Smoked Salmon Quesadillas

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Back when I catered, I once created a quesadilla bar for a smallish party. It was a lot of work, with two skillets going, but the guests enjoyed choosing their custom ingredients and their ooey gooey appetizers.

If my memory serves, I had chicken, beef, and shrimp, peppers and onions, tomatoes and mangos, good cheeses, plus cilantro. There are just so many options with quesadillas.

On this blog I’ve posted on what I’d call traditional, southwestern-style quesadillas, which I’ve made a lot over the years, especially when my kids were home. I love serving them with both red and green salsas.

With flour tortillas that get extra crispy in butter, and all of the cheesy goodness inside, you hardly need anything else. But I do. And smoked salmon quesadillas are a perfect example of going beyond the traditional quesadilla.

Smoked Salmon Quesadillas
Makes 3 – 8″ quesadillas

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 ounces soft goat cheese like chèvre, at room temperature
1 generous tablespoon chopped chives
1 generous tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons olive oil or butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
6 – 8” flour tortillas
12 ounces grated mozzarella
6 ounces high quality smoked salmon
Butter, about 3 generous tablespoons

Mix together the cream cheese and goat cheese along with the chives and parsley until smooth. Don’t overstir.

In a 12” skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Remove the cooked shallots to a small bowl, and keep the skillet on the stove. Get out a lid that works with the skillet as well as a large metal spatula.

Set out a large cutting board for cutting the quesadillas, and a serving platter.

Spread the soft cheese on all 6 tortillas.


Then add the slices of smoked salmon to 3 “bottom” tortillas, and top the salmon with 1/3 of the cooked shallots on each of the 3 tortillas.

When ready to start cooking, have all of the tortillas, tops and bottoms, the grated mozzarella, and butter on hand. It’s best to be fully prepared.

Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter; some browning is good. Carefully place the bottom tortilla in the skillet, tortilla side down, then immediately add a generous amount of grated cheese, about 4 ounces per quesadilla, followed by the top tortilla (that only has the soft cheese spread on it.) Press gently on the quesadilla.

If the tortilla has crisped up golden on the bottom, carefully turn over the quesadilla using a heavy spatula. Press down on it with the spatula, then cover the skillet, turn down the heat and put on the lid.

The heat is lowered to allow the cheeses to melt thoroughly and the quesadilla to heat through.
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Carefully place the quesadilla to the cutting board. Add more butter to the skillet, turn up the heat, and repeat with the remaining 2 quesadillas.

Let the quesadillas rest for at least five minutes before cutting up like a pizza, using a long knife or pizza cutter, then layer onto a serving platter.

Cover with a clean towel to keep them warm, but keep it loose. You want to retain the crispiness of the tortillas, which is why it’s best to work fast.

As an appetizer, these will serve quite a few people; they’re quite rich.

Keep in mind that these alone are fabulous with a rosé or Prosecco, or better yet, a sparkling rosé!

And if you prefer, use raw shallots instead of sautéed. Even capers can be used in the quesadillas.

You can play with my version of these quesadillas, but I highly suggest you stick to my cheeses because they’re mild. You want to taste the luscious smoked salmon in these.

Quatre Quarts Gateau

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My mother, who just turned 91, has a scale that I used to love playing with as a child. I knew it wasn’t a toy, but I just liked weighing random items and gradually adding weights until both plates balanced perfectly. I was always nerdy.

Weighing ingredients makes so much more sense than measuring to me. I’d rather weight 4 ounces of chopped nuts, than use a measuring cup, especially with a critical ingredient.

In any case, the reason I mention this ancient scale (sorry Mom!) is because this cake recipe is based on one weight alone – the weight of eggs. There are four ingredients in this cake – eggs, butter, sugar, and flour, and the weight is the same for all four ingredients. The recipe is called Quatre Quarts, meaning four quarters.

These days, digital scales make weighing ingredients a breeze. So I’m making this cake using my small kitchen scale, just like in the “old” days! It brought back wonderful memories of my mother making the cake over the years.

