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    Entries in epicness (10)

    Tuesday
    Feb192013

    Three layers of square

    These are some seriously exotic treats.

    From that far away land called Canada.

    Nanaimo is a small city (city, lol) on the south part of Vancouver Island. As a place, it's a bit of a crap hole. It's got a cute little downtown harbour, and backs onto a large temperate forest, but it's also got pulp mills. You do not want to ever wake up to that smell. A musician friend of mine from Nanaimo would always play a cover of "Dirty Old Town" by the Pogues while he was on the road because it reminded him of home.

    Really, the only claim to fame of this odd little place is a dessert created by a woman who lived there. And it's become such a part of the food culture of Canada that these are ever present at holiday dinners. Every xmas spread has at least one plate of these. Thanksgiving too. Easter, even.

    And everyone has their own special little variation. This is mine. It's the best one. Is too.

    Nanaimo Bars

     

    Layer 1

    • 1/2 c butter
    • 1/4 c sugar
    • 1/3 c cocoa
    • 1 egg
    • 2 c graham cracker crumbs
    • 1-1/2 c unsweetened coconut (I prefer shredded for the texture)
    • 1 tsp vanilla

    Layer 2

    • 1/4 c butter (unsalted, has to be)
    • 2-1/2 tbsp Bird's custard powder (more on that later)
    • 3 tbsp cream
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 2 c icing sugar

    Layer 3

    • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
    • 1 tbsp butter

    Yes, it's a lot of stuff, and a lot of layers, but each one has to spend time chilling in the fridge, so you can do them piecemeal, adding the next layer whenever you get a few minutes to spend on them. I suspect that's why they're such a holiday thing.

    The base:

    Melt the butter in a medium sized pot. Mix the sugar and cocoa together.

    You don't have to do that; you could dump them in individually, but I find that the sugar crystals help to break up the clumps in the cocoa.

    Whisk these together, and then break the egg into a small bowl, and whisk it. With the pot over low heat, whisk as you slowly pour the beaten egg into the cocoa mixture. Whisk, whisk, whisk.

    You don't want to cook the egg, just get it to set, like in a custard. Keep whisking for a few minutes until it thickens. Beautiful, glossy, dark, chocolately stuff.

    Once it looks like that, take it off the heat and dump in the crumbs, the coconut, and the vanilla. You'll need a spoon to stir this part. You'll also be able to find any chunks of graham cracker that didn't get busted up in the food processor.

    It will be crumbly, but it will stick together in large clumps.

    Press it into a 9x9 pan, buttered and lined with an overhang of parchment (you'll need that to help get them out). You want this part evenly distributed and well packed. Hands are the only way to do it.

    Now, cover the pan and put it in the fridge.

    Find something else to do for an hour.

    Yes, an hour.

    I'm sure you can find some means of entertaining yourself. I mean, it's not like you have to set a timer or anything, just make sure that it's firm before you spread on the next layer.

    The filling:

    It has to be unsalted butter (no salt, seriously) that is room temperature soft. Whip it up in a bowl for a few minutes.

    Then add the cream, the vanilla, and the custard powder.

    If you don't know what custard powder is, you will need to learn. I've seen recipes that say you can substitute vanilla pudding powder here, but you can't. No. You will have to go find some Bird's. It's in every grocery store I've ever been to in Canada, but if you can't find it in yours, you may have to look for an English import store. It is a UK thing, limey as limes, and it makes the tastiest non-Newtonian fluid around.

    It also gives the middle it's characteristic soft buttery colour.

    Add the 2 cups of icing sugar about 1/3 of a cup at a time, beating it well after every addition.

    Recipe Guy's house has power tools!

    At the end you want something firm enough to hold its shape, but soft enough to spread around.

    All your base are covered in frosting.

    And then back in the fridge it goes.

    Seriously, you could take a week to make this and it wouldn't know the difference.

    Once the middle is firm, usually only half an hour later, start the topping.

    The chocolate:

    Get a small pot of water up to a simmer and put the chocolate and butter into a small bowl. Bowl, meet pot. You, stir.

    mmmm... chocolate.

    Pour it onto the creamy filling and spread it around.

