Sunday, March 10, 2019

Brunch on the Bayou

I was in New Orleans in the mid 1980’s and had the privilege of staying in the French Quarter.  I fell immediately in love with the quaintness, the architecture, the jazz and the food. Cajun cuisine is a style of cooking named for the French speaking people who came from Canada to settle in the Acadiana region of Louisiana. Its style is rustic, as it incorporates locally available ingredients and a simple preparation, much like Italian Peasant cooking.  I enjoyed the food of New Orleans and sampled staples of the City- everything from creole to benigets and chicory coffee at the famous Cafe du Monde.  I was recently inspired to recreate one of the meals I enjoyed there and so my Bayou Brunch was created. Truth be told, it really does take a lot for me to be impressed by myself, but this meal did it for me today, and I want to share it with you. Brunch included poached farm fresh eggs on a bed of sautéed cabbage and home fries, drizzled with a Cajun hollandaise sauce and a side of carmelized bacon. The meal was finished with hot, homemade benigets and chicory coffee from the famed Cafe du Monde. So in honor of Mardi Gras season, I bring you my Brunch on the Bayou...

Home Fries
Cube golden potatoes and spread in a single layer on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until mostly cooked.  Meanwhile, dice one large onion and sauté in cast iron skillet with butter until half cooked.  Add potatoes and season with salt and pepper and smoked paprika. Cook over medium heat until potatoes are crispy.

Sautéed Cabbage
Slice half head of Savoy cabbage and sauté in large frying pan with butter and a dash of water.  Season with salt and pepper and paprika. Line serving plates with cooked cabbage and put home fries in the middle.  Top with poached eggs and drizzle with hollandaise. 

Cajun Hollandaise
2 egg yolks
2 t lemon juice
1/4 t salt
1/4 t smoked paprika
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, melted

In a tall and narrow cup or vessel that would fit the head of an immersion blender, add egg, lemon juice, salt, paprika and cayenne. Blend egg mixture with immersion blender. Stream in hot butter a little at a time, letting the butter cook the eggs slightly. Blend until sauce is light and fluffy and butter is incorporated. If sauce is too thick, add a few teaspoons of water to loosen it before serving.

Carmelized Bacon
Line rack on baking sheet with 1 lb. applewood smoked bacon in single layer. Sprinkle lightly with brown sugar, pinch of cayenne pepper and drizzle with maple syrup.  Chopped pecans optional.  Bake at 350 degrees until crispy, about 45 minutes.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Give Us This Day, Our Daily Bread

Is there anything more comforting than freshly baked bread right out of the oven? This time of year it’s especially comforting.  My grandmother taught me how to make bread when I was a young girl. That’s when I discovered that kneading dough can be very therapeutic. You need a bit more patient when using yeast in bread because it takes a few hours to rise and then you have to let it rest before baking it. Well worth the wait if you have the time! Quick breads are also great to make, especially if you are pressed on time and I have a few of my go-to’s to share with you. One of them is my great-aunt Fern’s banana bread. I put bananas that have turned a little brown into the freezer and they are ready to use when ready. (When my daughter was a baby, I thawed out the bananas and mixed it with her cereal- the consistency is perfect for that and the bread). Here are some of my favorites- some sweet, some savory, but all quick and easy!

Vintage Banana Bread

3 bananas, mashed
1/4 c butter, melted
1 c sugar
1 1/2 c flour
2 eggs
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c chopped nuts
1/2 c chopped dates

Cut up dates (if not already purchased chopped in a package) and roll in flour to prevent from sticking.  Mix all ingredients together and our into prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Johnny Cake (light corn bread)

1 c flour
3/4 c corn meal
3/4 t salt
1 beaten egg
5 t baking powder
1/3 c sugar
2 T vegetable oil
1 c milk

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add egg, milk and oil- blend well. Pour into prepared 8 x 8 square pan. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes at 300 degrees until golden brown.

Biscuit Mix

8 c flour
1/3 c baking powder
2 t salt
8 t sugar

Mix together and cut in 1 c Crisco.  This mixture will keep for months in the refrigerator.  
To make biscuits: Use I c biscuit mix and mix in 1/3 c milk. Can be rolled out and cut with a cutter or juice glass dipped in flour or dropped by large spoonfuls.  Place in greased pan and bake at 425 degrees until lightly browned. 