Quatre Quarts Gateau

4 eggs
Unsalted Butter
Sugar
Flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 F.   Butter and flour a deep 8 inch loaf pan. 

Weigh the eggs in a small bowl after you’ve removed the weight of the bowl. My eggs weighed 192 grams, or about 6.7 ounces.


Then weigh out the 192 grams of butter, sugar and flour.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan or microwave (carefully).   When it begins to melt, remove it from the heat and let it cool. 

Using an electric hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes in a medium mixing bowl.

Add the flour and mix just until it’s incorporated. I also added some vanilla powder.

Then add the cooled butter. Using a rubber spatula, make sure the batter is smooth.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 300 degrees F and the timer to 45 minutes.

Turn off the oven completely and set a timer for 10 minutes.

The cake should be cooked through the middle; I always use a cake tester to make sure. But if you see a puddle of soft cake in the middle, don’t even bother opening your oven to test the cake. It needs more time.

There should be some slight browning around the edges, but not much. Remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Then remove the cake from the loaf pan and let it cool on a rack.

You can tell the cake texture is much like a pound cake. If you prefer a lighter texture, separate the eggs and after the egg yolks have been well blended with the sugar and butter and after the flour is combined, fold in beaten egg whites.

Note: There are other options for flavoring other than vanilla extract or powder or even scraped vanilla beans. You can use an extract like sweet orange oil or lemon zest. But I wouldn’t add a liqueur or anything volume of something liquid that will offset the ratio of the ingredients.

This cake is very delicate in flavor. I’ve never toasted it but I bet that would be good, with some added butter of course.

It’s perfect for an afternoon tea-time snack, a morning treat with coffee, or even an sweet evening nibble with a glass of sherry.

Peru

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My husband and I recently returned from a vacation to five countries in South America. We were the most excited about Peru, because Machu Piccu has been a “bucket list” destination for what seems like an eternity.

There wasn’t one thing about Peru that wasn’t beautiful, delicious, and memorable. Except for their dog situation, but I’m leaving that off of the blog.

Machu Piccu was everything we knew it would be. But we also fell in love with the country and its beautiful people. Here are a few photos from Peru.

In anticipation of this trip, my daughters gifted me a cookbook for Christmas, entitled Peru, by Gaston Acurio, published in 2015.

There is a significant population of Italians in Peru, so some of the cuisine has a definite Italian flair to it. In fact, the recipe I’m making for this post is a pasta dish with chicken.

“The chicken is cooked slowly in the tomato sauce, which gives it a distinctive taste, and the addition of Huancaina sauce gives it a Creole touch.”

Two unique foods, at least to me, are used in this recipe. One is panca chile paste, and the other is Huancaina sauce. Panca chile paste smells exactly like ancho chile paste. Huancaina sauce is magical. It’s made with cream, queso fresco, and amarillo chile peppers.

In the future I’ll make Huancaina Sauce myself using Ali Amarillo pasta that I’ve found on Amazon. It’s unlikely I can find the actual yellow chile peppers.

Pasta with Chicken and Tomato Sauce
Tallarines Rojos con Pollo

1/2 ounce dried mushrooms, any variety
4 ounces vegetable oil
4 pounds chicken, cut into 8 pieces (I cubed chicken breasts)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and grated
2 carrots, grated (mine were too coarsely grated)
2 tablespoons Panca Chili Paste
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable broth
2 1/4 pound linguine
1/2 ounce butter
Salt, Pepper

To serve
8 ounces Huancaina Sauce
2 ounces Parmesan cheese

Soak the dried mushrooms in a little warm water for 15 minutes. Drain.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add to the pan, and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.


Add another 3 tablespoons oil to the pan, add the onion and garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes over low heat until the onions have started to soften. Season with salt and pepper and add the tomatoes, carrots, chili paste, bay leaf, and soaked and drained mushrooms. Cook for another 5 minutes, then add the browned chicken pieces and vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the mixture has reduced to a thick sauce.

