Sunday, April 28, 2013

First Harvest Mint Makes Strawberry-Mint Pandowdy

The fits of spring over the past few weeks have finally turned into a steady beautiful warmish sunny season, and the first harvest is in—I’ve got tufts of chives, a few parsley that overwintered, and lots and lots of 2-4” mint sprigs.

Mint just grows thicker when you cut it back, so early picking is good for fresh taste and full season bounty. And at this point in the season, I’m always discovering the few things left at the bottom of my freezer that I overdid a little last year. To my great delight, several bags of frozen strawberries were hiding under yet another batch of green beans. So strawberry-mint delight it is. Strawberries, especially if they’ve been frozen, tend to be so juicy that they make soggy, runny pies, but cover them with a thick slightly sweet biscuit crust and you get what I think is officially called pandowdy, which soaks up some of the juice into the bottom of the biscuit as you bake, and delightfully sops up any soupiness that’s left to run around on your plate. Mint and strawberry are as wonderful in dessert as they are in drink – this would be the perfect end to a meal that started with strawberry-mint daiquiris or mint juleps garnished with frozen strawberries (although Dave's Moonshine Manhattans were pretty fantastic as well).

Strawberry-Mint Pandowdy
4 cups frozen chopped strawberries
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
1 T lemon juice
½ cup sugar
1 T corn starch

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 T baking powder
5 T cold butter
1 cup milk

Mix together filling ingredients in a large bowl.

Pour into a round or square baking dish (the kind you’d make a casserole in)

In a separate bowl, mix the topping.  Start by mixing together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Cut cold butter into the mixture using a pastry cutter or two knives in a cross-cut pattern, until the butter is in pea-size pieces, roughly. Pour in milk all at once and stir.

Drop topping in ¼ cup-size blobs over filling to roughly cover, but do not spread out at all and do leave a few holes and dont' worry if a few pieces sink in. 

Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes.

Serve immediately or let cool for up to 3 hours and serve warm or at room temperature. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Coconut Flan with Two Sauces

I've been planning for about four years now to really learn how to make Thai food.  The farthest I've actually gotten in executing this plan is buying lots of cocount milk.  It's not seasonal or local in any way.  But combine it with local eggs and milk from Sherman Market and strawberries that I froze last spring, it makes it into the "mostly local" category. 

Coconut Flan
This recipe is based on the Flan recipe from the first Gourmet cookbook, with all sorts of changes.

3/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 13-oz cans coconut milk
1 cup milk
5 eggs
5 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325. 

Get out a loaf pan.  Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup eater in a saucepan and cook over moderate heat until sugar is dissolved.  Bring to aboal and boil, stirring occasionally, until syrup begins to turn golden, 5-10 minutes.  Continue to boil, swirling pan, until caramel is deep golden-brown, about 2 minutes more, then immediately pour into loaf pan and tils to coat bottom and 1/2 inch up sides.  Let caramel harden.

Bring cocount milk and cream to a bare simmer in a saucepan over moderate heat.

Meanwhile, bring a full teapot to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk togeth eggs, yolks, salt, and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a large bowl.  Add hot coconut milk mixutre in a slow stream, whisking constantly, then stir in vanilla extract.  Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into loaf pan and cover pan with a double layer of foil. 

Put loaf pan in a larger baking pan and pour enough boiling water into baking pan to reach halfway up sides of loaf pan.  Bake 1 1/2 hours.  Remove loaf pan from water, remove foil, and cool completely on a rack.  You can serve it once it's cool, but it's much easier to work with if you can then loosely wrap in plastic foil and refrigerate at least 3 hours. 

Run a thin knife around sides of loaf pan, invert a platter over pan, and invert flan onto platter.  Serve with tureens of sauce to be ladeled over individual slices.

Strawberry Sauce
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 heaping tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup sugar

1. Place berries in a small pan and slowly defrost over low heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so. When completely defrosted, mash with a potato masher until mostly smooth but still a little lumpy.

Raise heat to medium and continue heating until starting to simmer.

Add vanilla paste and sugar. You may need more sugar, depending on personal taste. Reduce to medium low and cook another ten minutes to meld flavors, stirring frequently.

Alternatively, fresh berries can be used. If so, cut berries in half and add a little water to pan to start. Stir and mash as you heat. Then continue with step 2.

Mango Sauce
1 cup fresh or frozen 1/2" mango chunks
1 tsp. almond extract
1 T butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes.