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Beach Food – JUNE/JULY 2016

Beach Food – JUNE/JULY 2016

By Marcelle Bienvenu

When friends called to invite me and my husband to join them at their beach house at Grayton Beach, Florida, I didn’t have to think about it. I was packing before I ended the phone call. Two other couples would also be joining us and I was ready for some fun in the sun. I dug out my swimsuits, beach towels, beach chairs and umbrella. I stuffed some shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops into my bag and ordered my husband to do the same. Our hosts did ask us to bring food and I’m always at the ready when it comes to packing foodstuffs for a week at the beach. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but at the same time fast food doesn’t appeal to me either, so I always have a plan. I try to eliminate too many trips to the supermarket and too much time getting meals together. Most of my repertoire includes casseroles or one-pot dishes, which I can prepare ahead of time, freeze, then pack them in ice chests. Then when mealtime rolls around, all we have to do is throw together a salad of mixed greens or fresh fruit, heat up a French bread and chow down. Desserts can be as simple as ice-cold watermelons, popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, store-bought cookies, or pound cake topped with fresh berries. Voila! Here are a few suggestions that have always been popular with our family and friends.

SPAGHETTI SUPREME

Makes 12 servings 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 pounds lean ground beef 2 cups chopped onions 1 cup chopped bell peppers 1 cup chopped celery 1 tablespoon chopped garlic 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste 2 (1-pound) cans whole tomatoes, mashed with can liquid 2 (7-ounce) cans sliced mushrooms with can liquid 1/3 cup dry red wine Salt and cayenne to taste 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves 1 pound angel hair pasta, cooked and drained 1/2 pound grated Cheddar cheese 1/2 pound grated American cheese 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring often, until all pink disappears. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they are very soft, about six to eight minutes. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomatoes, mushrooms, and red wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Add the oregano and basil. Simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally. To assemble, lay about one-third of the pasta on the bottom of a large casserole dish. Spread one-third of the tomato evenly over the pasta. Then sprinkle with one-third of the Cheddar, American and Parmesan. Repeat the process until all of the pasta, sauce and cheese is used. The casserole can be frozen at this point. When ready to serve, thaw the casserole. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly and hot throughout. This next recipe is a south Louisiana version of goulash. It’s similar to the previous recipe, but no one seems to tire of this kind of food on vacation trips. Do what I do. Serve the spaghetti recipe early in the week and the goulash at the end of it. I guarantee no one will complain. Oh, by the way, this recipe makes enough to serve about 20. You can freeze the goulash in two casseroles (one to take with you and one to use another time), or simply cut the recipe in half. You can also pack the mixture into quart-size freezer containers to make it easier to stash in the ice chests.

MY FRIEND MIL’S GOULASH

Makes about 20 servings 5 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 1/2 pounds lean ground pork 2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef 3 cups chopped onions 2 cups chopped bell peppers 1 tablespoon chopped garlic 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves 1/2 cup chopped green onions 3 (10 3/4-ounce) cans tomato soup, undiluted 1 (10-ounce) can Ro-tel tomatoes 2 (7-ounce) cans sliced mushrooms, with can liquid Salt and cayenne 1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed 2 1/2 (14-ounce) packages (#4) spaghetti, broken into 3 to 4 inch pieces (cooked and drained) Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven medium heat. Add the pork and beef and cook until all pink has disappeared. Drain off any excess fat. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, parsley and green onions. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until very soft. Add the tomato soup, the tomatoes, and the mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Cook, uncovered, for one hour. Stir in the cheese and cook until it has completely melted. Add the spaghetti and mix well. Pour into casserole dishes. The goulash can be frozen at this point. When ready to serve, thaw and bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven until bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes. If you like Mex-Tex food, try this casserole. Accompany it with avocado slices drizzled with a little olive oil and fresh lime juice and seasoned with a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

MEXI-CHICKEN CASSEROLE

Makes about 8 servings 1 1/2 cups chopped onions 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped 2 cups cooked chopped chicken 1/2 cup chicken broth 2 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon dried oregano Pinch or two of cayenne (to taste) 6 corn tortillas, cut into fourths 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese Cook the onions in the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about five minutes, or until tender. Add the tomatoes, chicken, broth, chili powder, salt, ground cumin, oregano and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Layer half of the chicken mixture in the bottom of a lightly oiled baking dish. Then layer half of the tortillas and cheese over the chicken mixture. Make another layer of chicken and another of the tortillas. The casserole can be frozen at this point. When ready to serve, thaw and bake, covered, in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake an additional five minutes.

