Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Bacon And Garlic

I have just finished a round of CocoaRoar for Thanksgiving, and seven hundred truffles later, I’m happily catching my breath with a pre-holiday cranberry-ginger daiquiri. When friends come to my apartment to pick up their orders, they’re greeted by the sight of large containers filled with truffles and multiple 6-pound bags of Valrhona chocolate pieces. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked how I keep from gorging on chocolate all day. But the weird thing is that while I’ve been surrounded by an obscene amount of chocolate this past week, the foods I’ve been most hungry for are cruciferous vegetables. More specifically, I’ve had wicked cravings for Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon And Garlic.

I think Brussels sprouts often get a bad rap, unjustifiably so. I’ve never had an issue with Brussels sprouts, but maybe I just love miniature things, especially baby vegetables. These always look like adorable tiny cabbages to me.

Perhaps my cheerful relationship with Brussels sprouts evolved naturally because my initial introduction to them occurred when they happened to be roasted with some bacon. I am absolutely convinced that you can make anything taste better with bacon. Everyone knows that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Salted Caramel Ice Cream (With or Without Smoke)

I am obsessed with salted caramel these days. I don’t see anything wrong with that, for I can think of far worse things to have on my brain.

Caramel can be cloying on its own, due to its high sugar content, but I love the way a healthy pinch of sea salt tempers the sweetness and enhances the flavor. I’m gearing up for a Thanksgiving round of CocoaRoar truffles featuring my Caramel & Sea Salt truffle, and I’m excited for an excuse to make these again. These bittersweet salty caramel delights are a major favorite among my CocoaRoar customers, and already this truffle is the best seller among the flavors I’m offering this round. I wrote about this divine little bonbon in my first month of Kitchen Fiddler and this salted caramel truffle post still makes me salivate, even two years later.

I made a Salted Caramel Ice Cream earlier this fall, in which I used an alderwood-smoked salt. It seemed like a really good idea at the time, but it was mighty powerful and not for the faint of heart. My little vial of smoked salt was a gift from someone whose presence in my life is exciting but somewhat perplexing, so I suppose it’s highly appropriate that this smoky salt’s effect in the ice cream was equally intense and bewildering.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Black Pearl Cake

Allow me to introduce you to The Black Pearl Cake. Isn’t it a beauty?

I was not a kid who wanted the same cake for her birthday each year. From the age of ten, I began using my birthday as an opportunity to try out the most elaborate and decadent new dessert to catch my eye in the previous months, but I have people in my life who make the same annual request when it comes to their birthday cake. Jorge has eyes only for my Frozen Ginger Key Lime Pie every year since he first encountered it several years ago, and Rob will have no other birthday carrot cake than mine. Cenovia, who appreciates a great black-and-white in all forms (cake, cookie, milkshake, cat, etc.), has proven consistent in asking for my Black Pearl Cake for several years in a row. I was more than happy to oblige this request for her birthday dinner last week.

This particular study in black-and-white is inspired by one of the exotic chocolate bars from Vosges Chocolates. Their popular Black Pearl Bar is 55% bittersweet chocolate that gets its kick from both ginger and wasabi plus a little crunch from black sesame seeds. This flavor combination doesn’t strike me as unusual now, having experienced chocolate paired with all sorts of wild ingredients over the years, but it seemed very daring when I first made its acquaintance in 2003.