Meanwhile, boil the pasta in a separate pan in plenty of salted water according to the package instructions until al denote. Drain and transfer to a shallow pan, add the butter and a little of the pasta sauce, and mix together well.

Divide the pasta between plates and spoon over the remaining sauce.

Serve with Huancaina sauce and Parmesan cheese.

This recipe is outstanding.

I could drink the Huancaina sauce. But I wont…

The panca chile paste taste similar to ancho chile paste. It supplied a deep-flavored richness to the sauce.

After making all of the photos, I mixed the fettuccine with the chicken, sauce, and Huancaina sauce, and it was best to me like that. The flavors were all meant to be together.

Note: In the description of this dish, the term “Creole” is used. The cookbook has a recipe for Creole sauce, or Salsa Criolla, and it’s a purée of onion, a limo chile pepper, cilantro, lemon juice, and salt. So I don’t think Peruvian cuisine’s use of the term Creole has much to do with what we’re familiar with in the United States.

Sautéed Mushrooms

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I happen to adore mushrooms. But I remember the days when they appalled me, mostly because they tasted like dirt. Unfortunately, my mother picked a lot of mushrooms in her foraging days, and I missed out on all of that!

Fast forward a couple of decades and I’m now a proud mushroom lover. For the blog I’ve topped a warmed brie with sautéed mushrooms, prepared crepes filled with mushroom duxelles, added mushrooms to a savory bread pudding, and topped toasts with creamy mushrooms. They obviously can be used in so many ways.

Although I’m not much of a steak eater myself, I will enjoy one with my husband when I plan on topping the filet mignons with sautéed mushrooms. There is just something magical in that combination.

So much can be done with sautéed mushrooms, by using wine or cognac, bacon grease or duck fat, herbs, spices, demi-glace… and when you enjoy a perfectly cooked steak topped with perfectly cooked mushrooms you feel like you’re dining in a 5-star restaurant.


I buy whole mushrooms and peel them with a small knife before slicing. I don’t trust the pre-sliced variety.

Here’s what I do.

Sautéed Mushrooms
Enough for four steaks

4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper
2 – 3 shallots, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons cognac
1/2 cup flavorful broth mixed with
1 teaspoon beef demi-glace and warmed
1 – 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
Salt to taste

Place 3 tablespoons of butter in a hot skillet or wok over high heat. Add the mushroom slices and season with the garlic pepper. Stirring or flipping frequently, sauté them until browned. Using this high heat technique, much less fat is required and more browning occurs.

Remove the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside. This step can be done way ahead of cooking the steaks.

Meanwhile, prepare the steaks and place them on a rack to rest. Cover lightly with foil.

Add the remaining butter to the cast-iron skillet that the steaks were cooked in, and sauté the shallots gently, adjusting the heat accordingly. You don’t want too much caramelization.

Return the mushrooms to the skillet, along with any juices that might be in the bowl. Then over fairly high heat add the cognac and flambé the mushrooms. Shake the skillet gently until the flames subside.


At this point add the broth and demi-glace mixture. Stir well and let reduce a bit.

The mushrooms should be nice and glazed. Add the parsley, thyme, and season with white pepper, if using, and salt.

Serve immediately over filet mignons or your choice of steak.

You can use part wine and part stock if you prefer, and if you prefer garlic over shallots, use them, just don’t sauté them for more than 30 seconds.

If you don’t like the liquid, you can always quickly remove the mushrooms, add a little Wondra flour, and make a quick “gravy” with a whisk. I prefer the broth.

Furthermore, a little heavy cream or creme fraiche can be added for extra decadence!

Enjoy.

The Best Salmon Spread

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Another salmon spread? There are so many out there, and I even have a few on this blog, but I love salmon in all forms. What makes this spread different is that both grilled salmon and smoked salmon are used, and it’s served warm.

So it’s not just a cream cheese mixed with bits of smoked salmon, or rillettes, or a layered concoction. (All of which are wonderful!) It’s a warm, delightfully sensorally captivating salmon spread.