    Fridge!

    But only for about 15 minutes. For this one, you should set a timer. You want the chocolate set enough that you can cut it, but not hard enough that it will break when you try. My way of telling: you can touch it gently and not leave a fingerprint, but press on it and make one.

    With a very thin sharp knife, cut it into squares. Wipe off the knife after each cut.

    Yes, I just cut the contents of a 9x9 pan into 30 pieces. These things are rich and when they're small you can eat more of them.

    Let them firm up completely before you try prying them out of the pan. The parchment helps.

    Artfully arranged on a platter, or left in the pan with a fork for self-service, these things will disappear fast and everyone will complain that you're trying to kill them with rich delicious sweetness. Yes, the filling of these is basically half an inch of thick buttercream icing, but no one held you down and forced 7 of them into your mouth.

    What's your favourite layered dessert?

     

    Tuesday
    Sep182012

    Once upon a time

    in Mexico.

    A dude named Roberto Rodriguez decided he wanted to make movies (okay, no, it wasn't Mexico, it was Texas, but that didn't work with the titles). And he made some awesome flicks. Low budget, strong characters, bizarre and yet entirely believable plotlines... including, in one, a scene in which one character kills another because he made his dinner too good.

    I'm not kidding.

    Killed him right there in the kitchen as he stood over the stove.

    Brilliant.

    Wanna know what he made?

    Puerco Pibil

    according to Roberto Rodruiguez (srsly, watch the video)

    What you need:

    • 5 tbsp annatto, aka achiote, seeds (or about 3 tbsp pre-ground, which is what I used)
    • 2 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tbsp peppercorns
    • 8 whole allspice seeds
    • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
    • 2 hatch, anaheim, or poblano chiles (or habanero if you're feeling spicy)
    • 1/2 cup orange juice
    • 1/4 cup white vinegar
    • 1/4 c white wine vinegar
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 8 cloves garlic
    • juice of 4 limes (or lemons, or some combination thereof)
    • 2 oz tequila (or jalapeno wine, or some other booze that you like to have with mexican food)
    • 5 lb of pork butt (also known as shoulder)

    What you gotta do:

    Grind the spices in a coffee grinder, or do it old school in a mortar and pestle.

    Combine everything else, except the pork, in the food processor and whiz until it's nice and liquidy. No chunks allowed!

    Dump the ground up spices into the food processor and use it to mix them in. Annatto is one of those fabulous spices that's often used as a natural food colour. The Kashi granola bars I bought last week have "annatto colour" listed as the last ingredient. And holy crap, no kidding. This dish would just not be the same without it.

    Okay, so, I left out the lime juice so I could get a nice pic of something being poured into something else. This recipe is apparently a little too easy. I had to add steps so I could make food porn.

    Chop the butt into 1-2 inch chunks. You can trim some of the fat from the meat if you want to, but you don't have to.

    Mix the pork butt into the fabulous saucey marinade.

    Um, there wasn't room in the fridge for the giant bowl, so I transferred everything to a 9 x 13 pan. You're going to cook the whole thing, marinade and all, so you may as well let it marinate in that pan.

    Let the pork marinate for at least a few hours or as much as a whole day. This is one of those dishes you can put together at night, and toss into the crock pot in the morning. In fact, I think next time I make it, I'll use the crock pot just to prove it.

    If you really want to, you can line your baking dish with banana leaves first. If you can find them. Mine were in the frozen section, but if your regular grocery doesn't have them, try an Asian market. Apparently they can be plentiful in groceries that specialize in Thai food...

    I didn't do the leaf thing. I just covered mine completely and tightly with a double layer of heavy duty foil. You want to keep as much moisture in as possible. You aren't roasting so much as you are stewing in the oven.

    After about 4 hours at 250F it's absolutely fork tender. Falls apart when you try to stab it.

    Now, if you can resist temptation, let this sit in the fridge overnight again.

    Apparently, there are people in Recipe Guy's house who can't resist temptation.

    Shred the meat with a couple forks and stir it into the fabulous spiced juices.

    Serve over rice, and top with tomatoes and cilantro.

    What movie recipe would you like to see made??