Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Tarte Aux Pommes (Apple Tart)

15 Nov

Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.
~Jane Austen

French apple tart

Recipe source: David / Daniele

Today I want to share a very special recipe for classic French apple tart. This is a simple, elegant dessert where the fruit really shines – it has only a few ingredients, and little to no refined sugar. The basic recipe lends itself to a lot of creativity, with all kinds of options for jam and fruit. I really like apples because they’re not so juicy that they make the crust soggy. And since Fall is apple season, they’re plentiful!

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But before we bake…

Besides the obvious – deliciousness – I have another reason to get your mind on pie: the Mama’s Pie in the Sky Bake Sale.

If you live in San Diego, this annual fundraiser is just the thing to round out your Thanksgiving meal! Skip the Vons bakery and help out a good cause.

Mama's Pie in the SkyFrom the press release:
Dozens of San Diego County top chefs, caterers and bakers will lovingly prepare thousands of pies to raise much-needed funds for Mama’s Kitchen. The Mama’s Pie in the Sky Bake Sale is a Thanksgiving tradition, and is considered to be the west coast’s largest bake sale. Each $20 pie provides more than six home-delivered meals to a neighbor struggling with a critical illness such as cancer or HIV/AIDS.

All proceeds from pie sales go directly into funding thousands of free, hot and nutritious Mama’s Kitchen meals, which help ensure that no one living with AIDS or cancer will go hungry in the San Diego community.

Mama’s Kitchen hopes to sell more than 6,250 pies before Nov. 20, which will raise $125,000 and fund nearly 40,000 meals. With the rising cost of food purchased to prepare the meals delivered by volunteers to hundreds of men, women and children in San Diego County, the funds raised through the Mama’s Pie in the Sky fundraiser are needed more than ever.

Here’s how Mama’s Pie in the Sky works:

1. Visit www.mamaspies.org to purchase the Thanksgiving pies of your choice: apple, pumpkin, pecan, or no sugar added apple pies. If you have a friend or colleague selling pies, choose their name. Otherwise you can just purchase from Mama’s Kitchen directly.

2. Select a convenient pick-up location. The pies will be available for pick-up at one of 19 Wells Fargo Bank branches throughout San Diego County or at Mama’s Kitchen, located at 3960 Home Avenue, San Diego, Calif. 92115.

3. Go to the location you selected on Wed., Nov. 23 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to pick up your pie(s) from one of our volunteers. When you open your pie, you’ll discover what baker prepared your pie.

4. To purchase a pie that will be hand-delivered to Mama’s Kitchen’s clients on Thanksgiving morning, select the “Love-A-Client” option. For every “Love-A-Client” pie purchased, the donor will receive an entry to win a 64MB iPad2.

There is still time to sell pies this year. Mama’s Kitchen is looking for individuals and groups to form teams to sell pies before Nov. 20. Volunteers also have opportunities to win prizes from generous sponsors. To sign up to sell pies, visit www.mamaspies.org.

But don’t just take my word for it! Here’s a little message from Sam “The Cooking Guy” Zien and Elizabeth Harris of Elizabethan Desserts –

The last day to purchase the handcrafted pies is Nov. 20, 2011. Fifteen dollars from each $20 pie sale is tax-deductible. Pies can be purchased online at www.mamaspies.org or by calling (619) 233-6262.

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OK! Back to the blog…

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might know that I’m a big fan of homemade pastry crust. That is largely thanks to David, who taught me this recipe. So I thought it would be appropriate to pass on a few crust-making tips from the pro:

kitchen scaleThe scale! An essential kitchen item.

The perfect weights for this pastry dough are 200 grams of all-purpose flour, 100 grams of cold unsalted butter, and 100 grams of ice-cold water. This will make crust for an 11-inch tart. But if you insist on cheating, this was about 2 cups + 3 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon butter, and just under 1/2 cup of water.

Probably, the best way to make a pastry dough is the old-fashioned way: working the cold butter into the flour, rolling it until the butter turns into thin sheets of flaky pastry goodness, then carefully and gradually working in a bit of ice-cold water. But the fastest way is in the food processor.