It’s not terribly pretty. In fact, it’s probably best used for canapés. But if you’re not serving the Queen of England, it’s perfect to serve alongside pumpernickel bread or crackers to normal folks.

Double Salmon Spread

3 tablespoons butter
10 ounces salmon filets
Old Bay seasoning
10 ounces smoked salmon (lox), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup drained small capers
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Chives or dill leaves, optional

Heat the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. A little browning of the butter is fine. Sprinkle salmon filets with Old Bay.


Add the filets to the skillet and sauté until barely opaque in the center, turning over halfway through cooking. Remove the skin if they aren’t skinless.

Using a spatula, flake the cooked salmon into bits that aren’t too small.

Meanwhile, weigh out the smoked salmon and chop it. Place in a mixing bowl.

Add the capers, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice.

Then stir in everything from the skillet, including the warm butter. Gently stir and combine the ingredients well. Taste for seasoning.

To serve as canapés, spread a generous amount of the salmon mixture on each toast, and top with a dill sprig or chopped chives.

If preferred, serve the dip in a bowl on a serving platter surrounded by your favorite toasts and crackers.


The most important thing with this spread is that it’s served warm. Then you really get all of the flavors from the cooked and smoked salmon.

If you’re not a big fan of the generous amounts of mayonnaise and sour cream, simple reduce the amounts to 1/3 cup each.

If I’d made this in the summer, I would have used fresh dill on top of the spread, but chives will have to suffice for now!

Searing

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There is one important cooking technique that is impossible in my home kitchen, and that is searing. I can get good browning, but in order to sear you need your skillet super hot over the highest flames. In order to prevent my smoke detector from going off, I must also use my ventilation system, which is at the back of the stove behind the burners.

When the vent is on at the highest suction position, it literally pulls the flames out-of-place. Sideways.

Highest flame without vent. The vent is on the right of this burner, and this is the front burner.

And with the vent on.

You can see on the left the flames are practically non-existent, the flames are horizontal to the right, and at the front of the photo they’re all over the place.

Searing colors the meat and creates flavor from caramelization. Searing is important to me because it’s an important first or final step when cooking meat Sous Vide. The Sous Vide does the cooking, so all that’s required is searing the outside, without further cooking.

So if you’re trying to sear with my situation, the meat must sit longer in the skillet waiting for a sear, actually cooking the meat more. And this is wrong and practically defeats the purpose of using the sous vide.

I may have a found a solution for this problem, when I was reading a book called Mastering the Art of Sous Vide Cooking, by Justice Stewart. The book was recommended by fellow Sous Vide aficionado, Conor Boffin, of the One Man’s Meat blog.

I purchased the Kindle version of the cookbook; I was less interested in photos and food styling, and more interested in Sous Vide times and temperatures.

But there it was, at the back of the book, a photo of a Searzall attachment, that is placed on a butane torch.

We all own the little butane kitchen torch, I think use mostly for caramelizing the tops of creme caramel. But have you noticed that nasty butane odor? For that reason, I haven’t used mine for years.

Here is the description of the one I ordered from Amazon.

This thing sears without cooking, and doesn’t have the “off-putting aroma often associated with blowtorches.” Problem solved!

The photo on the left shows an example of a little torch like most of us own, compared to my new one. And on the right, the butane torch with the small Searzall attachment.

So to test it out, I seasoned a 24 ounce piece of beef called London Broil, and cooked it in my sous vide machine for 7 hours at 130 degrees F.

When I was ready to sear the beef, I wiped off all of the liquid and some of the remnant seasoning, and brushed on a little oil. And then I seared away!

In case you’re not familiar with a London Broil, it’s wonderfully tender, and a perfect cut to sous vide and share.

That night I served it alongside hummus and a tomato salad.

Notice that beautiful seared outside!

I’m so excited about this searing technique. I’m going to try it on shrimp next!

Pasta Pane Vino

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Pasta Pane Vino is the name of a recently published book by Matt Goulding. I bought it immediately after hearing the author interviewed by Christopher Kimball on Milk Street Radio.

