Posts Tagged ‘pecans’
There are few things I enjoy more than a party; the planning, the prepping, the primping. Except for maybe wrestling with invite lists and cleaning up, it’s all good. Which it should be no surprise to anyone that I was to be found bright and early on New Year’s Day out in idyllic Hillcrest, helping good friends prepare for a feast. A Southern, vegetarian New Year’s feast.
Sigh. So, yeah, Southern food… not my forte, particularly when the (delicious, delicious) crutch of pork is verboten. That said, it was a relief that the mains–black eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread–had already been chosen by the host. I just had to help make sure that they came out right and take care of the things on the edges. So, to that list of Southern staples for good luck in the new year, I added cheese straws and deviled eggs up front, a bright grapefruit and fennel salad on the side, and red velvet cake and pecan squares to finish up.
With that menu, 14 packets of fresh peas, 8 enormous bunches of collards, 4 dozen eggs, 2 dozen grapefruit, and $25 worth of white chocolate… among other things… we managed to successfully sate 25 people who were all impressed that we’d manage to do so a la veggie. We even managed to kill each other in the kitchen, despite a variety of heated Mason-Dixon arguments on what cornbread should be, the… uh… “merits” of vegetarian bacon, and how spicy the greens should be. Hooah.
Per the voting that we did on facebook last week, you’re getting the pecan bars today. They landed in second behind a kale salad and in front of the red velvet cake. If y’all (*hem*) are interested in how a Yankee and a vegetarian from Richmond make black eyed peas and collards, just let me know. I can write those up too.
This recipe makes a TON of pecan squares, which, I think, is the correct amount. I’ve grown to like pecan bars over pie because the nut-crust-filling ratio is better. Lots of crunchy, flavorful nuts; enough buttery crust to hold on to; and just enough sweet-salty, caramelly glue to hold it all together. Too often with pecan pie there’s too much gungy, syrupy sweet filling and everything else gets drowned out. Not so here. More nuts, more bourbon, more salt, and a touch of espresso powder makes the bars stand up and stand out, in an addictive, grown up kind of way. Bliss.
Every so often, when the river of life tosses you up on some strange, foreign shore, it then has the kindness to ensure that you’ve washed up near the best sort of locals (the ones that’ll point you to the best bar in town). And so it was several years ago that I was lucky enough to make the delightful acquaintance of some lovely ladies from Baton Rouge. Entrusted to make sure that my industry’s major annual conference went off without a hitch, they managed that task with aplomb and with plenty of energy to spare… which is a good thing since the Ladies know how to par-tay.
I have since had the good fortune to see the Ladies once a year or so, but thanks to the miracles of modern technology (aka Facebook) I get regular updates on their excitingly exotic (for me, at least) goings on down in Cajun country. There always seems to be a celebration or a bake sale or a huuuuge pot of pastalaya a-stir for one cause or another. It was in a post about a bake sale that mentioned a Morganza cake, and how someone should make one as it always sells out.
A cake, you say? That always sells out at Louisiana bake sales? Color me VERY interested. After a little Google-fu, I’d learned that Morganza cake, named after the town (and/or spillway) in Pointe Coupee Parish from whence it came, is a devil’s food cake with a just as devilish praline frosting. Clearly something worth further, immediate investigation. I only turned up one recipe, courtesy of the Baton Rouge Advocate, but that was enough.
Directions in my hot little hands, I made for the kitchen with all due haste. The recipe, though, did leave a few things to be desired, I thought. It called for a cake mix chocolate cake. Oh no, I think not. Pecans were “optional” and I ended up sticking a good 3c in. There was no salt either, an omission that I rectified right quick and really makes the praline sing–even if it’s not strictly traditional. Finally, I tossed a little bourbon into the mix as well… because, well, BOURBON. Duh.
Not wanting to have anything to do with a boxed mix, I turned to Dorie Greenspan for a nicely textured, well-flavored devil’s food cake. Hers gets dotted with chips and split in four before getting frosted with a marshmallow icing, but the moist, tender crumb and deeply chocolate flavor is a perfect foil for the slightly more robust but just as sweet praline frosting.
Having made this twice–once for a crowd of 50 and once for a much more reasonable potluck of eight, I can say that this one is indubitably a keeper. The refrain at the big party went something along these lines: “WHAT is this?!” in very rewardingly awed tones.
Cheers to the Ladies, and I’ll look forward to cutting them a slice real soon.
OMG. Much to my dismay, it seems that there were, as of last Thursday morning, NO decent pecan pie recipes on teh interwebz. Not a one, and on THANKSGIVING. And what, I ask you, are said interwebz for, if not to provide basic recipes for such classics as pecan pie? Bah! Everything I found–when looking to check my number-of-eggs guesstimation–were over-sweet, crapped up, under-nutted and just plain sad. Boo on you, Internet, for letting me down. Oh, before we go any further, it’s “pee-KAHWN” ok? At least, that’s what the Smith College variety that arrived every year courtesy of Grandma Neecie were called and that is good enough for me.
In any event, though, had I not been so irritated by this significant lack of decent pecan pie guidance, I would probably not have bothered to write down what I ended up doing and that would also have been sad.
Pecan pie is always going to be sweet, and I’m fine with that. The pecans themselves are quite sweet, but they have much more nuance than the average sugar-coma pie would indicate, with rich, bitter, and smoky undertones that are much more pronounced when the nuts are eaten out of hand. I wanted to pull each of these flavors into play with my pie. A gloopy-sweet wodge hiding beneath a skimpy veil of nuts is simply NOT going to be acceptable.
I’m not sure why “icebox cookies” sound so good. Cookies that are to be baked though icebox seems to conjure up images of Fruit Joe opening up the fridge late at night to swipe a chunk of sitting dough. This habit is hourly when I have dough sitting in the fridge.
Amazed at times that I have enough to bake.
Here’s a recipe from The Stewart – of the “Martha” variety. I know I say some of my recipes are easy–readers may groan–but these are…easy. And I love how well the logs of dough keep in the deep freeze. It’s nice (dare I say, comforting?) having cookie dough on hand…at any time. Read the rest of this entry »
Here are the blue cheese, toasted pecan crackers I served. A big thanks to Paul for helping me make these.
They are from Martha Stewart’s ever-handy and must-have “Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook.” It’s a fantastic collection of tiny amuse nibbles.
I adjusted the recipe. Instead of a typical Danish blue cheese, I made this with gorgonzola dolce. Luke and I were trying to maintain a semi-trattoria feel to the party so I thought it necessary to add the cheese of My People. They are neat, flavor-packed, sandy little morsels, easy for any party. You can make the dough in advance and it keeps in the freezer for a few months.
Thanks, Martha. Love the book. Does anyone else have a default tome they turn to for appetizers?
Recipe is below the fold.