However you bring your crust together (don’t worry, more help below), you’ll want to turn it out on a sheet of plastic wrap, form into a disc, and freeze for at least an hour. You can see here that chunks of butter are still intact – a good thing!

wrapped pastry dough

Skipping ahead (okay, so I’m not actually in the mood to give tips tonight – check out this earlier post for step-by-step instructions!)… once your crust is in the tart pan and pre-baked, it’s on to the fun part! The filling. The base of this tart is traditionally a fruit spread, and you can use any kind you like: apricot or blackberry, pumpkin butter, or maybe even Nutella.

confiture collage

This time, I used the Bonne Maman chestnut creme I brought back from a summer trip to France. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find in the U.S.

You only need a thin spread (about 2 tablespoons), then you will commence layering 5 peeled, cored, and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples in a pretty design, like so:

French apple tart

If you have an apple peeler corer slicer, lucky you! You’ll save the hand cramp I got after refusing to buy a fourth one. If not, just think positively about how slicing these uniformly is going to improve your knife skills.

Granny SmithLooks sweet and innocent, right?

It can be nice at this stage to sprinkle a layer of sugar over the top of the apples before baking. Or, you can brush a light coating of light-colored jam (such as apricot) or maple syrup over the top while it’s still hot from the oven.

sugared apples

Bake at 450 degrees F for 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is slightly brown and completely firm, and apples are desiccated. Serve warm or room temperature.

French apple tart

Recipe – Tarte Aux Pommes (Apple Tart)

200 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams cold unsalted butter
100 grams ice-cold water
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fruit spread of your choice
5 Granny Smith apples
2 teaspoons granulated sugar, optional
1 teaspoon nutmeg, optional

To make the dough, sift and weigh 200 grams of all-purpose flour into a large bowl, stir in sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and cut in 100 grams of cold butter. With your hands, gradually mix in 100 grams of ice-cold water until all is well combined. (This step can be done in a food processor, but be careful not to over-process the butter at this stage.) Turn the dough out onto a cold surface and with your hands, form into a disk, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator and turn out onto a cold surface. Roll it to a thin round disc, fold in half and then into thirds, and wrap tightly in cling film; refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll it one last time, as round as possible, leaving about 1″ to go up the sides of the pan. Fold the dough in quarters and place it in a 15″ tart pan with a removable base. Unfold and press the dough into all sides, using a rolling pin to trim excess dough from the top edges of the pan. Cover the top of the dough with cling film and refrigerate until ready to assemble the tart.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Peel and core apples, slice into 1/4-inch rounds, then cut in half. Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator and spread the bottom crust evenly with your preferred jam (apricot, boysenberry, or chestnut creme all work nicely).

Starting on the outer edge and moving inward, tightly overlap the apples until all slices are used. Sprinkle the entire surface with a light layer of sugar and nutmeg, if desired. (For those going sugar-free, you can brush a light layer of jam over the apples just before baking, and this will create a nice shine on the surface. I recommend St. Dalfour brand, which is only sweetened with grape juice concentrate.)

Bake immediately for 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is slightly brown and completely firm, and apples are desiccated. Serve warm or room temperature.

-apple illustration-


Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart

7 Dec

Recipe source: Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Ina Garten on tradition: “Every family has traditions–events that they repeat year after year. These traditions give us all a sense of place and community…. Traditions reassure us that we belong together, and for me, that’s so grounding. I love them all.”

One of my family’s traditions at Thanksgiving is that I make dessert. This is mostly because I volunteered, because for a lot of years, dessert was the only kind of food I really liked. As you know from a few posts ago, I made pecan pie for my family and co-workers this year. But I was still left with another Thanksgiving dessert-making opportunity at my monthly cooking group, Gourmet Friends. We have a Thanksgiving-themed get-together every November, and it’s a great chance to test-run the recipes we might be considering for our families.

pumpkin banana mousse tart

This pie is a really nice subtle, elegant twist on classic pumpkin pie, which let’s face it, is a bit pedestrian. My palate is a bit too snobby nowadays for plain ol’ pumpkin pie.