Here’s a couple more ideas that friends have given me:

Make ahead two or three meat loafs (use your favorite recipe), bake and freeze. Pack them up in the ice chest and at your destination, thaw, and slice. They’re ideal for making sandwiches and po-boys for lunch. Too, you can always pick up a couple of bags of pre-packed salad greens. At the same time, purchase some sliced Swiss and Cheddar cheese, sliced ham and turkey. Then everyone can make their own chef’s salad. Now, my piece de resistance, usually saved for the last night of this last fling, is to cook steaks– -big filets or rib-eyes. Broil them in the oven if a grill is not available. Accompany them with baked potatoes and a tossed green salad.

Memorial Day Recipes

Memorial Day Marks the Beginning of Summer

By Marcelle Bienvenu When I was a child, I eagerly awaited Memorial Day for it unofficially marked the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. For years, the entire student body of our small Catholic school was bussed to the Evangeline State Park (now a commemorative area) for an all-day picnic with box lunches, baseball and volleyball tournaments, climaxed at the end of the day with cold watermelons that were packed on ice in galvanized tubs. During my teenage years, the program changed. Then, the day began with Papa taking the family to the local cemetery where we hunted for the tombs marked with military insignia so that we could pray for the brave men and women who had defended our country. In the afternoon, relatives and friends gathered in our large backyard for hot dogs, hamburgers, and all the trimmings. Years later, when Memorial Day extended to the three-day long holiday, the entire family headed out for the camp on Catahoula Lake where the activities ranged from water skiing to bicycle rides along the levee glorious with wild clover and buttercups. There were fish-fries, seafood boils, barbecues, and lots of homemade ice cream to keep up our energy. Alas, this year the family will not be together as my sister and brothers are heading out in different directions with their children and grandchildren. My husband Rock and I will be shoving off for a four-day stint on the white sand beaches of Florida with friends. But be assured, food will be an integral part of the holiday. Since there are no children involved, our menus need not include hot dogs, fried chicken, or hamburgers, although Rock says he has nothing against any of those food items. This comes from a man who adores pimiento cheese spread, bologna and Vienna sausage, and who claims he’s never met a food he didn’t like. I like to say “if you make it, he will eat it” no matter what it is. Since one of the couples who will be accompanying us have a fine home garden we will have an abundance of fresh produce that will likely include tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers and zucchini. We can scout around for fresh seafood markets and knowing our group, there will be plenty to eat. Here are some ideas for lunch and dinner that I’ve been rolling around in my brain.

CRABMEAT SALAD

Makes 4 to 6 servings 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 3 dashes hot sauce 3 tablespoons finely chopped celery 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions 1 tablespoon capers, drained 3 teaspoons finely chopped freshly parsley leaves 1/4 (about) cup mayonnaise 2 teaspoons Creole mustard Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Serve in halved avocados or stuff in garden-fresh tomatoes for a cooling lunch.

SALADE NICOISE

Makes about 6 servings 4 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced l medium green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into rings 2 (6 1/2-ounce) cans good-quality tuna 4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered 2 cups cold, blanched green beans 4 radishes, thinly sliced 1/2 cup Nicoise or Mediterranean-type olives (or black or green olives) 6-8 anchovy filets 1 tablespoons finely chopped chives or green onions Extra-virgin olive oil Freshly ground black pepper Divide each ingredient into 4 equal parts, then arrange them on 4 salad plates. I layer then in the order listed. Then drizzle with olive oil and season with the pepper. Put the salads in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to cool before serving.  

BARBECUED SHRIMP

Makes 4 to 6 servings 6 pounds large shrimp, heads on (don’t peel them) 2 sticks butter 3/4 cups olive oil 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce juice of three lemons 1 teaspoon garlic powder 2 teaspoons paprika 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste) 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco® (or more, according to taste) 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves 1 teaspoon oregano leaves Rinse the shrimp in cool water and drain. Spread the shrimp in a large shallow baking pan. In a saucepan, melt butter, then add the rest ofthe ingredients. Mix well. Pour sauce over shrimp and marinate for one hour. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir a couple of times with a spatula. Do not overcook. Serve in a soup bowl with lots of hot French bread to sop up the sauce. Be sure to have some trays around on which to put shells and such. Be forewarned – this can only be eaten with your hands.  

SHRIMP SCAMPI

Makes about 6 servings 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 (8-ounce) package of linguini or angel hair pasta 8 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup butter or margarine, melted 1 cup white wine 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pinch of two of black pepper 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley Cook the linguini or angel hair pasta, drain and set aside. In a large skillet, cook the garlic in the butter or margarine. Add the wine and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for about five minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Season with salt and cayenne and black pepper. Spoon this mixture over the pasta. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. This recipe was a favorite of my mother’s and we continue to enjoy it, especially during the summer when fresh crabmeat is available.  

CRAB CHOPS

Makes 6 servings 3 tablespoons butter 3 green onions, chopped (green and white parts) 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 cup milk 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage 20 saltine crackers, finely crumbled 1 egg, lightly beaten ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon cayenne 1/8 teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce Cracker meal or bread crumbs for dredging Butter and vegetable oil for frying Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about one minute. Alternate adding the flour and milk, stirring constantly to make a smooth thick white sauce. Remove from the heat. Add the crabmeat, saltine cracker crumbs, egg, salt, cayenne and Tabasco. Gently mix together and set aside to cool completely. (If you wish, you can chill the mixture in the refrigerator.) Gently shape into six patties. Dredge them in the cracker meal or bread crumbs, coating completely and evenly. Put about one-half inch of equal parts of butter and vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Fry the patties two to three minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with tartar sauce

