Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Cooking in the Nude 'For Playful Adults'" & "The Joy of Chocolate" - Beef Balls a la Bourgignon and Black Bottom Pie

Date I made these recipes: February 14, 2009 (Valentine’s Day)

Cooking in the Nude “For Playful Gourmets” by Debbie & Stephen Cornwell (Note: This is part of a series. There’s Cooking in the Nude, For Men Only, Cooking in the Nude, Quickies, and Cooking in the Nude, For Women Only – who knew?!)
Published by: Wellton Books
© 1981
Recipe: Beef Balls a la Bourgignon – p. 39

The Joy of Chocolate by Judith Olney
Published by: Barron’s
© 1982
Recipe: Black Bottom Pie – p. 90

To be clear: just because the name of the cookbook I used was Cooking in the Nude “For Playful Gourmets” doesn’t mean that one (okay me) had to be nude at the time. I mean, it’s February, for god’s sake, and there was no way in hell I was going to be anything but fully-clothed. As it is, I am still fighting off a cold/virus/”thing” from a month ago and so leaving myself open to catching a chill was not in the cards. Had I cooked from this book in the summer, I might have worn a bathing suit, “might” being the operative word. (But I doubt it.)

And so fully-clothed, I set out to cook from this cookbook to make my husband a Valentine’s Day dinner. And I must say, his eyebrows rose to sea-level heights when I told him I selected a dish called “Beef Balls a la Bourgignon” (this was their spelling) but he went along with it. He didn’t even snicker, as I did, about the dessert—Black Bottom Pie – but then my mind was already tuned in to romance (or in the gutter, take your pick).

As to the recipes, the beef balls were tasty if not overdone and the pie was good but a tad too sweet for my tastes. My recommendation with the meatballs is to not to over-brown them (I believe this was the start of my problems) and to keep the flame (and by “flame” I’m referring to the stove-top, not your romantic flame) ridiculously low so as not to create tennis balls where no tennis balls were intended.

As to the pie, I should have waited a day to make this thing as it took longer than I anticipated and our big, romantic day was almost over by the time we ate. First we realized that we forgot to buy semi-sweet chocolate squares so Andy had to run to the grocery store. Then I dropped the bowl of piecrust on the floor and of course it shattered into a million pieces (like my heart) and I had to start all over again. And then I waited a bit too long to pull the custard mixture out of the refrigerator and so our filling was a little lumpy. Add to that the fact that we had to whip cream and then whip eggs whites using my one and only Kitchen Aid and I was more than a little irritated. But Andy helped me out and we got the pie in the refrigerator and the beef balls on a plate and we watched a movie and all was right with the world.

Given that I’m a planner from way back, I’ve already decided on next year’s menu: “Reservations!”

Note: I found Cooking in the Nude on Of course, as soon as I died laughing at the title, I just had to order it!

Beef Balls a la Bourgignon – Serving size not indicated but I'd say 4 small portions
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 t. salt
¼ t. pepper
1 t. fines herbes
½ t. marjoram
¼ t. rosemary
1 T. butter (trust me on this, you will need a lot of butter to prevent your pan from scorching)
3 T. brandy
½ lb small whole mushrooms
½ lb small white onions, peeled
2 T. flour
½ cup canned beef broth
1 cup Burgundy (or other red wine)
½ cup Port
2 T. tomato paste
1 bay leaf

Step one: 20 minutes. Thoroughly mix meat and seasonings (salt, pepper, herbes, marjoram and rosemary). Shape into 1” balls and brown evenly in butter. (As previously mentioned, don’t over brown these things or they will be too rubbery).

Step two: 4 minutes. Heat the 3 T. brandy in a small pan, pour over beef and ignite. When flame dies, remove beef to bowl. (Note: either I had the worst matches in the world or the brandy wasn’t hot enough but I couldn’t get the thing to light and so I just let it burn off…and then helped myself to a little snort of it in consolation).

Step three: 10 minutes. Add more butter to your pan (this isn’t in the recipe, but trust me on this). Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté 5 minutes, then remove to a bowl. Repeat process with onions (including adding more butter) and remove.

Step four: 30 minutes. The recipe says to stir the flour into the drippings but I didn’t have much in the way of drippings (despite all the butter I used) so I added the beef broth first and then whisked in the flour; same effect, just a better procedure. Add the rest of the liquids slowly and blend well. Add the remaining ingredients (the tomato paste and bay leaf) and stir until thickened. Simmer 8 minutes. Add beef, onions and mushrooms. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over buttered noodles tossed with parsley.

Black Bottom Pie – Serves 8
1 ½ cups vanilla wafer crumbs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely grated (Oh my god, is this messy to do, or what?!)
1 T unflavored gelatin (Note: one packet is equal to one tablespoon so why she didn’t just say so is beyond me…)
¼ cup cold water
2 whole eggs plus 2 yolks (reserve the whites)
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch salt
1 ½ cups half n’ half
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light or dark rum (Note: Andy and I both re-read this recipe three times and no where does it say what to do with the rum so we decided to add it at the end. You might also try drinking it; your choice.)
Whipped cream and chocolate shavings for garnish.

Preheat the oven to 350.

To make the crust, combine wafer crumbs, butter, ginger, and vanilla. Mix with your fingertips until blended, then press into a 9-inch pie dish. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and immediately scatter the grated chocolate over the bottom of the shell. Smooth with the back of a spoon and leave to cool. (Note: pressing too hard with the spoon will cause your crust to start lifting up, leaving quite the mess. I recommend spreading the chocolate once and once only and then calling it a day.)

To make the filling, soften the gelatin in the water and set aside. Beat the egg yolks until very thick. Add ½ cup of the sugar, the cornstarch and the salt.

Place the half ‘n half and chocolate in a small pan and stir until the chocolate melts. Pour the hot milk slowly into the egg yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the heat and whisk until smooth and medium thick. Off the heat, add the gelatin and stir until it dissolves into the custard. Cover and place in refrigerator until the gelatin just begins to set.

Okay, I must pause here to tell you about one of my major pet peeves with recipes: incomplete instructions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t run around my house with the number of minutes it takes for gelatin to set on my mind and so thank goodness I had a Jell-O cookbook at my disposal. For the record, the time the Jell-O people says it takes for gelatin to begin to set is 2 hours; for best results, I’d say pull it from the refrigerator after an hour and a half.

Whip the cream. Beat the egg whites until they begin to thicken, then slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and continue beating until thick and glossy but not stiff. Gently stir the custard and half the cream together and then fold in the beaten whites. Pour the mixture into the crust and refrigerate until firm. Top with the remaining whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

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