Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Divinity Fudge or Pecan-Covered Divinity Fluff Balls*

Every Christmas my maternal grandmother would make various candies and fudges to share with friends and family, while my paternal grandmother was the expert in fruitcake.  I know what you all are saying about fruitcake but truly, hers was the only one I would ever eat.  It was moist and delicious and not at all like the store-bought bricks you've tried to choke down.  That said, prejudices are hard to overcome so I won’t even try to get you to make fruitcake. 

Today, I attempted a recipe from the candy-making side called divinity fudge.   Why fudge, I cannot tell you because fudge should be chocolate, right?  And this doesn’t have an ounce.  It does have ample pecans though, like a lot of the fudges and candies from Southern Louisiana.

2 large egg whites
2 cups or 450g sugar
1/2 cup or120ml light corn syrup
1/2 cup or 120ml water
1 teaspoon or 5ml pure vanilla extract
1 cup or 115g pecans

Chop your pecans into pieces. 

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff.  

Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper.

Put the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium-size heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Stir to dissolve the sugar, bring to a boil and cook until the temperature reaches 260°F or 127°C on a candy thermometer, or the hard-ball stage, when a bit of the mixture dropped into cold water holds its shape.  About 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat.  Pour in a thin steady stream into the beaten egg whites and beat with an electric mixer on high for about three minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl.  

Add the vanilla, and continue beating on high just until the candy starts to lose its gloss, five to six minutes.  When the beaters are lifted, the mixture should fall in a ribbon that mounds on itself.

If the mixture flattens out, beat again for one minute more.  If the mixture is too thick to drop, beat in a few drops of hot water until the candy is a softer consistency.  

Add the pecans, stir to mix, and quickly pour into your parchment lined pan.  Let cool and cut apart into small squares.

So, that’s how it’s supposed to go.  And I hope yours does.  But I live in a humid climate and all of a sudden, my grandmother’s words came flooding back to me.  “The damn divinity wouldn’t set.  Too damp today.”  Some years it turned out beautifully and some years, she would curse.  Today was my day for cursing, I guess.  It stayed sticky, sticky, sticky.  How could I have forgotten, in the burst of nostalgia over making her favorite candy, what a pain she often found it?  

Cut it apart and it heals right up again! 
But, not one to take defeat easily, I thought of something I could do to revive the situation.   I got out some more pecans and chopped them finely.   

Then, using two spoons, I scraped up some of the sticky mixture and dropped it into the nuts, like you would a drop cookie on the cookie tray. 

And I rolled it around in the nuts! 

Voila!  Pecan-covered divinity fudge.  Okay, pecan-covered divinity fluff.  It’s not like she used to make in the good years, but I hope my grandmother would be proud.


*Depending on what sort of day you are having

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Salmon Potato Cakes

It’s three days after Thanksgiving and your family is tired of leftovers.  And you STILL have mashed potatoes.  Here’s a recipe that will fool them into thinking they are getting an entirely new dish, while you get to empty the refrigerator just a little bit more.   This is so tasty that it is worth making extra potatoes the next time, so you will have leftovers.

Leftover mashed potatoes – weighing three times as much as your salmon – Today, I had 540g or 19 oz.
Salmon filet  - weighing a third as much as your potatoes – so I bought a salmon filet of 180g or 6.3 oz.
Handful of green onion tops (with a little extra for garnish)
50g or 1 3/4 oz sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg
Bread crumbs
Sea salt
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper
Olive oil

Salt and pepper the salmon filet and gently pan-fry it with a little olive oil, in a non-stick skillet.  Put the lid on and keep the fire low.

You are going to get some color but you don’t want a hard crust.

Turn it after about five minutes and cook on the other side for another five minutes, still covered.  

Turn the fire off and let it rest, covered, in the pan while you get your other ingredients ready.

Chop the onion tops very, very finely.   Grate the cheddar cheese.  Lightly beat your egg.

Remove the salmon from the pan and, using two forks, flake the meat off of the skin.  (Some people throw the skin away.  I pop it back into the non-stick skillet and fry till it is crispy, crispy, crispy.  Then I eat it.  Crunch, crunch, crunch.  Delicious.)

Put the mashed potato into a large mixing bowl and fluff it around with a fork.  Add the onion, cheese and salmon.   Add the egg and mix well.  

You can add pinches of salt and black pepper at this point but remember that your mashed potatoes were already seasoned, as was your salmon.   But do give the mixture a good sprinkle of cayenne pepper and mix again.

Sprinkle a plate with breadcrumbs.  Carefully shape a big spoonful of the mixture into a patty.   Put it in the breadcrumbs.  

Using a spatula, push breadcrumbs up the sides of the patty and then flip it gently over to coat the other side. 

Meanwhile, wipe out your non-stick skillet and add a little more olive oil.  Put it on a medium heat. 

Still using the spatula, slip the patty into the skillet.

Form the rest of your patties the same way and gently slip them into the skillet.  These are quite soft and may mash up a little when you try to turn them so cook on a medium to low heat until a good crust forms on the bottom.  Possibly 7-10 minutes. 

If your pan is too small to maneuver in easily, you can remove one patty before trying to turn the others, as I did.

Flip gently and cook until you have a crust on the other side.  You can serve these with a side vegetable or a salad.  Either would be delicious.  Enjoy!

(Despite the photos, this actually made six good-sized patties.  I ate the first two before I took the pictures.)