The book is subtitled – “deep travels through Italy’s food culture,” and he has written similar books on Spain and Japan. Matt Goulding is a James Beard award-winning author, and published this book with Anthony Bourdain. It came out a matter of days after the death of Anthony Bourdain, in fact.


The best part of the book to me was the correspondence Matt Goulding had with Anthony Bourdain – actual letters between the two discussing the prospect of yet another book on Italian food.

The book is more of a travelogue; it’s not a cookbook. In it you discover three brothers who became the burrata kings of Puglia. You discover the Barolo Boys who turned the hilly Piedmont into one of the world’s great wine regions. You meet some Italian nonne, some of whom are arguing about how to make ragu.

During the interview the author gave up some of his favorite, “secret” places to dine in Italy, so hopefully not everyone who buys this book turns these local spots into tourist stops!

Anyone planning a trip to Italy could certainly use this book for inspiration. It’s also good to know the “rules” of the culture, and this book contains some helpful information in the chapter “Drink Like an Italian.”

I’ve interspersed photos of my own from various regions of Italy. If you haven’t been, I strongly urge you to go.

GET WITH THE SCHEDULE
Italians are famously fastidious about when they drink what. Sunrise to 11 AM is cappuccino time, the early afternoon for espresso. Early evenings are for aperitifs – wine or beer, with snacks – and after dinner is time for the stronger stuff: grappa, a cocktail, or a digestivo.

LEARN THE LINGO
Order a “grande latte” and you’ll get a giant glass of milk and the skiing eye. Everything starts with espresso, more commonly called cafe. Order a roster to for a shorter, concentrated shot; a lunge for a longer, gentler one. A macchiato gets you a little steamed milk, and a cappuccino gets you a lot more.

KEEP IT QUICK
Coffee culture here isn’t one of slow sipping and lingering. Italians don’t drink venti mochas in to-go cups; they drink four to five caffes spaced throughout the day, like cigarettes, to scratch and itch and break up the demands of the day. Find a bar you love and keep going back to the counter.

MAKE A MEAL OUT OF IT
Italians rarely drink on an empty stomach and a glass of wine or a spritz is usually a bridge to a free bite. In Venice, feast on small snacks called cicchetti; in Milan and Bologna lavish spreads put out for aperitivo can easily double as dinner. If you’re not getting something to eat with your glass, you should find a new place to drink.

DRINK LOCAL
Just as you don’t eat pesto in Palermo or carbonara in Campania, you shouldn’t drink Barolo in Bari or Chianti in Cagliari. Stick to the local grapes and you’ll find better deals and more interesting wines. Zibibbo (Sicily), Soave (Veneto), pignoletto (Emilia-Romagna): all rank as some of Italy’s most underrated.


Even if you’ve already visited Italy, this book is truly inspiring, entertaining, and educational. It will cause you to begin planning your next trip!

How to Cook a Filet Mignon

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Many people like to throw t-bones or ribeyes on the barbecue grill outside, and are happy with the results.

My husband used to be one of those, but in recent years he’s become more “picky” about beef, and so these days, if he eats steak, it must be grass-fed filets. As a result, I had to learn to cook filet mignons inside; it’s not always barbecue weather.

A filet is a cross-wise slice from a beef tenderloin. If you’re trimming one yourself, you can get about 6-7 intact filets from the main tenderloin, depending on the thickness of course.



For quite a few years I’ve ordered grass-fed beef tenderloins from various sources. It’s less expensive to buy them whole as opposed to two filets at a time. Plus, after trimming the tenderloin and cutting filets, you’re left with about 2 pounds of beef tenderloin that I usually turn into a stir fry.

I prefer my filets a good inch in thickness, but however the thickness, it’s important to cook them properly. My point with this post is to show how straight forward it is to pan-cook a filet to perfection.

Have your filets close to room temperature. Salt generously; you can season after cooking.

Have a large cast-iron skillet on hand with some grapeseed oil, long-handled tongs, and a plate topped with a rack. You’re going to be resting the cooked filets and you want them to “breathe” on all sides.

