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Monday, September 10, 2007

Summer's Last Take

I had my Farewell Summer dinner party this weekend. Kevin said it's going to be our last party for a while. I agree. It's not just because summer is pretty much over and the farmstand bounty will soon dry up. It's that my Summer of Food has left me a bit burnt out. I've had enough heavy cooking for a while.

The Menu:
Pappa Al Pomodoro (made with farmstand tomatoes)
Pork Medallions with Peach Sauce (with farmstand peaches)
Fresh Corn Pudding (Farmstand corn)
Black Bottom Pie

I left most of these recipes as is. I substituted some of the chicken broth in the pork recipe with Riesling (about a half cup) and used fresh sage. My tip for this recipe is that if you're going to double it as I did, don't double the number of peaches you use. Maybe add one or two more, but eight is overdoing it.

The pie was the interesting part. This was a recipe of my own invention because I haven't been happy with most of the black bottom pie recipes I was finding online. I decided to make my layers traditional chocolate pastry cream and panna cotta.

First I made a very rich crust that used both butter and shortening. The recipe was for a 10" pie. My pan was 9.5". I'm not sure if the size was the issue, or if it was simply my stupidity. In any case, I was blind baking the crust and couldn't easily find anything to weight the crust with. I've baked many a crust in my lifetime without weights, so I figured I could skip it this time around.

Karma came and bit my butt because my crust, despite multiple prickings, shrank horribly! It shrank back so much that there was no way it could hold the amount of filling I had to put into it. I ended up dumping it. Too bad too. It was nice and flaky and yummy. I baked a new one and this time managed to dig some rice out of the cupboard to weight it. Lesson learned. I did have a little bit of a low part on one side of the crust. This is going to be key later.

I didn't look all that hard for a chocolate pastry cream recipe. I used the first one I came across, which was this one. I liked it well enough, but it really was a bit too sweet. It also made a ton of pudding. The pie is gone, but I still have lots of leftover pudding to snack on. I also don't get why the recipe says to add the vanilla when you melt the chocolate. I can't believe a seasoned chef like Emeril would do such a thing. I added my vanilla at the end with the butter as one should do when making a pastry cream.

I used this recipe for my panna cotta. Giada seems to make a lot of panna cotta desserts, so her recipe seemed to be the smartest one to use. I tweaked it with a tablespoon or two of rum, whose flavor never came through.

The second stupid part of the day came when I was adding the panna cotta to the pie. I waited until it cooled to room temperature and then poured it on top of the pie. That was the stupid part. I poured it. Remember that low side of the crust? Well, the panna cotta spilled over it and under the pie. Now my lower crust was extra-soggy. If I ever do this again, I will gently spoon the panna cotta over the pie. Due to the spillage, my panna cotta layer was really rather thin. It didn't set up as well as I had hoped it would either. I think that's because the gelatin was giving me problems early on, or maybe the rum was too much liquid.

I could not keep food from falling out of my cabinets the entire weekend. I lost a bottle of soy souce and a bottle of peppercorns. Pausing to clean up those messes made the whole weekend a bit more stressful.

Dinner was a success despite the mishaps. People ate and enjoyed the pie even if it wasn't quite as solid as it should have been. We had four bottles of wine for the 6 of us, and that always makes the meal go smoothly.

I think I'm going to limit experiments now that fall is here. I have a busier schedule at work, and my dance classes have started for the season. I think I probably won't be baking weekly. My coworkers will be so unhappy with that.

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