The crust is a basic graham cracker crust, though, to which I can only say, why mess with a good thing? All that’s involved here is graham crackers, butter, sugar, and cinnamon. If you have a food processor, it takes about 5 seconds to break up the crackers, and another two minutes to blend it all together.

pie crust

The filling is a bit more complicated, but not impossible. The most important thing to know about it is to make it in advance. You’ll need to heat half-and-half, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a double-boiler, then add in egg yolks (being careful to temper them so they don’t scramble), then a mixture of dissolved gelatin, banana, and orange zest. The orange zest was one of the things that really attracted me to this recipe!

pie filling

After that mixture has cooled, you will fold in a whipped cream mixture, pour it into the baked crust, and chill for 2 hours or overnight.

pouring pie filling

Finally, the last step is to cover the pie with a whipped cream topping and chill again. Ina suggests sprinkling the top with orange zest, which I think is a classy idea.

whipped cream

I don’t have a picture of a cut slice because I was too busy noshing on it… always a difficulty for me when pie or cake is concerned! But inside this looks very similar to a traditional pumpkin pie. Actually – it’s kinda like this picture I’m shamelessly stealing from a Google search:

pie slice

Ina’s recipe doesn’t call for a pecan-caramel topping, but now that I’m looking at it, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea! I guess I’ll just have to make this again… pity…

RECIPE – Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart

I wrote this recipe for my entertaining series for California magazine. It was inspired by a pumpkin mousse that my mother had made for years for Thanksgiving. It’s lighter and much more flavorful than that cloying old pumpkin pie. People really do go nuts for it.

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (14 crackers)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup half-and-half
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 package (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 ripe banana, finely mashed
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Orange zest, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter in a bowl and mix well. Pour into an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and press evenly into the sides and then the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes and then cool to room temperature.

For the filling, heat the half-and-half, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water until hot, about 5 minutes. Whisk the egg yolks in another bowl, stir some of the hot pumpkin into the egg yolks to heat them, then pour the egg-pumpkin mixture back into the double boiler and stir well. Heat the mixture over the simmering water for another 4 to 5 minutes, until it begins to thicken, stirring constantly. You don’t want the eggs to scramble. Remove from the heat.

Dissolve the gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. Add the dissolved gelatin, banana, and orange zest to the pumpkin mixture and mix well. Set aside to cool.

Whip the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue to whisk until you have firm peaks. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture and pour it into the cooled tart shell. Chill for 2 hours or overnight.

For the decoration, whip the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to whisk until you have firm peaks. Pipe or spoon the whipped cream decoratively on the tart and sprinkle, if desired, with orange zest. Serve chilled.

Post-Thanksgiving turkey enchiladas

27 Nov

Friday turkey enchiladas are a tradition in my family. I look forward to them almost as much as the Thanksgiving meal itself. This is a quick and easy way to use up your leftovers, and a change of pace from the classic holiday flavors. Of course, in Santa Maria, Mexican food is the classic taste all year ’round!

To start, thinly slice or shred your leftover turkey, white or dark meat, whichever you prefer. We use the breast meat for this.


In the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish, spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce. You can use corn or flour tortillas, but corn are traditional. My mom has found that warming the tortillas makes them more malleable; you can do this over an open flame or on a pre-warmed skillet, just until the edges soften.

olives, chilis, enchilada sauce(The most cans you will ever see assembled together on this blog. I promise.)

Then, pile turkey, sliced black olives, green chilies and Mexican blend shredded cheese in the center of each tortilla.

tortilla(Who didn’t grow up with Corel dishware?)

Be sure to leave yourself enough tortilla to roll it, and place the roll, seam-side down, into the sauced 9×13 pan. Continue rolling enchiladas and stacking them side-by-side until you have filled the pan. The corn tortillas are about 8″ in diameter, and we usually get about 12-14 enchiladas in the pan.


Cover each enchilada with sauce, making sure no tortilla is exposed. This advice comes from the experience of biting into tough, chewy tortilla that was not covered in sauce… so trust us on this one!


