French Silk Pie

This old bake-off recipe from the “Ice Box Pie” category is a Southern favorite. It’s basically a chocolate mousse in a crust, and it’s an absolute bitch to make, but so damn worth it.

Use an oiled glass pie pan. Drape crust over a rolling pin and ease it into the pan without stretching. Gradually work the crust firmly against the sides and bottom. Moisten your fingers and fill in the cracks. It helps to pop it into the freezer for five minutes or so to keep it from slumping down the sides. Generously prick the crust on the bottom and sides to prevent bubbling, and line the inner edges with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake the crust for 10 minutes at 300 with the foil, remove the foil and return to the oven to brown.

Whip a cup of heavy cream to stiff peaks, cover, and chill. Melt 8 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate (I use a glass bowl in the microwave). Stir until smooth and set aside. Add 3 eggs, ¾ cup sugar, and a couple of tablespoons of water to glass bowl. Beat with an electric mixer 5 minutes, until pale yellow and thick. Place this bowl over a smaller pot of simmering water and cook, whisking continually, until the mixture is hot through and through. Remove from heat and continue beating until cooled and fluffy. (This might take up to 10 minutes because you want some serious fluff.) Add the melted chocolate, 2 teaspoons vanilla, a stick of very soft butter, and beat until very smooth. Now carefully blend in the whipped cream, just until you have a more or less even color; don’t over-mix.

Pour mixture into crust and spread evenly. Top with another half cup of whipped cream sweetened with a quarter cup powdered sugar and a teaspoon vanilla (or almond) extract.  Spread over chocolate filling. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours.

Brabant Potatoes

This old New Orleans side dish is different from most pan potato recipes such as hash or fritters which usually call for waxy potatoes. This one uses starchy white/baking potatoes, and the result is a pan full of golden cubes with a crunchy crust and a fluffy center.

The recipe for Brabant potatoes in The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook (1901) doesn’t include garlic, but most contemporary recipes do. And by the way, Brabant is a region in the Low Countries; how this Crescent City side came by the name is unknown. New Orleans is city of mystery.

For four servings, peel and dice two large russet potatoes. Place in a colander and rinse until the water runs clear to get rid of the surface starch. Dry thoroughly between paper towels. Heat about a half inch of vegetable oil in a skillet. I don’t recommend olive oil because it has a lower burn, and you want the oil hot to fry the cubes. Stir the potatoes vigorously, and once the cubes are uniformly brown, drain the oil, add about a quarter stick butter and two finely minced cloves of garlic, and toss potatoes to coat. Salt and pepper before serving. Top with chopped parsley and/or scallions.

World’s Best Slutty Brownies

Preheat oven to 350. Cream two sticks softened butter with a cup of granulated sugar and a half cup light brown sugar until well-blended. Beat in 2 large eggs and a tablespoon vanilla extract. Separately, add a teaspoon baking soda and a teaspoon salt to 2 ½ cups flour,  blend into the butter/eggs, along with 2 cups chocolate chips to make a dough. Line a 9×13 baking dish with foil, coat generously with cooking spray, and mash the cookie dough onto it. Add a layer of Double Stuffed Oreos. Top with a brownie batter made with a family size box of good brownie mix. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for an additional 15-25 minutes. Cool completely before cutting. And yes, slackers, you can use store-bought chocolate cookie dough. But it won’t be as good.

Steak for Two

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, the country was overrun with “Continental-style” restaurants offering Naugahyde banquettes, white table cloths, and tony, bastardzied Euro/American menus. One of these retro-glam dishes was steak Diane, a wonderful dish for two.

Use 2 6 oz. slices of tender beef, season with a smidgen of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper, dust with flour, and sauté in butter with two finely-diced shallots and a small clove of garlic to taste. Set the meat aside. Working quickly, add a half stick butter to the pan, a hefty tablespoon of prepared mustard, and 2 cups sliced mushrooms. When cooked down,  add heavy cream, reduce, and stir in enough stock to make a smooth sauce. Spoon over beef, and serve with a lot of love.

Squash Pizza Crust

This recipe from Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook has a wonderful texture and flavor. Though the original recipe called for just zucchini, any squash will do. The crust can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen. You can either line a pizza pan or casserole with the crust or bake smaller crusts on a cookie sheet.  Add this one to your cookbook. It’s good!

Use 2 cups grated squash to one egg (the original calls for a 1:1 squash/egg ratio, but that’s a little much). Squeeze the liquid out of the squash; add the eggs and mix well with a good slug of olive oil, a half cup each grated mozzarella and Parmesan, and a little grated onion along with enough plain flour to make sticky dough. I like to use a little more Parmesan for a somewhat drier mix and add chopped mild peppers. Season with, salt, pepper, and a little basil and thyme. I do not recommend using rosemary as in the original recipe; it’s just not right. Roll out and shape with a twisted edge. Bake in a medium hot oven (375-400) for about 40 minutes, or until nicely browned. Brush with olive oil before cooling.

You can use whatever toppings you like, but I forego meats out of respect for Molly, this said for your consideration as well. Go lightly on the tomato sauce, since too much will make the crust soggy. Bake in a hot oven.

Pepper Lime Pork Chops

Trim fat from bone-in center cut chops, brush with (in this order) lime juice, corn oil, and freshly-ground black pepper. Let these sit for a while, then broil or grill until well seared. Do not overcook. Good with black beans.