Dill Bread
2 pkg active dry yeast
1/2 c warm water
2 t sugar
2 c small curd cottage cheese
2 T minced onion
4 1/2 c flour
2 T dill weed
1 t baking powder
2 t salt
2 t sugar
2 eggs

Sprinkle yeast on warm water - stir until blended. Stir in 2 t sugar to proof and set aside. Combine cottage cheese, onion, dill, baking powder, salt, sugar and eggs. Mix thouroughly.  Add yeast mixture and mix well. Add flour to make a stiff dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place dough in greased bowl and turn to bring greased side up. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Punch down and turn onto lightly floured surface. Knead a few times and divide into two equal parts. Place each portion into well greased loaf pans. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool slightly and remove from pans onto wire rack and brush tops with melted butter.

Chocolate Brownie Bread

1 1/4 c flour
1 1/4 c sugar
6 T cocoa powder
1 T instant coffee
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1 c walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 c sour cream
1 egg
1 1/2 t vanilla
4 T butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350. Butter loaf pan and line with parchment or wax paper. Butter paper and dust with bottom and sides with flour. In medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, coffee, baking soda and salt until blended then stir in the nuts. In large bowl, whisk together sour cream, egg, vanilla and melted butter, Add dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just blended and pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and untold onto wire rack.Wrap in plastic wrap, then overlap with aluminum foil. Let stand in cool place for at least one day before serving.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

French Onion Soup Gratinee Anyone?

French Onion Soup Gratinee
I was never a big fan of French Onion Soup because I thought it was always too dark and salty. Then one day, I found myself watching Julia Child on TV make her version of French Onion Soup.  As I listened to her describe the soup, I became intrigued so I started taking notes on what I whatever I could find.
My original notes from Julia- can you
tell I worked for Aetna at the time?

She recommended making the beef stock from scratch and I wholeheartedly agree.  Yes, it takes more time and patience, but well worth the the effort in the end.  There will be more than required for the soup, but it can be frozen and used at a later date. Carmelizing the onions mellows and sweetens their flavor and turns them to a nice, deep golden brown.  And a combination of Gruyere, Swiss and a sprinkle of Parmesan (along with Julia's splash of cognac) finishes it perfectly!
Julia Child

I did make one minor change to Julia's recipe.  Instead of using toasted slices of baguette, I use homemade croutons (again, more work, but well worth it!) because they are more manageable to eat within the soup and gives a nice texture to the top.  I don't believe in having to fight with your food when you eat it, and this is the perfect solution. So, when you have time on a cold, rainy weekend, make some French Onion Soup Gratinee- and raise a glass to Julia... you'll be glad that you did!

Beef Stock
Beef bones and veggies in roasting pan
Arrange a collection of raw, meaty bones on a roasting pan along with two onions cut in half, three carrots, cut in half, parsnips, two heads garlic, cut in half, and 4 stalks celery cut in half. Baste lightly with vegetable oil and roast in oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.  

Stock simmering in pot
Scoop bones and vegetables into a stock pot.  Remove fat from roasting pan and deglaze with 2 cups of water, simmering and scraping up whatever is left in the pan.  Pour into stock pot, and add cold water to cover ingredients.  You can add additional onions, carrots and celery at this point if you'd like. Add a large can of diced tomatoes to the pot and a handful of fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper and simmer 2 - 3 hours.  Remove bones, vegetables, garlic and herbs and put through a strainer.  

French Onion Soup Gratinee
Carmelized onions
In a large pot, sauge 6 cups sliced onions in 3 T butter and 1 T vegetable oil until softened, then add 1/2 t. each of salt and sugar.  Stir frequently about 20 minutes until onions are golden brown. Sprinkle with 2 T flour and cook slowly for 2 minutes. Off heat, whisk in 4 cups stock and 2 cups white wine. Simmer slowly for 30 minutes. 

To assemble the soup:  line the bottom of individual crocks with a 1/4 pat butter, then a slice of Swiss Cheese.  Ladle in the hot soup. Float a generous amount of croutons on top. Top croutons with a slice of Swiss cheese, a handful of Gruyere and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Top with a dash of cognac or sherry and bake in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes until cheese is melted and browned.  