Then cover the entire pan with shredded cheese and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Served here with refried black beans, tortilla chips from the best Mexican restaurant in town, and quinoa.

post-Thanksgiving Mexican feast(I’m not posting this quinoa recipe because it wasn’t great. But try this one: Spanish-style quinoa. Add a little S&P. Yummy.)

Pecan Pie, two ways

26 Nov

Recipe Source (pie #1): Bon Appétit
Recipe Source (pie #2): Food and Wine

Pecan pie is a favorite at Thanksgiving, and since I made two this year, you’re getting two recipes for the price of one! The first is a tried and true favorite, made for a work potluck – toasted pecan pie with cinnamon whipped cream. The other is a new and exciting recipe for my family, scouted out by my mother, Thanksgiving hostess extraordinaire – bourbon pecan pie.


Both recipes involve toasting pecans, which brings about a different flavor than using them raw. I like this first recipe because it uses a combination of raw and toasted pecans.

chopped pecans

A key ingredient for most pecan pies (besides pecans) is corn syrup. A good amount of it – 1 to 2 cups, depending on the recipe. The point where I hear the glug-glug-glug of the corn syrup bottle is usually the point where I wish I was just blindly eating this pie, without knowing what went into it.

corn syrup

The crust for this one is a basic mixture of flour, cold butter, and water. I add in a little nutmeg for interest, but it’s probably not necessary because the filling is so rich and filling. I think I will stop wasting my nutmeg in the future. 🙂 Although the recipe doesn’t call for pre-baking this crust, it can’t hurt – this year my filling oozed through the crust and made it difficult to remove from the pie dish.

toasted pecan pie

This second pie has *just enough* bourbon to give interest and a little a grown-up guilty pleasure. For example, you can tell the kids in your family to back off, because this pie has alcohol and it’s for adults only!!! If you’re evil that way, I mean. Not that I know anybody who would do that.

Jim Beam bourbon

I decided to follow this recipe faithfully the first time, because it was new, so now I can say with confidence that this crust recipe is wacked out. For one thing, I would not spend the money or effort on scraping fresh vanilla bean for the crust, because you can’t taste it anyway. It might be a great idea for a simple custard filling, but for pecan pie, no. I have also never seen a pie crust involving powdered sugar. This dough was very sticky to handle, and the filling oozed out of the tart pan (sad face). So next time, I’ll stick with the crust recipe for pie #1. I liked the size and shape of the tart pan vs. my 9″ glass pie dish though, so the jury is still out on that one… as long as the tart pan is placed on a cookie sheet, it will catch the ooze. And surprisingly, I was able to lift the bottom out of the pan with no problems.

pecan pie filling

All in all, I loved the filling for this pie. It uses less corn syrup, fewer eggs, and brown sugar vs. white. The heavy cream is an interesting addition that is supposed to give a custard-like texture, although it didn’t seem that way to me. My original idea for the decoration was to stack pecans all around the top, like this, but as soon as I started I realized 11″ diameter is big! So I lined the outer edge and stopped there. I was really happy with the end result. This is an elegant tart and highly recommended, with a few modifications.

bourbon pecan tart

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

bourbon pecan tart slice

RECIPE #1 – Toasted Pecan Pie

3 cup pecans (about 10 oz), divided
6 large eggs
2 cup sugar
2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted better, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons (or more) ice water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350º

MAKE THE CRUST: Blend flour and salt in processor 10 seconds. Add butter; cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 4 tablespoons ice water; blend just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk.

Wrap in plastic; chill 1 hour. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

MEANWHILE, MAKE THE FILLING: Coarsely chop 2 cups pecans and reserve. Spread 1 cup pecans on rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven until nuts are aromatic and darker in color, about 12 minutes. Cool, then grind nuts finely in processor. Maintain oven temperature. Roll out crust on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round (crust will be thin).

Transfer crust to 10-inch-diameter pie dish. Fold overhang under, forming high-standing rim. Crimp edges decoratively. Freeze crust 20 minutes.

