Monday, June 23, 2008
Cooking for a Friend
A good friend of mine is in the hospital. She is one of those people who is perpetually on my "need to call" list. I ran in to her and her husband the day I started this blog. It made me so happy to see her and I vowed to not let too much time pass before I reached out.
Ironically, I finally did get my act together and sent her an email suggesting we get together. By then, I think, she was already ill because I didn't hear back from her - anyone who knows her knows this is extremely unusual.
I worked for her many years ago and she is one of the toughest bosses I have ever had. She was always kind to me (she is one of the most gentle-hearted people in the world), though she had high standards. She is an absolute perfectionist and incredibly competent and capable in everything she does. I think of her all the time when I am searching for phone numbers of people - she always had a pad of paper and recorded every voice mail in her incredibly neat handwriting. She never had to search for anything, it was all right on her pad or neatly filed away in organized folders. I often wish I was one of those highly organized competent capable people, but I have learned that I am just not.
Her husband is in a really tough position - in so many ways. Here his wife is in the hospital, and he is acting as maitre d' - arranging things so that everyone who wants to see her can, all the while answering the same hard questions over and over again. What can you do for someone who is living that life? Well, I can cook for him. No one should have to eat hospital food everyday. I have added him to my other clients and for as long as he needs me, I will bring him food. I'm hoping that soon she can enjoy my cooking too. And baking.
Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars
Adaped from Gourmet Magazine
The original recipe says to mix together the crust with a fork. I chose to use my mixer. The recipe also says it makes 24 bars, but I chose to cut them larger and ended up with 16. They are rich, so you may want to cut them smaller. Dulce de Leche is made by heating sweetened milk and has a wonderful intense milky-caramel flavor. You can find it at Whole Foods (and other places, I'm sure) and it is worth the $10 investment!
For shortbread crust
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
For chocolate dulce de leche
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup dulce de leche
4 large egg yolks
5 oz. 60%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
For the crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle. Butter a shallow 9 inch square baking pan. Line bottom and two sides with parchment paper, leaving an overhang. Butter parchement.
Using a stand mixer, blend together butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Sift in flour and mix on low until the dough comes together. Using floured fingers, gently press the dough in to the prepared pan.
Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes, then cool completely in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes.
Make chocolate dulce de leche: Bring cream and dulce de leche to a simmer in small heavy saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon until dulce de leche has dissolved.
Whisk together yolks in a bowl, then slowly whisk in hot cream mixture. Return to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until pan is visible in tracks of spoon and mixture registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until melted.
Make bars: Pour chocolate mixture over cooled shortbread and chill, uncovered, until cold and set, about 2 hours. Run a small knife around edges to loosen, then transfer to a cutting board using parchment. Cut with a hot clean knife (dip in hot water and wipe clean between cuts) in to 16 or 24 bars. Chill until ready to serve. Can be chilled in a airtight container up to 1 day.