MARCH/APRIL 2016

By Marcelle Bienvenu The weather is getting warmer. The azaleas are about to pop out. The days are getting longer. AND the crawfish season is in full swing. LIFE IS GOOD After stormy weather moved through and the skies cleared, I took off in my old Jeep to investigate the crawfish ponds in rural St.Martin Parish. At my first stop near the Atchafalaya Basin, a crawfisherman greeted me waving a large crawfish. “It looks like we’re going to have a good crop this year,” he smiled gleefully. He handed me the wiggling crawfish and I gave it a once-over. The crawfish is almost a perfect miniature of a lobster, and an old Cajun tale explains why. The lobster and the Acadians that lived in what is now Nova Scotia in Canada resided happily together until 1755.  It was in that fateful year that the British cruelly expelled the Acadians from their beloved Acadie and they wandered for years searching for a home, some finally settling in the bayous of southern Louisiana.  The lobsters yearned for their French friends and set out off across the country to find them.  The journey south was so long and arduous that they began to shrink in size.  By the time they arrived in south Louisiana, they were only miniatures of their former selves.  And the story continues…although they had shrunk, the flavor had intensified.  To celebrate their reunion, the fun-loving Acadians created many crawfish dishes—etouffees, stews, pies—to honor their long-lost friends. About this time of year I’m ready to cook up some of my favorite crawfish dishes.  Of course, a big Crawfish boil is in order, but I also have several other recipes in my repertoire that I want to share with you. My personal favorite is a crawfish etouffee served on a bed of rice and accompanied by a tossed green salad dressed with a tangy vinaigrette.  My husband is a fan of crawfish cornbread.  My sister always opts for crawfish pie while Baby Brother Bruce likes his crawfish with shrimp and pasta. If you can’t choose just one, heck, make them all.  Be sure to have lots of hot crusty French bread, cold beer and soft drinks on hand, and maybe a lemon pie or lemon bars for a refreshing dessert. CRAWFISH ETOUFFEE Makes 4 to 6 servings 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter 2 cups chopped yellow onions 1 cup chopped green bell peppers 1/2 cup chopped celery 2 pounds peeled crawfish tails 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour dissolved in ¾ cup water Salt and cayenne to taste 2 tablespoon chopped green onions 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves Cooked long-grain rice for serving Heat the butter over medium heat in a large, heavy pot.  Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery, and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the crawfish and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to throw off a little liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and water mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes.  Season with salt and cayenne.  Remove from the heat.  Add the green onions and parsley.  Serve in bowls over rice. CRAWFISH CORNBREAD Makes 8 to 10 servings 2 large eggs 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup chopped yellow onions ½ cup vegetable oil 1 cup yellow cornmeal 1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese ¼ cup chopped pickled jalapenos 1 cup cream-style corn 1 pound peeled crawfish tails, coarsely chopped Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking pan. Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake a greased baking pan and bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for several minutes before cutting into squares to serve. CRAWFISH PIE Makes 6 servings 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter 1 cup chopped onions 1/2 cup chopped bell peppers 1/4 cup chopped celery 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon cayenne 1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes 1 pound crawfish tails 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1/2 cup water 2 tablespoons chopped green onions 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 1 (9-inch) pie crust Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, bell peppers and celery, and cook, stirring until the vegetables are soft and golden, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add the salt, cayenne and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes.  Add the crawfish tails and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and add to the pan.  Stir for about two to three minutes, or until the mixture thickens.  Add the green onions and parsley and stir to mix.  Remove from the heat and cool for about 30 minutes. Pour the crawfish mixture into the pie crust.  Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the edges of the pie crust are golden.  Cool for several minutes before cutting into wedges to serve. SHRIMP AND CRAWFISH FETTUCCINI Makes about 12 servings 3 sticks butter 3 cups chopped onions 2 cups chopped green bell peppers 1 cup chopped celery 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp peeled and deveined 1 1/2 pounds peeled crawfish tails 2 cups half-and-half 1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeno peppers 2 teaspoons chopped garlic Salt and cayenne 1 pound fettuccini, cooked and drained 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese Melt the butter in a heavy, large Dutch oven on medium heat.  Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until they are wilted and lightly golden. Add the flour and stir to mix.  Cook, stirring often, for two to three minutes.  Add the parsley, shrimp and crawfish.  Cook, stirring often, for about five minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink. Add the half-and-half, cheese, jalapeno peppers and garlic.  Stir until the cheese is completely melted and the mixture thickens, about five minutes.  Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Arrange the fettuccini in a three-quart casserole and pour the seafood mixture evenly over it.  Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the mixture bubbles. My father always claimed that a lemon dessert is a winner after a seafood meal, so here’s an easy and delicious cookie to satisfy your sweet tooth. LEMON BARS Makes about 40 squares 1 stick butter, melted 1/4 cup powdered sugar 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 2 large eggs 1 cup granulated sugar 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the butter, powdered sugar and one cup of the flour in a bowl.  Mix well.  Press this mixture into the bottom of a 9×9-inch baking pan.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden.  Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. In another bowl, beat the eggs until light in color.  Add the granulated sugar, the remaining two tablespoons flour, the baking powder and the lemon juice.  Mix well.  Spread this mixture over the crust and bake for 30 minutes more. Remove and let cool before cutting into squares.

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

By Marcelle Bienvenu

Don’t forget your Valentine!

Mardi Gras is early this year (February 9) and everyone in south Louisiana is in a frenzy with parades, balls, King Cake parties, and general merriment. Some may not realize that Valentine’s Day is coming up and may not remember to make plans for dinner with that special someone.

