Monthly Archives: November 2007

Sweet Thanksgiving – Chocolate-Pecan-Bourbon Pie

Just look at this beauty. It is my contribution to a Thanksgiving feast to which I’ve been invited. A chocolate-pecan pie with a healthy dose of bourbon. The original recipe was given to me by a former roommate from college. Over the years, I’ve tweaked it and adapted the ingredients until I think it is fool-proof and a little bit more like me. It is a great dessert to bring to share for any dinner.

This pie is a bit rich, and made even more so by the optional addition of whipped cream at the end. It is always completely devoured at any dinner to which I’ve brought it, no matter in what city or country I’ve lived. I’m bringing it to what another former roommate had years ago termed an “Orphans’ Thanksgiving.” This is just a roundup of friends, co-workers and associates who would not have anywhere else to go to share a meal with which to celebrate the holiday.

When talking on pre-Turkey Day catch-up calls with a few friends, we all agreed that these get-togethers of assorted folks that we’ve all been at in past years were some of the most enjoyable meals that we have shared. It somehow really captures the essence and spirit of the holiday, not to be sappy about it or anything, to bring people around a table to share a dinner to which everyone contributed something.

Having it as a potluck, with each person chipping in to feed the others, is somewhat similar to what we are told happened between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. I’m sure that they didn’t bring this particular dessert, pecans and bourbon being a bit more Southern, but I like to think that they served something sweet that day. Pie just seems integrally linked to this holiday.

Chocolate-Pecan-Bourbon Pie
Serves: Depends on how much you like pie (at least 8)
Total prep time: 15-20 minutes with an additional 45 for baking

1 prepared pie shell (use your favorite recipe)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
3-4 Tablespoons bourbon
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3.5 ounce bar of semi-sweet (70% cocoa) chocolate, broken into small pieces

Melt butter and set aside to cool. Beat eggs, gradually add sugar and beat until pale. Pour in bourbon and incorporate fully. Add melted butter a little at a time and whisk completely.

Add cornstarch. Whisk again. Sprinkle in salt. Fold in chopped pecans and chocolate pieces. Blend thoroughly. Pour into prepared pie crust and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 Centigrade / Gas Mark 4) for 45 to 50 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Allow to cool and serve room temperature or just slightly warm. This pie can be transported cold and then warmed up (not reheated). It can also be made a day or a morning ahead of time and refrigerated until warmed up for serving.

Buon appetito e buona festa!

Kitchen Witch Tip:

That serrated knife that you have in your drawer? Guess what. Its jagged edge is the perfect tool for cutting up nuts and hacking up a bar of chocolate into small enough pieces for baking into this pie. Don’t overlook it just because it is normally kept safe for slicing up bread.

I just thought that another view of this was necessary!

Goat’s Cheese Salad

As a friend pointed out to me recently, on a topic having nothing to do with food, it is rare to get a hit right out of the park on the first shot. Recipes are much the same way. Even the best-written, best-tested ones might not work the same way in every kitchen or in every cook’s hands.

America’s Test Kitchen’s recipes are thoroughly tested and vetted. I really enjoy watching the methodology behind their process as they demonstrate it on their PBS show. Their magazine also makes a good read, but I confess that I haven’t really used many of their recipes. This same friend had, however, strongly recommended their Fall 2007 issue very highly so I decided to buy it.

Among the recipes included in the magazine was one that has been my nemesis in the past: Goat’s Cheese Salad. While I think I followed the instructions to the letter, I’m not sure that my results came out as well as those of the testers. Still, I think that it was a good first try.

When the goat’s cheese rounds came out of the oven and were gently laid upon a nest of fresh Greenmarket lettuces, they didn’t look so bad. The melba toast crust and baking them in an oven made a huge difference from my previous attempts at a similar recipe in which I coated them in breadcrumbs and pan fried them. These held their shape and, upon the first bite, they were delicately creamy and not at all chalky. This recipe is going to go in my “keeper” file.

Buon appetito!

Fall into Apples – Apple Crumble with Custard

Fall has been a bit late in coming to New York this year. The humidity and higher temperatures of late summer seem to have stuck around for at least a month longer that usual. This is one of my favorite seasons. The biggest impact has been that my internal food clock has also been thrown off and the foods that I normally would indulge in haven’t been very appealing to me.That has all started to change in the past couple of weeks which means that I’ve started to tackle my seasonal recipe repertoire. One of the dishes that brings back great, warm memories of my time living in England (where winter-like weather can linger for months and months without ever really snowing), is Apple Crumble with Custard. Tart apples baked until soft and sweet covered with a cookie-cakey topping, drenched in creamy, rich custard. This is what got me through many a rainy weekend day in London.

From time to time, I also get a craving for it on this side of the Atlantic, but I’ve never replicated it. For one thing, Bramleys, THE British baking apple aren’t available here. For another, I always feel as though I can’t get the topping just right. When I made the fig tarts a few weeks ago, I had a little more than a cup of filling left over.

As I’d enjoyed its flavor, I decided to use the extra filling, with a few adjustments, as the crumble topping. It came out perfectly. With a recommendation on some great baking apples from a vendor at the Greenmarket, I was soon in business and on my way to making a nice, new memory for those cold, dreary days in my current home city.


Apple Crumble

Serves: 6-8
Prep time:
15 minutes plus 30 for baking

5 Jonagold apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 teaspoon sugar
Leftover filling from fig tart recipe (see previous post)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour

Mix together filling and flour, using fork or pastry cutter to combine until mixture resembles thick paste or clay. Toss sliced apples with with orange juice and sugar and layer in baking dish. Top with filling mixture to cover apples entirely.

Put baking tray under dish to catch any run-off juices and place in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove when crust is golden brown. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.


Serves: 3-4
Prep Time: 20 minutes

2 egg yolks (if using organic, the custard will be more yellow-colored)
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar looks like it has dissolved a bit. Place bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk together for 1-2 minutes more but do not let it turn into scrambled eggs. Begin to add cream a tablespoon at a time. Continue to whisk to combine.

Mixture will look as though it is still the consistency of the cream but will, after a few minutes, start to thicken. Do not allow water in pan underneath to get to a raging boil. It should continue to simmer to gently heat the custard and to thicken it gradually. Remove bowl with custard mixture from the top of the pan when it becomes very thick but it still liquidy.

Add vanilla extra and stir in thoroughly. Pour over apple crumble.

Yum, Apple Crumble with Custard

Buon appetito!