Whisk eggs in large bowl until frothy. Add sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla, salt, and ground toasted pecans; whisk until blended. Mix in chopped pecans. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie until crust is golden and filling is puffed and set (center may still move when dish is shaken), about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool at least 3 hours. (Can be prepared 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

MAKE THE WHIPPED CREAM: In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream, sugar and cinnamon until stiff peaks form. Cut the pie into wedges and serve with the whipped cream.

Cut pie into wedges and serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

RECIPE #2 – Toasted Pecan Tart with Bourbon Whipped Cream

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 large egg white
2 cups pecan halves
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon

MAKE THE CRUST: In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter until creamy. Add the 1 1/4 cups of flour and the confectioners’ sugar, salt and vanilla seeds and beat at low speed until smooth. Beat in the egg white. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap; press into a 6-inch disk. Wrap up and freeze until firm, at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°. On a well-floured work surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch round. Ease the dough into an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom; press it into the pan. Trim the overhanging dough and use it to patch any tears or holes. Freeze the tart shell just until firm, 10 minutes.

Line the dough with parchment paper and pie weights and bake for 20 minutes, until nearly set. Remove the weights and paper and bake for 20 minutes, until golden.

MEANWHILE, MAKE THE FILLING: Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then chop the nuts. In a bowl, whisk the corn syrup, brown sugar, cream, eggs, bourbon, vanilla and salt. Stir in the butter and pecans.

Set the tart pan on the baking sheet and set it in the oven. Scrape the filling into the tart shell and bake for about 35 minutes, until the custard is set and puffed; cover the edge with strips of foil if it’s browning too fast. Transfer to a rack to cool, then remove the ring and slide the tart onto a serving plate.

MAKE THE WHIPPED CREAM: In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream with the confectioners’ sugar and bourbon until stiff peaks form. Cut the tart into wedges and serve with the whipped cream.

Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes

21 Jul

Recipe source: The Gilded Fork

I have universal, type O+ blood. I have never had malaria, never traveled Africa, never engaged in prostitution or shared needles. All this and more makes me a good candidate for donating blood, and I believe passionately in donating as long as I can. The downside is, like a lot of women, I have a tendency to be anemic. So rather than getting a painful finger prick for nothing, I always make a point to eat red meat a few days before donating.

This last time, I decided to go all out and make a steak, mashed potatoes and garlic-sauteed mushrooms. Because I am from frou-frou Southern California, I could not be satisfied with just ANY mashed potatoes – no, I went with chipotle mashed sweet potatoes. This blog is about the potatoes.

mashed potato texture

For the record, I originally found this recipe while looking up options for Thanksgiving last year. I fully expect you to keep this blog in mind for the next four months!

What gives these potatoes their chipotle kick is a can of chiptole chiles in adobo sauce. I used Embasa brand, which is easy to find in any grocery store (Hispanic foods aisle). A word of caution, it is kick-your-ass hot. I made the not so bright move of sticking my tongue onto the can lid to taste it and subsequently coughing and hacking and reaching for water and crackers. So don’t do that.

chipotle sauce

To make the sauce, all you do is finely chop the chiles and mix them with their sauce.

To begin the potatoes, peel and coarsely chop them, then cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender when pricked with a fork.

boiling potatoes

Drain the potatoes and return to heat briefly, to evaporate any remaining water. Then remove from heat, add half-and-half, butter, and lime juice, and mash with a potato masher (or if you’re me, a dough cutter). Return to low heat and add brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Lastly, add chipotle sauce to taste. I used around 2 or 3 tablespoons – enough to counteract the sweetness of the brown sugar while still being palatable. I’d recommend adding and tasting gradually, so as not to overpower the dish or overwhelm your tastebuds.

mashed potatoes

And in case you’re curious, the steak I had with this was a New York Strip simply marinaded in olive oil, fresh-ground black pepper and fresh rosemary. To prepare, I seared it in a smoking-hot cast iron pan, then finished in a 400-degree oven. The sliced crimini mushrooms were sauteed with butter, minced garlic, salt and pepper. That’s a HUNGRY MAN meal!