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Visit to the Land Down Unda

My recent trip to Australia with the Stratford Sister Cities of the World was definitely a trip of a lifetime.  From the architectural eye candy in Melborne and Sydney (Opera House!!) to the variety of wildlife on Moonlit Sanctuary, Phillips Island and the Great Barrier Reef...and the people I met, I feel grateful to have had the experience. So much so, that I plan to return soon, this time with my husband. Two years in the planning, the 16 of us from Connecticut stayed at four and five star hotels and busy every day with excursions that provided us with a true sense of the country. Our hosts in Stratford, Victoria, John and Julie Ward, were awesome and very gracious during my stay with them and I have heard from them every day since returning home.

The food (for the most part) was nothing short of
Vegemite... NOT a big fan!
spectacular.  Aside from tasting Vegemite, one of their staples and one meal prepared for the masses coming to see the Penguin Parade, the food just seemed to just get better and better.  

Koala Friends & Expensive Drinks
Melborne is a melting pot of culinary culture. There is not a nationality that is not represented in this most immaculately clean city that provides free trams within its limits. Interestingly enough, there is a heavy Italian population there which is not surprising. When my family immigrated from Italy, half of them went to Ellis Island and the other half went to Australia. The city is very progressive, and you can see by the architecture that there has been an ongoing boom within the past 30 years. It's almost like the designers keep trying to outdo each other from one building to the next. Although they are respectful of the historical buildings, the additions and new construction hardly have a right angle to be found and lots of curved curtain walls. Ok, enough archi-speak. The group met for a nice pre-fixe dinner at the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. Looked like the railroad car from the Wild, Wild West! It was there that I tried kangaroo carpaccio. Was not a big fan- not so much for the taste, but the texture. And after feeding them at the Moonlit Sanctuary, it was hard to eat it. 

Feeding Kangaroos
Our group was very lucky to go on excursions for two days to see Australian wildlife including the Parade of the Penguins on Phillips Island at night. It was amazing to see the little penguins swim onto shore, shake themselves off and waddle in single file on their paths to their individual burrows. We also saw the 12 Apostles along the Grand Pacific Highway, very similar to the Pacific Highway in California. This was the location of Florida Georgia Line's music video H.O.L.Y.
12 Apostles 
The ocean and the cliffs were beyond words. The video is beautiful but doesn't compare to seeing it in person. We had a fantastic tour guide for those two days and Fred Garcarczyk, who was highly entertaining, had a way of connecting with our group. The back stories of the city, the sports competition, the information on the landscape, stargazing.... it was all spectacular. And when his daughter had a close call accident on the evening of the second day, our group sang to him upon our departure- something I am sure he will never forget. Thanks Fred of Oceania Tours, good on 'ya!

Classic Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips are one of the staples there, except that they use flake or shark instead of cod or haddock. There was a lot of this to be had, for sure and some better than others. One thing that I found interesting was that the wine glasses had a small white line on them, indicating how far (or not so in this case) to fill the glass. Oh, and the martinis were $35 dollars each and only filled half way. Yeah, I guess you could say that it was the closest thing to highway robbery that I have seen in the recent past, but what the hey, I was in Australia!
Sea Spray Beach

Stratford is a small town in Victoria, Australia and I was blessed to stay with John and Julie
The Fabulous John and Julie Ward
Ward, our hosts who live on a 100 acre farm. They live in a cute, post-war house overlooking acres of land and dotted with beautiful paper trees including a family of deer, a sweet dog and cozy cat and a cockatoo. John was up each morning to make a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast while Julie shared creamed honey and her tomato jam which was fabulous. Ironically, I tried Vegemite on the product's 96th birthday. Not sure what it is really made of but all I can say is that it has the look and consistency of the beef flavored Better Than Bullion. I spread it on toast and had all I could do to keep it down! So, while we were on an excursion to Raymond Island to see the koala bears, John was my personal tour guide that day and we made a quick stop into a grocery store.  I wanted to find things that we don't have here in the US.  I was amazed at how BIG the kiwi fruit was! A good three times the size of the ones we have here. I opted to pick up Tim Tams, a favorite cookie that is best described as a Keebler Elf cookie dipped in chocolate. A lot of us brought them home with us and I was amazed to learn that you can buy them at Target. I was also taken by a sweet dessert called Hedgehog Cake.  It's a semi-dense chocolate cake that has coconut in it and it is not too sweet- cannot wait to make it.