The skillet should hold the steaks without crowding. The maximum number I cook in my 10” cast-iron skillet is four, shown browning in bacon grease.

When you’re ready to start, place the skillet over high heat. Turn on the fan.

Pour in some grape seed oil – about 1 tablespoon per steak. When the oil is hot, place a filet in the skillet. Repeat with remaining steaks if cooking more than one.

Brown on that side for at least one minute, then turn them over and brown the other side.

Now here’s the deal. Many people at this point would place the skillet of browned filets in a hot oven to finish. If your steaks happen to be 3” thick you might have to do that. But I do something different. I take advantage of my stove.

Turn the filets back over and turn down the heat! Give them a couple of minutes, turn them over, and let the insides cook for maybe a couple more minutes, and they’ll be perfect.

I used to use a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature didn’t go above 125 degrees. That is a very good technique, but it’s easy to learn when the steaks are ready by squeezing them with your tongs. If the steaks are mushy, then they’re still undercooked. Alternatively, if they’re getting firm, get them the hell out of the skillet.


Cover them loosely with foil. After at least 10 minutes of resting, generously season the filets with coarsely ground pepper or garlic pepper.

Today I served the filets with green beans cooked with shallots and tomatoes, and topped with pine nuts.

Also, there’s truffle butter…

Here is a garlic pepper I highly recommend.

Chocolate Yogurt Mousse

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My sister recently told me about a dessert she often serves to company. It’s a chocolate mousse made with Greek yogurt. The original recipe came from Maria Speck, Food 52. To serve, the mousse is topped with orange marmalade.

The purpose of my making this mousse was two-fold. Firstly, I wanted to try out the recipe, since it’s obviously beloved. But secondly, I wanted to attempt to duplicate the dessert my mother and I shared at a restaurant, that I mentioned in my previous post. It was a chocolate dirt pudding – chocolate mousse topped with crumbled cookies and served with mint chocolate ice cream, except we had them leave off the ice cream.

The mousse was so intriguing to me because it tasted like a chocolate mousse folded with sour cream or creme fraiche. Turns out, it could have been yogurt. In my memory, the mousse was so similar to this recipe.

The key to this recipe is using a good dark chocolate. Also, my sister suggests that if you don’t want a liqueur included, to use some kind of extract as a substitute.

Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse
Serves 4

6 ounces (170g) good-quality dark chocolate with 70% cacao, finely chopped
1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, or other good-quality orange liqueur
1 cup (240ml) whole Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons orange marmalade

Place the chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat. Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and leave it to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.


Stir with a spatula or a wooden spoon until you have a smooth ganache.

In a small bowl, beat the Greek yogurt with a small whisk or a fork until smooth.

Fold the yogurt into the chocolate mixture using a spatula until thoroughly combined, then stir in the tablespoon of Grand Marnier.
If you like a boozy dessert, add the second tablespoon.


Spoon the mousse into four small serving cups and chill until firm, or up to a day ahead, covered with plastic wrap.

To serve, spoon a teaspoon of marmalade onto each serving. It was truly a magical combination. I added whipped cream, but that did nothing for me.

My sister told me not to bother to use raspberries; they get lost in the strong chocolate flavor. During the summer, she uses peaches tossed with rose water as a topping. Lovely.

Now, on to the chocolate dirt pudding. I added scoops of mint chocolate ice cream to the chilled mousse, and sprinkled crumbled Colpa Degno cookies over the top.

Wow. Let me first say that I’m not a huge fan of mint chocolate ice cream. However, this dessert was out of this world.

My husband’s favorite sweet flavor combination is mint and chocolate, so he was really happy with my blogging experiment.

There is just something about this mousse! With the yogurt, it’s thick and chocolatey, but not overly sweet. And with the crumbled cookies, it was outstanding.

 

Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse

Serves 4
6 ounces (170g) good-quality dark chocolate with 70% cacao, finely chopped
1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, or other good-quality orange liquor
1 cup (240ml) whole Greek yogurt (2% is also okay, but don’t use nonfat)
4 teaspoons orange marmalade

Place the chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat. Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and leave it to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir with a spatula or a wooden spoon until you have a smooth ganache.

