Noun 1. gastronome - a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink)bon vivant, epicure, epicurean, foodie, gourmetsensualist - a person who enjoys sensuality. Follow me on Twitter: @Aghastronome

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sweet Stuff: Coconut Cream Pie Bars

I love coconut, I think everyone should love coconut (apparently, I'm incorrect here).  I have never, ever in my entire history of not be afraid to make a recipe made a custard-type cream pie or bar or anything of the sort.  Until now.

The original recipe I spotted via Facebook is found here.  For the uninitiated, that thing I just did there is a link, click and ye shall see the recipe.  The rest of you?  Ignore me.

I wrote down (almost) all of the ingredients and ran to the grocery, pronto.  Then, I got all prepped and realized that I did not purchase unflavored gelatin.   I will not go to the store for that, I can improvise.  So, I did.  I will preface all of this with:  It was delicious.  I am awesome.  I will make it again, but with a different crust.  Filling was perfect, in my opinion.  I am genius.  Here it is, in all of it's glory:

Coconut Cream Pie Bars


2 Sticks cold butter (1 cup)
2 cups flour (Regular All Purpose)
1/2 cup powdered Sugar

Coconut Cream Filling:

3 cups each, Half and Half and Coconut Milk (two cans of unsweetened gets you there)
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes - I used a little more, like what fell in while I measured
1 teaspoon each coconut extract and vanilla extract

Whipped Topping:

2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon each coconut and vanilla extract
1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar

Let's Do This:

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil, I used heavy duty foil and pressed it to form the pan, leaving about an inch or so overhang all around.  This is your "bar getter outer" once done, or a sling, as referenced in the original recipe.

Cut butter into the flour and powdered sugar, using a food processor, by pulsing until it begins to combine.  Press into the foil lined pan.  I used a small roller I purchased at a home-based cooking product party.  Or you can use the bottom of a glass.  Bake for 20 or more minutes until it is golden brown.  Confession, I baked mine as instructed and it tasted a bit raw, could be my oven.  I then told everyone "It's fantastic, but, DO NOT eat the crust, it is not cooked."

Once the crust is done, spread a second cup of coconut on a baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden.  3-6 minutes should do it.

While the crust and the toasted coconut is cooling (your oven should be in the off position now), make the filling.  Combine all ingredients, EXCEPT the coconut, in a large saucepan.  Pre-scrambling the eggs helps.  With your burner on medium heat, commence to whisking steadily.  No need to whisk like your life depends upon it, just incorporate all ingredients and keep them moving in the pan.  If the mixture tries to hit a hard boil, turn in down - gentle bubbly is what you want, until it is thickened.  This takes around 20-30 minutes.  My finished filling was the consistency of a good thick cream gravy.  Now stir in the coconut flakes, not the toasted ones, until well combined.

Pour the filling over your cooled crust, using a spatula to scrape it all out of the pan.  Allow it to cool on the counter to almost room temp and cover and place in the fridge until firm.  This takes two to four hours.  I got a little jinky here, as the filling didn't look like it would set to firm, it did.  Remain calm.

Once the filling is set, pour the whipped cream and extracts into a bowl and begin beating, slowly adding powdered sugar until the whipped cream peaks.  Gently spread over the coconut filling and sprinkle toasted coconut all over the top.

Keep chilled until you're ready to serve.  Lift the entire business out of the pan and rest on a large cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, cut into squares and consume.  Fresh brewed coffee may be in order.  Saying.

The next crust options I plan to attempt:  Crushed Pecan Sandies made in a tree by elves and melted butter.  Freshly ground nuts (think pecans and almonds) and melted butter, like this right here.

If you are a for realz friend, I will let you know when this happens again, and you will get a share of it.  I ended up eating 4 pieces of it.  My pantalones are smaller.  I have no idea how that happened.  That is my story.  I am sticking to it.

Blogging Again

So,  I have been miss or miss lately.  Okay, fine.  For two years, ish.  I have had a lot going on, currently I am slowly working through a decluttering challenge on Facebook and not participating in a food logging challenge that I said I would participate in (I am faced with my nutritional reality and this is why I am not a supermodel - among other things).  So, as I wrangle my way back into blogging, there are some things y'all need to know.  Two really.  Two.  One, I have been doing some cooking of late and you will see the product of my labor and my recipe.  Two, I tend to hit a lot of the same places, as I am not one to elbow into a crowd to be the first to a new location.  Heck, read some of my history out here and you may note that a number of places are "nevermore".  I do have a hit list of places, including Cane Rosso, Ritual, Roostar and a re-visit to Underbelly and Kanomwan.

All of that being said, please let me know where you would like to see me go.  Have a favorite that conflicts with one of my favorites?  I'm open to try.  I will then let you know what I think of that restaurant and how it compares to the one I prefer, IMHO.  Please do note, I am not driving to East Jeebus or the Lower Bongos of Outer Harris County to find your spot - so, should I politely decline, declare it your victory and try again.

So...drink your powder-based kids drink with the sweetener of your choice and follow me, again.  Giddy Up.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The El Cantina: A First Impression

The El Cantina has finally opened!  Housed in an old (1940's) gas station across White Oak from Little Woodrow's.  Something of note about me - I don't just dart out the first day a restaurant opens.  IF you do, and you expect to be smitten and gobsmacked by your experience, you're new.  Very. New.  I was one of the first crew of unfortunates to open a Mexican restaurant in the small town from whence I came - it was abysmal, at best.  With the passage of time, things improved.

Same thing for The El, I've read a couple of first reports and I can honestly refute a few criticisms, as of this past Wednesday.  First, the chips and salsa were top notch.  Fresh, lightly salted chips and warm salsa - not super hot from peppers, but nicely complex.  The queso still needs a little work.  It was mostly cheese and a bit too thick (implication here - not enough tomato/green chile business).  There's a very fine consistency line with queso - it must be fluid but not runny, thick enough to cling to a chip, yet not viscous.  It's not difficult to work out and we mentioned it to the waitress.

The menu is very small - which is also very smart for a new restaurant.  Master the basics, then expand.  I would have picked a chalupa over the chimichanga on a small menu.  I am a fool for some compuestos.  I digress...oops.  All of us ordered the same thing - the perfect standard combination.  One crispy taco, one cheese enchilada, rice and refried beans.  The taco was the super star, on a freshly fried shell with hot, well spiced ground meat, cold crispy vegetables and a shred of cheese.  The rice was above average and the refries were pretty good (I just ask they not over salt, which they didn't - happy me).  The enchilada needs an little assist, from a salamander.  The plate was room temperature to cold, so the enchilada was immediately cold.  Two words every waitperson in a Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant should say, or must say.  "Hot Plate!"  The El needs to plate the enchi, salamander it real good, drop on the rice and beans and finish with the taco.  Another suggestion, the sauce on the enchilada was thick and chipotle-y (I made that up).  Suggest they keep that one and add a standard brown gravy, or a light red chile gravy (yes, like the canned enchilada sauce, just better and made in house, like much of the menu).

When you go, ask for Taylor - she's a fantastic waitress.  Get the "skinny margarita" which is really a normal, properly made margarita without the nasty sweet and sour mix crap.  Give them a try, they ditched the valet parking.  Note to The El:  If I see valet parking I will go elsewhere, you cannot sling a deceased feline in that area without hitting a good Mexican joint.  So, don't let pretense step on your sensibilities and cost you business.  I will be back for more.  It's close, it's very cool - I really want them to make it.

The El Cantina Superior

602 Studewood
Houston, TX 77007