The Ward's also have a beach cottage at Seaspray, about 35 miles from Stratford. Beautiful, sweet cottage/gallery a short walk from the beach. Julie is an incredibly talented artist and musician. She took me for a walk on the beach, a bit chilly, but very beautiful. Of course, I picked up pockets full of shells, which are very different from the ones here on the east coast of the US. They have a colorful, blue and pink plaid design on them. Yes, I hand carried them and smuggled them back home. Like my friend Shelia says: "Shells tell
Julie's Canvas on My Shelf at Home
stories all their own". I was very taken back the last day l was there when I saw Julie, sipping tea in her lavender bathrobe painting seascapes on small canvases as gifts. Mine is proudly displayed in my sea themed master bathroom.

Sydney is as spectacular as you would imagine. If you were following the Royals last week, you saw them in Sydney and Bondi Beach. So great to have been to those places and see the multi-million dollar views from a different perspective. Sydney is a very expensive city to live in and most who live there are business professionals that work and/or live in the city. They had an inter-city transportation system like Melborne, however at some point decided to do away with it. Regretting the decision, they are currently building a new inter-city tram system, very much the Big Dig in Boston and costs just as much as construction workers are on the job 24/7. Construction was in full swing in front of the Four Seasons Hotel where we stayed. The view of the harbor and the Opera House was spectacular! Architecturally speaking, the buildings
City Architecture
were nice, but not as interesting as the ones that adorned Melborne. Don't get me wrong, it is a fascinating city and I can see why there is this ongoing competition with Melborne on many levels. 

The first day there, we were taken on a private yacht on a 4 hour tour of the harbor which included a fantastic lunch prepared on board. I was somewhat amazed that the crew was able to pull it off but it was great and a good time was had by all. Even got to see Russell Crowe's townhouse that juts out into the harbor. The last day in Sydney, my travel companion Kathy and I decided to tour the Opera House. Nothing short of
The Iconic Sydney Opera House
breathtakingly spectacular! I didn't realize the magnitude of the venue until then and certainly had no idea that the Opera House is in fact, three separate buildings. The back story was as amazing as the architecture itself. Added bonus: we got to see the Symphony Orchestra practice during the tour and it was magnificent! In between all these activities, I had the opportunity to meet the Head Chef, Jasper Puzon, of the Four Seasons Hotel and got a behind the scenes tour of the kitchen and bakery areas. In fact, I was invited to cook with the pastry chef but the only day I had time was on a day when the hotel was preoccupied with a large, legal organization event. They were very gracious and generous and sent desserts over for two nights in a row to me and my four "Koala Friends". 

Sunrise View from Hotel in Caines
Caines is where it was the most warm as compared to the other cities that were somewhat chilly since they were entering into their springtime. The hotel actually had mini apartments overlooking the ocean and the sunrises were spectacular! It was absolute heaven! Another excursion took us on a Catamaran to Michelmas Cay, home of the Great Barrier Reef. It was a beautiful,
Great Barrier Reef 
sunny day and the color of the water was indescribable. Our group was in a special boat with a glass hull so we were essentially underwater, looking at beautiful fish, sea turtles and the reef. Amazing! 

The next day, we went on an Aboriginal tour and had the experience of learning from the Kuku Yulanji tribe and learned about its 160 million year history in this ancient part of the world.  We learned how to spear fish in the ocean, walk the rain forest, participated in a smoke ceremony and learned about Aboriginal body painting, a personal ornamentation that is an ancient tradition which carries deep spiritual significance for Australian Indigenous people and varies based on tribes and topographical location. 