In a small bowl, beat the Greek yogurt with a small whisk or a fork until smooth. Fold the yogurt into the chocolate mixture using a spatula until thoroughly combined, then stir in the tablespoon of Grand Marnier.

If you like a boozy dessert, add the second tablespoon.

Spoon the mousse into four small serving cups and chill until firm, at least one hour, or up to a day ahead, covered with plastic wrap.

To serve, spoon a teaspoon of marmalade onto each serving.

Colpa Degno Cookies

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There is a lovely restaurant called Powder that I take my mother to when I visit. It helps that it’s close to where she lives, because if I visit at any time between October and May, who knows how much snow I have to contend with getting anywhere not close.

My mother lives in Park City, Utah, which is known for its powder-like snow, thus the name of the restaurant. The restaurant is in the Waldorf Astoria, which doesn’t really seem to fit in my mind with the quaintness of Park City. The Waldorf makes me think of New York City for some reason.

In any case, when I last visited Mom in December, we dined at Powder and luckily didn’t have to deal with a blizzard.

The food has always been superb there, and the service slow but good. It seems like we have always ordered their charcuterie and cheese platter to start. Here are three of them I happened to document.

The first hurdle is always my mother fainting over how the waiter pronounces charcuterie. Being French, it’s still hard for her, even after 65 years of living in the U.S., to hear French words mis-pronounced. I’ve given up trying to convince her that charcuterie is a difficult word for Americans to say.

Also being French, my mother has a daily chocolate requirement, or at least enjoys a sweet after lunch. So after our cheese and you-know-what goodies, including an outstanding paté, we perused Powder’s dessert menu.

I ordered the Chocolate Dirt Pudding, but without the mint ice cream. She thought it would be too rich, like that’s ever stopped her!

This is what it looked like, after we both attacked it like we were starving. Not the prettiest dessert, but the black cherry fudge sauce was indescribable. Neither of us tasted the cherry part, interestingly enough, but it didn’t matter. The sauce, which was really a pudding, was fabulous.

After getting back home, I looked into Colpa Degno cookies, which were the crumbled “dirt” on the pudding. Turns out the name roughly translates to “worth the guilt.”

From Food52: Created by Megan Fitzroy Phelan, currently an owner of Richmond, Virginia’s lauded Longoven restaurant, and formerly a Sullivan Street pastry chef, these cookies are small and addictive and so delightful that they are well worth any remorse you might feel from eating a half dozen or so.

The actual cookie recipe is in this book:

I’m not much of a cookie or dessert maker, but I really wanted to recreate the dessert, including the mint ice cream, for my husband’s birthday. He loves chocolate and mint together, and he deserves a sin-worthy treat! And it all started with my making Colpa Degno.

Colpa Degno Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 scant cup (40 g) unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Whites from 2 large eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (100 g) milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup (100 g) dark chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt with a fork in a medium bowl to combine.


Whisk together the egg whites and the vanilla with a fork in a small bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg whites; stir the mixture with the fork until it just begins to come together.

Add the chocolates and stir until well combined. The dough will be extremely sticky and as dark as black licorice.

At the bakery, we use a #60 scoop (like a small ice cream scoop) to scoop and ball these, but an ordinary 1 tablespoon measuring spoon works well too.

Pack the batter into the spoon by squashing and dragging the spoon against the inside of the bowl to make sure the rounds of dough are tight and compact – if the dough is too loosely packed, the cookies tend to really spread out and separate as they bake.


Place the rounds of dough on the parchment-lined cookie sheet a good 3” apart and bake for about 12 minutes or until the tops are glossy and set.

When the cookies are done, they will be quite gooey, but they will continue to cook as they cool.

Once they’ve cooled off enough to eat, they should be soft and chewy – if they’re hard or crisp, they’ve baked too much.


Cool the cookies on the paper, set on a wire rack, for 10 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Serve these cookies the day they are made.

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