The dessert Tony and I shared at Eastern Standard a few weeks back was still fresh in my mind. I had to recreate it! It was the Butterscotch Bread Pudding with Praline Ice Cream and Salted Caramel. I saw a picture that looked like thinly sliced potatoes layered, and in the shape of a mini cupcake pan, baked probably and filled with a tasty filling...it wasn't...I think it was phyllo dough or something. But anyway, the picture led to my idea for this appetizer which was "mini potato cups with Gruyere, panchetta and Creme fraiche". The main dish was an idea I got from Jamie Oliver, he was traveling somewhere and he filled a earthenware pot with lots of different ingredients, tightly covered it and it slowly cooked in a communal oven for hours. I also have been wanting to do a pork shoulder in the oven (usually Tony smokes a pork shoulder in his smoker outside for 16 hours, and it's always very good, but for a change I wanted to try the oven).
Mini Potato Cups with Gruyere, Panchetta and Creme Fraiche
So I have two mini cupcake pans, one I oiled the top side and the other one I oiled the bottom side so when I filled the cups with thinly sliced russet potatoes I could put the other pan on top to force them into a cup shape. I just sprinkled salt on the potatoes after I layered in about 7-8 sliced potatoes into each cup. After putting the other pan on top and pressing it down a bit I put it into a 300 degree oven (pork was cooking at that temp) for about 20-30 minutes or so, until you can start to see the edges of the potatoes browning slightly. Remove the top pan and continue to cook until the rest of the cup turns golden. It was a little tricky, you have to make sure you put plenty of oil or they will stick. I happened to have cooked potatoes in the frig and I made a small amount of mashed potatoes with it, mixing in Gruyere cheese. I put the mashed potatoes in the cup and sprinkled more Gruyere cheese on top, then a piece of panchetta that I already cooked and baked it until heated through and the cheese was melted. I topped each one with a bit of creme fraiche, very good appetizer!!
7-Hour Pork Shoulder with Prunes, Currants and Fennel over Creamy Polenta
I have a clay pot called a "Romertopf". You soak it in cold water before baking anything and you put everything in at room temperature or cold, and you even put the whole thing in a cold oven and slowly heat the oven. Sudden changes in temperature will crack it. I decided to use it for this dish. I have only made bread and I think a whole chicken one time in it, so I am not familiar with it too much. I put the whole 3 lb pork shoulder in that I rubbed with freshly ground fennel seeds, allspice seeds and chili powder. Of course I sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper. I added one large sweet onion cut into 1 inch wedges, 2 small fennel bulbs cut into 1 inch wedges, 1 garlic clove cut in half, a handful of dried currents and about 10 dried prunes. I splashed in about 1/4 cup dry sherry and 1/4 cup chicken stock, and salt on the vegetables. I covered the pot with the lid and put it into the oven. I turned the oven onto 325 degrees and figured I would let it go until 6:00pm. I started smelling it a couple hours into it (which is a good hint that its about done) and I bet you it was done after 3-4 hours. It had great flavor and the vegetables and fruit were so good, but the pork was slightly dried out. I strained and thickened the juices with a corn starch slurry that came out great. I served this with creamy polenta.
Butterscotch Bread Pudding with Praline Ice Cream and Salted Caramel
I looked for a recipe for butterscotch bread pudding and Sara Moulton had one that looked good. Her bread was diced (which is normal) and put into ramekins, but I kept my slices whole, because that's what I think it was like at the restaurant (above). I actually made this the night before because Tony went out and I had nothing better to do. So you put in the bread and pour the butterscotch custard over, I let it sit a bit to really soak in and then bake it in a water bath. I made a vanilla ice cream from my Avec Eric cookbook and when it was done churning I layered in some hazelnut praline that I had made probably a year ago and had in the freezer. Basically to make a praline its toasted nuts of your choice and you mix it into a hot caramel then pour it out onto a Silpat on a sheet pan and let it harden. You then process it into fine bits. That ice cream was really good, its gone now! Then I made some salted caramel just to pour over the bread pudding and ice cream. It was to die for!!!