Saturday, October 29, 2011

Steamed Mussels to start and Carrot Streusel Pudding to finish...

The "before and after" of a meal is almost as important as the main event itself, sometimes even more so if you're an appetizer and dessert person like me.  Aside from the taste of desserts, they're just so beautiful that I love making them.

I got my inspiration for this Carrot Streusel Pudding from a carrot souffle that Jamie made a while back.  The souffle was slightly sweet, almost like cornbread, but much more moist, and I thought that I could adapt the recipe to make a delicious dessert also.  Jamie says this dish isn't a pudding (since it's not a smooth, creamy custard-like pudding), but I beg to differ.  Puddings come in all forms, and I'm calling this a pudding.  :)

These puddings were creamy and so moist, light and not too sweet, and topped with a crumbly brown sugar and butter streusel topping that gives it a delicious crunch.  The color of the pudding was such a lovely shade of orange that I almost hated to cover it up with the topping, but I did anyway knowing how good it would taste.

These rose very dramatically in the oven...  and then sank just as dramatically after I took them out, so I may need to do some tweaking for the high altitude.  In spite of that, though, these tasted incredible.  And after they sank back down, I just re-distributed the crumbly topping a little and they looked just as pretty.  Nothing wrong with how these look, is there?

We tend to eat dinner pretty late on Friday nights, so we usually start with something to tide us over before we start cooking.  Sometimes it's as simple as a few olives, bread with oil, cheese or roasted garlic, fresh fruit, etc...  Last night, Jamie came home bearing a bag of live mussels.

All these needed were a quick steam bath in some chicken broth, white wine and seasonings to open them up, and they're ready to go in minutes.  A little cocktail sauce on the side and a few wedges of lemon to squeeze over the mussels is a nice addition, too.  Simple and delicious.

Carrot Streusel Pudding

·         2 medium carrots, peeled, chopped into ½ inch chunks
·         1 tart apple (such as Jonagold), peeled and cored, chopped into ½ inch chunks
·         3 tablespoons unsalted butter
·         2 eggs
·         2 tablespoons cream (or milk)
·         ½ teaspoon vanilla
·         2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
·         ½ teaspoon baking powder
·         ¼ teaspoon salt
·         ¼ cup granulated sugar

streusel topping
·         2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
·         ¼ cup brown sugar
·         1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spray 4 individual small ramekins with non-stick baking spray.  Set the ramekins in a baking dish.

Place the chopped carrots and apple in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain.

Place in a food processor with the butter and puree until smooth.  Add the eggs, cream and vanilla and puree until well combined.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, and add that to the puree.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Pour the mixture into the ramekins.

In a bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and flour for the streusel topping, mashing with a fork until moist and crumbly.  Sprinkle on top of the pudding.

Fill the baking dish with hot water, halfway up the sides.  Bake for 40 minutes.  The pudding will rise, with the top slightly cracked, and the topping will be golden brown.

Remove ramekins from the water bath and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving.  If your puddings deflate after you take them out of the oven (like mine did), don't worry.  Crumble up the topping and redistribute it a little and no one will be the wiser!

Sprinkle with a little cinnamon or nutmeg, and top with whipped cream or ice cream for serving, if desired.

Yields 4 servings.

Steamed Mussels with Cocktail Sauce
  • 1 bag of live mussels (approximately 30 mussels)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 whole lemon, cut into wedges

Wash the mussels well to get rid of any grit and to remove the beard.  Throw away any mussels that do not close most of the way when tapped or that have a bad odor - which indicates a mussel that is already dead - and you want to make sure they are all live and fresh before cooking them.

In a large flat-bottomed pan with a tightly fitting lid, bring the chicken broth, wine, tarragon, salt and pepper to a boil.  Add the mussels to the pan and cover with the lid.  Boil over medium-high heat until the mussels have opened.  Once they are open, they're ready to eat.

Meanwhile, stir together the ketchup, horseradish and lemon juice for a quick cocktail sauce - adjust the ratio of the ingredients to suit your own taste.

Drain the mussels (reserving the liquid for another use, if you like), and place on a large platter.  Serve with the cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.