Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Birthday Supper for Jimmy


Jimmy's Birthday Supper
December 8, 2008

El Indio Chips and Salsa
Taittinger Brut Rose

Dry-Aged Steaks
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Yorkshire Puddings
Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon

Banana Creme Brulee "Pie"

James B-day Dinner

Monday was James' 39th birthday. He insisted he didn't want a big party, and since next year is the 40th (which, at least in my opinion, DEMANDS a big party) - we decided to make it a quiet evening at home. I procured some nice, thick dry-aged steaks, a bag of James' favorite El Indio tortilla chips and a bottle of Eberle Cabernet from Iowa Meat Farms. (I had hoped to get to Homegrown, but just wasn't able to make it to La Jolla.) Then I roasted some brussel sprouts with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, salt and red pepper flakes and baked up some yorkshire puddings, aka popovers. Aren't they pretty?
James B-day Dinner

Since it was a birthday dinner, of course, there was also an indulgent dessert. A few weeks ago, I received an email from Amazon, telling me they had shipped my most recent order. I couldn't remember placing an order - but maybe I did it accidentally? Or maybe James did it and then played dumb? I have no idea to this day, but whichever way, I wound up the proud but accidental owner of the new cookbook from Sherry Yard, "Desserts by the Yard." It was in my "saved to buy later" list - so it wasn't totally random, but who knows if I ever would have sprung for it.
Desserts by the Yard

I'm glad Amazon (or whomever) did the job for me. It's absolutely marvelous - full of classic and fun desserts with a decadent twist arranged in groupings that mirror the stages of Sherry's career. The early part of the book focuses on New York - where she grew up, went to culinary school and had her first pastry job (at the Rainbow Room, where she started out as a cigarette girl!) The middle stage reflects her stints at Campton Place and Catahoula in the Bay Area, and the latter part is based on her time in LA, where she has been since about 1993 working for Wolfgang Puck at Spago and Chinois on Main. Sherry's personality comes through in the little blurbs and anecdotes throughout the book, and her can-do attitude and impeccable taste are reflected in the recipes. Some of them are show-offy, but others are not at all - and the tips, hints and basic recipes in the book are indispensible. And then there are the photographs - oh the photographs. They're in a class by themselves - and they really made me want to make this dessert.

It's a riff on Banana Cream Pie, fancied up with a slab of puff pastry in place of the crust, and a layer of frozen creme brulee instead of custard. These layers are topped with some marinated bananas, and the whole mess is slathered with whipped cream. It sounds killer, and it is - in more ways than one. Definitely not for the faint of heart...
Banana Creme Brulee Pie in progress

I used frozen puff pastry dough, but I have a great easy recipe for it over here on this post. A batch is a great thing to have in the freezer. The creme brulee is a standard creme brulee recipe, cooked in one large flat piece and frozen. I cut it down by 1/3 so that I would have the amount I wanted, and it fit perfectly in a 9 inch square baking pan. (I used roughly half of that when I put it together.) The bananas are marinated in orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla and booze - the recipe calls for kahlua, but some top notch rum would be delicious as well. Sherry also tops the puff pastry with chocolate but I used some salted caramel I made the other day. The recipe makes a whole pint, which is a wondrous thing. Here it is, along with the recipe for the rest of the pie and the popovers, as I adapted them:

Banana Creme Brulee "Pie"
adapted from Desserts by the Yard, by Sherry Yard.

basic components:1 4x8 inch piece of all butter puff pastry dough, baked and cooled
1 recipe creme brulee, below, frozen and cut into a slab 1/2 inch smaller than the pastry dough all around
marinated bananas (see below)
whipped cream
salted caramel sauce

For the Creme Brulee:
(make the night before, or very early in the day)

3 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup of sugar minus 1 tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste, or seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
4 1/2 large egg yolks

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper and position it inside a 9.5 x 17 inch baking pan.

In a heavy 2-3 quart saucepan, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla and heat to a simmer. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the mixture to steep for 15 mins or so. Check the temperature, it should be about 165 degrees.

Whisk the egg yolks lightly into a large bowl. Whisk the cream mixture into the egg yolks, tempering it in, and strain the mixture into the 9 inch pan set into the 9.5x17 inch pan. Position both pans on the rack in the oven, and pour hot water into the larger pan to 3/4 of the way up the sides of the inner pan. Bake for between 1 hour and 1.5 hours, until the custard is set but still jiggles slightly. Remove the inner pan from the water bath and cool completely. Wrap the entire pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for several hours or overnight. When it is frozen solid, remove the pan from the custard by dipping it in warm water and lifting the paper lining out of the pan. Peel the paper off the custard, wrap it in plastic wrap and replace in the freezer until ready to use.