Not to worry. I have some ideas for you (gentlemen or ladies) to prepare for the love of your life. Several years ago, a friend (or perhaps it was a foe) presented me with the book DEATH BY CHOCOLATE by Marcel Desulniers (Simon & Schuster Editions) for my birthday. Although I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, I remember trying several of the recipes and did almost pass on, albeit happily, into the Great Beyond. Thankfully, my husband rescued me by eating whatever I had left on the plate.

The same friend, three years ago, gave me another of Marcel’s (I guess she liked his name and thought it was cute since it’s the male version of my name) books, DEATH BY CHOCOLATE COOKIES (Simon & Schuster Editions). I almost hurled it at her, but graciously thanked her and tucked it on a shelf where I couldn’t reach it easily.

But lo and behold, I came across it a few days ago when searching for an idea for a Valentine’s dessert to prepare for my beloved. Leafing through the book, I almost ate the pages. The photographs were what my husband calls “culinary eroticism.”

Get ready to rattle some pots and pans, we’re going to make some delicious Valentine treats for you AND your Sweetie! Or, hey invite your buddies over to share!

CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE

Makes 10 to 12 servings

24 chocolate wafers

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

8 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons powdered cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crush the wafers in a blender. Combine the crushed wafers, the butter and cinnamon and press the mixture in the bottom of a 9-inch springfrom pan. Buckle the sides on. Chill for one hour. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until it has completely melted and smooth. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until it is fluffy and smooth. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the melted chocolate, cocoa and vanilla and blend thoroughly. Add the sour cream and blend well.

Pour the mixture into the springform pan. Bake for about one hour and 10 minutes. The cake will be slightly soft. Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 6 hours. Decorate the top of the cake with chocolate shavings. Tip: Using a vegetable peeler, shave the sides of a chilled chocolate block. The shavings will fall from the block.

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE-CHIP COOKIES

Makes about 4 ½ dozen

12 ounces semisweet chocolate morsels

2 sticks butter or margarine, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

1 large egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt one cup of the chocolate morsels in a heavy saucepan over low heat, reserving the remaining morsels. Set the melted morsels aside.

Beat the butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add one cup of the sugar, beating well. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and mix well. Add the melted chocolate morsels, mixing until blended.

Combine the flour and the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture, mixing well. Stir in the remaining chocolate morsels.

Roll the dough into balls, one tablespoon at a time. Roll the balls in the remaining one-half cup sugar. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets and bake for eight to 10 minutes. The cookies will be soft but will firm up as they cool.

Cool on wire racks.

COCONUT-ALMOND CHOCOLATE CHIPPERS

Makes 4 to 5 dozen

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 stick butter, softened

1 stick margarine, softened

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 ½ cups buttermilk biscuit mix

2 ½ cups quick-cooking oats

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups shredded coconut

2 cups large semisweet chocolate chips

1 ½ cups slivered almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugars, butter and margarine until creamy, about three minutes.

Add the eggs, milk, honey and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir together the biscuit mix, oats and salt. Add to the sugar mixture and mix on low speed until blended. Add the coconut, chocolate chips and almonds. Mix on low speed to combine.

Chill the dough for at least one hour. Place teaspoonfuls of dough two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake until just slightly soft and moist, 10 to 13 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool on cookie sheet for five minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE PUDDING

Makes about 4 servings

2 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lightly whipped cream

In a heavy saucepan, combine two cups of the milk, one-fourth cup of the sugar and the salt. Bring to a boil over moderate heat. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, cocoa and the remaining one-fourth cup sugar until blended. Whisk in the remaining one-fourth cup milk until smooth. Whisk the cocoa mixture into the milk in the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about five minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the whole egg and the egg yolks, slowly whisk in about one cup of the hot cocoa. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and just begins to boil, about two minutes.

Strain the pudding into a medium-size bowl. Add the chocolate, butter and vanilla, whisking until the chocolate and butter are melted and the pudding is smooth, about two minutes. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming and let cool. Refrigerate until set, about 45 minutes. Serve chilled with the whipped cream and cookies.


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