactly follow the directions.

Apparently, my food processor isn't large enough to hold one and half times this recipe (and I have my doubts about it holding one, so just a warning - make sure your processor holds at least 7 cups). The evidence:

This was after I tried adding all the hot milk mixture into the eggs/cocoa mixture - not happening, I was only able to add about 2/3rds of the milk. I ended up dumping what I managed to fit in the processor bowl back into the pot with the milk and whisking like crazy. To say the least, I was a little irritated at this point and kicking myself for not doing this the day before and thinking I probably should have heeded my Mom's advice (see above). It definitely didn't look right to me (look at how foamy the mixture is),

but I kept whisking like a maniac anyway and praying (as I looked at the clock which read 11am, knowing this pie will need at least 6 hours to chill and dinner was set for 6:30pm....ack!) that it would come together.

Eventually, thankfully, it did.

Oh, for the pie crust (for a 9 inch deep dish pie pan) I used 3 cups of mini Nilla Wafers and 3 tablespoons melted butter - crush wafers in a food processor until fine crumbs form and then add melted butter, pulsing until mixed well. Press crumbs into the pan and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until just starting to get golden brown. I think this pie would be fabulous with a traditional pie crust, but I just didn't have the time yesterday.

My results...not too bad (and a hit with the dinner guests!)

Let me know if you try this - it's definitely a keeper recipe for me. When I lived in Birmingham, Alabama we frequently ate at a BBQ restaurant called Johnny Rays and they had the best Chocolate Ice Box Pie I have ever had. Each slice was, I swear, 4 or 5 inches high, and it had a light consistency with lots of whipped cream on top. Next time I make this, I think I'll try folding in some whipped cream into the pudding and maybe it'll be more like that. If I can come close, I'll be in foodie-heaven - I'll let you know!


Joseph said...

sounds like a tasty meal! Though, not exactly on my diet. :)

Janet said...

Looks great Laura, but suddenly the watermelon that I am snacking on after lunch just doesn't do it for me! :)