Satsuma (Mandarin) Granita
During the thirty years that LeRuth's restaurant in Gretna was a glowing house of flavor, it served a pair of fruit ices that tasted more like the fruits involved than the fruits themselves. One of those was what Chef Warren Leruth called mandarin ice. During the satsuma season (early fall), this is best made with those sweet citrus darlings from Plaquemines Parish.
You can make this in a pan, freeze it, and scrape it. Or, if you have an ice cream maker, you can make it as a sorbet in that machine.
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice, strained
- 3 cups freshly-squeezed satsuma or mandarine juice, strained
1. Combine the water and sugar in a clean saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. (The water doesn't have to come all the way to a boil, but it's okay if it does.) Allow this simple syrup to cool.
2. Add the other ingredients and stir completely. Pour into a nine-by-thirteen-inch metal pan, and put into the freezer. After 20-30 minutes, stir the mixture with a fork. Repeat that every 20 minutes or so, increasing the frequency a little when the mixture becomes a slush. When the stirring results in dry crystals, you're finished. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and hold in the freezer until serving time
The trend toward making pralines in flavors like chocolate and pina-colada is interesting, but my favorite flavor of pralines is praline-flavored. When pecans are falling from the trees, it's fun to make a million of them and keep them for the holiday season.
You will be melting sugar here. If that stuff splatters on your skin, it will burn all the way to the bone (or seem to). It is essential to use a candy thermometer to make pralines, because it's critically important that the temperature of the mixture reach 238 degrees--and not go much beyond that mark. Also, although you will probably use a cookie sheet to cool the pralines, the best thing of all is a marble slab.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
- 3 Tbs. butter
- 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 1/2 Tbs. vanilla
- 1 to 1 1/2 cup pecan pieces, to taste
1. Combine everything except the vanilla and pecans in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon as you cook, being very careful not to splash. Scrape down the sides of the pan any sugar granules that may get up there.
2. When the mixture turns translucent, add the pecans and the vanilla. Continue to cook and stir. The mixture will begin to brown slowly. The whole trick to making good pralines--and it is tricky--is to get them off the heat at the right point. The reading you should see on the candy thermometer should be the "soft ball" temperature, about 238 degrees. It will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
3. With a large spoon, drop some of the praline mixture onto a cookie sheet, waxed paper, or a marble slab, making discs about two inches across. Allow to cool. Remove with a very thin spatula and wrap tightly.
Makes 16-20 pralines
Here is my current recipe for pecan pie, arrived at after dozens of changes I've made over the years to the recipe they used to give out in the 1970s at the Camellia Grill. Mainly, I've reduced the amount of sugar, added an extra egg yolk to help the filling set more reliably (that's the biggest problem most people have with pecan pie), lowered the baking temperature, and toasted the pecans. Enough touches that I wouldn't call this the Camellia Grill's pie, if it ever was. Good, though.
- 2 cups coarsely broken pecans
- 1/2 cup unbroken pecan halves
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1/2 cup light Karo syrup
- 1/4 cup dark Karo syrup
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 4 eggs, beaten (reserve one egg white)
- 1 Tbs. lemon juice
- 1 Tbs. vanilla
- 1 dash salt
- 1 tsp. flour
- 1 nine-inch pie shell, unbaked
1. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet or pizza pan, and put them on the top shelf of the preheated oven. Keep a close eye on them, and when you note even a little darkening, remove them immediately to avoid burning (which happens alarmingly quickly). Set the pecan aside.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan over very low heat. Remove from the heat.
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine syrups, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla, salt, and flour. Stir well, then blend in the butter. Put the bowl in the microwave at 20 percent power for about 15 seconds. Stir again, and repeat this process until the mixture feels slightly warm to the touch and begins to get thick.
4. Brush the unbaked pie shell bottom with egg white. This keeps the crust from getting soggy. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Top with the pecans, pushing them down with a spoon if necessary so that all the pecans are at least touching the filling.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 275 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool to warm room temperature.
Makes one pie.
I learned the basic recipe for this great cheesecake--one which I am forced to make and bring to every family function--from the late Lonnie Knisley. One of the best pastry chefs who ever worked in New Orleans, he made all the desserts at Andrea's for years. The orange aspect is my wrinkle on it; I have a personal passion for that flavor, and I think it's especially good in this.
The most time-consuming part of making a cheesecake is cooling it. This must be done slowly and gently, or you'll have cracks in the top.
- 2 packages (out of the standard three in the standard box)
- cinnamon graham crackers
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 pint whipping cream
- 1 Tbs. vanilla
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- Zest (grated peel) of one orange
1. Put the cream cheese and the sugar into the bowl of a mixer and blend on medium-slow speed until completely blended and fluffy--about 10 minutes.
2. While that's going on, make the crust. Grind the graham crackers into small crumbs in a food processor. Add the sugar and the butter and process until the butter has soaked all the crumbs.
3. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Dump the crust mixture in and press a wedge of crumbs into the bottom corner all the way around. Then make a bottom crust, and finally press the remaining crumbs up the sides of the pan. It is not necessary for the crust to come all the way to the top of the pan. Set aside.
4. Add the sour cream to the mixer bowl. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl after this and each other ingredient addition throughout the recipe.
5. Add the eggs, one at a time, allowing them to blend in completely before adding the next one. (Break each egg into a cup first to make sure it's okay before you add it.)
6. Add the cream, the vanilla, the juices, and the zest. Mix for another five minutes or so.
7. Pour the filling into the crust. Place the springform pan in a shallow pan (i.e., a pizza pan), and place it in the center of the oven at 275 degrees (no convection). Pour warm water into the bottom pan. Bake for 90 minutes, until you see the cheesecake has just a hint of browning on top.
8. Turn the oven off, but leave the cheesecake inside. After an hour, open the door a crack and let the cheesecake cool in the oven another half-hour. Remove the cheesecake and let it finish cooling on a counter. After another hour, remove the sides of the springform pan and put the cheesecake into the refrigerator. Chill at least three hours before serving.
Makes one ten-inch cheesecake; serves twelve to sixteen.
Lemon Ice Box Pie
I have no idea where I got this recipe, but I've had it so long that I think of it as mine. I thank whoever gave it to me. (Another mystery so familiar to those of us who save everything.)
- 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (Eagle or Magnolia)
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
- Zest (grated peel) of one large lemon or two small ones
- 3 eggs, separated
- Eight- or nine-inch pie shell
- 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
- 3 Tbs. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks until they become light-colored and thick. Beat in the condensed milk for about a minutes. Then add lemon juice and lemon zest, and blend well. Pour into cooled pre-baked pie shell.
2. Make a meringue by beating egg whites in a completely clean, grease-free bowl (the best possible is a copper bowl) with cream of tartar at high speed, until peaks begin to form. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat until stiff but not dry. Spread meringue on top of pie.
3. Bake pie at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until top is lightly brown. Chill several hours before serving.
Makes one pie.
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