This has been a week of abysmal mistakes and abject failures, kitchen-wise.
There was the following, not in any particular order:
*The butternut squash salad with tahini dressing. It was probably my fault that it turned out smooshy and bitter and gross; I think I over-roasted the squash and I didn’t have cilantro and my tahini is ancient.
*The baked carrots were totally the fault of the author of the recipe book, though it might be my fault for choosing to make something out of a cookbook that is decades old and was published to promote the Troy-Bilt rototiller.
*The chocolate-filled puff tarts were ho-hum as was the upside-down apple tart. (Maybe I’m getting picky?)
*The purple cabbage with apples needed a number of changes but wasn’t good enough to entice me to make it again.
*The honey cakes—oh, the honey cakes!—the eight little loaves hadn’t been in the oven but for five minutes when I spied the little glass of premeasured spices sitting on the counter. For that mistake I almost cried, and then I threatened to drink five bottles of hard lemonade (but I didn’t). Miss Beccaboo came in and sat down on the edge of the sofa where I had hurled my beleaguered body and said, “Everyone has bad times,” and then she draped her little self over mine in a giant hug.
*The red lentil coconut curry. I bought red lentils with the express purpose of making this curry, but then, after I had already spent ample time chopping and sauteeing, I discovered that the can of coconut milk sitting on the shelf in the back hall was actually a can of coconut cream. I called Mr. Handsome and wailed my sob story into his eardrum. He, under my frantic direction, petitioned Coworker Sam for coconut milk (they were working at Sam’s house) and Sam found some and Mr. Handsome ran it home to me. But I didn’t have any cabbage for the curry and I forgot to chop the kale that I was using as a substitute and then I didn’t add the kale early enough so it didn’t get sufficiently tender, and all in all, it was rather disappointing (albeit nourishing).
*The Spanish rice (that I made last week, but while I’m on a roll I might as well tell everything) that never got all the way soft and I made my family eat it anyway.
(It wasn’t just in the kitchen that I was having problems. Last night I hopped into the shower and started to wet my wash cloth, but I noticed it felt funny, light and smooth and thin. I wiped the water out of my eyes and looked down. I was holding my pair of clean panties, still folded but wet. I had grabbed them off the floor where I had tossed my pile of post-shower clothes. I am losing it, I tell you, losing it.)
The chickens, at least, ate extra well this week.
This morning I woke up determined to have a kitchen success. I intended to make several new recipes (I don’t know when to call it quits, do I?), but just in case the apple chutney, pumpkin cream, and mashed potato cakes flopped, I would also make some pots de crème. I had made these pots of spoonable chocolate before, but this time around I was going to use Baileys in place of the rum, so with that minor adaptation, it classified as an experiment.
As I anticipated, it was a flaming success all right.
My small jug of Baileys was nearly empty (bedtime toddies of spiked hot chocolate have a way of depleting the liquor cabinet), so when I went in to town last night to drop off Yo-Yo at a friend’s house and pick up a friend for Miss Beccaboo, I stopped at the ABC store. The girls followed me in (the friend’s mother had said it was okay for me to run by there—I wasn’t being irresponsible, I’ll have you know) and stood very still, taking care to keep their arms close to their sides and not touch anything because I had warned them against being spazzy.
Then this morning, while the kids were still finishing up their granola and corn chex and milk and dried strawberries and raisins and apple coffee cake and hot chocolate (it was just a hodge-podge breakfast, but written out like that it sounds rather impressive), I whipped up a blender full of the silky chocolate, along with several tablespoons of cream from the new jug of Baileys. I let the girls sniff the bottle’s contents and they were pleasantly surprised at how good it smelled.
And after lunch when I gave them each a little spoonful out of the test cup, they positively purred with pleasure. So, even though this is supposed to be an adult dessert, it’s not really, at least not according to the children’s tastebuds. Keep this in mind: if you are going to be serving this to an intergenerational group, make a couple sans spirits for the young’uns; otherwise, you may instigate a revolt of the tiny people.
Oh, and speaking of Baileys, I once knew this girl—still do, in fact—that went camping with her dread in-laws and before she would get out of her sleeping bag in the morning, her husband had to bring her a giant mug of coffee, a full half of which was Baileys. (That same husband also served my husband a mug of Baileys, but my husband fell asleep before he got to the bottom of the mug.)
I don’t think these pots de crème will make you fall asleep. They’re more likely to make you swoon in ecstasy and then tear your clothes off and run out of the house buck naked. (I just watched Like Water For Chocolate.)
And, for the record, I have never torn my clothes off and run outside naked.
At least not where pots de crème were involved.
Chocolate Pots de Crème
Adapted from Christmas from the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch, a book that the Langdons, family friends of ours, gifted to me eighteen whole years ago
As I already said, the original recipe calls for rum, but I found that to be too strong. I love the Baileys (as if that weren’t already clear) and I think you could up the amount—maybe to a total of five or six tablespoons—and still not overdo it, though I’m not sure how that would change the consistency. Also, you could substitute other liquors, such as Crème de Menthe, Amarula, or Kahlúa, or, if you don’t like alcohol, feel free to leave it out altogether.
If you prefer, use three-fourths cup of whole milk in place of the cream and milk.
Use your favorite chocolate; if you skimp on quality, the end result will suffer. I used 60 percent Ghirardelli chips, so I didn’t have to bother to chop them first.
½ cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
whipped cream, for garnish
In the jar of a blender, combine the egg, salt, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate. (I put the egg in first because I don’t want it to come into direct contact with the scalding milk.)
Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan just till it gets to the boiling point. With the blender running, carefully add the milk. Blend for about thirty seconds. Add the Baileys and blend briefly. Pour the chocolate into four or five of your smallest, funkiest dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly.
When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and top with whipped cream.
About One Year Ago: Feminism, part one