Bake the puff pastry, marinate the bananas and whip the cream within a few hours of serving:
For the Bananas:
2 ripe but firm bananas
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons kahlua or dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Slice the bananas and toss with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Cover bowl with plastic, pressing plastic onto the surface of the bananas, and refrigerate.

Whipped cream:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk whipping cream until thick. Add powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.

Puff pastry:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut a rectangle of butter puff pastry dough (thawed but still cold) about 4 inches by 8 inches. Place on a silpat or parchment lined baking pan in the upper third of the oven and bake until dark golden brown, about 20 minutes. (Sherry recommends setting another pan on the pastry to flatten it, but I tried this and thought it was too tough.)
Set aside to cool.

Up to one hour before serving, place the puff pastry on the serving platter. Warm some homemade or storebought caramel sauce (or chocolate if you prefer) to a spreadable or pourable consistency, and spread over the puff pastry dough. Unwrap the layer of frozen creme brulee, and trim and scrape it to a neat shape about 1/2 inch smaller than the pastry. Place on top of the caramel. Refrigerate for up to two hours.
Just before serving, spoon the bananas over the creme brulee layer and spread with the whipped cream. Slice with a sharp knife, wiping the blade between cuts.
Serves 4 (The recipe above makes enough creme brulee for at least 8, so just double the size of your pastry and the amount of bananas and cream if needed!)

and if you want to make your own marvelous salted caramel...

Salted Caramel Sauce
10 1/2 oz sugar (by weight)
1 oz corn syrup (by weight)
1/2 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 oz of butter cut into small pieces
1/2 t vanilla paste or 1/4 of a vanilla bean pod, scraped
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon of good quality sea salt, such as Maldon. (Start with 1/4 and add more to taste.)

Measure your ingredients and have them ready to go before you begin.

In a medium saucepan - between 2 and 3 qts, cook the sugar, corn syrup and water until the mixture reaches a deep golden color. The depth of color will determine the flavor of your caramel sauce. The darker you go, the less sweet and more intense it will be. Once it starts to color it happens quickly, so watch it carefully once it starts to brown. You want it to have some good color, but you want to catch it before it starts to turn reddish.

When your sugar syrup is nice and brown, tilt the pan and carefully pour in the cream. It will foam and bubble and release steam, so be careful not to burn yourself. Stir until the mixture is incorporated and the bubbling has subsided. Add the butter, vanilla paste (or seeds) and salt, and bring the mixture back to a boil (this happens very quickly.) Remove from heat. Dip a spoon in the caramel and allow it to cool. Taste and add more salt a pinch at a time as desired.

Makes one pint.

Yorkshire Pudding Popovers
adapted from Nigella and other sources I can't quite recall
(a slightly different version of this recipe has appeared on this blog before)

1 cup of milk (I used nonfat with a couple of tablespoons of half and half mixed in to give it more body)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ground mustard
1/4 cup very finely grated fresh parmesan or other very sharp cheese, loosely packed
5 or 6 grinds of freshly milled black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 Tablespoons of butter, cut into quarter inch chunks if using a popover pan, or slightly smaller than 1/2 inch chunks of using a muffin tin

Preheat the oven to 450

Whisk the milk, eggs and seasonings together and set aside

Put the pieces of butter into the cups of your pan and preheat the pan in the oven for about 3-4 minutes, until the butter is melted. Watch it carefully so it doesn't brown too much or burn.

While the pan is in the oven, whisk the flour and shredded cheese into the egg mixture. (It is important that the cheese is fresh and very finely grated, otherwise it might keep the batter from rising.)

Bake at 450 until the puds are puffed and browned, and firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Crack the oven door and turn it off - and leave the puddings in for five to ten minutes to dry out. Serve immediately, while hot and crisp. Makes 10 in a mini popover pan, or 6-7 in a muffin tin.


  1. Lucky man. Big time yum on the banana creme brulee "pie". Soooo making that soon!

  2. I am bummed to have missed this dinner with Jimmy! I am still mad at my back.....

  3. That sounds like an amazing dinner!

    I tried making yorkshire pudding popovers a few years ago (I think I used a Jamie Oliver recipe) and they were a disaster! Too much oil in the tin caused it to boil over into my oven, creating a smoking explosion. Each yorkshire pudding had oil oozing out of them. I can't wait to try your recipe. :)

  4. Alice your food looks to-die, plain and simple.

  5. i love your banana desserts ... I am thinking of the banana cream pie that i have bookmarked to make for months now.

    Those popovers look awesome!

  6. Fine, I am coming clean. It was me. I sent you the book.

    Okay, I actually didn't. But if I had, would you make me some of those popovers? They look awesome!

  7. Great photos and your sprouts looks delicious. Sprouts provide bitter-sweet taste and cools the palate.

    Keep writing

  8. I have been craving popovers...yum. Rick says he's never had them! Very, very silly. ;)