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Front Porch Dessert

April 21, 2010

I was recently given some advice by a wise Sage: Use bacon more in the last course, write fewer restaurant reviews and paint the walls white. Oh, and I should also cook chicken livers once a week and fall asleep with a smile on my face. If you understand, shake for yes and nod for no. Exactly.

I am known for taking advice from wise Sages, especially those who can differentiate between Swiss chard and dandelion greens so I returned to the workshop in search of ideas and inspiration based upon what was readily available in the fridge and pantry. It is Spring, yes, but my larder is lacking in citrus and first of the season berries (shame isn’t it) and my mind is fixated on the next season for some strange reason. Sometimes it’s best to use what you have, so to speak, and this week it happens to be quite a bit of rosemary from a friend’s garden, a box of cornmeal, granny smith apples and bacon, bacon, bacon. I do look forward to the arrival of stone fruit and my good friend watermelon but in the meantime I’ll find my way to the local market for strawberries and blackberries.The jewels of spring are not to be missed.

I’m also missing Texas and the slow heat of summer (what??!). I took inspiration from a childhood memory spent one summer at my grandparent’s house eating cobs of fresh corn slathered in chili-lime butter and way too much cold sliced watermelon. There’s a tiny front porch with a screen door that opens and closes at my will and the hot fragrant smell of corn bread sitting in an open window. The sound of creaking chairs rocking front and back and fat slabs of bacon hitting a hot iron skillet. Running through a sprinkler on the lawn and falling over on the grass with the exhaustion of being a seven-year old child on summer break. The clinking of ice being dropped into a glass filled with Lipton ice tea. Helping grandpa pick from an orange tree out back that’s heavy with fruit. This is my homage to Summer, South Texas and my dear friend Monsieur Henson who is an oh so refined French-speaking Southern gentleman and a dazzling, gracious host. I think he would appreciate this one too, but I suspect he may scold me for using bacon in a dessert. The Sage, of course, did.

I peeled a granny smith apple and used a melon baller to extract holes from it. I put the remaining apple carcass in a small baking dish and sprinkled it with a handful of brown sugar and a bit of juice from a lemon stretched very thin. Between the hollow holes of the apple I tucked in pieces of bacon fat and dusted the whole thing with salt, cinnamon and chili powder. This roasted in the lower part of the oven uncovered at 350 degrees for about 2 hours.

On a sheet pan I laid down twisted pieces of bacon that were sprinkled with a bit of brown sugar and put into the oven at 400 degrees. The apple balls got skewered on sprigs of rosemary and when the bacon was half-way cooked I added the apples to the sheet pan. I made sure to turn them in the bacon fat that had developed on the sheet pan. I also added more brown sugar to the apples. The cake is a pound cake recipe but I substituted cornmeal for half the flour called for in the recipe. Now I was left with sweet corn cake, spiced roasted apples, brown sugar bacon and the only thing missing was a glass of ice tea. Lipton is perfect.

I warmed about 1/2 cup  heavy cream and steeped one bag of Lipton tea in it. I let it cool in the fridge and began taste testing, I mean cutting the cornmeal cake into cubes. After the cream was chilled I added about a tablespoon of confectioners sugar to the cream and put it in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. I whisked it on high until it was thick but not creamed completely and then I finished whisking it by hand with an undersized whisk (how fortunate). I had a few plating ideas and tried several scenarios, but this is what I chose in the end. Last night I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

Cornmeal pound cake with Lipton creme/ slow spiced apple, rosemary skewered apple balls, brown sugar bacon, candied bacon fat, caramelized apple fat syrup.

Cornmeal Pound cake

1 c. A.P. Flour

1 c. cornmeal

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

8 oz. butter (room temp.)

1 1/2 c. sugar

3 eggs (room temp)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. lemon zest

1/2 c. whole milk (room temp)

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, add vanilla and zest.

On low speed at half the dry ingredients and then half the milk.

Scrape the sides of bowl. Make sure the mixer is off before you do this.

Add rest of the dry ingredients followed by rest of milk.

***Bake at 350 degrees until golden and the tester pulls away clean.

I used a square 5×5  baking dish but

Paper cups, a muffin tin, ramekins or a half sheet pan would also work.

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