Serenity Pool
Secret Garden Cocktail
Australian Lamb Chops
Ok, so vacation is coming to a close, and Kathy and I enjoyed time at two of the three pools on the grounds including a Serenity Pool and the Secret Garden cocktail that includes rose wine, prosecco, elderflower liquor on edible flower infused ice cubes and a strip of cucumber. All I can say is WOW!! Dinner the last night in Australia included (of course) lamb chops. Aussies like to cook them very well done, but I opted for medium.  

Australia was everything (and more!) than I expected it to be and its history, landscape and people are fascinating. I enjoyed meeting new friends, both near and far, and look forward to going back again soon!

Monday, May 7, 2018

In Search of the Ultimate Key Lime Pie

Sunset over Siesta Key Beach
Who doesn't like this bright and cheery, tart and creamy, key lime pie? It's deliciously refreshing and a beloved. treat found throughout Florida.  A must for a sweet, citrus treat for the upcoming summer months.  I recently spent a week in Florida with my husband and my very good friend, Jackie Partridge.  This was our second year in a row at the House of the Sun condo on Siesta Key Beach. Great weather, day trips, awesome restaurants, walks on the beach and sunset cocktails.  It was a relaxing vacation in a gorgeous location.  One of our pastimes was to taste and rate key lime pies all throughout Siesta Key and beyond.  We tasted them at every eatery, deconstructing them all, rating them and discussing how combining our favorite elements to create the ultimate and unbeatable key lime pie.  We ranked them all between 1 - 5, 5 being the highest and here's what we found:

4.0    Phillippi Creek, Sarasota, FL        
Great texture and flavor of filling.  Seemed like there were ground nuts in the filling.  Points off for fake whipped cream.

3.25    Turtles, Siesta Key, FL                
Filling was too light and too creamy for a key lime pie.  Crust was to limey and soggy, but the real whipped cream was great.

3.75    South Beach Bar & Grill, Madeira Beach, FL
Presentation was awesome.  Crust was good but needed more texture and flavor.  Real whipped cream and a raspberry / lime embellishment.

4.0     Walt's Fish Market, Siesta Key, FL
Crust was good and included crushed shortbread, however filling needed more lime.  Real whipped cream topped this great pie.

3.5    Mike's Pie, Seminole, FL
Purchased at a gourmet food store, this pie had more lime and not as sweet as the others.  Crust was grainy and just a little too sweet.

Based on this taste test, I think I have developed what I think is the ultimate and unbeatable Key Lime Pie! Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Marcia's Ultimate Key Lime Pie
Marcia's Ultimate Key Lime Pie

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c. ground ginger, shortbread or coconut cookies
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. melted butter

4 egg yolks [2 egg whites, whipped, optional]
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. fresh lime juice
2 T. fresh lemon juice (3 - 4 limes)
1 t. lime zest

Whipped Cream Topping:
1 c. heavy cream
3 T. confectioners' sugar

Pie Ingredients
Preheat oven 350 degrees.
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients and drizzle with melted butter.  Stir until combined and press evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate.  Bake until set, about 10 min.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.  Leave oven on.

Filling: In large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk.  Add lime and lemon juices and zest.  [At this point, you can fold in 2 whipped egg whites if you want the filling to be a little lighter and not so dense]  Spread mixture in pre-baked crust and bake until set in the center, about 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Garnish and Serve: In medium bowl, combine cream and sugar.  Whisk until stiff peaks form. Cut into slices and garnish with whipped cream and top cream with a twist of a slice of lime.

Key Lime Pie Martini  for those of you who would rather drink your dessert

Rim 4 martini glasses with fresh lime wedge and dredge in a mix of 1/2 graham cracker crumbs and 1/2 shortbread cookie crumbs.  Put in freezer until ready to use.
Key Lime Pie Martini

Martini mix:
1/3 c. vanilla liquor
1/3 c. vodka
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/4 c. orange juice
1/3 c. coconut milk creamer

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Happy Birthday to Me

Happy Birthday to Me!
Usually, I am the one who plans and organizes social events, but this time it was my husband Bruce.  Originally planned to be a different dinner altogether, this event turned into an expanded Valentines and birthday celebration with an intimate group of friends. In this case, Bruce was expanding the guest list, not me.  On this snowy night, twelve of us sat down for a very memorable celebratory dinner that I thoroughly enjoyed preparing.  

