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So you've charred the Angus beef filet, underproofed the potato herb rolls and couldn't find the truffle oil to finish the amuse bouche? Not to worry, despairing dinner party thrower - blueberry port slumps to the rescue! I know your first thought is "What the heck is a slump? And why would I feed it to people I like and want to respect me the next day?" Well here's a quick rundown: A "slump" is like a "grunt" which is merely a charming Midwest way of referring to dumplings, or biscuits cooked by the steam created by a hot liquid. In this case, the liquid is something sweet, namely a combination of wild blueberries, port wine, and various other ingredients that comprise the hot tub of deliciousness that will cook the almond dumplings. Did I mention it's a crazy easy recipe that one could do quickly and without too much thinking? I mean, you've got other things going on, so make it easy on yourself. Use this dessert to add simple closure after an elaborate meal, or just make it to have around when the snow starts falling. Believe me, it's up there with a big bowl of macaroni and cheese as far as comfort food goes. FOR THE BLUEBERRY PORT HOT TUB: 4 cups of blueberries (fresh, frozen, preferably wild and untamed like Chef Jack likes 'em) 1/2 cup of sugar 1/4 cup of ruby port 1/2 cup water 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (or 1/2 a tsp if you like more) 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg FOR THE ALMOND DUMPLINGS:3/4 cup all purpose flour 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds (very import to toast!) 4 tbsp. sugar 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 3 tbs unsalted butter, chilled and diced 1/4 cup buttermilk or milk (I prefer buttermilk for its flavor) EQUIPMENT 12 - inch skillet pan with cover food processor From here, it's pretty simple. Take all the blueberry ingredients and bring to a boil in skillet over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes to soften the berries. While this is going on, put the flour, almonds, sugar, baking powder and salt into your food processor bowl, and pulse until combined. Add the butter, just a few chunks at a time, and pulse until mixture forms soft dough. Now here comes the fun part. Drop heaping tablespoons of the dough into the blueberry hot tub, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until the dumplings are firm and they pass the toothpick test (comes out clean after insertion),which will take about 20-25 minutes depending on the size of your heaping tablespoon. Once they're done, deposit into eating vessel of choice and eat 'em while they're hot! You'll thank yourself and so will your happy guests - the dumplings will melt in your mouth and the port-infused blueberries will make you forget your troubles. Slumps rule!
Heat medium saucepan over med-hi heat. Add butter and sauté onions and garlic until brown. Add the pasilla chiles and tortilla pieces and sauté until golden brown. Add the stock and bring to a boil. (See? Easy!)I had always wondered about the whole cooking with coffee phenomenon, so I decided to make my Rogue Estate night coffee-themed. The menu included beef tenderloin seasoned with coffee and cinnamon, coffee-barbecued baby backs, and coffee popsicles. It all turned out quite well, but one item that really stood out was the accompanying sauce to the beef tenderloin – pasilla chili broth. The whole experience introduced me to a myriad of new experiences: I’d never made barbecue sauce, never used coffee as a spice, and certainly never made this very exquisite broth with a chile I'd never heard of. And all I had to do was follow some simple directions from my very expensive culinary arts book. Pasilla chile broth Whole butter ½ oz White onions, roughly chopped 8 oz. Garlic cloves, whole, peeled 6 Pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into large pieces ½ oz White corn tortilla, shredded ¾ oz Chicken stock 20 fl. Oz Heavy cream 2 fl oz Kosher salt 1 tsp Brown sugar 1 tsp
Reduce to a simmer, cover loosely and cook for ten minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Puree the sauce in a blender until smooth and strain through a china cap, which are very handy if you happen to have one on hand. If not, a strainer will do the trick.Add cream (which will magically balance everything), salt and brown sugar and stir to combine. It shouldn’t be thick – if necessary, thin with water or more stock if necessary, and keep warm until time to serve. Or drink out of a silver goblet, if you’re so inclined. It's smoky, rich and lovely as an accompaniment to beef, and may possibly make your toes curl (or your heart racing, but that might be from the butter and cream). Just a give it a try, and you'll see what I mean when the sauce and meat juices begin to make merry in your mouth. And then you can brainstorm with your foodie friends about what else you can pour this sauce over. Oh, the possibilities....
The subject heading on the email was cryptic and hinted of espionage. I think it said something like “We must talk of a certain matter which is of interest to you” and it was from my former co-worker and longtime foodie friend, Ian. I expected instructions to follow involving a discreet location and knocking out the shave-and-a-haircut code in a darkened doorway. But no such luck. Instead, it was an invitation to join forces with those who were as passionate about finding the perfect morel mushroom as I was. Menus would be discussed, a theme finalized and I would participate with a dessert and another entrée if I had time. Who was I to pass up such an opportunity? Besides, I’d heard there was going to be longanisa, so I had to come. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s the Filipino equivalent to a Smoky Link, but tastier. I had introduced my friend Ian to it many years ago at a barbecue, and it became his personal mission to come up with other uses for the beloved Filipino sausage. I was intrigued to see what he was going to do with it this time. I was also intrigued by what the evening was going to bring. The menu looked extraordinary enough, and I was hoping to be able to pull my weight amongst the individuals that had been described to me. I mean, I cook, and I do it well, but making food for people I hadn’t met whose palates I wasn’t familiar with seemed a bit scary. But like all new adventures, I went for it. Because sometimes, you just have to consider the possibilities and say damn the torpedoes. The evening produced a variety of “firsts”. All of us ate or drank something we’d never had before, and after feasting we concluded that the evening was a huge success. Now, had I decided that I wanted to live a safe and uneventful life and decline Ian’s invitation to join the Rogue Estate for an evening of food, camaraderie and boozing, then I would have missed several opportunities. I wouldn’t have tasted two beers that I enjoyed immensely (and that I can still taste if I think on it hard enough), or goyoza with pea sprouts and crab, or softshell crab cooked over pecan wood. Oh, and let’s not forget the longanisa, skewered with shrimp and green onion and barbecued to perfection. Meat candy, I believe my husband called it. So, here’s to more “firsts”. And I hope you, the reader, will be inspired to experience some as well. Taking a chance can prove quite delicious.