Chocopalooza 2011

December 30th, 2011 by veronica

Every year we go a little crazy.

Chocolate crazy.

But this year went a little farther than usual.

If I want to blame someone for the madness, I could blame our friend Aaron who started it all four years ago when he enticed us into his chocolatey trade. Or I could blame Chris for upping the ante with his homebrew chocolate tempering machine and his eleventh hour ganache innovations.

But I know that I really only have myself to blame. Every year, I look forward to our chocolate extravaganza and make up lists of new ganaches to try. I buy out all the cute little candy boxes at the Decorette Shop. I let my kitchen get taken over and I’m the one saying, “We can do just one more round, right?”

It’s crazy and it’s messy, but it’s also creative and exciting. And it results in a really lovely gift that we can share with our friends and family. Even though every year I swear I’ll never make — or eat — chocolates again, I’ll always come back for more because, really, it’s a great time. Plus, the aftermath of the chocopacalypse gives me a good excuse to give the kitchen one of the few deep cleans it’ll receive all year.

So without further ado, I give you: Chocopalooza, 2011!


click on a picture to see it larger

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Giving Thanks, part 3

December 8th, 2011 by veronica

Our third and final Thanksgiving dinner was at the home of the Molloys, just a week after the real T-Day. Darcy outdid herself with a beautiful pancetta-wrapped roast and other guests contributed all kinds of traditional yummy side dishes. I’ve been making the same side dish to bring to all of these dinners and it’s consistently a hit, always requested over and over again. Of course, it’s the simplest, easiest thing to make: roasted squash. Want a recipe? Here you go: slice squash, drizzle with salt and oil, roast at 435 for 15 minutes. Done. If you want to get fancy, sprinkle some sage over the top.

squash
delicata

pork
beautiful pork roast with a halo of pancetta

pudding
Darcy’s fab cacao nib bread pudding

Whew! what a dinner! Now that our Thanksgiving dinners are over, we can start preparing for the onslaught of December holiday dinners — bring it on!

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Giving thanks, part 2

December 3rd, 2011 by veronica

Our second Thanksgiving dinner of the season was at the home of friends of ours. One of them is a doctor and was scheduled to work all day Thanksgiving so they decided to postpone dinner a couple days and invited some friends and family over. And who wouldn’t accept an invitation to an extra holiday dinner?

They had the turkey covered this time so I focused on dessert. I skipped out on making desserts for our own T-day dinner so I looked forward to the opportunity to work on a few pie recipes I’d been eyeing. I made two pies: one was Linda Padia’s award-winning Himalayan Blackberry Pie and a Maple Hazelnut Pie. Okay, so blackberries aren’t very autumnal nor are they really T-day traditional, but it was a special request and, really, I’d be happy to eat this pie any time of year.

Both turned out really well. I was experimenting a bit with the crusts. For the blackberry pie, I used chilled vodka for my liquid instead of water. I understand that this is supposed to make the pastry flakier by preventing gluten formation. IT also keeps the dough colder when you’re working it. In the Hazelnut Pie, I used half butter, half lard from the lard I rendered from Drusilla the Pig earlier this summer. Again, lard is supposed to make for a flakier crust, though I’m not exactly sure of the science behind it.

In any case, both crusts turned out wonderfully well. But the lard crust I thought was especially good — so tender and flaky and with a little extra flavor. It wasn’t porky, really, which was something I was afraid of, but it just had a little extra umami oomph, especially against the nuts and maple syrup. Next experiment? Vodka AND lard. How do you like that?

Follow the links for the recipes, and here are the pics:

blackberry pie
Himalayan Blackberry Pie

maple hazelnut pie
Maple Hazelnut Pie

spread
A mere fraction of the whole T-Day II spread

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