Saturday, August 9, 2008

Adventures in Cookery - Salsa & Pudding

Thanks to our wonderful friends Meagan and Leo, we got to participate in an Adventure - in Cookery. They designed a evening game that is very Seattle: ask multiple sets of people over to dinner, requesting they bring an ingredient. Any ingredient. You can choose to bring a supportive ingredient, something easy like eggs or milk, or a particularly difficult one, like pie crust or durian. Pairs are cruelly separated at the door, and forced to be on a team without their mate/partner/friend.

We misunderstood the intent, however. We understood that each pair of people brings the same ingredient, and the cruel separation is so that the two teams can compete, each trying to outdo the other with the same list of ingredients. On the contrary, the divisive cruelty was only intended to ensure people mingled with people they didn't know, and both people were allowed to bring a different ingredient.

Even in misunderstanding the rules of the game, we both had a blast - we were, indeed, cruelly separated onto different teams, both armed with our secret ingredient: fresh corn from the Madrona farmer's market. The two teams of four people made very different dishes, one a dinner and the other a dessert, but both came out wonderfully. Pat's team had a lentil pilaf with artichoke hearts, plated beautifully as a formed round on a bed of steamed Swiss chard, topped with a single blackberry. It was accompanied by a colorful salsa of blackberry, mint and fresh corn. Tanya's team made a sweet baked egg custard, made with acorn squash, roasted orange and yellow peppers, and roasted fresh corn kernels. The pudding was drizzled with a spiced chocolate sauce and a roasted red pepper coulis, garnished with caramelized squash rings.

While the food wasn't exactly balanced or perfect, it was a great start for truly thought-out yummy dishes to serve anywhere. Given the constraints of the game, we both were impressed with how random people were able to work together to make a spectacular show dinner. Both teams had something we want to make again, with tweaks and improvements, so here's what we remember.

Squash and Pepper Baked Custard
(serves 12-14 easily)
  • 1 yellow acorn squash, steamed and flesh scraped out of shell
  • 1 yellow and 1 orange pepper, roasted on a low-temp grill till charred & skins removed
  • 2 ears bicolor corn, roasted until thoroughly blackened on the same grill, and kernels separated (not cut) from the cob
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk (*note: the custard was a bit runny - maybe reduce this by 1/2 cup next time)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Boiling water
Squash Ring Garnish
  • 1 long squash
  • dark brown sugar
  • sea salt
Red Pepper Coulis
  • 1 roasted red pepper, blackened with the other peppers on a low-temp grill and skin removed
  • cider vinegar
  • chopped onion
Spiced Chocolate Sauce
  • 1/2 bag Nestle chocolate chips
  • half and half
  • bourbon
  • 1 tsp Ethiopian hot pepper mix
*To make the custard
  1. Puree the squash, yellow and orange peppers until smooth in a food processor.
  2. Add the brown sugar and process to combine.
  3. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs.
  5. Add the milk and vanilla and whisk until well combined, but not foamy.
  6. Whisk a small amount of egg mixture into the squash puree until combined. Repeat with larger amounts until squash is fairly soupy, then put it all into the egg mixture and stir.
  7. Pour the custard base into either lots of ramekins or a large Pyrex baking dish, and place them into a larger Pyrex dish.
  8. Fill the larger dish with boiling water, up to 1/3 of the way up the dishes.
  9. Bake in a CONVECTION oven at 300oF for about 1 hour, until pudding is set.
  10. Cool slightly before serving. (We did this by replacing the water in the lower Pyrex dish with
  11. slightly cooler water, letting the pudding equilibrate slightly, then repeating twice.)
*To make the squash round garnish
  1. Slice the long squash thinly crosswise into rounds, removing seeds, and steam or parboil just until tender.
  2. Lay flat onto a baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle with brown sugar and sea salt.
  4. After the pudding is done, broil until the rounds are caramelized, about 4 minutes.
*To make the red pepper coulis
  1. Put all ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Cook in a saute pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Cool, and reserve until serving.
*To make the spiced chocolate sauce
  1. Over a double boiler, melt chocolate chips and half and half.
  2. When melted, add bourbon.
  3. Whisk in more half and half as needed to thin, and add spice mix.
*To serve:
  1. Cut rounds of the pudding, one for each plate. (We did this with a spoon, crudely, but if the pudding has enough integrity you could use a cookie cutter and do it right.)
  2. Place one squash round on each plate, leaning up against the pudding round.
  3. Fill a ziploc sandwich or quart bag with the red pepper coulis, and make another for the chocolate sauce.
  4. Pinch one corner of the chocolate bag, and snip a very tiny bit off the corner.
  5. Using like a pastry bag, squeeze the chocolate in a thin drizzle attractively over the pudding and plate.
  6. Repeat for the coulis.
  7. Serve!

Corn-Blackberry Salsa
  • 2 ears fresh corn
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp minced onion
  • 1 tsp minced fresh mint
  • sugar, salt, and lemon juice to taste
Cut the kernels from the cob. Add blackberries and mint. Stir and adjust seasonings.

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