RECIPE – Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes

A Southwestern twist on a holiday classic, we think our sweet potato dish beats the heck out of any version topped with mini-marshmallows! The chipotle paste is a great accompaniment that will kick up any side dish (Our kitchen elves like to put them on scrambled eggs and chilaquiles). Just be careful to add the paste in small increments, as it can be very hot. Any extra will keep well in the refrigerator for a few weeks. The slight hint of lime here brightens the dish to keep it from being heavy.

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ cup half and half
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

For the chipotle paste:
1 small can chipotle chiles en adobo

Prepare the chipotle paste:
Remove the whole chiles from the can and chop them finely. Mix them with the remaining adobo sauce and mix well. Set aside. [Chef’s Note: This will keep for a few weeks if you keep it tightly covered in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. The vinegar in the adobo sauce acts as a natural preservative.]

Prepare the sweet potatoes:
Peel and dice the sweet potatoes into evenly-sized cubes. Put the sweet potatoes in a pot and cover completely with cold water. Bring to a boil. [Chef’s Note: When boiling root vegetables or tubers, it is essential to start them in cold water, so that they cook through without the outside cooking too quickly and getting mushy. A good rule of thumb is that any vegetables grown below the ground should be started in cold water, and any that grow above the ground should be started in hot water.]

Reduce the heat and simmer the sweet potatoes for about 15 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain the water and return the potatoes to pan. Set the pot back on medium-low heat for a minute or two, stirring constantly, to evaporate any remaining water, then remove from the heat. Add some of the half-and-half, the butter, and lime juice, and mash to the desired consistency. Cook over medium heat for another 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Stir in the brown sugar, salt to taste, and ½ tsp. of freshly grated cinnamon into the mashed potato mixture. Add some chipotle paste to the mixture, to taste, and stir thoroughly to blend. Reserve the remaining chipotle paste for another use. Sprinkle the top with another ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon just before service.

Serves 6.

Pecan Bars

6 Apr

I don’t know what possessed me to make these in the spring, but I now understand why we’d normally eat them in the fall. See, in the fall, it’s cold. Animals are eating great quantities of foodstuffs to prepare themselves for their long winter’s nap. Humans, too, instinctively build up their body fat during this season. There are no swimsuits to sport, no cute summer dresses to don, and there won’t be for at least four months. The resolutions of nine-or-so months ago are nearing their expiration date. It is the perfect time for pecan bars. April, on the other hand, maybe not so much.

But plunging forward… the first step in this recipe is making the crust. Sift flour and powdered sugar together, then cut in a stick and a half of room-temp butter. This is only the beginning of the butter. Oh yes. Press the crumbly dough into the bottom and sides of a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Now this is interesting. When I took the crust out of the oven, it was still rather flour-ey. And the clumps of butter had browned. Not sure if this is what we were going for… but on to the filling.

Heat brown sugar, honey, mo’ butta, and whipping cream until boiling. Then add in chopped pecans and pour into cooled crust.

Bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, then let dessert cool completely before cutting. (Well that’s what the directions say, anyway. Who are we kidding?) Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Verdict: The filling was predictably yummy, and I like that this recipe does not include corn syrup, like so many pecan pie recipes do. The smell coming out of the oven was extremely intoxicating, in that way that butter-laden desserts often are. We put it outside into the cold night air so we could cut it that much sooner! I was not a fan of this crust, however. It is very, VERY hard, a bit too dry and a bit too thick in relation to the filling, which is thinner and less gooey than pecan pie filling. Some of the flour never seemed to fully incorporate into the butter. Adding some cold water might have helped to bind it together, but if I make this again, I will probably look for another kind of crust recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together flour and powdered sugar. Cut in 3/4 cup softened butter using a pastry blender or fork just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pat mixture on bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of a lightly greased 9×13-inch baking dish.

Bake crust for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool.

While the crust is cooling, bring brown sugar, honey, 2/3 cup butter and whipping cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in pecans and pour hot filling into prepared crust.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Cool completely before cutting into 2-inch squares.

Makes about 28 squares.
Recipe from Judy Russell, Birmingham, AL as seen in Southern Living, Nov. 2004.