Heart Shaped Ice Cubes at the Bar
There was one overarching theme that resonated throughout the night:  Hearts.  From the prosecco to the decoration to the ice cubes in the bucket on the bar and the individual flourless chocolate cakes. The table was set perfectly with my grandmother's china, silverware and varying styles of champagne glasses and white linen napkins.  Candles adorned the length of the table to set an intimate atmosphere and the fabulous music of Chris Botti played in the background.  
Prosecco Toast

THE MENU WAS PERFECTION  No dinner party would be complete without the appropriate cocktails and wine to accompany a fantastic meal.  Prosecco was flowing- everyone received a glass upon entering our house.  I have a collection of various champagne glasses and like to use them whenever I can.  Having different styles helps to up the festive atmosphere. For those who preferred high end liquor, it was served over a large sphere, slow melting ice cube.  Pinot Noir accompanied the meal perfectly and Muscat dessert wine was served along with other cordials with the chocolate desserts.  My birthday cake was custom made by the chef at Pine Orchard Yacht Club and took two days to make.  Comprised of chocolate mousse and dark chocolate wafer layers, it was served with an amazing raspberry sauce.  The other desserts included flourless chocolate cakes and homemade chocolate truffles. 
Dinner Plate
I created the menu based on all my favorite foods- afterall, it was my birthday, so why not? P.S. The French Onion Soup is Julia Child's recipe- by far the best I've ever had!  The entire menu included:

Stuffed Mushrooms
Chicken Pate

French Onion Soup

Grilled Lamb Chops with a Cherry Bourbon Sauce
Smashed Potatoes (refer to 03.14 blog post for recipe)
Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto with a Balsamic Glaze

Individual Flourless Chocolate Cakes (refer to 02.11 blog post for recipe)
Chocolate Truffles
Lamb Chops Marinating 

Grilled Lamb Chops
Bone in Lamb Chops topped with
Olive Oil
Chopped Garlic
Fresh Chopped Rosemary
Salt and Pepper

Grill over hot coals 5 minutes each side.  Let rest and serve.

Cherry Bourbon Sauce
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. cider vinegar
Boil 10 min.  Hold aside and add at end.
In separate saucepan:
8 oz. halved cherries
2 T. butter
2 T. sugar
Cook 3 min. and add:
1 1/2 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. bourbon
1 T. molasses
1 T. maple syrup
Salt & Pepper to taste
Add sugar vinegar syrup.

French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup

6 c. sliced onions
3 T. butter
1 T. oil
1/2 t. sugar
Cook in large pot until browned then add 2 T. flour.  Cook briefly then add:
5 qts. beef stock (best if made from scratch!)
2 c. white wine
Simmer 30 minutes.
Line bottom of crock with toasted french bread.  Top with swiss cheese.  Pour soup over top then add a splash of cognac. Top with more another slice of bread, grated swiss cheese and a sprinkle of parmesan.  Cook in 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dessert as Easy as 1, 2, 3

Chocolate Puff right out of the oven
Have you ever been in a twist over what to make for dessert when you have unexpected company? Ever have to bring dessert to dinner at a friend's house?  How about just needing something quick and simple, yet elegant and satisfying? I have the answer for you.

3 Simple Ingredients
It's a Chocolate Puff.  Yes, I know it sounds more complicated than it really is, but believe me, it's quick and simple.  The only thing simpler would be ice cream sundaes. Really- trust me on this.  This has become my new go to dessert, and everyone LOVES it! All you need is three simple ingredients.  Keep them on hand and you will never be at a loss for a quick and elegant dessert again.

Chocolate Puff

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
Step 1
1 large chocolate bar of your choice (I prefer Special Dark)
Slivered almonds, large handful

Unfold pastry on a cutting board. 
Place chocolate bar in the center of the center panel.

Step 2

Make vertical cuts at each of the four corners of the candy bar to the edge of the pastry.

Make about 5 (45 degree angle) cuts on either side of the bar.
Fold ends over the chocolate bar.  Fold angled strips alternately across front of the candy bar as if you were making a braid.
Step 3

Carefully place pastry on parchment lined baking sheet. 
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake at 425 degrees for approx. 15 - 20 minutes until puffed and golden.